Friday, January 27, 2017

Booknote: Witches of America

Alex Mar, Witches of America. New York: Sarah Crichton Books--Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2015. ISBN: 9780374291372.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: paganism, witchcraft, occultism, travel, spirituality, religion, memoir.
Format: hardcover book
Source: Berea branch  of the Madison County Public Library

Alex Mar embarks on a journey to explore the  practices and traditions of modern witches, pagans, and occultists in the United States. Her focus is on how they live and practice in modern society, some out in the open and others still in the broom closet. Mar takes a five-year journey into paganism and the occult in nineteen chapters. In addition to meeting people, talking to them, studying witchcraft, and even getting initiated into an occult path, she also traces the history and rise of modern witchcraft, paganism, and a bit of occultism.

The history starts in 1950s England and comes right over the pond to the United States in places like San Francisco, New Orleans, and rural Oregon. We meet witches, disciples of Aleister Crowley, a Celtic priesthood, radical feminist Wiccans, and more. And as Mar travels, she strives to ask and answer questions we may have: what do we believe in? why do we choose to believe it? Where do we find meaning?

The book's pace starts a bit slow, but the pace soon picks up. Mar weaves a good narrative that blends experience and memoir with history. Along with her experiences, she brings in the various histories of paganism and the occult, which I found interesting. In the  end, Mar delivers an interesting and at times moving story of paganism and some of its various forms and those who practice them. I do say some for, as the author reminds us, many parts of the pagan experience are not in the book. She hopes others will go out and do their own research and write further.

For me, the only thing missing was a good bibliography. She mentions three books in her acknowledgements as crucial, and there is a footnote here or there, but I would have appreciated a list of sources, mostly for me to keep reading and exploring. By the way, the three books mentioned are:

Overall, this  is an excellent book. Another benefit of this book may be for pagans and witches who may feel alone or isolated reassurance others like them are out there and thriving. The book is a solid selection for public libraries. I'd also recommend it for academic libraries, and I'll be ordering a copy for our library collection. This is one of the most interesting reads I  have done recently, and it is a book that has sparked my curiosity to learn more.

5 out of 5 stars.

* * * * * 

Additional reading notes:

Many Americans are  drawn to the occult and mysterious, way  more than they care to admit:

"So is this witchy stuff or mere coincidence? I'm not sure. The world is full of strange and inexplicable business. There are many Americans-- not just out-there Americans, but high-functioning people with mainstream jobs and houses with backyards-- who have stories like those of my family. Stories of mysticism, of communications from the other side, whether handed down, hearsay, or their own. All you need to do is press a little harder, and out they come: from supermarket cashiers, retired cops, psychologists, high school jocks-- it doesn't matter where they live or what they look like. The overriding culture trains us to dismiss these stories as New Age babble, signs of wayward fanaticism, rather than greet them with a healthy dose of curiosity-- but Americans are compelled by the mysterious more often than we feel permitted to admit" (10). 

Modern study and training into witchcraft can often be online and long distance given some branches and practitioners are separated by geography. The Internet has made some things easier. Mar describes a bit of her long distance training with one of her teachers:

"I am to e-mail her weekly, by Thursday night, to be supplemented by occasional phone calls; and I'll receive lessons as password-encoded online videos. Finally, in a few months, I'm to visit her home, at my own expense, for some actual face-to-face time" (106). 

That sounds almost like a modern online class, and by the way, like other classes, she did pay for her lessons.

An observation that many witches, and pagans, while often devoted to serving others, don't always have their own lives together. This also applies to artists, and I've seen it in artists I know. To an extent, I can relate as well:

"If people are talented at spell casting, it does not immediately follow that their focus is on perfecting their own lives. Many witches are dedicated to using magic to perform a service for others, leaving their personal lives a mess-- a scenario that I've seen play out in my own world, with every kind of artist. Morpheus had her own example: 'You can have a Harvard professor who's obviously a master  in their field, but  that doesn't mean that they have a perfect grasp on how to have relationships or whatever,' she told me. 'Just because you are advanced in a certain skill does not mean that you are somehow a perfectly rounded, perfectly developed person'" (152). 

Side note: Josh, Mar's Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) teacher, also works with Santa Muerte (not in the OTO pantheon though). Here is one prayer he uses:

"Santisima Muerte! Beloved of my heart!
Do not abandon me without your protection.
Defend me from my enemies and grant me
a peaceful death.
Oh Holy Mother, hear my prayer! Amen" (202). 

That reminded me a bit of the book on Santa Muerte I recently read. Also shows how pagans can and do often blend practices and traditions.

Update note (3/19/17): Turns out that a number of pagans dislike the book to varying degrees. I recently even talked to such a pagan, and she personally loathes the book. Opinions vary, but in the end it is still an interesting memoir of a segment of the pagan community, albeit a very small segment. Keep in mind also it is written for outsiders, and that does add some value to it given many of the readings pagans often recommend are written by and for insiders. Do I recommend it still? Yes, but I do as I often say to readers, read it and decide. The book does have some flaws that deserve critique, but she also gets a lot of things right and does provide an accurate picture of paganism in public. In order to provide some balance, here are some additional reviews. The one John Halsted (from Patheos) may be most of interest:

Friday, January 20, 2017

Reading by the colors in 2017

This is the second reading challenge I am doing because it is silly fun, and it is the last challenge I am choosing to undertake in 2017. I am new to this challenge, so this should be an interesting experience. Here are the details:

From the challenge page:

  • Basically, the idea is to read nine books in each of the colors assigned. The book can have the color or a shade of the color in the title and/or on the book cover. So, for example, for blue, a book that has blue (or a shade of blue) in the title or the book cover. 

