March 2024
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Blog Tour Review: The Book of Unholy Mischief, Elle Newmark

As a poor urchin, Luciano steals food and crams it down his throat as fast as he possibly can.  At least, he does so before he is abruptly adopted off the street by an illustrious chef and hired as an apprentice.  There he learns to savor food, to appreciate the process of cooking, and in the process gets an inside view into much of Renaissance Venice’s politics.  For the entire city is ablaze with rumors of an ancient book that holds the secrets to immortality, love, and gold.  When Luciano witnesses a murder in the doge’s dining room, he begins to reconsider his position in life and whether those around him know the answers to the questions asked by so many of the city’s most important residents.

For me, this book is historical fiction, with a little bit of foodie lit and mystery tossed in.  I love the setting of Venice.  It lives and breathes in this novel, practically becoming its own character as Luciano runs through the streets, whether it’s to escape from authorities or to visit the woman of his dreams, a novice at the convent named Francesca.  The food descriptions are similarly to die for; even the act of eating a grape is examined and detailed and made me really wish I had bought some grapes at the grocery store.  Since the chef uses ingredients which no one imagines exist, common things about which we know (and I guessed before Luciano figured out what they were), their effect is given in every detail.  In other words, yum.

The intrigue had me spellbound, too.  I wasn’t sure what Luciano was going to discover, but I enjoyed his journey there.  Certain aspects of the plot, particularly Luciano’s infatuation with Francesca, annoyed me, but never too much.  Mostly I’m just impatient and I don’t like my characters to be slow on the uptake.  I also really dislike it when characters declare their love when they haven’t ever spoken to each other, but I tried to keep in mind the fact that Luciano is a teenager and most teens suffer from this problem.  On reflection, I didn’t actually like Luciano very much, but I thought that the plot and the descriptions held the book together enough for me to enjoy the experience overall.  I can’t comment much on historical accuracy because I just don’t know much about 16th century Italy, but Elle Newmark does include a nice author’s note explaining what she changed, which is always appreciated.

Overall, this was certainly an enjoyable book.  The Book of Unholy Mischief is recommended to historical fiction fans, especially those who appreciate drool-worthy descriptions of food.


10 comments to Blog Tour Review: The Book of Unholy Mischief, Elle Newmark

  • Wow! HF, foodie, mystery???? I had this on my wish list and you’ve made me nudge it up closer to the top. I need to get some tour books read first tho.

  • I really enjoyed this one. Nice review!

  • I read this book awhile ago and remember really enjoying it. I love how the author appealed to the reader’s senses — from the cover of the book, to the descriptions of Venice and food!

  • I’m touring this later this month, so I’m glad to see it’s enjoyable.

  • Kay

    I read this one a couple months ago and mostly enjoyed it too! I think the same think annoyed me, but the mystery and writing (and beautiful food descriptions!) kept me reading!

  • Sometimes I feel like the only reader in the world who does not like food stuffs in my fiction or movies. Nothing gets me skipping paragraphs faster than describing the preparation or eating of food. I do love food myself, don’t get me wrong. I just don’t enjoy reading about it. It’s good to know in advance about those kinds of things, though. I don’t think this is the book for me. It does sound delightful for those who like that – which, like I said, must be everyone else. :)

  • Boy, this makes me really interested to read this book – so many aspects I would enjoy.

  • This book does sound totally yum-worthy. Like a HF version of Ratatouille. But, um, without rats. Or a foodie version of Perfume. Plus I love books set in Venice. So I guess this is another book I’ll have to get. Gargh! *shakes fist*

    Oh, I gave you an award, btw: :)

  • This one sounds like a winner to me as well. Drool worthy food and historical fiction makes Marg a very happy girl.

  • This is a book I have been dying to get my hands on. I love historical fiction and food literature, and I love the fact that this book melds both. I am glad to hear it was as good as I had been expecting. Great review!