Monday, April 24, 2017

Feast of Sorrow by Crystal King

*Feast of Sorrow by Crystal King is available Tuesday, April 25th!*

Feast of Sorrow: A Novel of Ancient Rome
Feast of Sorrow: A Novel of Ancient Rome by Crystal King. Touchstone, 2017. 416 pages.

I am always up for some ancient historical fiction, and Feast of Sorrow fit that niche perfectly. If you enjoy vivid descriptions of food and the fine nuances of Roman decorum, then this is the the book for you.

In brief, Feast of Sorrow tells the story of Thrasius, a young slave sold into the hands of Marcus Gavius Apicius, a man whose main goal is to one day become the gastronomic advisor to Caesar. Thrasius is a talented cook who impressed Apicius, and thus Apicius sees him as the key to helping him attain his ultimate goal. 

The first thing that I would like to mention about Feast of Sorrow is how incredibly impressed I was with the historical accuracy in which King constructed Ancient Rome. I've been studying Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome for my entire undergrad career, so it's sometimes frustrating to see authors completely misrepresent these societies. I was endlessly impressed with the some of the details and tidbits she added into every corner of the story that conveyed great historical accuracy. Of course, this book is still fiction so there are many artistic liberties, but I absolutely expect that and am no less impressed.

One of the best parts of this book is the food descriptions. I wanted to eat all of the food, which was thoroughly and vibrantly described. There was so much variety and I loved how much research King obviously went to in order to create such intricate descriptions of the food. It's always surprising to see some of the types of foods the Ancients ate, ranging from delicious to downright unappetizing (in my opinion). The food was also especially fun for me because I have this other book called The Classical Cookbook by Andrew Dalby that has adapted a vast array of Classical foods into slightly more modern recipes--there are also recipes from Apicius, so I had fun looking them up in that book.

This book is told in the first person narrative by our cook, Thrasius. Although Thrasius was a strong narrator and I enjoyed hearing this story from his point of view, I felt like there was too much telling and not even showing. Thrasius is much more of a passive character in this manner, and there are many instances in which I almost forgot that Thrasius was telling the story as his narrative would delve into a complete description or telling of a particular dinner party of Apicius or Apicius' interactions with another person.

Feast of Sorrow is not exactly a fast-paced book, and it certainly dragged in quite a few places. I didn't mind the somewhat leisurely pace of the novel for the most part, but there was certain time periods or scenes that just went on for far too long, and I desperately wanted the story to move on. Each chapter also usually indicates a time jump, which helped to move the story forward. Thrasius' romantic relationship, however, moved too quickly for my taste. I felt that that was one relationship that just didn't quite fit in as well as the rest. Don't get me wrong, I thought they were a great match and their love was beautiful, but the pacing just didn't match up with the rest of the book as well as it could have.

Just about every character was wonderfully developed and held a distinct, interesting personality. Apicius was someone that you want to love and hate; he's intense and not the most sensitive person, but I also wanted to pity him at times because of how badly he simply wanted to achieve his goals, despite the horrid ways he occasionally pulled this off. Thrasius is a gentle man as well, but he also learns to be someone who does not always just roll over for others to walk over. There are also the characters of Passia, Apicata (Apicius' daughter), Aelia (Apicius' wife), and Sotas, all of which were also developed extremely well. My only complaint would be with Apicata, whose daughterly affection for Thrasius seemed slightly out of place at times.

I found the master-slave relationship a little odd at times, as well. The development of understanding between the Apicius and Thrasius grew at a steady pace, but I just felt that the closeness of Thrasius and Apicius' family was a bit too heavy at times. I also found King a little too sympathetic to the upper classes, which I didn't quite think fit into the story or accurately depicted the period. Of course it wasn't easy for the nobles, but I definitely think it wasn't quite as hard as the slaves.

Overall, I have given Feast of Sorrow four stars! This was an extremely well-written and developed novel of Ancient Rome, and I would absolutely recommend it to pretty much anyone.

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Friday, April 21, 2017

Anticipated May 2017 Releases!

Somehow April is already wrapping up and it's time for yet another month of new book releases! There are, yet again, so manynew releases, so I've just decided to highlight a select few. Be sure to let me know if you've read any of these, are looking forward to them, and what book releases you're excited for!

