Sunday, January 19, 2020

2019 Books Read. . . Bingo Style

I figured this would be a nice prompt to try out. I found it via Bev at My Reader's Block. The original idea apparently was to read books throughout the year to fit the bingo card. Like Bev, what I am doing here is looking at what I read in 2019 and seeing what might fit into the bingo card. It was not as easy as it sounds, and I think I got an interesting result or two.

The bingo card (which I got the same place Bev got hers):

My results (with links to reviews where available):

A book with more than 500 pages:

A Thousand Sons (Horus Heresy, Book 12)

A forgotten classic:

The Prophet

A book that became a movie:

The Infiltrator

 A book published in 2019

Book with a number in the title

Around the Tarot in 78 Days

Book written by someone under 30

N/A. I have no idea if I read any book that has author under 30 years old. Besides, that is not information most authors make readily available.

A book with non-human characters

Garfield Fat Cat 3-Pack, Volume 14

A funny book

Dance Like Everybody's Watching

A book by a female author

 The Kentucky Bourbon Cocktail Book

A book with a mystery: N/A. I did not read anything fitting this category in 2019.

A book with a one word title


A book of short stories: N/A. No short story collections read in 2019.

Free square:  

A book set in a different continent

Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness (graphic novel adaptation)

A book of nonfiction

First book by a favorite author: N/A.

A book heard about online: Doing a bit of a stretch here. I read this because I saw the author as one of the experts in a documentary about the Chicago mob. I did watch the documentary streaming online. 

Get Capone

A bestselling book: N/A. To be honest, I am not sure if I read anything that would rate as a bestseller. Then again, I am not in the habit of pursuing whatever the rest of the herd follows in the bestsellers list. Oh well.

A book based on a true story

Hell's Cartel

A book at the bottom of the TBR pile

A book your friend loves

A second book in a series

Star Trek: Alien Spotlight, Volume 2

A book with a blue cover

Friday, January 17, 2020

Booknote: Hell's Cartel

Diarmuid Jeffreys, Hell's Cartel: Ig Farben and the Making of Hitler's War Machine. New York: Henry Holt & Co., 2010.  ISBN: 978-0-8050-9143-4.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: history, business, Nazi Germany
Format: trade paperback
Source: Hutchins Library, Berea College

The end of this book to me was neither satisfactory nor surprising. In a nutshell, the corporate executives all get light sentences for the atrocities they committed and/or enabled, and some of them were never even convicted. With that out of the way, let's look at the book.

The book looks at the history of IG Farben from its very humble beginnings all the way to 2003. when what was left of it, a trust fund basically, i.e. a legal entity, finally declared bankruptcy thus dissolving the last remnant of the corporation. Meanwhile, eventually, the companies that made IG Farben, including Bayer and BASF were pretty much allowed to go back to being separate companies and mostly went on business as usual. If there are lessons in the book they are that corporations really can get away with anything, and that yes, they do not only influence politics but are often active political participants. The author writes on lessons from this history,

"More directly, though, it contains a clear warning about the risks inherent in any close relationship between business and state and what can go wrong when political objectives and the pursuit of profit become dangerously entwined" (10).

The book can be pretty interesting, mostly when it looks at the broader historical context. The emerging years were interesting too. However, the book has a lot of business minutiae that may not be as interesting. In addition, the book includes good notes and a bibliography.

In the end, this is an academic volume. It is not exactly light nor pleasure reading. It does provide a good documented history of the company, and it offers a look at Nazi Germany from a more corporate side. The book may be of interest to academic libraries, specially those with good European history and business collections. I would not recommend this for public libraries unless it is larger public libraries with comprehensive collections, and even then I would see it as optional.

Overall, I liked it at times.

3 out of 5 stars. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Booknote: Cannabis

Box Brown, Cannabis: the Illegalization of Weed in America. New York: First Second, 2019. ISBN: 978-1-250-15408-8.