This is a fixed number challenge, so I will be attempting to read and review nine books by color. I will add book titles to the list  as I pick them up, and  I will link the reviews as  I post them.

List of books read for this challenge:

  1. P.J. O'Rourke, How the Hell Did This Happen? (Blue)
  2. David Gonzales and Elliot Serrano, Homies. (Red)
  3. Norman Ohler, Blitzed. (Yellow)
  4. David Liss,, Green Hornet: Reign of the Demon.(Green)
  5. Melanie Marquis, The Modern Spellcaster's Tarot. (Book and deck set) (Brown) (review forthcoming)
  6. Colin Dickey, Ghostland. (Black)
  7. Jancis Robinson, The 24-Hour Wine Expert (White)
  8. Jennifer Adams, Emma: an Emotions Primer. (Book with any other color: purple, orange, silver, etc.) (Pink).
  9. Rebecca Hankins and  Miguel Juarez, Where are all the librarians of color? (Book with a word that implies color: rainbow, polka-dot, plaid, stripe, etc.)

Update note (11/30/17): Challenge completed. The Tarot book is the last item, and I will link the review when I finish writing it. I have to admit, this was fun, but it was also a bit more challenging than I expected, especially for categories 8 and 9. Still, this is one I will definitely do next year if offered.

Dealing with the blogger shame in 2017

When I do reading challenges, I try to pick out at least one or two that I do just  for the fun of it because they seem silly or odd or what have you. This one caught my eye, and since I do have a few oldies that may need reviewing, I figure let's go for it. When you get books for review, like other book bloggers, it does not mean they will get reviewed. Often the understanding is that you may be provided with a review copy, but it  is for your consideration; you may or not choose to review it. However, there are some titles that I did want to review or agreed to review but for various reasons I was not able to get to it. Reasons for this to happen in my case may be illness or may be I lost the mood for it at the time. The mood thing often happens with erotica. Something bad happens, like a death in the family (I've had at least two of those in recent years), and naturally last thing you want to read in mourning is erotica. You get the idea. So, I am going to  do this challenge, and try to clear that list up a bit and thus clear some of the blogger (tongue in cheek) shame. Let's get to it.

Blogger Shame Review Challenge 2017. (link to sign up page)

A little bit from the challenge announcement:

  • "The Blogger Shame challenge is a cheeky way to admit our guilt...and go about fixing it. Tackling those review books that have slipped through the cracks over the years. Any review book over 4 months past due is game!" This  is the one catch; this is for somewhat old things, which I do have some of those.
  • The minimum number is one book, one review. 

I am going to keep it low, so to start out I will commit to three books read and reviewed. Naturally, if I  manage more, I will upgrade. As always, I will add books to the list as I pick them up and link to the review once I post the review.

List of books read for this challenge:

  1. Seán Michael Wilson, Bushido: the Soul of the Samurai
  2. Clay Cane, Live Through This.  
  3. Jennifer Adams, Emma: an Emotions Primer
  4. Jennifer Adams, Treasure Island: a Shapes Primer
Update note (11/30/17): With four books, the initial challenge is complete.  I thought this would be easier, but I kept getting caught up on newer books or just did not pay as much attention to this challenge as I could  have. Given that I have quite a few older books due for review, I will likely try this challenge again in 2018.

Picking my reading poison for 2017

I decided to try out this reading challenge because it is highly customizable, and it allows me to try out for reading categories I might not find easily. For instance, I wanted to repeat the Horror Reading Challenge I did last year, but it turns out it is not available this year. So doing this allows me to add horror as one of the categories. I am hoping to use this to try to read a few things I enjoy but for whatever reason have not had the time to pick up and read for a while. So here we go.

For this challenge, I am going to try three different categories at the Foxglove level, which is one to three books read and reviewed. As I have mentioned in other reading challenge posts this year, I am keeping commitments low given the hard year coming ahead. Naturally, if I read more, I will upgrade the levels. My initial commitments are as follows:

  • Horror books. I want to read more in this genre. I rediscovered my love for the genre on doing the  Horror Reading Challenge last year. Since that challenge is not available for 2017, I am doing my own version here. I am committing at the Foxglove level, which means one to three books read and reviewed. 
  • Books in Spanish. I am a native Spanish language person, and I try to keep reading books in  my first language when I can. I got a couple in last year, and I would like to add a few more this year. Books in this category can be fiction or nonfiction, but they do have to be originally written in Spanish. After all, if it was originally in English, I can read it in English. Only exception to the original Spanish language rule may  be a book originally written in some other language not  English that I would not be able to read, and  I find a good translation in  Spanish. I am doing this at the Foxglove level
  • Science Fiction books. I am leaving this intentionally wide open. Yes, I know science fiction can be a lot of things and a lot of subgenres. I do read some science fiction already, but I am hoping to use this to read a few of those classics I feel I should have read already and maybe discover a new thing or two outside the usual. However, if it falls broadly under the science fiction umbrella, be it space opera, hard science fiction, or something else, I am counting it. Again, let's start low at the Foxglove level and see if we work our way up.

As I always do, I will list the books read for this challenge as I  pick them up. For this particular challenge, I will identify which category the book fits in. I will then link to my review of the book once it is posted.

List of books read for this challenge:


  1. Ray Garton, Live Girls.  
  2. Sara Vaughn, Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love.

Books in Spanish:
  1. Mario Benedetti, Biografía para encontrarme
  2. Jay Fonseca, Banquete Total

Science Fiction:

  1. Matt Kindt and Trevor Hairsine, Divinity III: Stalinverse.  
  2. Cullen Bunn, Battlestar Galactica: Folly of the Gods.  
  3. Matt Kindt, X-O Manowar, Volume 1: Soldier.