A Face Like GlassThick as Thieves (The Queen's Thief, #5)Men Without Women: Stories
The Crown's Fate (The Crown's Game, #2)New Boy (Hogarth Shakespeare)The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women
House of FuriesRoyal BastardsViolet Grenade
Mr. RochesterFlame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist, #1)A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #3)

What are your anticipated May releases?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Global Novel by Adam Kirsch

*The Global Novel by Adam Kirsch is available April 25th!*

The Global Novel: Writing the World in the 21st Century
The Global Novel by Adam Kirsch. Columbia Global Reports, 2017. Paperback. 135 pages. 

I received The Global Novel a few months ago, but it recently became extremely relevant to my life due to the fact that I am currently taking a world literature course at university (a class that should have been taken way back in the first year of university, but that I've had to put off until my very last quarter before I graduate because it's rarely offered and never fit in with my schedule before. But I'm not bitter. Not at all.) I really enjoyed this little collection of essays, and I found it to be out together extremely well.

The first chapter of this book discusses what "world literature" actually means and how it is used to describe various works of literature, as well as how important it is to read international works of literature, whether in their original language or in a translated work that is more accessible. 

The Global Novel is then subdivided into a few main categories, a few of which are ' 'Alternate Realities,' 'To America and Back,' and 'Fearful Futures.' Each essay is carefully thought out and endeavors to cover important topics related to common issues found when reading international literature. For instance, Kirsch discusses how various cultures within books from different regions will be interpreted differently depending on who reads them. Similarly, there is also the issue of the dominance of western literature among 'well known' works-- there may be a few prominent Chinese authors that are popular in America, how many more are there from America and Western European countries?

I loved the concept of this book and everything that Adam Kirsch set out to do, but I wish that there had been more. The 'global novel' is a huge topic that is hard to fully give justice to in only 135 pages. I also feel that the authors chosen were limited in scope, and I would have loved to see Kirsch's discussions encompass a wider array of world authors. However, I think Kirsch did extremely well with the limited amount that he had, I just wish that there had been more. 

Overall, I have given The Global Novel four stars! If you are at all interested in literature, world literature, translations-- definitely give this little book a read! It's a short collection of essays and provides an abundance of interesting topics to consider. 

*Please note that if you have not read any of the books that are discussed in this novel, it is advised to be aware that there are major plot points discussed. The novels discussed are as follows:
Snow by Orhan Pamuk
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
2666 by Roberto Bolano
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche
The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
The Possibility of an Island by Michel Houllebecq
Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: The Stone in the Skull by Elizabeth Bear

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights exciting upcoming releases that we can't wait to be released!

This week's upcoming book spotlight is:
The Stone Skull by Elizabeth Bear
Publication Date: October 10, 2017
Tor Books
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

From Goodreads:

The Stone in the Skull (Lotus Kingdoms, #1)
"The Stone in the Skull, the first volume in her new trilogy, takes readers over the dangerous mountain passes of the Steles of the Sky and south into the Lotus Kingdoms.

The Gage is a brass automaton created by a wizard of Messaline around the core of a human being. His wizard is long dead, and he works as a mercenary. He is carrying a message from a the most powerful sorcerer of Messaline to the Rajni of the Lotus Kingdom. With him is The Dead Man, a bitter survivor of the body guard of the deposed Uthman Caliphate, protecting the message and the Gage. They are friends, of a peculiar sort.

They are walking into a dynastic war between the rulers of the shattered bits of a once great Empire. "

Although I've heard many great things about Elizabeth Bear's work, I've still yet to read any of her work. I honestly have no idea if this is something that I will love or not, but I'm really intrigued by the description and am eager to check it out!

What do you think about this upcoming release? What are your anticipated upcoming releases?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Eleven Words/Topics That Draw Me to a Book

Top Ten Tuesday is weekly book blog meme hosted by the lovely girls over at The Broke and the Bookish.

While there are certainly far more than eleven things that make me immediately drawn to a book, these are the ones that I was able to presently think of. (And feel free to suggest any that fall into these categories... wink wink). 

I love dragons. I'm not sure what else to say about this one. It's all about dragons.

