Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Deck Review: The Unfolding Path Tarot

Athene Noctua, The Unfolding Path Tarot.Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, 2023.  ISBN: 9781401973148.  (Link to publisher.)

Genre: Tarot and divination decks
Subgenre: fantasy, contemporary
Format: 78-card deck with small book in box
Source: I bought and own this one

I first used this deck in February 2024. This deck kit includes the 78-card deck and a small companion book. 

The guidebook is 115 pages, and it is arranged as follows: 

  • Introduction. This is a creator's statement describing the deck's concept and how it originated. 
  • Tarot Basics. Some brief and basic instruction on how to read the cards. It describes the Minor Arcana suits, and it gives some advice on reading reversals. 
  • Using the Unfolding Path Tarot. Some brief guidance on using the deck and making a practice. 
  • Card Spreads. Five spreads you can try out. 
  • Major Arcana. Each card entry includes card name and number, keywords, and a paragraph or two of interpretation. It does not include card illustrations. 
  • Minor Arcana. Entries are arranged by suit-- wands, cups, swords, and pentacles. The court cards are included with their suit. Card entries are the same as the Major Arcana. 

The book is a very easy read. The esoterica is very minimal. It is grounded in Rider Waite Smith (RWS), but the interpretations are updated, expanded, and reimagined for our times.  I found the meanings to be plain, honest, and insightful. If you want to learn Tarot in a welcoming way with modern insights, this is a good guidebook for a great deck. 

As for the deck, the art is within the RWS tradition, but envisioned for our times. It blends a bit of fantasy with contemporary realism. The images are beautiful, colorful, and clear. The cards are great to look at for meditation. It can also be a great deck for personal readings as well as public readings. The art shows great attention to detail, and the deck is easy to read and interpret. You can use the deck intuitively with ease. I always advise folks to read the book, which I found useful, but the art is so clear, expressive, and well made you could read the cards without the book as an intuitive and/or if you have a basic Tarot foundation. Heck, I think beginners can grab this deck and start reading with ease. This deck speaks clearly and beautifully. It can be very nurturing. 

For folks looking for representation, this deck has it in terms of color, gender, age, body shape, etc. This is another reason this can be a good deck to read for others. It can also work for folks who are not as much into fantasy art. 

I fell in love with this deck right away. I found it very easy to use and read. The images and art are great, expressive, very responsive for questions. I started using it, and I felt a bond forming right away. I enjoy looking at the images as well as sharing the deck with others. The deck is on point for readings. I would definitely use this deck to read for others. I would not want to be without this deck. It is one I would buy a back up deck. 

The cards measure about 4 3/4 inches by 2 3/4 inches. The card stock is on the thick side, so the deck can be a little heavy. It has a soft matte finish, and the cards slide with ease. The flower art on the card back is reversible. 

Overall, a great deck I am glad to own, and I highly recommend it. 

5 out of 5 stars.

This deck kit qualifies for the following 2024 Reading Challenges: 



 

Note of decks that may share similar appeal factors: 

 

 

Friday, April 19, 2024

Short Book Review: You're All Just Jealous of my Jetpack

Tom Gauld, You're All Just Jealous of my Jetpack. Richmond, BC: Drawn and Quarterly, 2013.  ISBN: 9781770461048.

Genre: comics and graphic novels
Subgenre: humor, literary
Format: small hardcover
Source: Eastside Branch, Lexington (KY) Public Library.


This is Tom Gauld's 2013 cartoon collection. If you've seen his comics published in The Guardian and/or  seen them frequently reposted on social media, then you already know what to expect. Humor varies from cute to amusing to dark, but not too dark. Unlike the publisher's description, I would not label the humor as "laugh at loud," but it will certainly make you smile, more so if you appreciate the world of books, literature, and reading. 

Some comics in this volume include: 

  • Night in the consulting room.
  • The adapted novel.
  • The origin of swearing.
  • The family of writers. 

Overall, a nice and easy read. These are nice books for light and relaxing reading. I read this relatively quickly. Always entertaining, and I did like this one. 

