Friday, May 26, 2023

Deck Review: Mystical Manga Tarot

Rann (artist) and Barbara Moore (author), Mystical Manga Tarot. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Worldwide, 2017. ISBN: 9780738753539. (Link to the publisher.)

Genre: Tarot deck..
Subgenre: manga.
Format: 78-card deck with companion book in a hard box.
Source: I own this one.


This kit has a 78-card deck and a full guidebook. I first used this deck in December 2022. The guidebook is arranged as follows: 

  • Introduction. This provides a short overview of the book's contents and organization.
  • Chapter 1: Glossary and F.A.Q.'s. This includes a list of Tarot terms defined and ten common questions answered. For beginners, the FAQ is worth reading. 
  • Chapter 2: How to do a reading. Instruction on how to do a Tarot reading. Chapter features two sample readings with two different spreads. Chapter ends with some additional suggestions to keep practicing your cartomancy skills. 
  • Chapter 3: Spreads. Five additional card spreads in addition to the two from Chapter 2. This chapter provides detailed instructions for using the spreads. 
  • Chapter 4: The Major Arcana. After some introductory writing about the Major Arcana, you get the card entries. Each card entry includes a full color image of each card, description of card, divinatory meaning, advice, and if reversed, ask yourself questions. I like that reversals are not just an opposite or negative but rather opportunities to reflect and take some action. Entries include a full image in color of the cards.
  • Chapter 5: The Minor Arcana. This chapter includes the four suits with the court cards. For each card entry you get divinatory meaning, advice, and reversed. Entries here are not as substantial as the Major Arcana, a situation common in many Tarot books. However, for learners you still get enough information to aid your learning. However, for learner you still get enough information to aid your learning. Entries here include a full image in color of the cards. 
  • Conclusion. A brief closing statement from author.
  • Appendix A: Further Study. A small briefly annotated list of books for further reading. The list features 14 books. I've read five of the books on the list. 
  • Appendix B: The Fool's Journey. A look at the Fool's Journey story that is often useful for students of Tarot. 
  • Finally, the book has a few blank pages to write down notes. 


Barbara Moore wrote a good and informative book. The book offers a lot of solid information, especially for beginners. The book is keyed to the Mystical Manga Tarot, but much of the material is applicable to most Tarot, especially if you use the Rider Waite Smith (RWS) system. The book is easy to read, and its lessons are very accessible. If you get this kit, I do recommend reading the book no matter your knowledge level. 

French artist Rann does the art for the cards. If you like manga and/or anime,  you'll probably enjoy this deck. The art is very colorful, but it is not overly bright. Colors can be a bit calm, soft. The soft coloring was a reason I chose to use this deck in December for the holidays season. You can use this deck year round, but I think it works very well for winter season. 

The art is pretty much within the RWS system. You can think of this deck as an RWS clone in manga style. Deck kit can be a good gift for new Tarot learners; they get a good colorful deck with easy to read art and an informative companion book. I am a manga reader, and I certainly enjoyed using this deck. I am at a stage where I can read cards on my own, but I did appreciate reading the book and keeping it nearby just in case it was needed. 

Four of Cups
The cards are the typical Llewellyn thin card stock, which people either love or hate. The card stock works well for me, but if you shuffle your cards hard then the deck may be less durable. Card stock is flexible, feels soft to the touch. The cards shuffle with ease. All numbered cards use Roman numerals. The only cards with a name label are the Major Arcana and the court cards. Cards measure about 4 1/2 inches by 2 3/4 inches. The card back image is reversible. 

Overall, I really like this light and playful at times deck. Its ease of reading makes it a good choice for beginners as well as advanced readers who want a basic RWS-inspired deck. This is a deck that can work for all ages, and it is one I would use to read for others. Bottom line is you get some good value from this set. I am glad to have it in my collection, and it is one I'd be happy to give as a gift. 

5 out of 5 stars.

Friday, May 19, 2023

Book Review: Usagi Yojimbo: Bunraku and Other Stories

Stan Sakai, Usagi Yojimbo, Volume 34: Bunraku and Other Stories. San Diego, CA: IDW, 2020. ISBN: 9781684056576.

Genre: graphic novels and comics
Subgenre: Feudal Japan, samurais
Format: trade paperback
Source: Hutchins Library, Berea College


This is the 34th volume in the Usagi Yojimbo series, and this series continues to be great. This volume features four stories.

  • "Bunraku" where Usagi has to solve a mystery surrounding a living puppets theater.
  • "The Hero." Usagi takes a job as bodyguard to a famous female writer. Her fame seriously annoys her samurai husband, but Bushido dictates Usagi cannot intervene even as her husband abuses her. This turns out to be a very moving story.
  • "Adachi." This is a reworking of Usagi's first story. This is the time when Usagi became a ronin. Here he revisits his past. 
  • "The Swords of Higashi." Usagi joins two bounty hunter friends to help recover an heirloom sword belonging to the Higashi clan. The story has a bit of a humorous twist at the end. 

