Hello. I’ve been reviewing a bingo card full of different genres to expand my reading range. You can find my other reviews here: Genre Bingo 1, Genre Bingo 2, Genre Bingo 3, Genre Bingo 4. Thanks for following along. Here are the latest books I’ve finished.
1. I really wanted to love (or at least like) The Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke for obvious reasons. It’s chock full of yummy cookies, along with their recipes, and the cornflake cookie sounds particularly tasty. But otherwise? Ugh. I thought this was an adult cozy mystery, but the writing is at 4th grade level. There is absolutely no deliciousness to it whatsoever. Sentences are simple and bland, and there is nothing to indicate that the author loves words. No metaphors, similes, or puns to spice things up. Fluke didn’t even give the characters cute names, which I’ve been told is a featured ingredient of cozies. Beyond that, the plot is simply absurd. There’s no reason for Hannah to run around solving murders just because her sister is married to an incompetent cop. Hannah even breaks the law herself on multiple occasions ~ for example, by breaking into a crime scene/private home and by impersonating a police officer on the phone to get info. We’re supposed to be rooting for her? She is an idiot. The whole town is full of idiots, and there’s no way I’d read another book in this series. Also, the date of publication is in 2019 and no one in the story has a mobile phone? Ridiculous. I gave it 2 stars only because of the cookies.
2. The Puma Years by Laura Coleman. Again, I wanted to love this memoir because KITTIES! Not only pumas, but also jaguars feature in Laura’s adventures in Bolivia. And there are cute monkeys, a funny pig, and silly birds. But… this book is absolutely disgusting and there’s no other way to put it. The volunteers have to battle parasites, fungus, horrendous body odor, moldy food, bugs everywhere (and I mean EVERYWHERE), animal poop all over everything, crude toilet facilities (if they can even be called that), etc. I almost quit reading this book because it was making me feel so sick.
But the writing is superb. Laura knows how to tell a story and her narrative is so vivid and lush with description and emotion. My heart breaks for these poor abused animals and the terrible destruction of their native habitats. I too fall in love with Wayra, the puma Laura bonds with and cares for during her stays in the jungle. Due to the constant conflict between the grossness and the beauty, however, I was at a loss on what rating to give. Finally, I settled on 3 stars, which may not be fair, but it’s honest. While I appreciate the excellent writing, I never, ever want to read anything like this again. Yeech!
3. The Island of Lost Trees by Elif Shafak. Oh wow, I love this book! Five stars, and I would have given six if possible. Where to begin? OK, so it’s partly narrated by a fig tree. Yes, a tree tells the story of love and loss and nature’s gifts. We also have the POVs of a displaced Greek man (Kostos) from Cyprus, along with his daughter Ada, who was born in England, yet feels the pull of a place she has never known. We learn about her mother (Defne), a Turkish woman from Cyprus, and her parents’ tragic and forbidden love story. We discover the oddities and recipes of her aunt Meryem when she visits them in England for the first time. I learned a bit about the history of Cyprus, which I never knew, and relearned how horrible people can be to each other and to nature. There’s also a lot of great info on trees, plants, bugs, etc., described in great and glorious detail by the fig tree.
So, here’s the thing about magical realism for me. When it’s good (like this), it is so good. So much better than a contrived series of coincidences to drive the plot. I’d rather hear it from a tree, lol, than constantly deal with people eavesdropping around corners. I do believe in staying strictly within a single POV during a scene, and if that POV is not a human’s, so be it.
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