Genre: graphic novels and comics
Subgenre: nonfiction, history, policy
Format: e-galley
Source: NetGalley

I wanted to like this book more. I read and enjoyed the author's book Andre the Giant (link to my review). Plus this book seems like a good timely choice given the current legalization movement in the United States. However, it is a book I would consider optional at best.

The book looks at the story of cannabis in the United States and how the movement to make it illegal was often motivated by race and class. At times, authorities did not care until it was white young people doing the drugs. Once that happened, moralists began to pressure the government to make it illegal.

The narrative of the story is not very good. It starts with various small scenes that can lack a sense of continuity. A big issue is the book gets seriously bogged down with Harry Aslinger's story. He was the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and cannabis' enemy number one. Yes, he was an important figure, but he basically takes over the rest of the book. Readers may get the impression not much of anything else happened in the 20th century related to cannabis. The last part of the book as a result feels rushed and less substantial. It feels as if the author ran out of space and had to rush the ending.

The result is that what could have been an interesting topic gets bogged down and becomes a drag to read. Readers may feel an urge to skim in order to get past Aslinger's story. Also the text can be a bit dry, like a textbook.

Overall, this book was just OK. For libraries, this is definitely optional. I've bought other books by this author for our library, but I am skipping this one for our library.

2 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2020 Reading Challenges:


Monday, January 13, 2020

ARC's and review copies out of hand? I found a reading challenge to help with that.

I discovered this reading challenge recently, and I think I can make it work along with the NetGalley/Edelweiss Reading Challenge I am doing in 2020. I do not have too many ARCs (that is Advanced Reader Copies to my non-book reviewer, librarian, book trade friends) overdue since I managed to catch up on a lot of them last year as part of the book weeding I was doing at home. However, in addition to having books overdue reviews in NetGalley and Edelweiss, I do have some print books overdue as well, and I am determined to either get them reviewed or get them out of my shelves. I am looking at 2020 as a year to put my reading and reviewing back on a solid track and clean out as much as I can. So let's start reading and reviewing.

Detail highlights for the #ARCApocalypse 2020 Reader Challenge:

  • Read the basics here. This is a flexible kind of challenge with minimal rules. I am going to try to read and review as much as I can.
  • For me, I would like to clear the 2019 ARCs on NetGalley at least, which amounts to six. Then I will start tackling 2018, which is a lot more. We'll see how far I can get. 
  • I also have some print copies overdue at home. I have to check again and see what I will review. What I do not review I will likely release/weed out. 
  • I will add books to the list as I read them. I will link the book title to the book review when I post the review on the blog. 
  • Social media hashtag: #ARCApocalypse. 

List of books read for this challenge:

  1. Box Brown, Cannabis: The Illegalization of Weed in America

Catching up on NetGalley and Edelweiss Titles in 2020

Like a good number of book reviewers out there, I've fallen behind on reviewing titles I have requested via NetGalley (mainly NetGalley. I do not use Edelweiss very much). Over last couple of years since I did this challenge, due to various issues ranging from my reading moratorium (no reading of political/social issues books) to a reading slump to just life happening, I've kept falling behind. So I am going to work this year to improve that NetGalley review percentage rate and lower the list of books that fell behind. So let's get this show on the road.

Detail highlights for the NetGalley and Edelweiss Reading Challenge 2020:

  • You can sign up for it and read the rules here
  • Runs from January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020.
  • Any genre, release date, book length, etc. counts as long as the book comes via NetGalley or Edelweiss. 
  • I got some work to do, so I am initially committing to the Silver Level = 25 books read and reviewed. If I read more, I will upgrade the level. 
  • Social media hashtag: #NGEW2020.
  • I will add books to the list as I read them. I will link the book's review to the title on the list once I post a review. 

List of books read for this challenge:

  1. Box Brown, Cannabis: the Illegalization of Weed in America

Listening to some books in 2020: the Audiobook Challenge

I continue posting my reading challenges for 2020. I did this challenge before, and I found that I enjoyed doing it, so I am going to give it a go for 2020. As I wrote when I did this challenge last in 2017, the issue for me is selection. My local public library branch holdings are woefully out of date, and at the time Overdrive was not better. I understand they have added some more online options, so I will probably try those out as well as Overdrive again. Still, I do enjoy when someone reads to me, so I am willing to try this challenge again in 2020.

