Yesterday I had the great opportunity to be on Boston Herald radio! I had no clue they snapped a photo. :-)
Italy is beautiful at any time of the year but especially so in springtime when the land springs forth in a burst of green (such as above, in the Villa Borghese in Rome). Springtime also brings us new books set in Italy, two in the world of ancient Rome and two during the Renaissance. Please join me, Sarah Dunant, Margaret George and Alyssa Palombo in the celebration of the launch of our new Italian historical fiction novels! See below for your chance to win a copy of each of our books!
Follow the actions below. Each action gives you a certain number of entries! The more entries, the better your chances.
In bocca al lupo!
Head to Goodreads for a chance to win one of 10 advance reader's copies of FEAST OF SORROW, the delicious historical fiction debut by Crystal King! Hurry! It ends on February 28th.
Another year nearly gone by. A time for reflection and a time for resolutions. The end of this year feels fraught with anxiety for me, for a variety of reasons. I know I'm not alone in this regard. There seems to be a collective UGH that the people around me are saying. 2016 can't go away fast enough, for me, and for many others out there.
The year began with the loss of David Bowie. I had been telling my friends how I thought Black Star was one of the best albums he had ever released, not knowing all along the travesty that awaited for us on January 10th. Now I have a hard time listening to it because when he recorded it, it was clear he knew he was going to die. It was his last message and last gift to millions. For the first time, I felt truly wrecked about a celebrity death. Even now as I write this I find myself with tears in my eyes.
So many other horrible and baffling things have happened this year: terrorist attacks across Europe, the war in Syria and the devastating ruins of Aleppo with the subsequent refugee crisis that so many nations now face, the Zika virus, police shootings, Brexit, the Pulse nightclub deaths, Russian hackers, fake news, the deaths of many inspiring and influential people, and the election of most thin-skinned, orangest narcissist that ever lived. It's no wonder there is a collective cry to bury 2016 deep deep in the past.
There were some other personal things in my life toward the end of this year that have added to his big pile of excrement, some of which I won't talk about, but other things like some of my dearest friends moving away didn't help either.
That said, there were many good things that did happen. As I move into 2017, which is going to ROCK, l want to look back at the good things.
- I edited FEAST OF SORROW, met the Touchstone team, got my ARCs back and in general realized that this is really happening! I am publishing a book!
- Became part of the Debutante Ball team which has turned out to be one of the brightest blessings in my entire year. What an incredible group of women!
- I also joined the '17 Scribes, another group for debut adult novelists. I can't begin to tell you how many wonderful writers I've met and how many great books I have read!
- I spoke at Grub Street's Muse & the Marketplace in front of 500 people about my upcoming novel, FEAST OF SORROW. It was an incredible opportunity after over a decade of attending the conference as a writer, then an instructor and finally, a novelist.
- I went with my writing group, the Salt + Radish Writers, on our annual retreat to Maine and yet again, we had an amazing time, wrote a lot of things and bonded even more. I love and appreciate these women more than they will ever know.
- I went to Rome again for a week of research on my second novel. Escaping to Italy is never a bad thing.
- I wrote big chunks of book 2 and I hope to finish that off early in 2017. And Benjamino at Casa Dei Coronari gave me a huge idea for something big that happens in the book.
- I've been living vicariously through some of my best friends, Melissa and Phil, who are on their Wiggly Path traveling the world for a year..maybe more.
- I far surpassed my goal of reading 75 books this year, locking down 88 (and may be 89 before tomorrow). I'm not going to do a big post on the last chunk of them but instead you can head to Goodreads and see them all.
- I finally got to see Vanessa Peters play live, when she was here in Boston a few weeks ago. YAY! Her new album, The Burden of Unshakeable Proof is wonderful.
- One of my childhood and still best friends, Leanna, continued to commiserate with me and share her love of unicorns and monkey babies. For that, I'll be forever grateful. :-)
- My husband and I celebrated 16 years together. YAY!
