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review 2019-10-16 17:18
The Tuscan Sun Cookbook
The Tuscan Sun Cookbook: Recipes from Our Italian Kitchen - Frances Mayes,Edward Mayes
I do love my cookbooks! When a message about cookbooks, popped into my inbox, I immediately started looking at my local library to see if they had any of them, as I like to sample them before I actually buy them. They had 4 of them so I felt very lucky. The Tuscan Sun Cookbook looked promising but I wondered how complicated the recipes were and how exotic the ingredients might be, but I remained hopeful. After looking through the book though, I was surprised at my finding.
First off, let me say, that the pictures inside this book are beautiful. Imagine a nice summer day, you’re in the hills of Italy enjoying lunch with your friends. A photographer has stopped by to take some shots and now, those pictures are inside this book. Although there aren’t pictures of every recipe in this book, the ones that are there, look very appealing.
Each recipe does come with how many it serves, the ingredients list and step-by-step instructions. Accompanying each recipe, is a small paragraph or two that describes a bit about that recipe. The book consists of recipes that would actually be served in Tuscany according to the authors. The book is broken up into many sections. The Essential section had a few recipes that I enjoyed. Tomato Sauce (with bay leaves -I love bay leaves!), a Soffritto (looks delicious), Besciamella, a Brine, and Pesto. The Antipasti section contained appetizers. The Primi section was pasta and it began with making pasta and Giusi’s Ragu which looked nice and hearty. Angry Pasta? Oh yes, black olives and red pepper flakes made this recipe stand out. Lasagne with Ragu, using the same ragu, as mentioned before but adding it to a lasagna. Next was the Second section which was meats and I found Chicken Under a Brick and Chicken with Olives and Tomatoes. The Contorni section was salads and vegetables and the last section was Dolci which consisted of desserts. There is an Aperitivi E Digestivi section which is the closer for their meals: the bitter elixirs. There are 2 recipes in this section (Nocino and Riccardo’s Limoncello) which accompany the author’s comments on this topic
What I didn’t find in this book was exotic ingredients or complicated recipes. That was a win for me. I did come across some new words, such as Fascicles of Summer Vegetables but as the author pointed out in their paragraph, fasces in Latin actually means a bundle of iron sticks. The author continued on in their comments, talking about Emily Dickinson’s fascicles of poems. Strawberry Semifreddo? I’d never heard of Semifreddo before but I learned that this dessert is not gelato or sorbetto but that it’s easy to make and doesn’t require a fancy machine. I did find some recipes that wouldn’t work for me but might for others. Recipes that included ingredients like fish, lamb, veal, and rabbit.
All-in-all, this cookbook was a great find for me. If you’re into Tuscan dishes or want to try something different, this is one cookbook you should check out.


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review 2019-01-25 06:01
A Slice of Magic by A.G. Mayes
A Slice of Magic - Frances Mayes

Sometimes it's nice to take time away from all the heavy stuff, and just read something nice and light. I like to call it "brain candy", because it gives my mind a little treat to devour while I wind down from dealing with serious book emotions. That's how I stumbled upon A Slice Of Magic! I wanted to get lost in something sweet (no pun intended) and fun. The prospect of a magical pie shop sounded like just what I needed, and I was right.

Now, this isn't the most complex plot I've ever read, true. However that's not what I went into this book for in the first place. Mayes easily nails the feel of a small town in this book. A place where everyone knows everything about everyone else, and it's pretty easy to get a reputation. A place where being a new arrival means being the center of attention, whether you want to be or not. I loved the town of Hocus Hills. I settled in easily, fell in love with the residents (especially Henry *swoon*), and was enamored with the vibes that this book gave off. Susanna may have had a rough start, but you couldn't pick a sweeter place to get your footing.

What hampered this story, I think, was how quickly it needed to move in order for everything to wrap up. While it made for an easy read, it also never allowed any time for any real plot points to be hashed out. Susanna starts to pick up on the fact that Hocus Hills might be much more than it seems and then, suddenly, everything is all wrapped up and the book is over. I wanted more time to learn about the magic around the town. I wanted more magical pies, and more sweet romance. I just wanted more. This book felt like the frame of a story, rather than the complete story. A lot of what I wanted to know the entire time I was reading was revealed at the end, in an info dump. I was a little sad about that.

Still, as I said above, I started this book to get lost in something fun. A Slice of Magic definitely provided me that. If only it had been a little more fleshed out, and I'd had more time with my newly found town of lovely people, I would have loved this book endlessly. As it stands, I'll happily reward this a three star rating. It was sweet, a little silly, and an easy read. Now I want pie, and I can't wait to see what happens in this town next.

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review 2019-01-22 16:48
Every Day in Tuscany
Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian Life - Frances Mayes


Well, this was disappointing. I haven't read it in years, and am now recalling why I haven't. I really loved Under the Tuscan Sun and this one was painful to get through. I kept falling asleep. Mayes makes the decision to write rambling passages in this one and includes poetry and her musings on random things when she is supposed to be telling you about the days she spends in Tuscany starting in the Spring through the Summer. 


It's been 20 years since Mayes and her husband Ed bought a house in Tuscany. They are now part of the town and have made friends. And though Mayes and Ed love returning to Italy every year, Bramasole is showing it's age. And  the world is changing now too (it's 1998 when this was published) with Mayes and her husband feeling the sting of the dropping dollar and having feelings about Bush in Iraq.