The stories overall are well written and take you into feudal Japan. The stories feature good tales that range from moving to humorous. These stories are easy to read and entertaining. For folks who have not read the series before this volume can be a great entry point. 

Sakai's art is light, colorful, and beautiful. The art can be playful at times. It captures the Japanese feudal era well. The comics in this volume are in full color, which is a plus. 

Overall, this is an excellent volume and a great addition to the series. It's also a good entry point for new readers. It has good stories and great art. This is a volume I recommend for all readers. Definitely recommend it for all libraries with graphic novel collections. This is one I would add to my personal collection. 

5 out of 5 stars.

Friday, May 12, 2023

Book Review: Nemesis

James Swallow, Nemesis: War Within the Shadows. Nottingham, UK: Black Library, 2010. ISBN: 9781844168699.
Genre: science fiction
Subgenre: Horus Heresy series, Book 13.
Format: e-book
Source: I own this one.


This is the 13th book in the Horus Heresy series. The novel starts seriously slow, but the story gets better once the action picks up.

Horus Lupercal, one of the Emperor's Primarchs, betrays the Imperium of Man and plunges the galaxy into a civil war. Back on Terra, the Officio Assassinorum decides to put together a team of assassins with various talents to kill Horus. They have tried before and failed, but this time they assemble a team rather than sending a single assassin. They hope to get strength in numbers. Meanwhile, Erebus, First Chaplain of the Word Bearers and one of Horus's advisors, decides they should send their own assassin to Terra to kill the Emperor. Erebus sends one man, but he is no ordinary man. This story premise sounds great, yet this book has weaknesses and strengths. 

Let's start with the weaknesses. The opening scene sets up the novel well enough. However, the first half of the novel then gets seriously slow. Part of the plot is recruiting the members of the Execution Force, and this process is not consistent in terms of interest level. There are also some subplots that initially may not be clear how they connect to the main story. Some of this material may feel like filler. Some material does become clear as we get to the second part of the novel, but it can be a drag to get to that second part. 

In addition, and no, this is not a spoiler, keep in mind that neither Horus nor the Emperor get killed in this novel. If that happened, the series would have ended, and this series goes to a bit over 50 books. The draw for readers of this novel is on this specific story and how events turn out. An issue is that the first half is just not that interesting. Add to the weaknesses the author's apparent love of flashbacks. Some of them were OK for character development, but they often disrupt the novel's pace, slowing down the action elements. 

In terms of strengths, the best part of the novel is the second half. As things finally start coming to a head, the pace picks up. The second half has more action and tension in it. If you make it past the first half, you'll want to stay to the end. The good drama, action, and the key revelations come in the second half. As a reader, you may feel rewarded for the previous slog in part one. We also learn more about Erebus's assassin. In fact, we get to see Erebus more in part two, so if you are a fan of the scheming chaplain keep reading. In the end, we are not sure who gets out alive or not as the action moves along at a good pace. 

Overall, I liked this book once I got got the second half. I admit that I considered dropping it, but I feel good overall about sticking with it. Once the plot gets going, the book is pretty good. This is not one of the better novels in the series, but it is not among the worst. I've read worse in the Horus Heresy prior to this one. So I'd say this one is middle of the road. If you are a completist, you'll want to read it. More casual readers might consider it as optional. 

On a side note, another interesting element is the rise of the Imperial Cult. Fans of Warhammer 40,000 know the cult is a fact of life, but in the 31st Millennium it is barely emerging as an underground movement, and it is very illegal. The author explores this pretty well in the character of Lady Sinope and her followers. 

I am willing to give this 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Short Book Review: Hagar the Horrible: Motley Crew

Dik Browne, Hagar the Horrible: Motley Crew. New York: Tor Books, 1992. ISBN: 0812515447.

This is a nice collection of Hagar the Horrible comics. The book contains a series of short comic stories, 41 in total. The stories can be two to four pages in length. The comics look at Hagar's travails as a viking and a family man. Highlights in this volume include: Hagar and Helga watching a sunset, celebrating Christmas (I always like Christmas comics), Hagar visiting a wise man for wisdom, and Hamlet, Hagar's son, reading with Hernia, a girl friend. 

Overall, this is a fun and easy read that can make you smile. The strips are in black and white, but they are still fun to read. If you need something light to cheer you up, this is pretty good. 

3 out of 5 stars. 