2016 Reading Bingo, or just something for the fun of it

I saw this prompt for a Reading Bingo over at My Reader's Block, and I decided to give it a try and see how many of the books I read last year would fit in the categories. It is also a nice way to highlight some of my reviews from last year.

Here is the bingo card as provided:

Here are the books I read last year that fit in the slots. Links go to my reviews. Let's see how far we can go:

  • A book with  more than 500 pages: The Blood Angels Omnibus.
  • A forgotten classic: I did not have one for 2016. 
  • A book that became a movie: Casino
  • A book published this year (2016): Llewellyn's Complete Book of Tarot. Actually most of what  I read via NetGalley in 2016 would fit in this category.
  • A book with a number in the title: 21: the Story of Roberto Clemente.  
  • A  book written by someone under 30: Gaysia. At the time the book came out, the author would have been 29. He is 33 now according to his Wikipedia entry. Finding this took a bit of work. Authors' ages are not evident in blurbs and such, nor always stated online unless they have some biography that lists age and/or birth date.On a curious note, in a couple of cases where I thought some authors were under 30 turned out they were a lot older. I guess some people do age well (or manage to make the "I am staying at 29" line work for them). 
  • A book with  non-human characters: Monsters! and Other Stories
  • A funny book: Zits Unzipped
  • A book by a female author: The Creative Tarot
  • A book with a mystery: Hell House. This one would have also fit into the book that became a movie slot.
  • A book with a one word title: Silence
  • A book of short stories: Dirty Dates
  • A book set on a different continent: Batman Europa
  • A book of nonfiction: The Bookshop Book
  • The first book by a favorite author: None here this year. 
  • A book you heard about online: How the Post Office Created America.
  • A best selling book: New Rules. It debuted at number 10 on the NYT nonfiction bestseller list. This is another category I had to dig up a bit. I may glance at bestseller lists to know what is going on, but I rarely read books out  of those lists or just because they are on the list. I figured a celebrity's book was likely to have made a bestseller list. 
  • A book based on a true story: Black Mass. Pileggi's Casino would have fit this slot. Also, The Way of the Wiseguy would have fit too, but I have not posted the review for that one as of this post.
  • A book at the bottom of your To Be Read Pile: Battle Pope, Volume 3 and Volume 4. I gave you a two for one deal here. 
  • A book your friend loves: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Collection, Volume 3. I have a few friends who are TMNT fans. 
  • A book that scares you: The Ghost Fleet, Volume 1 and Volume 2. Scary, but in a good, thrilling way. Again, a bit more value for you readers with a two for one deal here. 
  • A book that is more than 10 years old: Cable on Academe
  • The second book in a series: Grayson, Volume 2
  • A book with a blue cover: Me of Little Faith
So only missed two slots. Not too shabby for something that was not planned. Anyhow, keep on reading folks. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Reading Library Books in 2017

I always try to do a library related reading challenge. I do it in part because I am a librarian, and I have a soft spot for library related things. In addition, a significant amount of books I read come from libraries-- my local public library, my workplace library, or interlibrary loan.  So it feels natural to do this kind of challenge. A detail that seems to be  an issue is the stability of these challenges. The one I am signing up now has changed names at least twice, and yet I have managed to follow them along. We'll see how it goes this year. I am doing the following library reading challenge this year:

Library Love Challenge 2017. (link to sign up page at Bea's Book Nook)
Library Love Challenge (sign up at Angel's Guilty Pleasures

Based on  what I have completed before, I am going to start at the following level:

Thrifty Reader: Read and review 24 books. 

If I read more, I will upgrade. I will add books to the reading list as I pick them up to read. I will link to the reviews when I post them to the blog.

List of books read for this challenge:

  1. Becky Libourel Diamond, The Thousand Dollar Dinner
  2. "The Usual Gang of Idiots," The Mad Bathroom Companion: the Gushing Fourth Edition
  3. Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman, Zits: Sketchbook 1
  4. Seán Michael Wilson, Bushido: the Soul of the Samurai.
  5. Mark Kurlansky, Paper: Paging Through History.
  6. Rebecca Hankins and  Miguel Juarez, Where are all the Librarians of Color.  
  7. John Lewis,, March: Book Three
  8. John G. Palfrey, BiblioTech (audiobook edition). 
  9. Various authors, Halo Graphic Novel
  10. P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast, Marked (House of Night, Book 1). 
  11. Mario Benedetti, Biografía para encontrarme.  
  12. Jennifer Worick, Things I Want to Punch in the Face (audiobook edition). 
  13. Jen Mann, People I Want to Punch in the Throat (audiobook edition). 
  14. Ray Garton, Live Girls
  15. Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential (audiobook edition). 
  16. Jay Fonseca, Banquete Total
  17. Tommy Dades and Mike Vecchione, with David Fisher, Friends of the Family.
  18. Josh Katz, Speaking American.
  19. Colin Dickey, Ghostland.  
  20. P.J. O'Rourke, How the Hell Did This Happen?
  21. Jancis Robinson, The 24-Hour Wine Expert
  22. Serafin Mendez Mendez, with Ronald Fernandez, Puerto Rico Past and Present: an Encyclopedia.
  23.  Michael Eric Dyson, Tears We Cannot Stop.
  24. Vincent Terrace, Television Series of the 1960s.

Be nice if someone reads to me in 2017

I first tried the Audiobooks Challenge in 2016, and I completed it successfully. I found that I do enjoy when someone reads me the text once in a while. For audiobooks, I tend to prefer nonfiction and light reading since I am often listening to the book while I am doing other things blogging. My only concern with  this challenge is finding books to read. My local public library is my source for audiobooks, but their selection is a bit limited. I am hoping that I can use their Overdrive system to get a new (or at least new to me) selections to complete this challenge.