- I had the chance to meet one of my biggest Rome inspirations, Katie Parla, and sample delicious dishes from her new cookbook, Tasting Rome, when she was in Boston doing a dinner at Stir.
- Through the magic of Twitter, I met classicist Emily Hauser, whose gorgeous book, For the Most Beautiful, about the women of ancient Troy, comes out in January. She gave me some great help on my own book, correcting the Latin and pointing out some weird historical things she noticed. Whew!
I'm sure there are more things I could add to this list. There are more people that inspired me, affected me, helped build me up. We often don't remind ourselves of the good things, and that's important.
Goodbye 2016. Here's to an incredible 2017 ahead!
I'm part of a wonderful group of other authors debuting in 2017, The '17 Scribes. Nine of us are doing a joint giveaway this holiday season! If you want a chance to score nine not-yet-released novels (including my historical fiction novel, FEAST OF SORROW, check out below for your chance to win!
Touchstone Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster, is publishing my debut novel, FEAST OF SORROW, on April 25, 2017. FEAST OF SORROW is an imagined retelling of the story of Marcus Gavius Apicius, a wealthy Roman who was a real person that lived in the first century during the time of Caesar August and Tiberius. He was a celebrated gourmand whose name graces the oldest known cookbook. Many of the recipes and techniques in that 2,000+-year-old book still live on today. FEAST OF SORROW is full of food and feasts, love and loss and the glamour and grit of ancient Rome.
But if you are lucky, you won't have to wait until April 25th! Here's your chance to win!
I'm a voracious consumer of information, especially about il mio posto preferito sulla terra (my favorite place on earth), Italia. Why not share all those fun tidbits with my readers? I'm going to start doing these roundups more often. We can dream about la bella vita together.
- Isabella Dalla Ragione is on a mission to preserve antique and forgotten fruits from going extinct. I had so many people mention this article to me after I posted it. I think that we are very curious about what foods of the past may have looked and tasted like and to know that there are still some of these varieties in existence is rather fascinating.
- Trajan's Market in Rome has an exhibit that I'm looking forward to checking out on our upcoming trip. It's called Made in Rome. "Romans of some 2,000 years ago took to branding with zeal, putting names, trademarks and other identifying details with meticulous care on items including tableware, plumbing pipes and lead ammunition for slingshots." I'll write more about the show after I go this fall.
- I love this article by Natalie, An American in Rome, about my favorite street, La Via Dei Coronari. We stay on that street, at Casa Dei Coronari, whenever we go to Rome. Here are some of my favorite photos of that street. I didn't know about Essenzialmente Laura, so when we're there in a few weeks I will definitely check that shop out!
- And finally, the area around Amatrice has been rocked by multiple aftershocks from the terrible earthquake that devastated the region several weeks ago. They still need your help and here's how you can make a difference.
Or at least that's what she says about herself. "I don't think I'm a food writer any more than I am a love writer or a fish writer or a fowl writer. I just write about life." And yet her view on life was very much driven by taste and pleasure and food:
It was then that I discovered little dried sections of tangerine. My pleasure in them is subtle and voluptuous and quite inexplicable. I can only write how they are prepared.
In the morning, in the soft sultry chamber, sit in the window peeling tangerines, three or four. Peel them gently; do not bruise them, as you watch soldiers pour past and past the corner and over the canal towards the watched Rhine. Separate each plump little pregnant crescent. If you find the Kiss, the secret section, save it for Al...
...After you have put the pieces of tangerine on the paper on the hot radiator, it is best to forget about them. Al comes home, you go to a long noon dinner in the brown dining-room, afterwards maybe you have a little nip of quetsch from the bottle on the armoire. Finally he goes. You are sorry, but -
On the radiator the sections of tangerines have grown even plumper, hot and full. You carry them to the window, pull it open, and leave them for a few minutes on the packed snow of the sill. They are ready...
...The sections of the tangerine are gone, and I cannot tell you why they are so magical. Perhaps it is that little shell, thin as one layer of enamel on a Chinese bowl, that crackles so tinily, so ultimately under your teeth. Or the rush of cold pulp just after it. Or the perfume. I cannot tell.