3 out of 5 stars. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Deck Review: Faery Blessing Cards

Lucy Cavendish (author) and Amy Brown (artist), Faery Blessing Cards. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn, 2023. ISBN: 9781925538595. (link to publisher) 

Genre: oracle cards, divination
Subgenre: faeries, nature
Format: kit with paperback book and card deck
Source: I bought and own this one

I first used this deck during February 2024. This deck kit includes a 45-card deck and a small companion book. This is a faery themed deck for "receiving messages and blessings from the faeries, every day" (from deck's description). 

The book is arranged as follows: 

  • Welcome to the Blessings of the Faery Realm. This gives an overview of the deck's concept looking at faeries, what they are, and working with them. A small glossary of terms and other lists are included. You get enough to start learning about faeries and their lore. 
  • How to Work With Your Faery Blessing Cards. This is instruction to work with the deck. It includes how to read reversals if you choose to use them. It includes three card spreads to try out. 
  • The Faery Blessing Cards. These are the card entries. Each card entry includes card name, card message, and a paragraph or two of interpretation.

 

A Blessing of Sight-13
The book is about 112 pages. The first two parts take up 50 pages, so you get a good amount of information on the faeries, the deck, and how to use it. This is in contrast to other deck guidebooks with very minimal information. The card entries are well written, and give you a good amount of information to learn the cards. The entries do not have card images, but there is some faery art interspersed throughout the book. Cavendish writes with a nurturing and encouraging tone, and the book overall is an easy read. If you want to go even deeper, you may need to seek additional resources. The book does not feature a bibliography. You still get a good start here. I enjoyed reading the book. The messages are mostly positive, but you can find more serious messages as well.

Each card features a different faery in various settings such as forest or a garden. Some may be a full figure or a close up. We get a variety of images and settings. The cards are very colorful. The art can be serious and/or playful. The image art does have a border. The border is not an issue for me, but I can see how it may be an issue for some readers, especially since it is not a border to trim; it would not trim evenly. The art is fantasy style and I found it pleasing to view. 

A Blessing of Litha-30
The only issue is the usability of the deck. The cards are coated in that matte finish that tends to seriously stick. This makes it hard to shuffle the cards, and they stick often. The card stock is a bit on the thick side, so it feels durable. The card back in green is reversible. The cards measure about 5 1/2 inches by 3 3/4 inches. 

Overall this is a very nice deck. It feels very earthy. If you work with faeries, this may be a good option. It can also be a good option for folks wanting nature themed decks. It feels like a good deck for spring  or fall seasons, but you can use it anytime. I really liked this deck. I think it can match well with Celtic themed and nature themed Tarot decks. I first used it with the Unfolding Path Tarot deck. 

I own this deck, and I would gladly use it again despite the sticky cards. 

4 out of 5 stars. 

 

 

This deck kit qualifies for the following 2024 Reading Challenges: 

 





Friday, April 12, 2024

Book Review: Secondhand

Adam Minter, Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2019. ISBN: 9781635570106.

Genre: business and economics
Subgenre: travel, logistics, supply chains
Format: hardback
Source: Madison County (KY) Public Library 

If you ever wondered what happens to stuff you donate to a charity or thrift shop this may be the book for you. Minter travels the world and talks to all kinds of folks involved in the multi-billion dollar secondhand trade. From entrepreneurs for hire who empty houses of the deceased to rag makers to television repairmen, the author asks questions and explores what happens to stuff we discard and/or hope may be reused. Along the way, he looks at consumer society and provides some suggestions to solve the ever growing glut and clutter. In addition to stories, Minter also provides data and facts from various sources. For details on sources you can check the notes section.

The book is arranged with a preface, 12 chapters, and an afterword. Minter begins close to home in the United States, but soon we are traveling the world to see where various items end up. Along the way we learn a hard lesson: many objects do have a lifespan, and they are destined to a dumpster or landfill. 

An interesting element in the book are the various stories of folks in the secondhand trade. Some are following family tradition. Others just come to it for an income or because they saw a market gap that needed to be filled. Minter presents humane stories that are interesting and moving at times. I was also amazed by the ingenuity some of these businesses show. 

