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This Week’s Book Pile will be a weekly post of 3 books I’ve read. Each will contain a brief summary of the book, who I recommend it for, and why.* You can also click on the book photo to go to the author’s website.

1) Secondhand Spirits, A Witchcraft Mystery #1 by Juliet Blackwell secondhand-spirits-200

Book one of the Witchcraft Mystery series introduces us to Lily Ivory, a witch who just wants to be normal. Lily has landed in San Francisco and opened vintage fashion store called Aunt Cora’s Closet. In addition to wearing the clothes herself, Lily can feel vibes from the past owners and has a knack for matching people with the vintage clothing.

As the first book in the series, there is a lot of introduction to Lily, why she wants to be “normal,” the world, and the characters. In addition to Lily, we meet Bronwyn, a wiccan who rents a part of Lily’s store to sell herbs and potions; Maya, a local art student; Aidan Rhodes, a powerful witch who has a unknown interest in Lily; Max Carmichael, journalist, skeptic and mythbuster; and Oscar, a Gargoyle/pig familiar who was given to Lily by Aidan.

The plot involves missing children and the legend of the weeping woman, or La Llorena. Lily, as the resident witch, gets involved in trying to find out what’s happened to the children and why.

Who should read: fans of paranormal/urban fantasy. If you like magic, ghosties and mysteries, then this series is for you. Also good for YA, as there are no sex scenes and no swear words.

Why I like it: Ms. Blackwell has made a likable and believable character in Lily. My biggest pet peeve is a main character who is either one dimensional or unlikable. Lily is fresh, multi-dimensional, and fun. You want to visit Lily’s store and try on some of the amazing vintage clothing she finds. Ms. Blackwell’s writing is fresh and fun, and the dialogue is clever and solid – each character clearly has their own voice, and the voices never get muddled. The Bay area setting is perfect for Lily and her clothing shop. Ms. Blackwell gives just enough background and world introduction without overwhelming or confusing the reader, although there is some awkwardness in the beginning with exactly what the world is like, but that is to be expected a bit in a first book. The plot moves quick and smoothly, with a few twists just to keep you on your toes. Overall, the story is very charming and a fairly quick read.

2) One ShotJack Reacher #9 by Lee Child

imgresJack Reacher left the army and has no phone, no address, no connections. He drifts from town to town going across America, and finds himself in situations where his military investigative (MP) past is put to good use. In the ninth installment, Reacher is contacted, albeit in a roundabout way, by former Army Sniper James Barr. Barr has been accused of firing six shots and killing five people, and the case against Barr seems to be a slam dunk. Enter Reacher.

This was a recent movie starring Tom Cruise as Reacher. I didn’t see the movie, but after reading the book, I can’t picture Cruise as Reacher. Reacher is supposed to be 6’5″, between 220-250 pds with a 50″ chest and a 37″ inseam – and all muscle. This is NOT a short, small, or flabby man. I’m not sure what actor would fit the bill, but in my book, Cruise, no matter how awesome Top Gun was, does not come close. Mainly because Reacher’s height and size is critical to the action in many of the stories. But make your own judgements on the book-to-movie and chosen actors.

Who should read: mystery lovers and anyone who like a down and dirty, fast-paced mystery with just enough action to keep it exciting.

Why I like it: The best thing about this series (there are currently 18) is that you don’t have to read them in order. I went from the first one, Killing Floor, to this one and had no problems picking it up. While Reacher is in different places in each book (he’s an admitted drifter), his movements are really secondary to the action.

The writing is very concise and hard-biting. Reacher is a very believable former Army MP. The action is very fast paced and the mystery has plenty of twists and turns. Are there some implausible coincidences? Sure, but nothing that makes your suspend your beliefs or nothing that goes against the laws of science. The coincidences are more characters who knew each other when just happening to meet again. This book is hard to put down because you keep wanting to turn the page to see what will happen next. Overall, a solid and fast-paced read.

3) American Gods by Neil Gaiman AmericanGods_MassMarketPaperback_1185415388

A man who goes by the name Shadow is released from prison. He finds his wife has been killed and a mysterious stranger, known only as Mr. Wednesday, offers him a job as a bodyguard. Mr. Wednesday is traveling across the country recruiting his old colleagues as a war is brewing. The idea of the book is that gods exists because people believe in them. The old gods (Norse, Celtic, Indian, etc.) were brought to the United States by immigrants. But as the country evolved, new gods have arisen reflecting Americans obsessions with media, technology, celebrity, drugs, etc. Now it’s a battle to see which gods will prevail, and Shadow is right in the middle.

Who should read: fans of Neil Gaiman (who brought us Coraline, The Sandman, Neverwhere, Chu’s Day and more), and anyone who likes an intelligent, thought-provoking story. This is not for the meek, as it may challenge some of your pre-conceived notions of religion and America.

Why I like it: First and foremost, it’s an incredibly intelligent, thought provoking book. Mr. Gaiman, a Brit now living in America and married to the awesome Amanda Palmer, drives home the point that “Nobody’s American … Not originally.” If that’s not enough, the writing is superb, the characters are intriguing (e.g., Low Key, Mr. Wednesday, Shadow), and the imagery is vivid. This is not a book full of action, but a book with a story that unfolds slowly, drawing forth through mythology and side stories, to question archetypes, mythologies, and our awareness of the history of our culture and what is has become. Overall, a fabulous read, and one that would be great for a discussion group.

So take your pick, and enjoy reading!

If you have any suggestions for future Book Pile posts, please leave them in the comments or message me on NDC’s new Facebook page.

Check back next Wednesday for more Book Pile. Upcoming titles in future Book Pile posts include (in no particular order):

  • A Prayer for Owen Meaney by John Irving
  • Our National Parks by John Muir
  • Out of Africa by Isak Dinison
  • The Lincoln Lawyer by John Connelly
  • Sahara by Clive Cussler
  • Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews
  • Side Jobs: Stories from the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
  • Soulless, Parasol Protectorate #1, by Gail Carriger
  • Pawn of the Prophecy by David Eddings

*Want to keep up with what I’m reading? Follow me on Goodreads.