Detail highlights for the 2020 Audiobook Challenge:

  • You can sign up here and read the rules. 
  • Runs from January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020.
  • Any genre counts, as long as it is in some audio format.
  • Last time I did this, I did the Newbie level, and I managed to complete that. I am going to up the ante a bit and commit initially to the next level up: Weekend Warrior = 5 to 10 books. If I read more than that, I will upgrade. 
  • I will list the books as I read them, and I will link the reviews in the book titles as I post reviews.

List of books read for this challenge:


Reading down the backlist in 2020

As I stated when I signed up for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge, I was taking a break from reading challenges since 2017. Now that I am back, I figured the Backlist Reader Challenge could work for me since a lot of what I read is backlist, and some of the books here will work for the Mount TBR challenge as well. So here we go.

The detail highlights for the Backlist Reader Challenge 2020:

  • You can sign up here. It also has the full rules. 
  • Challenge runs from January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020.
  • This is for books that have been on the TBR list for a good while. It can be books you own or books that you have wanted to read. 
  • Books have to be published before 2019, and they do have to be on your TBR already. For me, I can go back and check my GoodReads TBR shelf or the series of TBR posts over at Alchemical Thoughts for ideas. In addition, books I may be reading for Mount TBR will likely count; if they have been sitting on my shelf, they are on the TBR if I have not read them.
  • Any format works: print, e-book, audiobook. 
  • You can pick your level. I am going to keep it modest and just match my commitment to the Mount TBR challenge, so let's start with 12 books. I will keep adding more if I get past 12. 
  • I will tally the books on the list as I read them. I will link the titles to reviews as I post the reviews online. 
  • Social media hashtag for this challenge: #BacklistReader. 

List of books read for this challenge:

  1.  Nicolas Pileggi, Wise Guy: Life in a Mafia Family.

After a break, climing back up Mount TBR in 2020

I took a break from doing book challenges after 2017. I thought I would take a one year break, but it became two years. Meanwhile, the TBR pile of books I own has kept growing, so I am going to take a stab at it and get that list down. So once more I am signing up for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge sponsored by Bev at My Reader's Block.

The basic details of the challenge:

  • Sign up page (if you are interested). You can sign up year round now. Full rules are also included at the link.
  • Challenge goes from January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020. 
  • Goal is to read books that you own. They can be in any format (print, e-book, audio). 
  • Books in this challenge can count for other challenges.
  • I will be tallying the list as I read and review them. I will link the title to the review when I write the review.
  • I am declaring the following initial level: Pike's Peak: Read 12 books from your TBR pile/s. 
  • The social media hashtag for this is #MountTBR2020.

List of books read for this challenge:


Sunday, January 12, 2020

My Reading List for 2019

Welcome to my end of year reading list (with some end of  year thoughts) for 2019. Let's see what has been going on.

My professional blog continues on hiatus, and it is likely to stay that way for a good while. My actual library work does keep me busy, but I do not always have the time to write about it for the blog. I have been incubating some writing ideas, but not I am not sure they are substantial enough to re-open that blog at this time. So for now, that shop stays closed.

Over the last year, I have worked on adding some more bookish content in this blog in addition to my book reviews. It is still a work in progress. I continue to enjoy being a book blogger very much. This focus will be where I focus most of my blogging efforts moving on (that and my cartomancy, but more on that below).

Speaking of book reviews, if you are an author, editor, or publisher, and you think you have a book I may want to read and review, check out my book review statement, then let me know. I'd be happy to consider it if fits with my review statement and reading interests. I am also a Tarot and oracle card reader and collector, so if you are an author, editor, and publisher of a deck and/or book on this subject, feel free to pitch it my way. If you want to see a sampling of what I have reviewed in that area, you can check the "Tarot" tag on this blog (right side column).

In milestones, in September 11, 2019 I marked seven years working at Hutchins Library. As I said before, it may not all be roses and rainbows, but it has been a pretty good run overall, and I look forward to the new year working there.

In other blogging and social media updates and news. I found a new home for now for Alchemical Annex over at NewTumbl, one of the various sites that came up after the the whole Tumblr debacle at the end of 2018. It took me a while to figure things out over there, and it is still a bit of a work in progress. One of the things I do like is their post tagging and ratings system, done by humans rather than an algorithm; it is not perfect but works pretty well I think. I set the rating on the blog to "mature" (or rather I had it set to "mature." I recently felt the need to raise it up to "X" not necessarily because I post or reblog X-rated level content but because other reasons due to their systems. My blog's content there still remains "M" or below, but you may need to log in to see some of it. A bit of a long story I posted about over there). I may write a post reviewing my experience over there down the road. Meanwhile, Alchemical Annex on NT  is mainly for fun as the old Tumblr was, plus it is starting to become home to my Tarot and cartomancy content including my daily card draws (which I also still share on Twitter). So if you visit over there it's a bit like a commonplace book of images, short posts, and my cartomancy stuff mainly for fun and amusement. While I still have the Wordpress site, just put that on hiatus since in NewTumbl I do not have to worry (so far) over things like image limits. Also putting the Wordpress Alchemical Annex on hiatus means one less thing to manage for now. I am really looking over my options and see what can stay operative and what needs to be put on hiatus or dormant. I started some of these things back in the days of Library 2.0 as a way to learn new things and experiment, but I am finding I am not using them as much, so makes sense to put them dormant. I am not deleting them, and I may go back if I find a good focus I want to work on, but for now, less is better.

Meanwhile, Alchemical Thoughts is still semi-active, mainly to keep track of things I want to read and some other miscellaneous commonplace things. As I mentioned above, I opened Wordpress account  to try out their blogging platform back in the days of Library 2.0, but these days it may be a bit redundant. I seriously need to reflect on what I may want for that blog. For now, I am going to try and give it a go to make it more my Tarot and cartomancy blog in 2020. We'll see how it goes.

So let's get on to the actual reading for 2019. I predicted that I likely read a bit less last year than before. I am pretty much at peace with that. Reasons for that include:
  • I have been watching a bit more media and videos. This includes checking out DVDs from my local public library, plus I have bought a few that I need to watch and blog about down the road. On the media front, I have been using Tubi, and it has been quite fun, even if it can be a "video jukebox of schlock and craptitude" (by the way, that great little phrase comes from B-Movie Poster Vault, @TheBMovieVault on Twitter). When they have a rare gem they are good; rest of the time, not so much, but it can be fun overall. One of the highlights in Tubi is they have some nice runs of old 1980s cartoons, so I often binge watch those during down times. I am also trying out a few other free streaming sites that contain curious things here or there. If you are interested or curious about what I have been watching, including a few things I watched so you do not have to, check out my "film and television" tag on this blog. 
  • I do continue with politics/social issues reading moratorium, which means I am not reading books in those topics or any related topic. I want as much escapism as possible, so if it is not books it is older movies and shows for me. To be honest, I do not find much appealing in a lot of modern entertainment, and I am not necessarily willing to pay extra for streaming services just for that one series or movie everyone else in the herd considers a big deal. Overall, I have plenty of options to keep me entertained without worrying about extras.
  • I continue with my study of Tarot, oracle cards, and cartomancy. My skill at reading the cards has improved over the past year. One of things I want to try in the next year is to post spreads I try out. This is mainly card spreads that other more experienced readers share, so for me it would be an exercise trying a spread and seeing how it worked out for me. I will be posting those over at the Alchemical Annex if you wish to check them out along with my daily card draws. May also post them at Alchemical Thoughts.
Next, we look at what and how I read in 2019. After the list, you will find my comments and remarks. Note that books with an asterisk (*) are rereads.


  • Lauren Reeves, And Then You Die of Dysentery.
  • D.L. Hughley, How Not To Get Shot
  • Michael Dirda, Browsings
  • Michael Dirda, Book by Book
  • Matt Birbeck, The Quiet Don. 


  • Don Miguel Ruiz, The Three Questions.
  • Rick Remender, Venom: The Complete Collection, Volume 1
  • David Annandale, Yarrick: Imperial Creed (Warhammer 40,000).
  • Robert Kirkman, Battle Pope Presents: Saint Michael.


  • Ann Fiery, The Book of Divination.
  • Anne Bogel, I'd Rather Be Reading.
  • Debbie Tung, Book Love.
  • Stella Harris, Tongue Tied: Untangling Communication in Sex, Kink, and Relationships.


  • Graham McNeill, A Thousand Sons (Horus Heresy, # 12). 
  • Michael M. Hughes, Magic for the Resistance.
  • Andrew S. Curran, Diderot and the Art of Thinking Freely.
  • Fred Rogers, You are Special.
  • Michael Crisp, The Kentucky Bucket List.


  • James Lileks, The Gallery of Regrettable Food
  • Ellen Dugan, Witches Tarot (book and card deck kit).
  • Deborah Black, Everyday Witch Tarot (book and card deck kit).
  • Marcus Katz, Tarot Time Traveller
  • Michael Mayo, The Horror Show Guide
  • Lisa Freinkel Tishman, Mindful Tarot.
  • Gary Larson, Valley of the Far Side
  • Robert McParland, Bestseller: A Century of America's Favorite Books
  • John Baxter, A Pound of Paper.


  • Nina Katchadourian, Sorted Books
  • Joyce Higginbotham and River Higginbotham, Paganism: an Introduction to Earth-Centered Religions
  • Margaret C. Sullivan, Jane Austen Cover-To-Cover.
  • Clive Barker, The Hellbound Heart


  • John Ostrander, Star Wars: The Stark Hyperspace War
  • CNN, Anthony Bourdain Remembered
  • David Domine, A Splash of Bourbon.
  • Scott Tipton, Star Trek: The Next Generation: Intelligence Gathering
  • Tim Seeley, G.I. Joe vs. The Transformers, Volume 3: The Art of War.


  • Julia Young, Please Don't Grab My P#$$y.
  • Rob Sears, The Beautiful Poetry of Donald Trump
  • Jeannie Reed, The Language of Tarot
  • Duane Swierczynski, Birds of Prey, Volume 1: Trouble in Mind (DC: The New 52).
  • Leeza Robertson, Pathworking the Tarot
  • Viktor Kalvache, Pherone
  • Howard Harrison, Corporate Crap
  • Diarmuid, Jeffreys, Hell's Cartel
  • Keith R.A. DeCandido,, Star Trek Alien Spotlight, Volume 2.


  • Michelle Garza and Melissa Larson, Mayan Blue.
  • Jonathan Eig, Get Capone
  • Shin-ichi Hiromoto, Star Wars Return of the Jedi Manga, Volume 4.


  • Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
  • Jim Davis, Garfield Fat Cat 3-Pack #14.
  • Campbell Soup Company, Cooking in Minutes.
  • Kia Asamiya, Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace Manga, Volume 1.
  • Kia Asamiya, Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace Manga, Volume2.
  • Randel Plowman, Masters: Collage.
  • Jim Davis, Garfield's Sunday Finest

  • Marcus Katz, Around the Tarot in 78 Days.
  • Robert Mazur, The Infiltrator
  • Jerry Scott, Are We Out of the Driveway Yet? (Zits collection).
  • Paul McIlhenny, The Tabasco Cookbook.
  • Parragon Books, Irish Pub Cooking
  • Melissa Wagner, Everything I Need To Know I Learned from Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.
  • John Ostrander,, Star Wars Legends Epic Collection: The Empire, Volume 1
  • Jerry Scott, Dance Like Everybody's Watching!: A Zits Treasury.

  • Jim Davis, Garfield Slurps and Burps: his 67th Book
  • Christine Heap, The Big Book of Trains.
  • Tomás Prower, Morbid Magic: Death Spirituality and Culture from Around the World.
  • Various authors, Star Wars Legends Epic Collection: The Empire, Vol. 2.
  • Various authors, Star Wars Legends Epic Collection: The Empire, Vol. 3.
  • Patricia J. Telesco, Cake and Ale for the Pagan Soul.
  • Joy Perrine and Susan Reigler, The Kentucky Bourbon Cocktail Book
  • Peter Kuper, Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness
  • DK Publishing, LEGO Star Wars Visual Dictionary, New Edition.

Number of books read in 2019: 72

Number of books read in 2018: 74, including 2 rereads (the 2018 list).


 Categories on reading/stuff:

  • To be honest, I thought the total would be a lot less than last year. Only two books less, so it was comparable. This was a year where I felt I did pick up some slow and/or not so good books that felt like a drag at times to read. Something to think about as I move forward into 2020.  
  • I continue to use GoodReads to help me keep track of books as it is easy and convenient to mark a book as read and give it a quick rating when I am done with it. Naturally I still do the primary reviewing of books I read here on the blog, and I make some small "first impressions" notes on GoodReads (GR got a bit bitchy about me putting links to my blog there, so now I do not give them anymore than I absolutely have to). Only reason I do not dump it is because so many publishers and editors are in its thrall, so as a book reviewer I feel a pressure to keep using it. 
  • On a side note, I tried to get back to using BookLikes for book reviews and such, but I was not really able to get a habit going. I do like the sort of Tumblr-hybrid concept it has for books, but it is still another thing to mind, and it is not as popular as GR is. I may give it another try this year. 
  • I did not re-read anything in 2019. 
  • I took a break from reading challenges in 2019. I am going to do a very small number of reading challenges for 2020. As of this post, I have not decided which I am going to do, so stay tuned for a post on that later this month. 
  • Best reading month: In good times, I can do 10 books a month. This month I was not able to finish reading 10 books in any month. The highest I got per month was 9, and I was able to do that in May, August, and December. 
  • Worst reading month: September with 3 books read. 
  • Total books in print read: 65
  • Total e-books: 7. These were mainly e-book galleys.
  • Total audiobooks: 0
  • Total fiction (not including graphic novels, comics, nor manga): 4. When I started the year, I wanted to make an effort to read more fiction. It did not quite go as planned as I kept finding more interesting works in nonfiction. We'll see how 2020 goes in this regard.
  • Total nonfiction: 47. This continues to be the genre I favor for my reading.
  • Total graphic novels (includes comics and graphic novels, but not manga): 18
  • Manga (includes manwha and similar): 3
  • Library books: 
    • Public Library: 42
    • Hutchins Library (Berea College, where I work): 5
    • Via Interlibrary Loan (through Hutchins Library): 3. Furthest library an ILL came from this year was the Ada Community Library, Boise, Idaho. 
  • Books owned (or borrowed from another family member): 12. I read a bit of books that I owned this year, in part because I am undertaking a weeding of books at home, so I read some before they got weeded out. I will be doing a bit more of that in 2020. 
  • Books borrowed from someone else, a colleague in this case: 1. I usually never borrow personal books from other people, but this was a special case. 
  • Other numbers of interest (to me at least): 
    • Erotica (includes fiction as well as nonfiction in sexuality topics): 1
    • LIS, including reference works for my work library: 0. Not intentionally, but I took a break from any LIS books in 2019.
    • Tarot and oracle: 7
    • Pagan/other beliefs/spirituality/esoterica: 7
    • NetGalley/Edelweiss: This year books came from NetGalley. I did not use Edelweiss in 2019: 6.
    • Books offered for review (i.e. not from NetGalley or Edelweiss. These are books I got from a publisher or author, so on either because I requested them or they were offered to me for review): 1
    • Books in Spanish: 0
    • Crime/True Crime: 2. I started tracking this in 2017, so I continue doing it.


Thank you for reading, and have a good and safe 2020. Paz y amor.