The book also provides a look at how markets work and how these items can travel the world. For example, restrictions or not, border zones tend to be strong places for secondhand trade, just look at the U.S.-Mexico border for example as items no longer wanted in the U.S. make their way to be sold in Mexico. 

Most of the book is interesting, but it does have some slow parts here or there. 

If you read his previous book and liked it, Junkyard Planet, you will probably like this one. This book is a good option for libraries both public and academic. It makes readers ask themselves some hard questions. I liked it overall. 

3 out of 5 stars. 

Additional reading notes: 

How to find data in a hard to trace market: 

"Fortunately, a lack of data doesn't mean the trade in used goods is untraceable. But instead of finding it through data, a reporter must travel to the places where secondhand goods are collected, bought, repurposed, repaired, and sold" (xvi). 


The booming business of emptying houses: 

"The reasons for these cleanouts vary, but they typically revolve around downsizing and death. Business is booming: by 2030 senior citizens will account for one fifth of the U.S. population. Some of those seniors want to remain in their large single-family homes packed with stuff. But many others downsize, either by their own or someone else's choice. And some will pass on, leaving the heavy responsibility of cleaning out a life's accumulations to somebody else" (2). 

 

Contrary to what many Americans think, the stuff in their homes is worthless aside the owner's sentimental value: 

"The contents of a bathroom-- from toothbrushes to soap-- can't be reused. Kitchen utensils are typically too beat up to serve anything but the scrap-metal industry. Old CDs, DVDs, books, and media players are generally worthless unless they're scarce, in good condition, or of interest to collectors. Furniture, unless it's an antique of value, has a diminishing market, especially if it's made by IKEA. Used clothing, unless it's made by a well-known and expensive brand, is often barely competitive with the flood of new garments made in low-cost factories around the developing world. And electronics, from desktop computers to phones, rapidly depreciate into a state of worthlessness-- at least to consumers in places where the next upgrade is just a season away" (4-5). 



Friday, April 05, 2024

Book Review: Women Who Murder

Mitzi Szereto, Women Who Murder: an International Collection of Deadly True Crime Tales.  Coral Gables, FL: Mango Publishing, 2024. 

Genre: true crime, women
Subgenre: anthology
Format: e-book galley
Source: Provided by the author in exchange for an honest review, which you can read below.


I knew of Mitzi Szereto from her previous work in the erotica genre. One example of her editorial work is Dark Edge of Desire: Gothic Tales of Romance, which I read and reviewed. Mostly through social media and some articles, I saw her move on to other genres including true crime. I happen to enjoy reading in true crime, so when this recent book, Women Who Murder, came up for review, I was curious. I am glad to have read it. 

The book is a collection of crime stories of women who murder. As I started reading, I was reminded of the old Rudyard Kipling line: 

"The female of the species is deadlier than the male." 

Very often in crime, folks tend to dismiss women or don't think the "gentler sex" is not capable of deeds like extreme violence and murder. The editor shows in 14 tales that when it comes to crime females are not the "gentler sex." 

This is an international collection. We get crime stories from the U.S. and from around the world. We also get crimes from previous centuries as well as contemporary. 

The book starts with the editor's introduction. In the introduction, the editor provides context. The book looks at stereotypes, the reality, what makes women killers scary, taboo, yet oh so fascinating. The editor also reminds us that women can be as lethal as men. She writes: 

"When it comes to murder, women have proven themselves to be equally up to their male counterparts-- something that makes society far more uncomfortable than they are with the typical man-as-killer scenario. Female lethality is scarier. It's the ultimate taboo" (15). 

She does remind us that, statistically speaking, women do kill less than men.

After the introduction, we get the stories from various authors, some of which were the journalists covering a story at the time. The stories overall are interesting and draw you in. They feature much attention to detail. Sometimes we have all the facts. Other times we get different versions, such as the situation in "Ruth Snyder: the Original Femme Fatale." As the author writes: 

"Judd and Ruth would later give hugely different accounts of their relationship, as each tried to implicate the other. We'll give you both sides of the story-- though neither is likely entirely true-- as well as the indisputable facts" (32). 

