Believe What You Want

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“Believe what you want,” she said, turning away and heading for the stairs. But that was impossible and Greta knew it. You could try to believe what you wanted, but it never worked. Your brain and your heart decided what you were going to believe and that was that. Whether you liked it or not.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

Book Review: Adventure and Mundane Magic

Gooseberry Bluff Community College of Magic create a world that looks and operates a lot like ours, with one big exception – magic is real and everyone has some level of ability.

Since the world runs on magic, getting into a really good university requires both exceptional magical skill and strong academic ability.

Gooseberry Bluff Community College is not a particularly good school. Yet, there’s very powerful magic located on and around the school grounds; which is why the people who work there aren’t always what they appear.

The novel takes the reader on an adventure where bad guys from another dimension use a magic-wielding cult-like collection of community college professors as the key for entry into the Gooseberry dimension. If the bad guys get through, the very-similar-to-our-own world will be viciously invaded and transformed into something terrible (in a post-apocalyptic kind of way).

While the story is well told, with a plot that provides ample opportunity for adventure and intrigue, the truly unique aspect to this novel is Joy, the main character – a black woman with exceptional magic skills and a life-long struggle with Prosopagnosia, the inability to distinguish or recognize human faces (including her own).

Joy was recruited to work for a secret agency that greatly resembles the FBI or the CIA, despite her handicap, because her magic skills and knowledge are exceptional. She also has the ability to read auras, which she uses in place of reading faces; s system that works just fine, most of the time.

Another interesting element is the description of magic. There are characters who compete in magic martial-arts competitions where laser-light-shows and smoke machines are utilized to show where the magic is flying through the air. In this world, the combatants don’t need to see the magic attacks because they can feel every move. It’s the audience who needs the light show – to make watching the combat easier.

Tossed in here and there are the personalities of characters who cross-over into this world from other dimensions. They provide a fascinating contrast to the personalities of the Gooseberry Bluff natives, many of which are complicated and nicely fleshed out.

All in all, this is a fun read. If you are looking for some vacation-time entertainment, I highly recommend this novel

Gooseberry Bluff Community College of Magic by David J. Schwartz

Quotes from this book can be found HERE.

Moral Compass

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Maria grounded me in my history and my present. Have you ever met someone who was just good? Who, when you came across complicated moral questions, was programmed into your phone as “certain virtue”? This was Maria, exactly.

Holding Still For As Long As Possible by Zoe Whittall

This novel won the Lambda Literary Award: Transgender. A review can be seen HERE. More award winners can be found on the Amazon.com  Lambda Literary Award: Transgender listing.

Mist Lifting

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“She felt as if a mist had been lifted from her eyes, enabling her to took upon and comprehend the significance of life, that monster made up of beauty and brutality.”

The Awakening and Selected Short Stories by Kate Chopin

Devilishly Wicked Specimen

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“…pull myself together for a while and think—try to determine what character of a woman I am; for, candidly, I don’t know. By all the codes which I am acquainted with, I am a devilishly wicked specimen of the sex. But some way I can’t convince myself that I am. I must think about it.”

The Awakening and Selected Short Stories by Kate Chopin

Elderly Vampires Have Bad Hips

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Bridget’s always knitting. She was eighty-two when she was infected, so she can’t do much else. Even climbing stairs can be a problem for Bridget because of her hip joints. There’s only one thing worse than being a vampire, and that’s being an elderly vampire with bad hips.

The Reformed Vampire Support Group by Catherine Jinks

Contradictory Human Nature

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In years to come, he would be a giver of bread, not a stealer—proof again of the contradictory human being. So much good, so much evil. Just add water.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Note: This book is narrated by Death. The plot occurs during WWII. It is a very good book, with both humorous and serious aspects.

Haven of Peace

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There is a haven for those tired of this war. There is a haven, out of view, where dragons and people still keep peace. It will always be a haven, and we pray that those who need it will find it in time.

Voices of Dragons by Carrie Vaughn

 

A Well-Earned Fist to the Face

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Let me tell you, most guys who get punched in the face deserve it. I would say maybe eighty percent of them fully deserve what’s coming to them. Maybe the other ten percent could’ve used a good tongue lashing instead. This guy was one of those people I wished I could’ve taken out myself. Every second word out of his mouth was faggot and he’d uttered a variety of rotating racial slurs. He smelled like a decomposing liver.

Holding Still For As Long As Possible by Zoe Whittall

This novel won the Lambda Literary Award: Transgender. A review can be seen HERE. More award winners can be found on the Amazon.com  Lambda Literary Award: Transgender listing.

Great Book, Bad Marketing

I found the White Magic Five and DIme while browsing through eBooks. From the cover art and the description, this one looked like a nice new-age themed chic-lit novel.

It’s not.

It’s nothing at all like that.

Just to be clear: I really enjoyed this book.

Unfortunately, this novel suffers from extraordinarily poor marketing, beginning with the description:

Much to Alanis McLachlan’s surprise, her estranged con-woman mother has left her an inheritance: The White Magic Five & Dime, a shop in tiny Berdache, Arizona. Reluctantly traveling to Berdache to claim her new property, Alanis decides to stay and pick up her mother’s tarot business in an attempt to find out how she died.

With help from a hunky cop and her mother’s live-in teenage apprentice, Alanis begins faking her way through tarot readings in order to win the confidence of her mother’s clients.  But the more she uses the tarot deck, the more Alanis begins to find real meaning in the cards … and the secrets surrounding her mother’s demise.

This sounds like standard chic-lit with a bit of a low-key family mystery thrown in for dramatic effect. In reality, the book is about Alanis, a woman who survived a harrowing childhood at the hands of hardened criminals. She manages to escape by conning her con-artist mother but can’t shake the law of the street. Well into adulthood, Alanis is convinced she owes her mother a heavy debt. When a lawyer locates Alanis to pass along the news that mom has not only been murdered but left behind an inheritance in her name, she decides it’s time to pay back her debt by finding the killer and exacting revenge street-style. Alanis does this knowing that there is a very strong possibility that her mother is using the inheritance to set-up her estranged daughter for some hardcore revenge post-mortem.

The fact that Alanis has been living in secret, under an assumed name, with her every move entirely focused on not being found by her mother, makes the letter-from-the lawyer even more interesting.

That’s where this book begins.

It’s a murder mystery set in a small town with a woman cast as the primary hard-hitting tough-as-nails mystery-solving hero. The new-age magic and tarot cards are merely part of the story because…and only because…that was the narcissistic mother’s last con-game.

This book reminded me of the  V I Warshawski books by Sara Paretsky. I’ve posted quotes from both Hockensmith and Paretsky to this blog – go ahead and compare the two!

I really enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it, but ignore the marketing material – here is a more accurate description:

The White Magic Five & Dime is hard-hitting murder mystery featuring tough people with difficult lives. There’s abuse, neglect, and extremely non-motherly actions; but there is also a solved mystery, adventure and….ultimately…a daughter who manages to put the ghost of her mother to rest.