There must be someone, though, who understands what I mean. Probably everyone does, because of his own secret eatings.
M.F.K. Fisher is one of my writing heroes. I think she's the number one influence on my decision to write my novels about chefs. Food is such a universal topic, it is sustenance, it is conviviality, it is even power.
I came across this video interview of the famous writer, which contains a zillion little soundbites from M.F.K. Fisher, not just on food but also about writing and publishing. I love when she talks about how she goes to London to meet her new publishers and they were shocked to find out she was a woman. Her publisher hated her because of it. She tells a wonderful story about how she refuses to let him sit next to her on a train. Her advice on writing in this interview is truly wonderful.
I think I need to re-read The Art of Eating again soon. When I'm writing my novels I don't want to read too much fiction that is set in those timeframes because I don't want to be unduly influenced, but M.F.K.'s writing is the perfect accompaniment to my stories. Her descriptions of flavor, taste, and the nuances of food are unparalleled.
These are in no particular order but I swear, I did read them all in the last three months. :-)
44. Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson: Tiffany is one of my fellow Debutante Ball partners (look for another post from me on this next week). As a result, I was lucky enough to read an advance copy of this haunting novel. Her book will be available in January, but you can pre-order at the link above. Mary is a teenager in a violent and scary group home where she is finishing out her punishment for allegedly killing a baby when she was nine years old. It's shocking to imagine a young child in jail at all and Tiffany takes you right into the heart of that madness. I read the book in two nights--one of them leaving me with only five hours of sleep--but it was worth it! This was definitely my most unexpected read of the year. I can't wait till it is out in January so the rest of you can dig in!
43. The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller: Oh how I adored this book! Louise is a baker herself and she knows how to serve up deliciousness in her prose as well as in real life. This is a wonderful, romantic, funny story that makes me desperate for autumn, warm cups of coffee and cookies, fall leaves and bucolic Vermont views. Yum, yum, yum. A must read.
42. Il Cuoco Segreto Dei Papi by June di Schino: I began translating this book from Italian last year but finished it up this year. This is one of the books that has been crucial to my research on my second novel, THE SECRET CHEF.
41. Food and Knowledge in Renaissance Italy: The Paper Kitchens of Bartolomeo Scappi by Deborah L. Krohn: I love social media. In a Facebook group that I'm in for food writers, a woman connected me with food historian Ken Albala, who then recommended this fantastic book to me. It's an in depth look at Scappi's cookbook and it's already given me several new possibilities for where I could run with my next novel.
40. Venice and Food by Sally Specter: This book is one of the most wonderful cookbooks I own. If you love Venice, you must seek this book out. It's beautifully illustrated and the history of the food and culture of Venice described within has made this book an invaluable resource for the parts of THE SECRET CHEF that are set in Venice. Laura Morelli (whose books I also highly recommend) told me about this book.
40. What to Do Before Your Book Launch by M.J. Rose and Randy Susan Meyers: Not a pleasure book, but valuable for me all the same. With FEAST OF SORROW coming out next April, this was good timing to read. In particular it gave me a lot of eye-opening advice on the world of traditional publishing so hopefully I won't be blindsided by things that may happen.
39. The Chef's Apprentice by Elle Newmark: A lovely novel set in Renaissance Florence about a young thief who is caught in the act and given a second chance working for a very special cook who has a very unique role in life--to preserve knowledge within a secret society. It's a novel full of food, love and intrigue. I was sad to hear that Newmark had passed away from cancer as it means I won't have the chance to see what she'll write next.
38. Buon Appetito, Your Holiness by Mariangela Rinaldi and Mariangela Vicini: I liked this little book, full of recipes paired with the Popes that might have eaten them. It was full of great description and the recipes are historical enough but I was disappointed in that much of the pairings were pure conjecture on the part of the authors. For example, a little bit more research would have shown they could have paired several more dishes by Scappi with several different popes, so that was a bit frustrating to see.
