Friday, February 13, 2009

Review: The Book of Unholy Mischief

Summary: It is 1498, the dawn of the Renaissance, and Venice teems with rumors of an ancient book that holds the secret to unimaginable power. It is an alchemist's dream, with recipes for gold, immortality, and undying love. Everyone, rich and poor alike, speculates about the long-buried secrets scrawled in its pages and where it could possibly be hidden within the labyrinthine city. But while those who seek the book will stop at nothing to get it, those who know will die to protect it.

As a storm of intrigue and desire circles the republic that grew from the sea, Luciano, a penniless orphan with a quick wit and an even faster hand, is plucked up by an illustrious chef and hired, for reasons he cannot yet begin to understand, as an apprentice in the palace kitchen. There, in the lavish home of the most powerful man in Venice, he is initiated into the chef's rich and aromatic world, with all its seductive ingredients and secrets.

Luciano's loyalty to his street friends and the passion he holds for a convent girl named Francesca remain, but it is not long before he, too, is caught up in the madness. After he witnesses a shocking murder in the Palace dining room, he realizes that nothing is as it seems and that no one, not even those he's come to rely on most, can be trusted. Armed with a precocious mind and an insatiable curiosity, Luciano embarks on a perilous journey to uncover the truth. What he discovers will swing open the shutters of his mind, inflame his deepest desires, and leave an indelible mark on his soul.

Rich with the luxurious colors and textures of Venice, The Book of Unholy Mischief delights the senses and breathes fresh life into an age defined by intellectual revival and artistic vibrancy. A luminous and seductive novel, it is, at its heart, a high-spirited tribute to the fruits of knowledge and the extraordinary power of those who hold its key. In a world of violence and intrigue, who guards the truth? - Atria Books

I was so excited when I found out that Atria Books was starting a book club on Twitter. And I was even more excited when I found out that they would be reading THE BOOK OF UNHOLY MISCHIEF by Elle Newmark. I had seen a few reviews for this book and already added it to my TBR list. Fortunately, I was able to snag a copy of book. I couldn't wait to dig in!

My first impression of the book was how beautiful the cover picture is. When I touched it, I found that the texture of the book cover is different than most book jackets -- it's a thicker cover with a matte finish that feels very rich. Then I opened the cover and the inside of the book is filled with a beautiful painting of the food mentioned in the novel. I had a feeling that I was going to be reading a book that deals with beauty and appeals to my senses.

If you are a frequent follower of my reviews, you know that I'm on an Italian Renaissance kick. I was thrilled to see that THE BOOK OF UNHOLY MISCHIEFS is another book that takes place in Italy -- 1498 Venice this time. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and found that I couldn't put it down. The book was beautifully written, but I also loved how the author incorporated just enough mystery and suspense into the novel to hold my interest. This book was definitely a treat on so many levels!

I found myself liking Luciano from the very start of this novel, and I am so glad that Ms. Newmark chose him to be the narrator of this story. His curiosity was spying behavior were hilarious; and while he wasn't perfect by any stretch, I found him quite endearing. Luciano often times questioned why the chef pulled him off the streets to become his apprentice; and I loved how his innocence and honesty came through in this story. I especially enjoyed seeing Luciano mature throughout the pages of this novel and eventually become a very wise and loyal man.

I am so impressed with Ms. Newmark's writing style. I found her descriptions of both Venice and the food to be incredible. I could picture the city and its buildings perfectly as well as the people and how they looked. What even impressed me more were her vivid descriptions of food and how the chefs prepared the food. Each word was clearly chosen carefully to have the just right affect on the reader. Not only could I see the food, but I swear at times, I could almost taste it.

I found Ms. Newmark's website to be gorgeous -- as is fitting with this novel. Make sure you check out the video trailer for this book -- it's perfect! I also enjoyed reading about how her father, an Italian chef, inspired her to write this novel. She has a section on the site especially for book clubs, too, which includes a terrific discussion guide. I have a feeling that a lot of book clubs are going to be picking THE BOOK OF UNHOLY MISCHIEFS in the next few months. Ms. Newmark also makes herself available to book clubs for author chats.

Thanks to Atria Books for sending me THE BOOK OF UNHOLY MISCHIEF. It was definitely a pleasure to read!


Anonymous said...

Boy, does that sound good. Your review makes me want to go to Italy!

Karlie said...

Another great review. There have been so many on your blog lately that I want to read!

Beth F said...

I found this independently the other week -- and I was intrigued then. Now I really have to get to this!

Ti said...

Haven't heard of this one so I truly appreciate the review. Well done.

I checked out her website too. It's beautiful! I hope to visit Italy someday.

Marg said...

I added this to my TBR list as soon as I heard of it coming out a couple of months ago! I am glad to hear that it is a good read as I am going to try and track it down now!

S. Krishna said...

Great review! I totally agree with you!

Anna said...

I haven't read too much about this time period, but this one sounds good!

Diary of an Eccentric