Sometimes the reader has to do a bit of extra work to decide where the mystery goes. I will add also that bit of unreliability in the narration for that story just adds a bit more to the tension. 

Additionally, women kill for various reasons. It could be a response to abuse. It could be for self-defense or protection. Sometimes though it is just outright evil. The editor's selections give us a diverse look at the many reasons women chose to kill, or perhaps in a moment or two the choice is made for them. 

A strength in this book is not only the interesting stories. The stories include context. They often look at the situation of their times. For example, we may see how the press covered an event at the time. Bias in press coverage is presented and considered. Also misogyny often plays a role in how a woman murderer is treated by society and the justice system. Looking at the history behind the crimes adds depth, and I found it very interesting. 

Overall the book reads at a good pace. I found the international stories, such as the Iranian murderer, fascinating. Much of the true crime genre centers on the United States, so it was good to get accounts from other parts of the world. Readers of true crime will enjoy this collection of stories. For me, this was definitely a different take on the genre, a good read, and I even learned a thing or two. 

I recommend the book for libraries that collect true crime works. This make a good addition to go along some of the usual names in the genre. When a patron asks "what can I read next?" or "are there any women murderers?" you can offer them this book. I certainly will will promote it through reader's advisory. It is easy to read, engaging, fascinating, and just scary enough at times. Excellent. 

5 out of 5 stars. 

This book qualifies for the following 2024 Reading Challenge: 


 


Book Review: Profiles in Ignorance

Andy Borowitz, Profiles in Ignorance: How America's Politicians Got Dumber and Dumber. New York: Avid Reader Press, 2022. ISBN: 9781668003886.

Genre: politics, history
Subgenre: humor
Format: hardcover
Source: Via Interlibrary Loan at Hutchins Library, Berea College. The book came from the Jessamine County (KY) Public Library

 

Andy Borowitz's book in a way does a public service as it looks at how the U.S. as been getting dumber and dumber, especially when it comes to politics. I don't think it's so much that leaders have gotten worse. As we read through the stories the blame really falls on voters who have gotten more and more tolerant of dumb, ignorant, and stupid politicians. After the voters, the media deserves blame for failing at their job of being accurate and calling out the bullshit. 

Borowitz starts with Ronald Reagan, and works his way up through politicians like Dan Quayle, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Sarah Palin among others all the way to Donald Trump. To illustrate his points, Borowitz divides the narrative into three stages. First, the dumb politicians are ridiculed. Reagan survived the ridicule stage due to his acting ability and seriously good handlers. Quayle ended up in ignominy. Next is acceptance where politicians still need to pretend to be smart, but folks accept the stupidity or rather ignorance. By the third stage, the willing ignorance and cluelessness are celebrated. In the last stage the last thing a politician wants is to be perceived as an intellectual. 

A strength of the book is that is well documented. Borowitz has done the research, often referring to specific books and sources. In addition, notes are included at the end of the book. 

The big issue for me is this is just not an interesting book. It reads more like a dry history textbook. Plus, if you already know much of this history already, including having lived through much of it, then this book is going to be depressing rather than amusing. For many readers, this may be history they need to learn, but it may still be depressing. In addition, the humor is a lot lighter than advertised. Borowitz gets snarky here or there, but otherwise the text presentation is fairly straightforward. 

I don't think it was worth breaking my politics/social issues/activist stuff reading moratorium to read this. I do like he brings a lot of good information in one place, but it is very dry reading and depressing at times. He goes on to give some suggested solutions in his epilogue, but given the current state of the United States, I wonder if he may be a bit too optimistic. Your mileage may vary here. 

Despite some issues, I think public libraries should consider acquiring this book. This a very optional selection for academic libraries; it is not one I would acquire for our library unless a patron requested it. With books like this, the real sad thing is the people who should be reading it will likely ignore it, so it ends up preaching to the choir. 

Overall it was OK for me, so 2 out of 5 stars.