Great Book, Bad Marketing

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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.

Creating Kingdoms

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Al went over to his desk, took out two pencils and handed one to me. “So Prince Teodoro,” he said, with a smile as big as Saturn, “wanna fly?”

Al and Teddy by Neil Waldman

Magic Labyrinth and Pizza

Last night I spent the evening at a board game cafe. A 6-year-old family member and I had a wonderful time playing board games and eating pizza.

On the way home I realized we’d devoted 2+ hours to old-fashioned gaming in a place that does not have televisions or computers. We spent the entire time surrounded by people who were also talking, interacting and playing board games. No one was working on a laptop or staring at a cell phone. I didn’t even bother to check my phone the entire time.

It was a much-needed change for both of us. This may turn into a regular activity!

As for the games…

We played a handful of different family friendly games, but the clear winner was this:

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It’s a rather ingenious game that uses a multi-layer board and magnetic game pieces to create an ever-changing labyrinth beneath the game board. The objective is to be the first to reach a pre-designated and randomly selected spot on the board. The challenge is in getting the game piece across the board without losing the metal ball magnetically attached to the bottom (located on the underside of the board) by knocking it up against a wall of the labyrinth. Every time the ball falls off, it rolls out to a corner (like in a pool game) and the piece goes back to the beginning.

I kept thinking that it was an awful lot like late 1980s video games. For those of you who have never played: back then, ‘dying’ or losing a level meant going back to level 1. Every. Single. Time. That’s actually a big part of the reason why I never became a (video) gamer.

Yet, the board game reset was fun. In fact, it was fun and challenging for both of us (child and adult), which is difficult to do!

I strongly recommend trying this one out.

I also suspect Santa just might bring a copy to our house this year. 🙂

When Legends Become Real

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This, Soren realized in the deepest part of his gizzard, was why they had to go to the Great Ga’Hoole Tree. For when the world one knew began to crumble away bit by bit, when not only your memories but the memories that others might have of you grew dim with time and distance, when, indeed, you began to fade into a nothingness in the minds of the owls that you loved best, well, perhaps that was when legends could become real.

The Guardians of Ga’Hoole, Book One: The Capture, by Kathryn N Lasky

Grandma Has Solutions

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“Look!” said peter, “There’s someone waiting for you too. I told you that Grandma always has a solution for everything!

Peter and the Seal by Rick de Haas

The Usual Dimension 

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One of the children in my life had the following conversation immediately after waking up: 

Child: I’m glad we live in this dimension and not the other.

Me : Oh, That’s good. What’s in the other dimension? 

Child: Nooooo! We have to build the machine to get there!  We don’t have the parts.

I guess that means we’re stuck here.

Scottish Monster Family

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In faraway Scotland, here was a famous lake called Loch Ness. And legend had it that deep in this lake lived a monster. No one had ever seen it. But guess what? The legend was false. In truth, way way down at the bottom of Loch Ness there lived not one but three monsters!

The Lock Mess Monster, written by Helen Lester and illustrated by Lynn Munsinger

Giggle Book Award: Ninja Family

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Every family needs that special play time that just brings the whole family together as a team. For some families it’s a game like football, baseball or soccer. For the family in the Ninja! books by Arree Chung, it’s pretending to be NINJAS!

I strongly recommend reading these books together because the two stories, combined, illustrate the Ninja bond within the family illustrated.

Ninja!

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Ninja! is about Max, a young boy, playing pretend-ninja and causing trouble throughout the house. He wakes up his dad, steals his sister’s cookie and causes her to accidentally fall on her bottom (it was not intentional), which earns the little ninja some punishment time.

Oddly enough, according to the children in my life, the punishment is one of the funniest parts of the book – and it consists of nothing more than a picture of mom’s arm pointing and the little ninja leaving the kitchen, clearly downtrodden, with the words:

I have been shamed.

As mentioned in previous posts, I tend to use children’s books as an opportunity to indulge in a little reader’s theater. In this case, I point to the hand with an ‘uh-oh,’ which is usually echoed by the children because ALL children know what the silent point means. Then I read the words  “I have been shamed” in a very dramatic ‘shamed’ voice.

Giggles galore.

Then the story takes a turn for the better as the little ninja makes amends with his little sister by giving her a costume and saying:

Baby sister, let me teach you the way of the ninja.

And they are off…

Ninja! Attack of the Clan

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Attack of the Clan features Max playing pretend-ninja alone but, this time, he doesn’t want to play alone – he wants someone to play with him. He trying to entice his sister, mother and father, but each one is fully absorbed in another task.

a misunderstanding between father and son leads Max to believe his father has agreed to play hide-and-seek when his father hasn’t even heard what Max was saying. End result? Max confronts his father, realizes the error, and returns to his room with hurt feelings.

This is a scenario most children fully understand.

Then, things change.

Maxwell, time for dinner!

So, Max heads downstairs, looking for the family, and finds dinner on the table but no one around – except the dog who is lapping up the soup. BUT, what Max does not know, but the reader DOES know, is that his entire family has bot on their ninja costumes and taken hiding places all over the dining room.

Surprise Attack!

The entire family jumps out and an epic pretend-battle ensues. First Max takes down dad by poking him in the belly button and tying him up with a jump-rope.

Then he give his mom a kiss and shouts:

The Kiss of Death!

Finally, it’s little sister’s turn.

The little ninja is elusive. She is small but powerful.

Little sister hides from Max long enough to jump on his back and lick his face.

SLURP!

I’ve been licked.

I love my ninja clan!

Between the drawings and the text,the readers theater opportunities are wonderful!

Giggles, giggles and more giggle!

The best part? The family is clearly having a wonderful time playing pretend and bonding through play.

Pre-Television Kids Lit

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This book was published in 1928. The length of the story, the style of the artwork and the plot make an interesting contrast to children’s books published more recently.I found myself wondering how pre-television children reacted to the stories they were told. The portrayal of cats and feline behavior is also interesting. Well worth a look.

I’ve seen hundreds of cats, thousands of cats, millions and billions and trillions of cats – and not one was as pretty as this one.

Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag

The Little Things

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“Would you mind if I took this off?” she asked. Boy 412 shook his head. That’s what mothers were for. To fiddle about with your hat.

 

Septimus Heap, Book One: Magyk by Angie Sage

 

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