White Magic Five & Dime

The White Magic Five & Dime (A Tarot Mystery)The White Magic Five & Dime by Steve Hockensmith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Athena Passalis, Tarot reader and con artist, has been murdered, found brutally strangled in her Arizona establishment by her teenaged assistant. Although Athena's daughter Alanis has been estranged from her mother for many years, Athena has willed everything to her, including the White Magic Five & Dime.

At first, Alanis assumes that her mother's shady dealings have caught up with her, that Tarot-reading was merely the last of her mother's many schemes to pry money from gullible souls in this Sedona-Lite town. Not all is as it seems, though, and Alanis decides to take on her mother's last career choice to help a delectable police detective find the killer.

Armed with a deck of Tarot cards and a puckish Tarot guidebook (Infinite Roads to Knowing by Miss Chance), Alanis employs imagination, intuition, and the ability to spot "tells" that she learned in her peripatetic childhood, when she, her mother, and Athena's partner comprised a travelling scam circus. Suspects are plentiful. Was it the husband of a woman whom Athena had urged to buy a herd of llamas? The family of an aged woman who had been convinced to let Athena take away her "cursed" jewelry for her own protection? A bumbling bail-bondsman who was ridiculously easy to identify after a threatening phone call?

Miss Chance's book gives Alanis the basics of Tarot meanings along with asides that appeal to her own cynicism. (As in, yes, the symbolism on the cards could seem overblown enough for a Lady Gaga video.) The Hermit, muses Miss Chance, may seem like an isolated crazy in Idaho who writes anti-government screeds in a cabin, but the card-reader still should listen and learn. Likewise the muumuu-wearing Justice, or the Wheel, which might bring treasure, or might bring a winged cow. Listen and learn...

Alanis begins to feel an unaccustomed pleasure in the life of a small town. What am I really doing here? she asks the cards. The 8 of Pentacles hints at the value of learning a useful trade that could benefit a community. Perhaps, she thinks, she could stay and use the Tarot for good instead of for scams.

Yes, Alanis solves her mother's murder. (That fact really isn't a spoiler in a cozy mystery.) The reader is in for an enjoyable beginning to a new mystery series. Recommended.  Why only 4 stars? Because this reader guessed two plot points a bit too soon. I chalk it up to the authors' need to establish the who and where, and I forgive. I'll certainly read a sequel.

I received a reader's copy of this book from NetGally. This is a fair and unbiased review.

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Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and WonderThrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Arianna Huffington
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book is a mishmash of pre- and re- digested advice about getting enough sleep, becoming mindful, meditating, and changing one's value system to honor "the third metric": a redefinition of success to include values beyond money and power.

Ms. Huffington spends many pages telling the reader to unplug from digital devices, and then spends as many pages listing and annotating apps to meditate by, unplug by, control one's multi-tasking by, or even do nothing by. **

She praises and damns social media, makes generalizations about what physicists believe about time, and makes enormous generalizations about being guided by one's intuition or inner sense of rightness.  (Note: terrorists believe in their sense of rightness, too.) Other generalizations are more annoying. Sorry, I don't buy the idea that sleep is a feminist issue, and I disagree strongly that people do not bond over moments of shared mortality. Our national experience and personal experience belie that assumption.

Much of the book is not this annoying, but so much of it is that the reader almost misses some genuine insights - such as the observation that the algorithms that govern the user's "personalized" experience at sites such as amazon.com provide a very shallow interpretation of who the user is.

Note to Arianna's editor: Metaphors work better if they're not, dare I say, counter-intuitive, or downright wrong. The iceberg did not hit the Titanic. The Titanic hit the iceberg. Just saying.

I received this book as an ARC. This is my honest review.

**Literally. As in, watch this app for 2 minutes if you want to do nothing.

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Lost Lake

Lost LakeLost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another lovely story from Sarah Addison Allen!


Lisette: a mute French woman who senses others' emotions "... slipped straight to her as if through mouse holes..."

A woman named Bulahdeen, whose grandmother used to say that old hands make the best food.

A lake described as "a dense round plop of gray-green water surrounded by trees with Spanish moss hanging from their limbs, like the long hair of ladies dipping their heads to sip from the lake."

All this, plus redemption, courage, love charms, food, and a talking alligator...

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