The book is supposed to be following Mayes through the months in Tuscany, but honestly I couldn't get a handle on anything or anyone. Mayes jumps around a lot. She mentions people and then re-introduces them repeatedly through the book. The only thing she seems to do is drink wine, eat, and ramble around the mountainside. The first book got me because we had her discovering Italy and her home. We got to read about the renovations and how thoughtless some people were that were all cool we will come and visit you. The book flowed wonderfully. This one does not. At times I was so confused by what Mayes was saying and what she meant. I don't think it's that hard to tell a story from point A to point B, but this one couldn't do it.


The setting of Tuscany feels darker in this one too. Tuscany is changing with people wanting to modernize near them (a community pool is proposed to go in nearby Mayes and others homes) and with Mayes and her husband trying to get a petition going against it, Mayes realizes how she still doesn't understand Italy as much as she thought she did. With her and her husband being targeted it causes her to compare Italy to America and I have no idea where she was going with this. This is the only part of the book that felt coherent to me.You can feel Mayes outrage and her shock she was not beloved by everyone like she thought. Her writing a rebuttal to a man who wrote one about her and her refusing to acknowledge him when she saw him around town lets you see that she thinks she's really hurting the guy. 


The only parts I really liked were the recipes. I am interested in trying some of them out.

The book ends with Mayes and her husband deciding to not change their home because it will lose it's heart. Even though they admit they just don't have the money for it due to their investments losing money every day. 

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text 2019-01-22 15:57
Reading progress update: I've read 100%.
Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian Life - Frances Mayes

Yikes, I loved Under The Tuscan Sun and recalling buy the second and third book that Mayes put out and even read A Year in the World too. I thought I could do a re-read since this was on my Kindle and I am trying not to buy new books.

This was not good. It's rambling and nothing hangs together at all. Mayes jumps around a lot and most of the book is her musings of people, food, and her hunt for some artist (I think) from eons ago. There is very little dialogue between people in the book which drove me up the wall.


There is also a weird aside where she goes into how America (San Francisco) is more dangerous than Italy, and then she recounts how she and her husband were threatened while at Bramasole. So that whole section was just odd.


The only thing that was really good were the recipes. 


Image result for under the tuscan sun gif

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review 2019-01-10 15:45
Way Too Light on World Building and Character Development
A Slice of Magic - Frances Mayes

Please note that I received this ARC from NetGalley. This did not affect my rating or review.


Well I was up for some magical realism because I definitely needed the distraction. Too bad that the story itself was pretty lackluster. You can't promise me a magical pie shop and then not really show anything that magical. This book also seems to be trying for a cozy mystery theme which didn't work at all. The characters in this one were not very developed either. Also some of the reactions that the main character, Susanna had were not believable at all. 


"A Slice of Magic" has handywoman extraordinaire Susanna Daniels traveling to help out her Aunt Erma at her pie shop. Susanna hasn't talked to her aunt in 20 years. She still wonders why her aunt disappeared from her life and so is eager to find out what caused the rift between her aunt and mother. However, when Susanna appears in town of Hocus Hills, her aunt is nowhere to be found and just leaves her a note telling her to keep the pie shop running until she returns. A cast of many (seriously there's a lot going on) appears and there seems to be something odd going on in Hocus Hills.


Susanna is the main character, but honestly, I didn't really get her as a reader. She's terrible at making pies and instead of her trying to call the police to help figure out where her aunt is, her aunts friends just go things will be fine and eat pie. I am not kidding. We hear that Susanna is good at fixing things, but besides a scene where she starts fixing things at the pie shop, we just get numerous references to how handy she is. And of course there's a love interest, but he was super bland. There is a huge reveal about the guy and I was once again baffled by it. 


The other characters are paper thin in this. They all seem to have time to stop by the pie shop. There's a whole thing with a cookie store opening up that can ruin her aunt's pie shop and I ceased to care. And there was a fitness guru who went around shaming people for eating pie (I hated her) and a lot of other characters we barely spend time with. 


The writing was so so. Mayes decides to open each chapter with a question and response form the town's agony aunt named Eloide and I am still baffled why that was even in there. There was a whole thing about Susanna figuring out who Eloide was, but you think the author would have put in pie recipes or something since the whole book was about them. It was a weird narrative choice and I started skipping over them after a while. The book jumps around too much too. We have Susanna trying to deal with the pie shop and then she will have some memories about her aunt and making pies with her, or playing with her, etc. We get tidbits here and there about Susanna's life back home, but people from her home or mentioned, and seldom heard from which once again strains common sense. If I was gone for a week, my friends would all know and be texting or calling to check in. 

The flow was not good. Once Susanna gets to the pie shop and realizes her aunt isn't there the whole book just grinds along. Susanna doesn't know how to bake and why in the world she stayed and didn't call her mother was a question for the ages. There was also way too many things going on for the sake of plot and not common sense.

The town of Hocus Hills should have been charming, but I found half the characters annoying. We get very little backstory on people and Susanna gets a letter explaining everything and I just heavily sighed. The why behind everything was really dumb too. I just couldn't take it seriously. There was no world building at all in this first book which was a mistake. 

The ending was a letdown. Susanna finds out something about her aunt and what led to the rift with her mother and there was zero reaction to it. I just didn't find it believable. This book was fairly short and most of the ARC was then filled with the next couple of chapters of the next book in the series. I think this book is dancing around 200 pages which would explain why the world building wasn't that good. 

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