Here is the sign up page where you can see details and sign up if you are interested.

As I did last year, I am committing initially to the following level:

Newbie (I'll give a try): 1 to 5 books read and reviewed. 

I listened to five books last year. I think I will be able to upgrade, but  it is dependent on what books in audio I can get my hands on. We'll see.

I will be adding books to the list as I pick them up and read them. I will link the reviews as I post the reviews.

List of books read for this challenge:

  1. John G. Palfrey, BiblioTech.  
  2. Jennifer Worick, Things I Want to Punch in the Face
  3. Jen Mann, People I Want to Punch in the Throat
  4. Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential.

Update note (11/30/17): With four books read and reviewed, the initial challenge commitment. I will note that the challenge in this instance for me is finding audiobooks I may be interested in. My local public library holdings locally are woefully out of date and limited in selection (seriously, they need some serious weeding and updating). Their Overdrive is not that much better. So I may or not do it next year depending on what I can find. I do overall enjoy having someone read to me.

Reading a bit about food and foodie culture in 2017

I did the Foodies Read reading challenge for the first time in 2016. It was a challenge that I enjoyed, and I found myself reading some interesting books. So I am doing  it again this year. As of this post, I already finished one book, and I will be posting the review for that soon.

Here is the sign up link (you may have to scroll a bit on  their page to see it) for details. The sign up time is closed, but you can enter late (like I am) by linking your reviews as you read them in the monthly link ups. I am linking below the January link up. You can keep up when other link ups go up by rss reader (how I do it):

I managed to read 5 books last year, so I am going to take a chance and commit initially to the following level:

Pastry Chef: 4 to 8 books read and reviewed. 

I will add books to my  reading list as I pick up and read them. I will add the links to the reviews as I get them posted.

Bon Appetit.

List of books read for this challenge:

  1. Becky Libourel Diamond, The Thousand Dollar Dinner
  2. Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential.  
  3. Jancis Robinson, The 24-Hour Wine Expert.  
  4. Leonardo Lucarelli, Mincemeat: the Education of an Italian Chef.  
  5. Michael Ruhlman, Grocery.

Update note (11/30/17): With five books read and reviewed, I have completed this challenge for the year.  At this point, I may consider doing it again next year.

Climbing up Mount TBR in 2017

The Mount TBR Reading Challenge is one that I enjoy, but it is not one I have always completed successfully. I managed to make it in 2015, but I fell short last year. So, I am packing my climbing gear and I am taking another stab at it; I just can't quit this challenge. I have plenty of books of my own in my TBR (to be read) pile that I need to try to clear out a bit. So without further ado, here we go.

Some of the rules, according to their website:

  • Challenge runs from January 1 to December 31, 2017.
  • Books must be owned by you prior to January 1, 2017. No library books. (I read a lot of library books, which is what at times distracts me from this challenge, so I will make an effort to pay a bit more attention). 
If you want to sign up (you can do so until November 1st, 2017), here is the link for the sign up page:

Once again, I will attempt to complete the following mountain:

Pike's Peak: Read and review 12 books from the TBR pile. 

As always, if I read more, I will attempt to upgrade to the next mountain. I will add books to my list as I pick them up and read them. I will link the reviews on the list once I post them.

Books read for this challenge:

  1. Colette Baron-Reid, Enchanted Map Oracle Cards (with book).  
  2. Editors of Yankee Magazine, Yankee Magazine's Living Well on a Shoestring
  3. Clay Cane, Live Through This
  4. Kathryn Petras and Ross Petras,  The Stupidest Things Ever Said: Book of All-Time Stupidest Top Ten Lists.
  5. Jennifer Adams,, Emma: an Emotions Primer
  6. Jennifer Adams,, Treasure Island: a Shapes Primer.
  7. Alana Fairchild, The Isis Oracle (deck and book set).  
  8. Joanna Powell Colbert, The Gaian Tarot (deck and book set).
  9. Andy Schmidt, G.I. Joe: Future Noir.
  10. Jonathan J. Moore, Dreadful Diseases and Terrible Treatments.
  11. Ryan Mecum, Vampire Haiku
  12. Melanie Marquis, Modern Spellcaster's Tarot (deck and book set).

Update Note (11/30/17): Initial challenge completed. As of today, 8 books read and reviewed. Remaining books, except for number 12, have reviews done and scheduled for publication. Last book I am in process of writing the review. 

Update Note (1/1/18): All reviews are posted. I did posted the last one today. Challenge is complete for 2017.

Once again, working to keep my Netgalley/Edelweiss reads under control

I have been doing the Netgalley/Edelweiss Reading Challenge since 2014. I find it a good way to keep me motivated to make sure I read the things I request and get approved for in those services. So, I am jumping once more. As I have mentioned before, I am keeping my commitments on the low side given the bad circumstances of 2016, which I am sure may extend into 2017. I will upgrade as I see necessary, but I am staying cautious. I noticed this year we have a new host. Falling For YA had the torch, and this  year it  has been passed to Bookish Things and More.

So, here we go. Some of the details:

  • Challenge runs January 1, 2017 to December 31, 2017. 
  • As long as it comes from Netgalley or Edelweiss, it counts. 
  • There is a hashtag, which I hope I will remember to use, but possible I will forget once or twice. Anyhow, the hashtag is #NGEW2017. 

If you wish to sign up or want to learn  more, here is the link to the sign up page:

I am committing to the following challenge level: 

Bronze = 10 books read and reviewed.  