Book qualifies for the following 2023 Reading Challenge: 

Monday, May 08, 2023

Deck Review: Angels and Ancestors Oracle Cards

Kyle Gray (author) and Lily Moses (artist), Angels and Ancestors Oracle Cards. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, 2018. ISBN: 9781788170017. (Link to publisher.)

Genre: oracle cards
Subgenre: spirituality, angels, ancestors
Format: Kit with 55 cards on the deck and a small guide book
Source: I own this one


Elder card
I first used this deck in February 2023 and kept it through March 2023. This kit includes 55 cards and a companion book in a small solid box. The box is nice, and it includes a couple of quotes inside the box, a small nice detail. 

The book has 147 pages. The book is arranged as follows: 

  • Introduction. The author introduces the deck's theme, defining briefly angels and ancestors and their wisdom that we can learn using the deck. 
  • How to use your Angels and Ancestors Oracle cards. In this section, the deck is explained. The cards have no particular order, but there are categories: the Sacred Ones (30 cards), Guardians and Messengers (12 cards), Warrior Symbols (9 cards), and Seasons (4 cards). In this section, you also get how to use the cards and four spreads to try out plus some advice on reading the cards. 
  • The card entries arranged in the categories listed. Each entry includes a small black and white image of each card, card name and card keywords, message, about (a bit of card description and definition), and extended message (divinatory message and interpretation). 

The book overall is useful and informative. The introductory material offers easy instruction to learn how to use the deck and bond with it. It addresses some basic questions for beginners such as storing and cleansing your deck.  You also get some simple suggestions for rituals and ceremonies. The text is accessible. The author writes with a nurturing and encouraging tone; you feel anyone is welcome to use the deck and learn from it, finding comfort from it. The card entries offer plenty to help readers learn and reflect on the messages. The messages are simple, kind, and straightforward. There are no complex esoterica here. These are messages for everyone. 

Spirit Fox card
The card art is great. It's a realistic style, colorful and soft. It's not gaudy. It's warm, a bit comforting. For folks who look for diversity in their decks, this deck has it. It includes images from Celtic, Native American, Aboriginal, and other spiritualities and cultures. The art can appeal to various folks. I found that I can read these cards intuitively with relative ease. The images offer some depth, and are easy to interpret. The cards can be good to use for a daily or weekly message. I really like and enjoy Lily Moses's art, an I would consider seeking more of her work based on this deck. 

My only issue with this deck is the matte finish on the card stock. It's that excessive matte finish that makes the cards stick together. As a result, the cards can be very difficult to shuffle, making the deck a bit hard to use. The card stock is thick, so it feels durable, but may be hard to riffle shuffle. 

The cards measure about 5 inches by 3 1/2 inches. The art is borderless. The cards have a small banner that is not obtrusive with the card name and keywords. The card back art is nice but not reversible. 

Overall, I really like this deck. The text is good, and the art is excellent. This is a great kit overall, and this is a deck I am glad to own and recommend. For me, this is a must have deck you can use for many situations and good advice overall. 

5 out of 5 stars. 

This kit qualifies for the following 2023 Reading Challenge: 

Friday, May 05, 2023

Book Review: Lust Killer

Ann Rule, Lust Killer. Berkley, NY: Berkley Books, 2022.   ISBN: 9780593441398.

Genre: true crime
Subgenre: sexual predators, serial killers, reprint
Format: trade paperback'
Source: Berea branch, Madison County (KY) Public Library


Note that this 2022 edition is a reprint of a 1988 book. This is the story of Jerry Brudos. On the surface, he was a quiet man, strong yet gentle, and a skilled electrician. His submissive wife appreciated him for being a good provider and father to their children. In reality, he was a monstrous sexual predator out in Oregon. The twist is that his wife was accused of crimes as well. 

This is one of Ann Rule's true crime books. I've read her work before, so I thought I would enjoy this one. To be honest, this book is not that interesting. Brudos is quite the scary predator, but the narrative overall is not that engaging. I picked up the book, read a bit past halfway, then paused. I dragged myself to read the rest. Once Brudos is caught, it becomes a matter of going through the motions of the trial and putting him prison. Once he is in prison, the last act of the book and epilogue consist of the author climbing on her soap box. She clearly is not happy that "life in prison" does not literally mean "for life." I am not happy about the idea a lifer can get out after a few years for "good behavior," but I did not need to read a screed on it. 

On a positive note, Brudos wife, who was really his victim in a way, is acquitted. She divorces him, changes her name, and leaves with the kids to parts unknown. 

Overall, fans of Ann Rule might like this one. More casual true crime readers might not find it as interesting. I feel this may not be one of Rule's better books. I'd consider it optional reading. If you must read it, borrow it as I did. It was just OK. 

2 out of 5 stars.