Examples: A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan, The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, His Majesty's Dragons by Naomi Novik

A Natural History of Dragons (The Memoirs of Lady Trent #1)The HobbitHis Majesty's Dragon (Temeraire, #1)

I don't really care how often these sorts of retellings are made, I will always be drawn to them. I may complain and scoff and say "geez, why won't they give us a break with all these retellings?", but we all know that I still love them.

Examples: Heartless by Marissa Meyer, Lord of the Silver Bow by David Gemmell (I know this is a stretch but bear with me), Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson, Through the Woods by Emily Carroll, Gilded Ashes by Rosamund Hodge, Ragnarok by A. S. Byatt

HeartlessTiger LilyThrough the WoodsGilded Ashes (Cruel Beauty Universe, #1.5)

I have always always always loved this setting, and I'm not sure why. My guess is that I like situations where people are sort of 'stuck' with one another and are in familiar surroundings for most of the story. I'm not a big fan of change in life in general, so maybe this is some sort of manifestation of that? I don't know. I just like them.

Examples: A Separate Peace by John Knowles, The Secret History by Donna Tartt, Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, Stoner by John Williams (this also isn't quite what I usually mean when I say colleges, but this one is incredible, so yeah), Black Chalk by Christopher Yates, If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio

A Separate PeaceThe Secret HistoryBlack ChalkImage result for if we were villains

Who doesn't love some pirates? These are often witty, intelligent, morally grey characters and I say bring them on!

Examples: Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen (also this one works for retellings) (why am I blanking on other pirate books!?)
Alias Hook

Much as I asked in the previous topic: who doesn't like assassins? They're so clever and multidimensional and I need them.

Examples: Nevernight by Jay Kristoff, Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

Image result for nevernightImage result for throne of glassImage result for red sister mark lawrence

Because what reader doesn't love books about their favorite hobby? It's just so magical and warm and cozy.

Examples: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman, The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Image result for shadow of the windImage result for invisible libraryImage result for The Thirteenth TaleImage result for Inkheart

This might seem odd, but I have a reason: one time I was perusing some of the most recent books I had read and realized that most of them seemed to have courtesans featured in one way or another and I realized, "hey, I really like these stories." And here we are. Give me the complex courtesan stories!

Examples: The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber, The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee (for a little bit), Courtesans and Fishcakes by James Davidson (nonfiction), Theodora by Stella Duffy

Image result for crimson petal and the white bookImage result for queen of the night bookImage result for courtesans and fishcakesTheodora: Actress, Empress, Whore (Empress Theodora, #1)

Whether the word "madman" is actually used in the title/synopsis or not, I love some stories with madmen. I like things a little crazy and explainable, and nothing portrays this notion better than off the wall characters that may or may not be doing morally questionable things.

Examples: The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (if he's not a madman, who is?)
Image result for the madman's daughterImage result for dr jekyll mr hyde bookImage result for the turn of the screw book cover red i have seen

Castles are huge and often filled with endless hidden tunnels and secret rooms and secrets in general. And they're gorgeous. Have you seen a castle? Castles are awesome. (Mansions maybe be used as a substitute.)

Examples: Uprooted by Naomi Novik, I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
Image result for uprootedImage result for i capture the castleImage result for the turn of the screw book cover red i have seen

This seems vague, but Basically I love books that introduce me to a new culture of way of living. For instance, stories set in Asian settings introduce me to a variety of different Asian cultures, and I am simply fascinated. I want to know and understand as much as I possible can about the world around me.

Examples: The Favored Daughter by Fawzia Koofi, Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, What is the What by Dave EggersThe Girl with Seven Names by Hyeonseo Lee, Funny Boy by Shyam Selvadurai (why haven't more people read this one?)

Image result for the favored daughterImage result for the girl with seven namesImage result for what is the whatImage result for funny boy book

And because I can never seem to keep these lists to the designated number of ten, here is my final choice of epic fantasy. I love books of all genres and shapes and ideas, but I will always have some extra love for epic fantasy. I just love magical new worlds that are not my own.

Examples: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey, etc. etc..

Image result for the way of kingsImage result for the eye of the worldImage result for book the lord of the ringsImage result for kushiel's dart

Do you like any of these topics? What are some of your own "must-read" words?