We will see how it goes. As I usually do, I will be adding the books to the list as I read them.

List of books read for this challenge:

  1. Jimmy Palmiotti, Harley Quinn and her Gang of Harleys.
  2. Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, Harley Quinn, Volume 1: Die Laughing (DC Universe Rebirth). 
  3. Artisan Books, Why We March
  4. Eileen Kaur Alden,, Super Sikh, Issue 1
  5. Scott Martin, Bringing the Tarot to Life
  6. Yoav Ben-Dov, The Marseille Tarot Revealed
  7. Matt Kindt and Trevor Hairsine,  Divinity III: Stalinverse
  8. Leeza Robertson, Tarot Court Cards for Beginners
  9. Cullen Bunn, Battlestar Galactica: Folly of the Gods
  10. Roger Langridge, Betty Boop
  11. Gerard Way, Doom Patrol, Volume 1
  12. Sara Vaugh, Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love.  
  13. Andy Diggle, James Bond: Hammerhead
  14. Melissa Cynova, Kitchen Table Tarot
  15. David Gonzales and Elliot Serrano, Homies
  16. Matt Kindt, X-O Manowar, Volume 1: Soldier.
  17. David Liss,, Green Hornet: Reign of the Demon.
  18. Jason Gruhl, The Fountain Tarot Guidebook.
  19. Eileen Kaur Alden,, Super Sikh, Issue 2
  20. Matt Kindt, X-O Manowar, Volume 2

Update note (July 14, 2017): With  Doom Patrol, Volume 1, I complete my initial challenge commitment.  It's 25 books to the next level, and I  think I can do 14 more before the year ends, so I am going to upgrade my commitment as follows:

Silver = 25 books read and reviewed. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Reading graphic novels, maybe some manga too, in 2017

I have been selecting and deciding which reading challenges I will attempt in 2017. I will be posting the challenges I have chosen over the next few days, and I will create a challenges page for 2017 that will reside on the blog's right sidebar with a list and links to all the challenge posts.

Once again, I am doing the Graphic Novels and Manga Reading Challenge. The challenge is on its 10th anniversary. I have done it three times (2014, 2015, and 2016), and I am glad to try it out again for 2017 on their 10th year. This is a challenge I enjoy because graphic novels and manga are one of my favorite reading genres. As I mentioned in my end of year reading report for 2016, the lousy latter part of the year affected my reading quite a bit, and it slowed me down. I ended up reading less. While I did manage to complete this challenge last year, I am going to be cautious this year. So I am going to start out with a low commitment level. If I manage to finish that in a timely fashion, I will upgrade the commitment level.

You can find the details to the challenge and sign up at this page. Some details:

  • Challenge runs from January 1, 2017 to December 31, 2017. 
  • "What counts: graphic novels, collected trade editions, manga, comic strip collections, comic books or combinations of text and bubbles all in the same book. In print or digital. Anything else you feel is suitable. My personal criteria is if it has either frames OR speech bubbles it counts. I'm not going to be the comic police but if you are unsure, ask me in the comments any given month."

I am going to start out low and commit to the following:

Modern Age: read and review 12 books during the year (that's only 1 book a month)

I will add the titles to the list as I read them. Once I have reviewed them, I will add the link to the review. Reading a graphic novel or manga a month is not the hard part. For me, getting the reviews up on time is often the real challenge. We will see how it goes. As I mentioned, if I manage to finish the initial commitment in a timely fashion, I will upgrade.

List of books read for this challenge:

  1.  Seán Michael Wilson,, Bushido: the Soul of the Samurai.
  2. Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman, Zits: Sketchbook 1
  3. John Lewis,, March: Book Three
  4. Jimmy Palmiotti,, Harley Quinn and her Gang of Harleys.
  5. Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, Harley Quinn, Volume 1: Die Laughing (DC Universe Rebirth).
  6. Various authors, Halo Graphic Novel
  7. Eileen Kaur Alden,, Super Sikh, Issue 1
  8. Matt Kindt and Trevor Hairsine, Divinity III: Stalinverse
  9. Cullen Bunn, Battlestar Galactica: Folly of the Gods
  10. Roger Langridge, Betty Boop
  11. Gerard Way,, Doom Patrol, Volume 1
  12. Sara Vaughn, Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love.  
  13. Andy Diggle, James Bond: Hammerhead
  14. David Gonzales and Elliot Serrano, Homies
  15. Matt Kindt, X-O Manowar, Volume 1: Soldier
  16. David Liss,, Green Hornet: Reign of the Demon
  17. Stan Sakai, Usagi Yojimbo, Vol. 31: The Hell Screen.
  18. Andy Schmidt,, G.I. Joe: Future Noir
  19. Eileen Kaur Alden,, Super Sikh, Issue 2
  20.  Neil Gaiman, Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire
  21. Matt Kindt,, X-O Manowar, Volume 2: General
  22. Matt Groening, Will and Abe's Guide to the Universe.

Update note: (9/24/17): With 16 books, I have completed the Modern Age level, and thus I have completed the initial challenge commitment. I think I can read and review 8 more books by December, so I am upgrading to:

Bronze Age: read and review 24 books during the year (Can you handle 2 books a month?)

My Reading List for 2016

(This is cross-posted from my blog The Gypsy Librarian).

Welcome to my 2016 Reading List where I take a look at my year in reading. I feel that I started strong, but then the latter part of the year my reading just slowed down. The lousy election season in the United States certainly did not help my reading mood in the later part of the year. Also new this year is my study of Tarot and oracle cards. I am teaching myself how to read Tarot as a hobby and mainly as a meditation and reflection tool. I have found this new interest to be a calming element. In terms of work, I am entering my fifth year working at Berea College, and overall, it is going well.

Blogging here at The Gypsy Librarian has slowed down. While I still read LIS literature here and there, I am not reading as much as before. In addition, I find that I honestly could not care less about a lot of the drama in the library field, which means I am not inclined to blog about it. But if something comes up that may be of interest, I will post about it here. As I mentioned in last year's report, I am at peace with blogging less here. I've got other more interesting things going.

Blogging at The Itinerant Librarian has gone along nicely. That blog is growing into a good book review blog. I review both new and older selections I get from various sources. If you think you have a book I may want to read and review, check out my book review statement. I read a lot, and I read a variety of things, but I do not read everything, which is why I created the review statement. Reading and reviewing books is one of the best parts of being a librarian and reader. As I mentioned in last year's reading report, getting to know a few authors and editors is also a nice part of being a book blogger.

So, without further fuss, here is the list of books I read in 2016. As always, an asterisk (*) after a title indicates a book I reread:


  • Jane Lyle, Tarot Deck: Explore the Power of Tarot (book and deck kit).
  • Troy Little, Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
  • Russell Brettholtz, Side-Kicked.
  • Rob Williams, Star Wars Rebellion, Volume 2: The Akahista Gamble
  • Don Brown, Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans.
  • Paul M. Barrett, Glock: The Rise of America's Gun.
  • Lewis Black, Me of Little Faith (audiobook edition)*

  • Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, Harley Quinn Volume 3: Kiss Kiss Bang Stab
  • Greg Rucka, Shattered Empire (Star Wars graphic novel)
  • Jen Campbell, The Bookshop Book
  • Natasha Knight, Given to the Savage
  • John Leguizamo, Ghetto Klown
  • Elizabeth Warren, A Fighting Chance (audiobook)
  • Margie Lapanja, Food Men Love
  • Julio Patán, Cocteles con historia
  • Donnie Cates, The Ghost Fleet, Volume 1: Deadhead
  • Ted Rall, Bernie
  • Kevin B. Eastman and Peter A. Laird, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Collection, Volume 3


  • Jim Berg, The Jumbo Duct Tape Book
  • Daniel Lipkowitz, LEGO Star Wars in 100 Scenes
  • Sarah Bowen, Divided Spirits
  • Harlan Ellison, Night and the Enemy
  • Sean Ryan, New Suicide Squad, Volume 2: Monsters
  • Tom King, Grayson, Volume 2: We all Die at Dawn
  • Rob Williams, Martian Manhunter, Volume 1: The Epiphany
  • Masahiko Murakami, Nichiren
  • Christopher Hansard, The Tibetan Art of Positive Thinking.
  • Kim W. Andersson, The Complete Love Hurts
  • Jerry Scott, Zits Unzipped
  • Charles Soule, Lando
  • Staci Mendoza, Reading and Understanding the Mysteries of the Tarot.
  • Robert Kirkman, Battle Pope, Volume 3: Pillow Talk
  • Jerry Scott, My Bad: a Zits Treasury.
  • Robert Kirkman, Battle Pope, Volume 4: Wrath of God


  • Isabella Alston, Tarot Cards
  • Jessa Crispin, The Creative Tarot
  • Josh Mack, The Hobo Handbook
  • James Swallow, The Blood Angels Omnibus, Volume 1.
  • Richard Matheson, Hell House
  • Dick Lehr, Black Mass
  • Scott Snyder, Batman, Volume 8: Superheavy
  • Bathroom Readers' Institute, Uncle John's Factastic Bathroom Reader


  • Louis Jordan, Llewellyn's Complete Book of Tarot
  • Patrick Gleason, Robin: Son of Batman, Volume 1.  
  • Brian Azzarello, Batman: Europa
  • Josephine Ellershaw, Easy Tarot (book and deck kit).
  • Scott Adams, When Did Ignorance Become a Point of View (Dilbert).
  • Jeff Jensen, Green River Killer
  • Donny Cates, The Ghost Fleet, Volume 2: Over the Top
  • Jason Aaron, Vader Down
  • Daniel Way, Deadpool by Daniel Way: The Complete Collection, Volume 1
  • Wilfred Santiago, 21: the Story of Roberto Clemente


  • Thich Nhat Hahn, Silence
  • Sarah Cooper, 100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings
  • Ellen DeGeneres, Seriously...I'm Kidding (audiobook).
  • Erik Burnham, Ghostbusters International


  • Nicholas Pileggi, Casino.  
  • Adrian Tomine, Scenes from an Impending Marriage
  • David Wilkie, Coffee with Jesus
  • Corinna Sara Bechko, Aliens/Vampirella.  
  • David Wilkie, A Second Shot of Coffee with Jesus
  • Tom King, Grayson, Volume 3: Nemesis
  • Benjamin Law, Gaysia
  • Rachel Kramer Bussel, ed., Dirty Dates
  • Barbara Moore, Tarot for Beginners
  • Amanda Conner and  Jimmy Palmiotti, Harley Quinn, Volume 4: A Call to Arms
  • Sarah A. Chrisman, True Ladies and Proper Gentlemen


  • Stephanie McMillan, The Beginning of the American Fall
  • Gustavo Duarte, Monsters! and Other Stories
  • Miguel Ruiz, Jr., The Mastery of Self
  • Carol Peachee, The Birth of Bourbon
  • Suzanne Corbie, Tarot Workshop: an Introductory Guide to Tarot (audiobook).
  • Gabriel García Márquez, Yo No Vengo a Decir un Discurso
  • Sean Michael Wilson, Cold Mountain: The Legend of Han Shan and Shih Te.
  • Bill Maher, New Rules (audiobook edition)*


  • Winifred Gallagher, How the Post Office Created America.
  • Stacey DeMarco, The Halloween Oracle (deck and book kit). 
  • Emelyn Rude, Tastes Like Chicken
  • Denys Leary, Why We Suck (audiobook edition)*


  • G.B. Trudeau, Yuge! 30 Years of Doonesbury on  Trump
  • Editors of Rock Point, Cats in Sweaters.  
  • Tomas Prower, La Santa Muerte
  • Amanda Conner and  Jimmy Palmiotti, Harley Quinn, Volume 5: The Joker's Last Laugh.
  • Carole Cable, Cable on Academe.*


  • Alex Mar, Witches of America
  • Joseph D. Pistone, The Way of the Wiseguy
  • Sam Maggs, Wonder Women
  • Mira Grant, Rolling in the Deep.
  • Stan Sakai, Usagi Yojimbo, Volume 30: Thieves and Spies
  • M.R. James,, Ghost Stories of an Antiquary, Volume 1
  • Paul Dixon, Contraband Cocktails


  • Barbara Moore and Aly Fell (illustrator), The Steampunk Tarot (deck and book kit).

Here are the numbers:

For 2016, I read a total of 92 books, including 4 re-reads.

Number of books read in 2015: 123, including 2 re-reads (the 2015 list).
Number of books read in 2014: 152, including 2 re-reads (the 2014 list).
Number of books read in 2013: 173, including 2 re-reads (the 2013 list).
Number of books read in 2012: 117, with 6 re-reads (the 2012 list).
Number of books read in 2011: 119, with 3 re-reads (the 2011 list). 
Number of books read in 2010:  119, with 6 rereads (the 2010 list).
Number of books read in 2009: 98, with 5 rereads. I believe this is the first time I started to actively track rereads. (the 2009 list).
Number of books read in 2008: 111 (the 2008 list).
Number of books read in 2007: 85 (the 2007 list).
Number of books read in 2006: 106 (the 2006 list).
Number of books read in 2005: 73
Commentary, other numbers, and additional thoughts:

  • I knew even without doing the final tally that I read fewer books this year. As I mention, the latter part of the year was just rough overall. On the positive, I do feel that I got to read some really good books this year, and I will do a post later highlighting the best books I read in 2016. 
  • The re-reads I did for one of my reading challenges. You can view my Reading Challenges for 2016 page to see how things turned out. In a nutshell, I completed 10 out 12 reading challenges I set out to do. As of this post, I am in the process of selecting what reading challenges I will attempt in 2017. Given how bad the latter part of 2016 was and  that I am not expecting 2017 to be any better in a lot of ways, I am probably going to keep the goals on the low side to be safe. 
  • Best month: March with 16 books. 
  • Worst month: December with 1 book. 
  • 61 books in print. The majority of what I read is in print, which reflects my preference to read in print.
  • 25 e-books. Majority of these I read via NetGalley. One of them came from my local public library's Overdrive offerings.
  • 6 audiobooks. These I  read mainly for the Audiobooks Reading Challenge I did last year. Not sure if I will repeat this challenge given the quality and selection of audiobooks in my local public library leaves a lot to be desired. They are good in other areas, but the audiobook collection has been neglected, and it shows in old out of date titles with minimal appeal. 
  • 6 fiction books read. Most of these were for the Horror Reading Challenge I did. This was a challenge I enjoyed, and I may repeat it again this year. I did rediscover that I do like the horror genre. Graphic novels and manga are not included in this number regardless of them being fiction or not.
  • 46 nonfiction titles. Again, this shows that I prefer to read nonfiction. This number does not include graphic novels and manga, though I did read some of those that could be classified as nonfiction such as graphic biographies. Tarot books are included in the category of nonfiction for me. 
  • 46 graphic novels. These could be fiction or nonfiction. I did not read any mangas this year, though I have bought a few new series. Maybe I can get to some of them in 2017. 
  • I read 53 books from my local public library, which at this time is the Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library. Most of my popular type reading comes from the public library for me. 
  • I read 2 books from my library, Hutchins Library, Berea College. 
  • No interlibrary loans (ILL) this year. It was not for lack of things I would have wanted to do ILL for, but more that I was busy enough with what I had to read already. 
  • I read 13 books that I own. 
  • Other numbers I find of interest: 
    • Erotica and/or sex writing: 3
    • LIS: 0. I had a few in my office I had checked out, but I did not get around to them. To be honest, I did not feel much of a loss. These days I am very selective about any LIS books I may pick up for reading. I still do read articles and keep up with what is left of the librarian blogosphere, so I feel at peace in this regard. We will see if I pick up anything in LIS in 2017. 
    • Tarot and/or oracle cards and/or divination: 9. As I mentioned, I began to study Tarot (and oracle cards to a lesser extent) seriously in 2016. As a result, I have been reading in this topic. When I get a deck that comes with a substantial companion book, I read the book, and I review both the book and the deck. In addition, I will be reviewing any individual decks I get to use and any standalone Tarot books. One of the best ones I read this year on this was Jessa Crispin's The Creative Tarot (link to my review). In addition, I was able to add these books to the tally of the Self-Help Junkie Reading Challenge I did in 2016. 
    • Pagan/Other beliefs/inspirational: 4. In this category I put stuff that deals with spirituality broadly. Though Tarot and paganism do not have to go together, they often do, so naturally as I read about Tarot I got curious about some pagan traditions. So among other things I read a book on witchcraft and witches in  the United States and another on La Santa Muerte. I also read some other inspirational books including a couple of graphic novels featuring Jesus in a coffee shop. I often label myself as a heathen, but it  does not mean I am a pagan per se, well, at least as far as I know. In this regard, I am more of a curious explorer, but I am finding a bit of a soft spot for some pagan paths. We'll see what kind of books on this I pick up in 2017. As a final comment, a couple of the books in this category also qualified for the Self-Help Junkie challenge.
    • Books I was offered for review (not from NetGalley or Edelweiss): 2. This has slowed down a bit for me. In part, this was due to the lousy year, which affected my reading mood, which meant there were books I did not get to in the most timely fashion. I have a few more left, and I hope to get to them in 2017.
    • Books in Spanish: 2. I was happy to see that this year I managed to read something, anything, in Spanish. For me, reading in Spanish keeps my in touch with my heritage.

Looking ahead, as of this post, I am currently reading the following:

  • Mark Kurlansky, Paper: Paging Through History.
  • P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast, Marked (House of Night, Book One).
  • C.S. Goto, Blood Ravens: the Dawn of War Omnibus (Warhammer 40,000).

Also, for 2017, I have already read two books, which I will be reviewing on the blog soon:

  • Becky Diamond, The Thousand Dollar Dinner
  • Inazo Nitobe,, Bushido: The Soul of the Samurai (graphic novel adaptation).

Finally, here are some other folks who looked at their year's end reading:

Thank you for reading and stopping by. I hope you come back and check out my list of best books read in 2016, which I hope to publish soon.

Happy reading in 2017.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Holiday Post 2016: What the heck happened? Holy Shit edition

Few will disagree that 2016 was one hell of a shit year in various ways. Many of us are glad it is over, though I am not holding much hope for 2017 given the results of the clusterfuck elections in the United States. Still, today is Three Kings Day in many parts of Latin America, including Puerto Rico, and for a few more days my Puerto Rican brethren are celebrating the octavas and octavitas, so I am not quite ready to end the holiday season.  For now, I would like to end the 12 Days of Christmas with the last of my holiday posts for 2016 and take a look at what the hell happened in 2016. For me, this is not just looking back. It's a way to bury 2016 and move on to 2017.


Let's look at some of the news for 2016.

  • USA Today offers a look at 2016 in photos
  • The Advocate has their year in review, featuring "everything that mattered, from odious Religious Freedom Restoration Acts, to queers marching in New York's St. Patrick's Day Parade, to the end of the ban on trans military service, to the massacre in Orlando — and much more."
  • The Atlantic wants to remind us that 2016 was not all shit with a set of hopeful images. There are some really neat photos here. 
  • The Root looks at media diversity stories of 2016
  • In the end, I would say the best review of 2016 is The Rude Pundit's haiku review of the year where his readers and him look at the past year in haiku. (Opening post, part one, and part two).

Pop culture and entertainment

Let us forget about the bad news and look a bit at pop culture and entertainment.  

Some stuff about libraries

As I have mentioned, I am a librarian, so I have to highlight a story or two. 


  • 2016 had a lot of fuckery that I would rather forget, but have to mention at least one. So here is a list of the worst anti-science nonsense of 2016. The stupid was strong in 2016. Story via Grist.
I do not want to leave folks with gloom and doom, so here is a guy's video of all he learned in 2016. Perhaps we can make a resolution to be like him and learn a new thing or two in 2017. Read a new book or two. Learn a new language. Pick up a new hobby. Find a bit of bliss and go onward in 2017.

Paz y amor.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Holiday Post: Books and Reading.

Welcome to 2017 here at The Itinerant Librarian. We continue with the 12 Days of Christmas, and  here is my holiday post on books and reading.  I know many folks take a few moments at this time of the year to look back at what they read in 2016; I will be posting my own 2016 reading report later this  month. I also know those folks may be looking for reading ideas for 2017, and that is where this post comes in. I hope some of these links are helpful to folks. I will add my comments here and there. If I have read something featured in any of these lists that I think is worth recommending I will. As always, comments are welcomed.

Some of the big lists

This is a sampling of the usual suspects. You know, the big shot lists that almost everyone looks at.

Other Lists

These are other lists I have found that may be of interest. They are not quite from the big shots.

Books to help you understand things

2016 as I mentioned was a seriously fucked up year. So of course we are getting lists to help you understand just what the hell happened. Here is a sampling of that.

  • The media has gotten a lot of flak for their lousy coverage of events in 2016, especially the U.S. election. And they deserve all the criticism they get; they dropped the ball on that. Still, understanding the media is important, so here is a reading list for understanding the media from Book Riot.
  • Signature offers a list of 7 books to understand the incoming Trump administration.This is a bit different of a list. It is not really books about Trump. Only real book about him or with his name is his own Art of the Deal. It is more books on topics that will be affected by the man. I can offer you two books I have read that may help you understand Trump better and are not on this list. One is Ted Rall's Trump: a Graphic Biography (link to my review), and the other is Yuge! 30 Years of Doonesbury on Trump (link to my review). Believe me, Doonesbury has been warning us about Trump for years.

A bit of diversity

From international reads to ethnic groups to LGBT, here are some books to help you diversify your reading.This is not comprehensive; it is just a sampling of things that came in my feed reader. If you have other lists related to diversity you want to add, feel free to link them in the comments for me to check out.

Some graphic novels and comics

Graphic novels and comics are one of my favorite reading formats, so naturally I have to offer some suggestions.

 Some adult fare

And finally, here is a bit for folks who like erotica and sex writing. If you are not one of those folks, you can skip this last link.

  • Violet Blue offers her list to help you kink your Kindle (or other e-reader, or in some cases you can get them in print). I will warn her site can be NSFW. From this list, I do have the Circlet Treasure of Erotic Wonderland on my TBR, and I will review it after I read it.