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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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text 2019-01-09 23:39
Reading progress update: I've read 100%.
A Slice of Magic - Frances Mayes

Way too much showing in this book. The characters felt paper thin and I didn’t find it believable that Susanna (MC) would just shrug off a huge revelation about her family and that her aunt could have done something that would have impacted her life. 

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review 2018-02-02 03:07
Bella Tuscany
Bella Tuscany - Frances Mayes

Very much more of the same from Under the Tuscan Sun but with more travel and more poetry and more philosophical musings.  


I really just wanted to hear about the house and their village, so I found myself skimming whenever the chapters covered their travels.  I usually love the travel bits, but a combination of my mood and her tendency to write about their trips within Italy the way academic historians write about battles made it all feel too tedious.  But I loved hearing about the house, the restoration, re-building the gardens, and harvesting the olives.  That took up about half the book, so I went with a down the middle rating of three stars.

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text 2018-01-31 00:53
Under the Tuscan Sun re-read
Under the Tuscan Sun - Frances Mayes

A neighbor gave me a copy of the follow up to this book, Bella Tuscany, and as I started reading it, I realised there was a lot of stuff I didn't remember from this book, and a lot of details I'd conflated with the movie.  So, a re-read was in order.


I still stand by the 3 stars I gave it the first time.  It's a beautiful book and I want to chuck it all and move to Tuscany more than ever, but the writing takes some getting used to.  It's often lyrical (sometimes to extremes) and often abrupt; in a lot of sentences, the pronoun is just meant to be assumed.  A lot of readers won't like the style.  I was often one of them, but still, I lost myself in a hot, Tuscan hillside all over again, and I'm looking forward to continuing the trip in Bella Tuscany.

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review 2018-01-17 17:05
Letters to the Pianist
Letters to the Pianist - Frances Mayes

In war-torn London, 1941, fourteen-year-old Ruth Goldberg and her two younger siblings, Gabi and Hannah, survive the bombing of their family home but their parents are believed to be dead, buried under the rubble. They don't know that their father has been taken to the hospital with amnesia. Years later, Ruth stumbles across a newspaper photo of a celebrated pianist who looks exactly like her father. The only way to find out for sure is to write him a letter, and as the pianist's memories surface, his new life begins to fall apart.

I didn't enjoy this as much as I thought I would. I did like the early days - with the Goldberg's as a whole, and as poor Ruth had to stay with aunt Fenella and uncle Harry while her younger siblings went to stay with aunt Betty. The characters were okay. The concept was interesting. I liked the setting. But I found it long and drawn-out. Once I put the book down I didn't really want to pick it back up. I'm happy it's over and now that it is I seem to enjoy it more looking back on it than I did while I was reading it.

I won a copy through LibraryThing. Thank you to BHC Press for my copy.

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