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.

Change Memory and Fog


…a silent goodbye, to a place that had changed me forever—and the place that, more than any graveyard, would forever contain the memory, and the mystery, of my grandfather. They were linked inextricably, he and that island, and I wondered, now that both were gone, if I would ever really understand what had happened to me: what I had become; was becoming. I had come to the island to solve my grandfather’s mystery, and in doing so I had discovered my own. Watching Cairnholm disappear felt like watching the only remaining key to that mystery sink beneath the dark waves. And then the island was simply gone, swallowed up by a mountain of fog.

Hollow City: The Second Novel in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Mysteries of Heaven and Earth


I didn’t go far, just around the perimeter of the neat yard in a slow shuffle, watching the sky, clear now, a billion stars spread across it. Stars, too, were time travelers. How many of those ancient points of light were the last echoes of suns now dead? How many had been born but their light not yet come this far? If all the suns but ours collapsed tonight, how many lifetimes would it take us to realize that we were alone? I had always known the sky was full of mysteries—but not until now had I realized how full of them the earth was.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

The Movie opens TODAY!

Work Through It


Work felt beyond me this morning, but I didn’t have the income or the upbringing to indulge only myself.

Blacklist (V.I. Warshawski Novels) by Sara Paretsky

Outside of Love


“She and Max saw me to the elevator, their arms around each other. Riding down the elevator I felt both the assurance one gets from seeing others in love, and the pang of feeling separate from the world of lovers.”

Blacklist (V.I. Warshawski Novels) by Sara Paretsky

Blue-Collar Neighborhoods


“It starts along Chicago’s smoky industrial corridor, passing old blue-collar neighborhoods that resemble the one where I grew up—tiny bungalows where women look old at forty and men work and eat themselves to early heart attacks.”

Blacklist (V.I. Warshawski Novels) by Sara Paretsky

High Price for Being Grand


“We don’t give into our worries, cara,” she said. “That is for grand ladies, who can fancy themselves ill when their lover hasn’t written or the new dress is commonplace. We aren’t like that, self-indulgent. We do some job, like this, we do it well, we make the worries leave us alone.”

“I thought of my mother’s words on the worries of grand ladies. I was glad of the poverty I’d grown up in, glad of having to earn every dime I’d ever spent. You pay a high price for money, too high a price.”

Blacklist (V.I. Warshawski Novels) by Sara Paretsky

Bad Management Technique


How nice to be the man in charge and bulldoze your way through people as if they were construction sites.

Blacklist (V.I. Warshawski Novels) by Sara Paretsky

Don’t Weep, Just Do


“Don’t weep over yourself,” my mother had told me—I was eight or nine, and wrapped in misery because the girls I usually played with had gone to a birthday party I wasn’t invited to—“Do something.”

Blacklist (V.I. Warshawski Novels) by Sara Paretsky

Good Things and Bad People

“I don’t think there’s a ledger of good and evil, this much good offsets that much evil. It’s just, oh, you know, there was that popular book a few years back, when bad things happen to good people, or whatever it was? That’s pie-in-the-sky stuff, to keep all us working stiffs from rising up in fury at the inequities in the world. No one ever writes about all the good things that happen to bad people, how the rich and powerful walk away from the messes they make, and people like me, like my neighbor, like my parents, pay for the clean-up.

Blacklist (V.I. Warshawski Novels) by Sara Paretsky

The book referenced in the above quote is When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Rabbi Harold S. Kushner. It’s an excellent and book and I highly recommend it – as long as the original intention is clearly understood.

When I read the book I was going through some particularly difficult times and my response echoed the above quote almost perfectly. I was having an internal grumble session over the things the popular press feeds the masses and why people devour them so readily when I happened to stumble across the introduction.

According to the introduction, Rabbi Kushner wrote the book with the intention of providing advice to other clergy who were struggling to help members of their faith get through tough times. Therefore, the intended audience is professional religious assisting others with difficult aspects of life’s journey. After making that connection, the book, as a whole, was far more appealing and much easier to digest.

Personally, I still struggle with the why do good things happen to bad people part of the equation (which is nicely expressed in the above quote), but this particular popular press text no longer feels like one of the many hands of oppression…uh…please excuse the borderline radical fire-starter language – it’s just a rather apt description of a feeling.

(C) Adora Myers 2014