37. The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore: Moore is a master of humor and this was clearly evident in this fabulous tale, a curious and fun reworking of Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, Othello and Poe's The Cask of Amontillado with a randy serpent thrown in for good measure. I had a few actual LOL's during this book. If you love British humor and historical fiction, this is a perfect pairing for you.
36. The Venetian's Wife by Nick Bantock: I didn't find this to be the best of Bantock's books. It didn't have the same sort of charm that Griffin and Sabine had. I picked it up for the title, which is rather misleading considering the story is about a ghost who directs a woman on a quest to find long lost statues including one of Shiva. The ending felt like a cop-out, like he just got bored with the story and wrapped it up, argh.
35. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Marukami: This is often hailed as one of Marukami's best novels and while it was enjoyable, I would not categorize it above 1Q84, Wind Up Bird Chronicle or Kafka on the Shore. It's a coming of age love story between Toru and Naoko, two very odd people in an odd, mostly doomed relationship. I liked it, but not my favorite of his.
32. The Giant's House: A Romance by Elizabeth McCracken: What a strange book! I follow Elizabeth on twitter and love her quick wit so thought I'd check out one of her novels. This is the oddest love story I've read in quite some time (odder than Norwegian Wood, even). In 1950, a librarian falls in love with a young boy but not just any young boy, but one destined to become a giant. Their friendship turns to a strange romance as he grows and he ages. It is set in Cape Cod and I confess that I did a lot of Googling to see if it was real--she paints such a fantastic picture. I'll remember this book for a long time.
32. The Fifth Gospel by Ian Caldwell: My editor at Touchstone sent me Ian's book when she learned that I was working on a book set in the Vatican (albeit several years earlier). I dove right in and was not disappointed. This is a psychological thriller with incredible historical research fueling every aspect of the story. I highly recommend you pick this one up! Later I reached out to Ian for some advice on Vatican research and he pointed me in the direction of some excellent resources including Paul Letarouilley's Vatican, which I think is now one of the most beautiful books that I own--AND it's already proved super helpful for my work on THE SECRET CHEF. I am indebted!
31. Uprooted by Naomi Novik: This book won the Nebula award and is a finalist for the Hugo, so of course it must be amazing, and it was. It's an unusual stand-alone fantasy tale with a Dragon that's not a dragon and a forest that is not what it seems. I stayed up super late devouring this novel. One of my favorite reads this year.
30. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch: I heard they are already going to make a movie of this and I was pleased to hear it. This book is a serious mind-fuck, a Schrödinger's cat experiment come to life with terrifying consequences. There were some weak spots in it where I wondered why the characters didn't question some of the actions/inactions of others, but the pacing was good enough that it didn't matter. I had to know what was going to happen. It will be crazy to see how Sony takes this book to life on the big screen.
29. Interference by Amélie Antoine: This was one of my freebies from having Kindle Unlimited. It was another book that rocketed the reader through it at a quick pace. It has a bit of a Gone Girl sort of beginning where you are wondering what happened to the missing wife. The narrator is suitably unreliable for the first half of the book and then there is a monster twist that left me saying, WTF? I am not sure I buy the twist...it seemed somewhat contrived (and possibly illegal), and yet, there is a part of me that wonders why no one had thought of it yet.
Feeling hungry? Wishing you were in Italy? Now you can marry the best of both of these yearning feelings by entering into my Italian Cookbook giveaway. I'm extra excited to be able to include a signed copy of Katie Parla's fantastic cookbook, Tasting Rome. I've made several of Katie's recipes and can attest personally to their deliciousness. Plus, I'm throwing in Stanely Tucci's cookbook (he helped write and direct the delicious movie Big Night and he also played Julia Child's husband in Julia and Julia), as well as Marcella Hazan's manual to selecting the best ingredients. And what would a cookbook giveaway be without a companion apron? Wrap yourself up in an adorable Ciao Bella apron while you cook from these wonderful cookbooks.
There are many ways to enter! Click the arrows below to see the prizes and follow the instructions for your chance to win all four items: