Friday, June 24, 2016

Meme: 100 novelas

Once again, I decide to test myself against yet another list of books everybody ought to read according to somebody. This time, the list comes from Que Leer, which is a site for Spanish language readers. Books are classics, some originally in Spanish, others just classics from all over. I will highlight in bold the ones I have read. If I have read something else by an author, I will highlight the author's name instead, also in bold. As usual with these little amusements, you can find some additional snark.

The List, as provided in the article:

  1. Testigo de Cargo de  Agatha Christie (I have read a few others, but not this one. They've been works featuring Hercule Poirot).
  2. El conde de Montecristo de Alejandro Dumas
  3. Un mundo para Julius de Alfredo Bryce Echenique
  4. Ilona llega con la lluvia de Alvaro Mutis
  5. Las mil y una noches,  Anónimo
  6. El lazarillo de Tormes, Anónimo (This was required reading in high school).
  7. El principito de Antoine Saint Exupery
  8. Las aventuras de Sherlock Holmes de Arthur Conan Doyle
  9. El perfume de Patrick Suskind
  10. La muerte de Artemio de Cruz, Carlos Fuentes
  11. Factotum de Charles Bukowski
  12. Robinson Crusoe de Daniel Defoe (Required reading in college)
  13. La guía del autoestopista galáctico de Douglas Adams
  14. Las aventuras de Arthur Gordon de Pym, Edgar Allan Poe
  15. El misterio de la cruz egipcia de Ellery Queen
  16. Teresa Raquin de Emile Zola
  17. Sandokan de Emilio Salgari1
  18. Cumbres borrascosas de Emily Bronte
  19. Por quién doblan las campanas de Ernest Hemingway
  20. Crimen y Castigo de Fedor Dostoyeski
  21. La celestina de Fernando de Rojas (Required reading in high school, same year I read Lazarillo up above).
  22. Dune de Frank Herbert (a favorite I have reread a couple of times)
  23. La metamorfosis de Franz Kafka
  24. Odessa de Frederick Forsyth
  25. Cien Años de Soledad de Gabriel García Márquez (My all time favorite novel, which I reread every so often)
  26. El misterio del cuarto amarillo de Gaston Leroux
  27. “1984” de George Orwell (I had to teach this when I taught high school)
  28. Werther de Goethe
  29. El hombre invisible de H. G. Wells
  30. Tokyo Blues de Haruki Murakami
  31. Papillon de Henry Charriere
  32. Una vuelta de tuerca de Henry James
  33. Trópico de Cáncer de  Henry Miller
  34. Quo Vadis de Henryk Sienkiewicz
  35. Moby Dick de Herman Melville
  36. La Odisea de Homero
  37. Fundación de Isaac Asimov (Asimov's Foundation series has been on my TBR a while now. Maybe one of these days).
  38. La casa de los espíritus de  Isabel Allende
  39. El señor de los anillos de J. R. R. Tolkien
  40. Harry Potter de J.K Rowling (This is not happening. I just do not give a shit about Harry Potter. There, I said it).
  41. Colmillo Blanco de  Jack London
  42. Ulises de James Joyce
  43. Sentido y Sensibilidad de Jane Austen
  44. Soldados de Salamina de  Javier Cercas
  45. Corazón tan blanco de Javier Marías
  46. La náusea de  Jean Paul Sartre
  47. El mundo según Garp de John Irving
  48. El Aleph de Jorge Luis Borges
  49. La sonrisa etrusca de José Luis Sampedro
  50. El evangelio según Jesucristo de José Saramago (I read his On Blindness. It was such a bad experience I do not think I will ever read Saramago again).
  51. Lord Jim de Joseph Conrad
  52. El mundo de Sofia de Jostein Gaarder
  53. La vuelta al Mundo en 80 días de Julio Verne
  54. Guerra y Paz de León Tolstoi
  55. La Regenta de  Leopoldo Alas Clarin
  56. Ben Hur de  Lew Wallace
  57. Alicia en el País de las Maravillas de  Lewis Carrol
  58. Fuente Ovejuna de  Lope de Vega (yep, required reading in high school too)
  59. Mujercitas de Louise M. Alcott
  60. El padrino de Mario Puzo (Another one of my favorites)
  61. La ciudad y los perros de  Mario Vargas Llosa (I have liked Vargas Llosa, but this is one of his I did not like very much).
  62. Las aventuras de Huckleberry Finn de  Mark Twain
  63. Jim Boton y Lucas el Maquinista de Michael Ende
  64. El Quijote de Miguel de Cervantes (required reading in senior year of high school. I wrote my senior thesis paper on it).
  65. El camino de Miguel Delibes
  66. Niebla de  Miguel Unamuno
  67. El callejón de los milagros de Naguib Mahfouz
  68. Piense y hágase rico de Napoleón Hill
  69. La canción del verdugo de  Norman Mailer
  70. El vendedor más grande del mundo de  Og Mandino
  71. El retrato de Dorian Gray de  Oscar Wilde
  72. El Talento de Mister Ripley de Patricia Highsmith
  73. Trilogía de Nueva York de Paul Auster
  74. El alquimista de Paulo Coelho
  75. Apología de Sócrates Platón
  76. Alfanhui  de Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio
  77. Fahrenheit 451 de  Ray Bradbury (I also had to teach this one in high school. Actually, when it comes to Bradbury, I like The Martian Chronicles better).
  78. Juan Salvador Gaviota de Richard Bach
  79. Charlie y la Fábrica de Chocolate de Roald Dahl
  80. El caballero de la armadura oxidada de Robert Fisher
  81. Padre rico, Padre pobre de Robert Kiyosaki
  82. La isla del Tesoro de Robert de Louis Stevenson
  83. El libro de las tierras vírgenes de Rudyard Kipling
  84. Edipo de Rey Sófocles
  85. Los 7 hábitos de la gente altamente efectiva de Stephen Covey
  86. It  de Stephen King
  87. Rojo y Negro de Sthendal
  88. Milleniun de Stieg Larsson
  89. Muerte en Venecia de Thomas Mann
  90. El bastardo recalcitrante de Tom Sharpe
  91. Los renglones torcidos de Dios de Torcuato Luca de Tena
  92. A sangre fría de Truman Capote
  93. Los cuatro jinetes del Apocalipsis de  Vicente Blasco Ibañez
  94. Los Miserables de Víctor Hugo
  95. La Eneida de Virgilio
  96. Cándido de Voltaire
  97. Ivanhoe de Walter Scott
  98. La dama de blanco de Wilkie Collins
  99. El señor de las moscas de William Golding
  100. Hamlet de  William Shakespeare

I have read a total of 31 books and 11 additional authors from the list. A good number of them were required in high school for Spanish (Peninsular) literature during my senior year. Anyhow, there you have it. 



Signs the economy is bad: June 24, 2016 edition

Welcome to another edition of "Signs the Economy is Bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian. This is the semi-regular (as in when I have time and/or feel like doing it) feature where I scour the Internet in search of the oh so subtle hints that the economy is bad. Sure, pundits may say things are getting better, but what do they know? And to show not all is bad, once in a while we look at how good the uber rich have it.  




This week there is quite a bit of fuckery going on, big and small. So let's get on with it.

  • I always knew that much of the bridal industry is a big rip-off, but now we get some confirmation. It turns out that, among other things, bridal dresses get marked up in price at least three times more than similar dresses simply because they are marketed as a "bridal" dress. Same goes for bridesmaids dresses marketed as "bridal." This is the kind of thing makes me glad I could rent the tux. Wear it once, return it, never have to see the thing again, and it did not cost me an arm or a leg. Ladies, honestly, get a clue, save a few bucks, get a nice dress that looks bridal but is not bridal. Story via The Washington Post.  
  • You know things have to be bad when you can find articles offering tutorials on how to go dumpster diving. Alternet just featured such an article. 
  • In philanthropy fuckery, Bill Gates, that charitable busybody who thinks he can tell anyone what to do based on tossing money at them (see what he does or not for higher ed for instance) recently decided that Bolivia needed chickens. Probably on the arrogant assumption that Bolivians are dirt poor and need to learn to raise chickens to feed themselves. Bolivia pretty much told him he could keep his damn chickens and pointed out that "already produces 197 million chickens per year, many of which are exported. And the IMF suggests Bolivia is about to become the strongest economy in South America." You know Bill, maybe your foundation and you should use some of that wonderful technology you own to do some damn research and get off your high horse. Or, if looking it up is too much, you can always ask a librarian. Story via Good.is. 
  • The United States elevates to an art form exploiting the poor and then profiting from them. The Atlantic discusses a new book that "details how foster-care agencies and other safety-net programs hire consultants to maximize their funding and divert it from its intended use." Via a combination of privatization and even outright corruption and greed, Americans now turn the poverty of the most vulnerable into a cash stream for the wealthy and the greedy. 
  • Tuition at public colleges has risen in the past decade, and so have student fees. Gee, that would not have anything to do with the fact that local governments and the people that elect them decided to defund and stop investing in public education, would it? It is amusing to see the pathetic hypocrites cut funding for higher education then whine when tuition goes up? Where the fuck do you think they are going to make up the short fall because you are too whiny to pay your taxes or support higher education otherwise? You still want to send your kids to college. Well, it does not pay for itself. You either invest on it now so all can benefit, or keep tuition through the nose. Story via The Washington Post
  • And since people do not want to invest in higher education, putting students in debt slavery is just part of the package. The latest scheme now is for corporate banks and other interests to loan the money, then keep students paying a percentage of their salaries when they leave college. The Mafia would be proud of this long term extortion racket. Story via Truth-Out. 
  • Moving along, if you manage to make it out of college, and you belong to the creative class like artists, writers, etc., you could be ending up choosing voluntary poverty, especially in gentrifying cities. With salaries no longer enough to afford living in cities, where creative jobs are often found, it is a serious hardship for these folks to find work. Read the details out of AlterNet
  • Now what are Americans more than willing to pay for? Prisons. Americans love prisons, and they take pride in their prison industrial complex, so much so they let private corporations move in to run their prisons and make a profit in the process. Here is a profile of Corrections Corp. of America, one of the top players, but even they are facing challenges in the bad economy. Story via Mother Jones, which also has some related articles including an expose of an investigator who took a job working as a corrections officer in one of their privatized prisons. 
  • We have mentioned before how colleges, seeking to make up money lost to defunding by their legislatures and voters, sell naming rights for just about anything. Such schemes include donors naming bathrooms on campus and UW-Madison naming a fermentation lab after Kikkoman (yes, the soy sauce) among others.So now, since Americans loathe paying for anything that is a public good, it looks like corporations may soon be getting naming rights to national parks and other natural national treasures. Story via AlterNet
  • Finally, in a bittersweet note for this week, some news out of Puerto Rico. El Zipperle, the fanciest, swankiest restaurant on the island, feeding place of governors, legislators, and anyone who was anyone back in the heyday, has tax issues, as in has not been paying them, and now is forced to auction off its wine collections to pay their debts. It's the end of an era. Story via El Nuevo Dia (this is a source in Spanish).




Booknote: The Creative Tarot

Jessa Crispin, The Creative Tarot: a Modern Guide to an Inspired Life. New York: Touchstone Books, 2016.  ISBN: 9781501120237.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: creativity, inspiration, Tarot, advice, spirituality
Format: trade paperback
Source: Initially, the Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library. I have since bought a personal copy. 


This is probably the best book on Tarot I have read so far. Though it is a book for creative types, anyone who is learning to read Tarot cards and starting their journey can get much benefit from this book. If you are a Tarot veteran, you can still get valuable insights from the book. However, you do not have to be a Tarot cards reader to use this book. If you are a writer, an artist, painter, etc., you can use the images and symbols of the Tarot for inspiration in your creative work.

Tarot cards are often seen as esoteric and mystical, which to many people means they are inaccessible and strange. The author does a great job of demystifying the cards they can be more approachable. The strength in the book is that she has made the card meanings more relevant and accessible to modern readers. As I read through the book, I found that I could relate better to the meanings and understand the basics better. I say I can relate better because as a writer and blogger I found much inspiration in the his book.

The book is arranged in a way similar to other Tarot guides. You get the following components:

  • A brief introduction.
  • Some history of the Tarot. Yet this is not just some standard history. Crispin looks at Tarot and artists, plus she tells her own history with Tarot. 
  • A description and profile of each card in a Tarot deck. This is the bulk of the book. Unlike other Tarot book where a section like this can be seriously dry reading, Crispin makes the reading here light and very accessible. 
  • A section on spreads. She provides five simple spreads to help with creativity issues like getting through a creative block. She explains the spread briefly and then provides a sample spread reading to illustrate the lesson. 
  • A section on how to do a Tarot reading. This includes tips on how to pick out a deck, setting things up, and reading for others among a variety of topics. 
  • A short conclusion. 
 Let me add also a bit more detail on the card entries. Each card entry in this book features:

  • An illustration of the card. This is basically Rider Waite Smith images, which is considered a classic standard. Odds are good many people starting with Tarot picked up an RWS deck to start out. However, many decks draw from RWS or are derived from it. If you are using something other than an RWS deck, you will probably be OK. 
  •  A description of the image and symbols in the each card. This includes the basic meaning of a card. 
  • Further information on the card. This is includes expanding on the meaning. It also features stories and anecdotes about famous artists and how they dealt with the creative process. Much of the strength of the book is looking at those stories and seeing how Tarot can offer insights into creativity using those real life examples. Remembering these stories can also help Tarot students better remember some of the card meanings; this is something I find useful as I am learning Tarot. 
  • A small selection of recommended materials about the sample artists. This could be a book, a film, a work of art, a piece of music, etc. 
Overall, this is a very clear and accessible book. For Tarot learners seeking a learning tool that is easy to read and mostly free of jargon or vague meanings, this is a great choice. On the other hand, if you are just a creative type seeking inspiration, this may be a book for you as well. You don't even have to get a Tarot deck; reading the stories and how they connect to Tarot can provide plenty of ideas to get your creativity going. For me, this book serves me well both as a write and as Tarot learner. If I have to have one book on Tarot so far, this is definitely it. Crispin's work is bright and open. You feel that you can learn Tarot, and it is a book you can refer to as much as needed. Though I initially borrowed this from my local public library, I went out and bought a copy for myself. I highly recommend this one, and it makes a good selection for libraries, especially if they do not have a whole lot on Tarot.

5 out of 5 stars.

* * * 

Additional reading note:

Possible book for further reading listed in Crispin's book:

The Tarot: History, Symbolism, and Divination by Robert Michael Place. ISBN: 9781585423491.

* * * 

This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges:








Friday, June 17, 2016

Booknote: Battle Pope, Volume 4

Robert Kirkman, Battle Pope, Volume 4: Wrath of God. Berkeley, CA: Image, 2007. ISBN: 978-1-58240-751-7.

Genre: comics and graphic novels
Subgenre: humor, heroes
Format: trade paperback
Source: Bought at Half Price Books


With this one, I finished reading the set, and this completes the run. Though Kirkman and his collaborators have stated there could be new adventures for Battle Pope down the road, there has been nothing new since, so for now, this is it.

After Pope spent some quality time with Mary over Christmas in the previous volume, God being the jealous asshole he is gets mad at Pope. The two guys get into a drag out fight, but before Pope and God get it on, Pope has to survive Amon and his giant battle bot. Oh, and Mary is no longer keeping quiet about God's indifference and neglect for her. The series overall definitely goes out with a bang.

The volume did feel a bit short. The pace was very fast, and it did have some fun moments. However, it felt a little rushed. The ending wraps things up, but it leaves a bit of an opening for future possibilities. In addition, the art remains a great reason to pick this up, and in the color edition, the characters look great. Overall, it was a good ending to the series, and I really liked it.

4 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges:




Friday, June 10, 2016

Booknote: Black Mass, plus some thoughts on the film

Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neill, Black Mass: Whitey Bulger, the FBI, and a Devil's DealNew York: Public Affairs, 2015.  ISBN: 9781610395533.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: true crime, mob stories
Format: trade paperback
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library


In the 1970s, James "Whitey" Bulger was an up and coming Irish gangster in Boston. He then got the opportunity of a lifetime to eliminate his major competitor: the Boston Italian Mafia. He did it by making a deal with the FBI to become an informant for the agency about the Mafia. John Connolly, an ambitious up and coming FBI agent, made the deal and protected "Whitey" and his partner Stephen Flemmi. What mattered to the FBI was taking down the Italian Mafia. As a result, the FBI either turned a blind eye or outright helped Bulger become the premier gangster in Boston. In a town where outsiders are despised, Connolly was able to make the deal where others failed because he was a local boy and Bulger's childhood friend.

This is a story that on the one hand can be hard to believe. On the other hand, it is a story that is easy to believe given the reputation of law enforcement of often breaking rules they are supposed to enforce and making deals with criminals of dubious value. Sure, taking down the Boston Mafia was a noble goal, but the FBI basically sold its soul to Bulger and enabled his own rise to control organized crime in Boston. Add to this a serious lack of accountability, the FBI's own internal corruption, and a parade of barely competent FBI supervisors, and you get a recipe for a disaster the FBI will be trying to amend for years to come.

The book is nonfiction, but it reads like a good crime procedural and thriller. The authors do include a lot of detail on the workings of the deal between Bulger and the FBI. We also get a good narrative of the Boston crime scene from the 1970s all the way through today as the drug wars rose to prominence. Still, despite a lot of minutiae at times, the book offers a pretty riveting narrative that keeps you reading. Part of the reason you keep reading is you wonder how much will Whitey get away with. Turns out the FBI was willing to basically give Whitey the kingdom, which also gave Connolly a lot of prestige and benefit inside the agency.

At the time I read the book, I had not seen the film, but I could see then how this book had appeal for Hollywood to make a film. It has a riveting story with lots of intrigue plus very dark characters. The book has a good, solid pace. Additionally, the authors took care to offer plenty of documentation with a list of sources and a section with notes. The edition I read is the updated paperback edition published in 2012; the story first came out in 2000. The story continues to draw interest.

For readers of true crime and/or mob stories, this is a recommended reading. In terms of appeal factors, similar books may include:

  • Nicholas Pileggi's Wiseguy. This is the basis for the film GoodFellas.  I have not read it yet, but I have seen the film, and it is one of my favorites in the genre. As soon as I read the book, you can count on seeing a review here on the blog. Also, if you like mob biographies, Casino, again basis of another movie, may also be of interest.
  • Arms and the Dudes. The link here goes to my review. I hear this one is getting made into a movie too. 
  • Betrayal: the Crisis in the Catholic Church. The link goes to my review. I list this one mostly because it is also investigative reporting from the Boston Globe (where the two reporters who wrote Black Mass worked) and it is about the Boston diocese and corruption. 
I am rating the book 4 out of 5 stars.

* * * 

Additional reading notes:

The FBI deal really was bad:

"What if the FBI takes down the informant's enemies and the informant then rises to the top of the underworld.

. . .

What if murders pile up, unsolved? If working folks are threatened and extorted, with no recourse?

. . .

This could never happen, right? . . .
But it did" (xvi).

Bulger also had in his favor the fact he was extremely intelligent, probably way more so than the FBI, and very well read. He also learned from his mistakes and early arrests:

"No, the second time around he would stay in control and behind the scenes. Those years of reading in prison libraries had sharpened his instincts, and his mind had become an encyclopedia of law enforcement tactics and past mobster mistakes. Like a chessmaster, Bulger was confident that he knew the moves, that he could watch your opening and lead you straight to checkmate" (31).

The FBI treated Bulger and Flemmi like royalty, even socializing with them and protecting them from other police agencies:

"There were indeed people stalking Bulger and Flemmi-- like state troopers. Years later the irony was not lost on investigators from other police agencies: the gangsters had shaken the troopers tailing them by finding safe haven and a hot meal in the homes of FBI agents" (137).

In fact, the FBI even punished those Bulger threatened and extorted, like the Rakes family who lost their liquor store to Bulger's extortion. Mr. Rakes got called in to a grand jury, but he never really gave up Bulger. The FBI then took things out on Rakes:

"Rakes was charged with perjury and obstruction of justice, and in 1998 he was convicted of both iin U.S. federal district court. For Rakes it was the ultimate double jeopardy-- the government that did not protect him went after him, while Whitey walked away. But was a fate Stephen Rakes had come to prefer to facing Bulger" (177).

* * *
Some additional thoughts about the film

I saw that my public library had the film, so I put it on hold (it was checked out that the time). By the time I finished reading the book, the film arrived for me to check out. The film stays pretty close to the book; however, it does leave a lot of things out from the book. That's the usual Hollywood machine making narrative decisions to keep the movie on track and not make it too long. Unless someone reads the book to check, or maybe reads one or two of various articles that have pointed out the differences, the average movie viewer will not really care.  It is a pretty good film overall. 

  • Johnny Depp really captures the character of James "Whitey" Bulger. In terms of casting, I found the choice of Benedict Cumberbatch to portray Whitey's brother, state politician Billy Bulger, an interesting one. Cumberbatch does capture how Billy could portray himself as respectable yet be extremely ruthless.
  • The movie does not quite get right how Whitey meets Connolly to set the deal. Flemmi's role as an informant himself is greatly diminished in the film. Flemmi was the one working as an informant before Whitey came on board. This is probably done for dramatic effect, to keep Depp's character front and center, etc. 
  • The movie does compress a lot of the book, but it still gets the feel of it. Events in the film do move quite fast. 
  • The parts of Whitey and the son are not very prominent in the book. Yes, that did happen, but as I said, not really in the book. 
  • The Kevin Bacon character is not real. He is a mash-up of some of the FBI supervisors that were part of the story. 
  • This is a very dark film. It will get comparisons to The Godfather and more likely GoodFellas, but the themes differ from the classic films. There is no real sense of honor like in the classic mobster films (Puzo's work is fiction; Pileggi's is nonfiction). Also, it is a bit more procedural in the sense of getting a glimpse at how the FBI does things. However, it is only a glimpse. The book really goes in depth about the FBI's corruption, obstruction, and deal making.


* * * 

This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges:



Booknote: Battle Pope, Volume 3

Robert Kirkman, Battle Pope, Volume 3: Pillow Talk. Berkeley, CA: Image, 2007. ISBN: 978-1-58240-677-0.

Genre: comics and graphic novels
Subgenre: heroes, humor
Format: Trade paperback
Source: Bought at Half Price Books


After the events in the previous volume, Pope and Jesus are homeless. However, they soon find a new place to live along with the tenants of the previous building they lived in, who ended up homeless as well. Jesus and Pope are getting along slightly better as roommates. Meanwhile, Agnes, Pope's old landlady, keeps hitting on him, and if that was not enough, Pope has a crush on a female demon named Brenda. Could Brenda be true love for Pope at last? The volume also features a Christmas holiday edition, and the Virgin Mary drops by to visit her son for his birthday.

Pope continues to blast evil demons when he can, and he does get with the ladies as much as possible. Though the volume is not as humorous as previous ones, it is still amusing, and it does have some funny moments. The art is definitely a great reason to pick this up, and Image's restoration in full color makes this comic pop. The comic also features a short introduction by Chris Piers, and it also has a sketchbook so you can see early drafts and how the comic was developed. Overall, it was a fun read. As I've said for previous volumes, this is not a comic for young kids given violence and some very adult situations.

4 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges:




Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Booknote: Tarot Cards

Isabella Alston and Kathryn Dixon, Tarot Cards. Cobham, UK: TAJ Books International, 2014. ISBN: 978-1-84406-338-3. (Link to Amazon page. As of this post, WorldCat did not have a record on the book's ISBN number).

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: Tarot, art
Format: hardback
Source: I bought this on clearance at Half Price Books. (Hey, it was a dollar, not bad for the value).


This is another small book, an art book of 95 pages showing a variety of Tarot card decks. It's a very nice book to look at. For Tarot card deck collectors, this book may incite their collecting lust a bit. The book starts with an introduction that sets up the book and gives a brief history of Tarot cards. This book looks at Tarot cards as an art form. The authors write:

"The beauty and lyricism of hundreds, and even thousands, of tarot cards illustrated throughout the last 600 years, as well as those currently in circulation, and those yet to be designed and published, make them a unique art form. This book celebrates that art form" (6).

After the book's introduction, we get to see various samples of Tarot card decks. Naturally, it starts with a selection from the Rider Waite Smith deck as this is the most popular style, and it is considered a standard. After this, the oldest sample we see is the 15th century Visconti Tarot. From there, the book goes on in order presenting other antique decks and working up to modern times where we find a wide variety of decks. Recently, as I have started a journey to study and learn Tarot, I coined what I call the Rivera Tarot Corollary to Ranganathan, which states:

"Every Tarot deck its reader/collector, and every reader/collector its Tarot deck." 

This book helps prove the Rivera Tarot Corollary to Ranganathan. Sure, you could start learning Tarot on the classic Rider Waite Smith. Many people do, but you don't have to start with the Rider Waite Smith deck. There are many styles and art form to choose from when it comes to Tarot decks. Yes, many are derived from or draw upon the Rider Waite Smith deck, but some creators have their own systems such as the Crowley-Harris Thoth Tarot. If you want to study Tarot, there is a deck for you. Like Arthurian tales and lore? There is an Arthurian Legend Tarot. Like DaVinci? There is the DaVinci Enigma Tarot. Like your art a bit more surreal and on the wild side? Maybe the Deviant Moon Tarot is for you. The book presents those decks and more for a total of 55 decks ranging from historical to contemporary. Aside from commenting on some of the historical decks, the rest of the book is simply images of the various decks.

The only disadvantage of this art book is the size. The book is about 6 by 6 inches. This means some of the images are a bit small. I do wish the book was a big bigger because some of the images could be better appreciated if they were bigger. Still, it is a nice little book to look at. Overall, the book is meant to give you a small overview of what has been created and what is available now. I liked it.

3 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges:




Monday, June 06, 2016

Booknote: The Blood Angels Omnibus

James Swallow, The Blood Angels Omnibus. Nottingham, UK: Black Library, 2008. ISBN: 978-1-84416-559-9.

Genre: science fiction
Subgenre: Warhammer 40,000, military scifi
Format: paperback
Source: I bought this one, at Half Price Books if I recall correctly.


I finally finished reading this one. This omnibus edition contains two novels that started out with a lot of potential, and then they just dragged on, and on, and on to the end. I am willing to admit that by the second novel, I skimmed parts of it to get to the end. The two novels featured are Deus Encarmine and Deus Sanguinius. In addition, the volume features a short story, "Blood Debt," and the Appendix Angelus. The author describes the appendix as follows:

"This section of the omnibus features annotations based on my original notes for the Blood Angels novels, a 'minipedia' of characters, locations and other information" (601). 

The appendix is a nice bonus for this volume, and to be honest, the librarian in me often found it more interesting than then novels.

The novels and short story tell the story of Space Marine Rafen and his blood brother Space Marine Arkio. When Arkio comes into contact with the Spear of Telestro, an ancient Blood Angels' relic recently recovered, Arkio experiences new powers and visions. He then claims to be the reincarnation of Sanguinius, the Blood Angels' Primarch. Many of the Blood Angels rally to Arkio but not all. Rafen is one of those with doubts, and the novels lead to their inevitable confrontation as the Blood Angels are plunged into an internal conflict. Rafen is guided by the words and advice of his old mentor, Sergeant Koris, who at one point tells Rafen that,

"To believe, one must first be the greatest sceptic" (41). 

By the way, that is a great line, but one of too few great lines in these novels that fail to live up to the expectations. Rafen will indeed become the greatest sceptic as he comes to question Arkio and his plans. But initially, Rafen is alone. Arkio even has the chapter chaplain and Stele the inquisitor, an ally of the chapter, on his side. Little do they know of Stele's machinations, for unknown to the Space Marines, Stele is an agent of Chaos.

The first novel is fast paced, and it sets up the plot full of intrigue nicely with a good pace and some suspense. Unfortunately, after the cliff hanger at the end of the first novel, the author apparently could not keep up the pace. The second novel is seriously slower in terms of pacing. We all know what is going to happen: Rafen and Arkio will have their reckoning. The author has been indicating it from the start. So when the plot dramatically slows down in the second novel, as a reader, it is hard to care. You just want to get on with it instead of the dragged out story we get. The action does pick up towards the end, but then I just wanted the book to be done and over.

I really wanted to like this book more. The first novel was great, and the short story was pretty good, a nice addition to the overall story. However, I could barely get through the second novel, which felt like walking through a bog. I stuck with it, or most of it (as I said, I skimmed a bit), but in the end, it let me down. Compared to other works by this author such as his Horus Heresy novel Flight of the Eisenstein (link to my short review of that), this omnibus just falls short. Hardcore fans of the Blood Angels may enjoy it better. However, other Warhammer 40,000 readers may see this as optional reading. There are better Space Marines novels in the Warhammer 40K universe. There is a second omnibus of the Blood Angels, but at this point, I am not certain I will pick it up. I will choose to read other things in the Warhammer 40K universe for now. I am not ready to give up on this author, but it may be a while before I pick up another of his works, especially if it deals with the Blood Angels.

In the end, the first novel was good. The second was so-so to put it best. So I am splitting the difference. It was mostly OK.

2.5 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges:



Friday, June 03, 2016

A meme of layers

This is another of those memes that have been sitting on my feed's queue for a while, and I am finally getting around to it. I saw it at Flexnib. My answers are in red.

LAYER ONE: THE OUTSIDE

What’s your preferred name? Angel works fine. Only place I use my middle name is with family.


Do you wear glasses? Yes. I have been nearsighted since I "became legal." (aka turned 21). There is no way I am putting in contacts, and I sure as hell am not getting laser surgery.


How would you describe your fashion style? Casual. Easy going. I definitely do not obsess over fashion or what to wear. If I wear a tie, it's usually some artsy quirky one (and I have a small collection of those). I only wear a full suit if I have to.


LAYER TWO: THE INSIDE

What do you fear? Pendejos, and the fact that there are so many of them out there.


What is your guilty pleasure? Probably watching episodes of Bar Rescue, The Profit, American Greed, Deadliest Catch, and a few other things on the DVR. I record stuff to watch later.


LAYER THREE: YOUR THOUGHTS

What was your first thought when you woke up today? As of this writing, time to get my morning journaling done, which includes drafting some notes for an upcoming book review on the blog and doing my Tarot card of the day draw and reflection.


What you think about most? Just making it through another day I guess; I do not have anything I fixate on really in terms of thoughts.


LAYER FOUR: WHAT’S BETTER?

To be loved or respected? Respected.


Dogs or cats? It used to be dogs as a kid. It's cats now.


LAYER FIVE: BELIEF

Believe in yourself? Sure. A bit more after I became a librarian. (Long story there, but not for today.)

Believe in love? I suppose so, but I also believe in life before and after love.

Do you play a musical instrument? No. I wish my parents had got me to learn one, but oh well. I would love to learn, but lessons are not something I could afford.

Do you enjoy cooking? Actually I do. Simple things. I am not a trained cook or anything, but mom taught me enough not to starve. And hey, The Better Half seems to like my cooking fine.


Are you any good at gardening? No. Another one of those things I have not learned. Apartment living does not make this easy to happen neither.


LAYER SEVEN: YOUR FAVOURITES

Favourite animal? Cats. I find them fascinating, and I like that they can be (mostly) independent. I will add that, mythologically, I like dragons for their wisdom.

Favourite movie? The Godfather (since you are making me pick just one).

Favourite book? One Hundred Years of Solitude (in Spanish edition).

LAYER EIGHT: AGE

How old are you? 46 as of this post.


Does age matter? I do not think so. As long as the mind is sharp and working, it's all good. 

Signs the Economy is Bad: June 3, 2016 edition

Welcome to another edition of "Signs the Economy is Bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian. This is the semi-regular (as in when I have time and/or feel like doing it) feature where I scour the Internet in search of the oh so subtle hints that the economy is bad. Sure, pundits may say things are getting better, but what do they know? And to show not all is bad, once in a while we look at how good the uber rich have it.  




We made it to the first Friday in June, and the economy continues to be bad. So let's see what has been going on this past week or so.


  • Farmers are not having a good time in the United States. They are so strapped economically that they have to rely more on federal loans. The demand for those is so bad that money from that fun may be running out. And if that was not bad enough, farmers also find themselves relying more and more on off-farm income, i.e. themselves or more likely their spouses have to get a job in the town to actually make ends meet. The problem is that job creation in small towns is lagging or stagnant. Both stories via The Rural Blog.  
  • Did you know that "low-income families spend more than 80 percent of their budget on things like housing, food, and health care—that’s a lot more than 30 years ago." Yes, the cost of basic needs and supplies has gone dramatically up, and if you are poor, this is a big problem. Story via The Atlantic
  • And if that was not bad enough in the so-called land of the free and home of the brave, the homeless population is greying. Yes. People are getting older and older as time passes, and they remain homeless while the rest of the nation could not care less. Story via The New York Times.  
  • Now if you feel safe because you may be middle class, things are not that great for the middle class neither. "After 35 years of wealth redistribution to the super-rich, inequality has forced much of the middle class down to near-poverty levels, worsened by the fact that they are also blamed for their own misfortunes." Middle class Americans are now becoming part of the disposable class along with the poor. As for the rich, "hose at the top could not be less concerned. As wealth at the top grows, the super-rich feel they have little need for the rest of society." Story via AlterNet
  • On a small bit of good news, federal regulators finally are going to do something about exploitative predatory payday and auto loan lenders. Not quite driving these vultures out of business as it should happen, but it is at least a start. Story via The Center for Public Integrity.
  • Finally, a small look at the world of the uber rich, via higher education. The president of the University of Akron (Ohio) recently resigned. Now usually this is the kind of story I glance and move on. However, the hubris and pretentious fuckery deserve a spot in "Signs the Economy is Bad." Apparently he had a controversial tenure where he cried poverty and began to cut the campus' budget. Yes, the times are tight, and sometimes you have to cut expenses. However, the mofo was doing it while "spending money on renovating his university home. Many were shocked by the $951,000 in renovation costs, and in particular $556.40 on a decorative olive jar (without any olives)." A fucking olive jar? Dude, you can get a jar with olives for a lot less at a grocery store. Hell, you can go to Whole Paycheck and buy a fancy one if you want, and it would still be less that that decorative one. You can tell this is some privileged guy whose mama never really taught him the value of a dollar and used the old "other people's money" tactic for his extravagance (because I am sure a lot of that money probably came from alumni, donations, etc.). Story via Inside Higher Ed







Booknote: Lando

Charles Soule, Star Wars: Lando. New York: Marvel, 2016.  ISBN: 978-0-7851-9319-7.

Genre: graphic novels and comics
Subgenre: Star Wars, science fiction, space opera
Format: trade paperback
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library


From the book's description:

"Before he joined the Rebellion, before he ran Cloud City, Lando made his way in the galaxy getting by on some swindles, some swagger, and a smile. With the loyal Lobot at his side, Lando has a plan to steal a very valuable ship." 

This book is part of Marvel's new Star Wars comics under Disney ownership. In this comic, Lando finds himself in trouble when he has to settle a debt to a crimelord. To settle it, the crimelord gives Lando one big job: to steal a very valuable ship. Even better for Lando is that he can keep anything of value inside the ship. At the moment, the ship is in dock for repairs, which means minimal security and a great time to steal it. It looks like an easy payday, but Lando soon finds out things are not as they seem. When the owner finds out the ship is stolen, he sends a deadly assassin after Lando, and that may be the least of his worries.

This is a good, fast paced story of Lando Calrissian's early days. It's a good thieves' tale with plenty of action and charm. We see Lando as a smart and lovable scoundrel with a great gift for charm. The tale draws you in right away, and once you start, you keep reading right to the end. And it also has a fast, tense, and moving ending. Additionally, the tale provides more insight into the friendship and bond between Lando and Lobot; for fans of the original films, this may be of interest too. Plus, the art in this volume is very good.

Overall, this is a story I really liked. It did feel a bit short, but it packed in a lot in terms of action. If another volume comes out, I will seek it out. Star Wars fans, especially for The Empire Strikes Back, will likely enjoy this one. It is a good addition for libraries.

4 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges:



Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Booknote: Easy Tarot Handbook, with review on the Gilded Tarot deck

Josephine Ellershaw, Easy Tarot Handbook. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Worldwide, 2007. ISBN: 978-0-7387-1150-8.

Small edition note: The book was first published in 2007. The edition I have is the 15th printing of that first edition. That printing came out in 2015. I can tell from that, and from some small research, that this kit has remained a popular staple. I linked above to the WorldCat record, as I usually do. However, if you wish to purchase a set, you can find it in many bookstores (if they carry Tarot and other new age and divination materials), or you can go online to places like that online retailer you shamelessly use anyways. You can also still get it from the publisher.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: Tarot, divination, cards decks, self-help, spirituality
Format: trade paperback (part of a set that also includes a Tarot deck)
Source: I own this one. Bought it at my local Hastings. 


Like Lyle's book, this book was part of a kit that included the Gilded Tarot deck. The Gilded Tarot is the deck I am currently using in my Tarot learning journey. On the one hand, the book has some good advice for learners, especially about keeping a Tarot journal and overall for learning how to read the Tarot. Ellershaw offers a step by step system for learning how to read the Tarot cards. On the other hand, I did find some of the card meanings in this book a bit on the lighter side when compared to other books, such as Lyle's, but the meanings still fall within tradition for the most part, thus the book is still useful in that regard. However, Ellershaw can be a bit too prescriptive at times in the sense that you can get a strict "thou shalt" and "thou shalt not" tone. Some beginners may be OK with a strict tone; others may not, so your mileage may vary.

The book is arranged in six major parts. Within parts one through five, it is further divided into steps. The last part is an appendix of charts and cheat sheets to help learners. The steps are the learning system Ellershaw offers, and she does strongly suggest you do follow the steps in order. In her foreword, she writes,

"This book contains the exact format and information that I use to conduct readings, and follows a step-by-step process of learning I call 'The Tarot Technique' that has worked for me and the people I subsequently shared it with, so for the moment I ask only that you follow the steps in the order provided" (xi).

If you are someone who requires a good amount of structure as a learner, this may be the book for you. As someone who appreciates structure, I'll be giving it a run and work through the method (I will probably blog later some about that in my commonplace blog, Alchemical Thoughts). I did read through it once so I could write this review. Now, I will go back and work through, Tarot journal in hand, and go through the lessons. From having read the book once, I know some of the lessons will be better for me than others. For example, ideas about how to organize your notes and use them to learn the cards are great. For me though, some of the rituals for things like cleansing the cards with crystals are details I am not quite ready to take or that resonate with me. However, if they resonate with you, that is cool, go for it. Could I try such things some day? Maybe, but I am not there yet, and I may or not get there, and that is OK too. Though in order to learn, you can follow the steps, I would say take the lessons that work best for you and make it your experience. Do learn the fundamentals, but as for other details, pick and choose and make it your journey.

Overall, the book has some pluses and minuses, but on balance, it has more pluses. If you want to learn to read Tarot cards, Ellershaw does offer a structured approach in plain language, and she does keep jargon to a minimum. This may not become my primary study and consult book, but I will keep it handy along with others as I go through my study and for reference later. For more advanced readers, the book may be a bit too basic, so if they just want the deck, you can buy the deck separately. Bottom line: for beginners, this is a good set with a good book and an excellent deck, a deck I will be reviewing down below.

Rating for the book: 3 out of 5 stars.

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Review and some commentary on the Gilded Tarot deck:

For beginners, if you are going to choose a good deck to start learning Tarot, this is an excellent choice. The art does have basis on the Rider Waite Smith (RWS) Tarot, but this is not just an RWS clone.  This is Ciro Marchetti's interpretation of that system blending some medieval fantasy, cosmic imagery, and steampunk. The result is a beautiful deck that has a lot of visual appeal. The deck was previously only available as a limited edition from the artist, but it is now available as a mass produced edition from Llewellyn, first published in 2004. It remains a popular choice for Tarot beginners and collectors.

The deck provides a modern interpretation of Tarot and RWS. I am not really a fan of RWS. I find it a bit too plain, but it is considered a basic standard. Most Tarot study books use RWS cards and symbols for their lessons. Down the road, I may acquire a traditional RWS deck, or perhaps a more modern rendition like the Radiant Rider Waite deck, for study and reference purposes. However, I would rather not do my initial learning of Tarot on the basic RWS. For folks in a similar situation who want to learn Tarot but find the RWS deck to not be their thing but still want something close to it, the Gilded Tarot deck is a good alternative. I already mentioned its visual appeal; the deck is brilliant and colorful. Working a bit with it so far, I find it more pleasant to use. Also, like the RWS, it is fully illustrated. By this I mean that the Major and the Minor Arcanas have full illustrations, not just symbol pips.

I started my Tarot journey with a Marseilles deck. As much as I liked that one, I struggled with remembering meanings, and forget about developing intuition. I just could not get impressions or jog my memory on pip only cards. So I put my Marseilles away for a while, and I switched over to my Gilded Tarot. So far, the stronger visuals have worked better for me. Sure, as a beginner I still look things up, but now I can do so more often by checking things after I jot down my initial impressions. I don't feel like I have no idea what to do with a plain four of cups for instance. Slowly but surely I am learning.

Though I also collect decks (and I will note that I also collect playing card decks), and I have acquired a few more Tarot decks, which I will review and work with down the road, I can see the Gilded Tarot being my daily use default deck. It is easy to use. The images feature great art, and there is plenty of variety in the 78 cards. A nice detail in the deck is the pentacles. Unlike other decks that use round coins (pentacles are coins after all), Marchetti chose to make them in a pentagon shape. It may be a small thing, but it is neat. Another reason I like this deck is that so far I have not found a card I dislike. I often hear Tarot users say of other decks, or even this one, that there is that one card or two they dislike or can't connect to. For me, that does not apply here. Sure, I do have some favorites, but I can say I like them all.

The cards are about 4 1/2 by 2 3/4 inches wide; they are a bit smaller than my Marseilles. For me, this makes them a bit easier to shuffle. The cardstock is pretty comparable to what you would get in most good standard playing cards. As long as you treat them well, they should last you a bit. The deck comes with two end cards that show the outlines for the Celtic Cross Spread and a 5-card Daily Spread. The book features three additional spreads plus the Celtic Cross.

As I mentioned, you can buy the deck individually, so if you are just a collector or you just want to skip the book, you can do that. I am betting if you are one of those hardcore Tarot collectors, you probably already have this one. For beginners, getting the kit with the book is a good option. It retails for $19.95 (and if you must, I am sure you can find a deal on that online retailer), which is not bad for a kit featuring this fine deck. I did notice that the individual deck retails for three dollars more, thus my comment. There is also a kit with a companion book by Barbara Moore; I have not seen Moore's book. That one retails for $26.99 (again, if you must, I am sure you can get a deal at that online retailer). A reason I mention pricing, something I do not usually feel a need to do, is because I have discovered that in buying Tarot decks, 20 dollars will not really get you far. These decks can be pricey (there are options, including getting the items used, but we can discuss those some other time).

At any rate, I do love the Gilded Tarot, and it is one I would happily recommend to others, especially beginners and those seeking an RWS alternative that is still close to RWS.

I am rating it a full 5 out of 5 stars.

On a final side note, this was Marchetti's first Tarot deck. He has done other works since then. I recently acquired his Legacy of the Divine Tarot for the Better Half who, after seeing the cards online, said insistently she wanted it. So, I did my best to make her happy with that. I did get a look at the deck, and it is another amazing set of cards. If I can borrow them from her, I will read the book and offer a review down the road. Keep in mind, that promise may take me a while to fulfill. These days, I have my eye on his newest (as of this post) Tarot deck, the Tarot of Dreams. I understand it is finally available for the hoi polloi (published by U.S. Games Systems). Hey, I like nice editions, and I get that often a deck comes to life directly from an artist (and if they get lucky, a big company makes a deal, and it gets mass produced). Maybe some day I can save enough coin to get a collectible deck directly, but I am also on a librarian salary so I have to get what the rest of the hoi polloi get, which is cool by me. If I do manage to get that deck kit, you can count on a review here.


* * *

The book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges: