Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Book Review: Kitchen Table Tarot by Melissa Cynova

This book reignited my love for tarot.

I bought my first tarot deck at 16 or so, and have been passionate about tarot since then. But after twenty years of reading (and heavily collecting), I found I wasn't turning to my cards as much. Partially it was being pregnant, and then having a kid -- many, many things in my life slowed down -- but a good deal of it was feeling in a rut and at a dead end. I 'knew' the cards, as much as I could, but I wasn't using my decks regularly or reading for anyone -- including myself.

On a whim, I requested this book via NetGalley, and to my surprise, actually read the e-book galley cover to cover -- yes, including every page for every card. Cynova -- popularly known online as Little Fox Tarot -- has a wonderfully down-to-earth and accessible attitude that immediately drew me in, and her every thought on tarot and reading (or card slinging) is approachable, welcoming, and realistic.

From the first page, Cynova's personality comes through her writing, and true to the title, this book reads like a convo between her and the reader. She offers her thoughts on reading -- ethics, when not to read -- as well as discusses the "rules" often associated with tarot. Like me, Cynova believes tarot is a tool anyone can use and isn't magical (although, of course, one can have many brilliant flashes of insight via tarot!).

Cynova's card interpretations were what really sold me on this book, and I turn to this guide daily. She grounds her thoughts in the card's traditional design, symbols, and elements, but uses her own considerable experience to expand or illuminate an aspect. She also does reversals (woot!) and organizes the book by number rather than by suit (so all the twos are together, etc.).

For the heavily traditional, Cynova's irreverent interpretations might cause some pearl clutching, but I find them positively refreshing.
Okay, so the guy stole your swords. That was a jerky thing to do, but we're going to give him the benefit of the doubt and let that stuff go. Release it. Honestly, it's just weight you down. (from Five of Swords Inverted)
My final proof of this book's fabulousness:  I've purchased three copies of this book -- one for myself, two for others -- and I think it numbers among my top five all time favorite tarot guides.

If you're new to tarot, absolutely get this book. If you're an experienced reader, I still think there's a great deal one can learn from Cynova. And for me, a year after this book first crossed my path, I'm back to having a vibrant, personal tarot practice.

Note: I've started a new tarot blog (Unabridged Tarot) and I've posted my review there. Be sure to follow it for more nerdy tarot talk.

Title: Kitchen Table Tarot: Pull Up a Chair, Shuffle the Cards, and Let's Talk Tarot
Author: Melissa Cynova
Genre: Non-Fiction (Tarot / How To / Divination)
Publisher/Publication Date: Llewellyn (4/8/2017)
Source: Personal copy

Monday, August 20, 2018

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, August 20

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at the Book Date.

I've picked up The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter again, after ignoring it so I could finish Mishell Baker's Arcadia Project trilogy. Then I wallowed for a while in a book hangover.

As usual, I've got about eight books in various states of read-ness -- this one, which I'm about halfway through -- and Whereas, a slim volume of poetry that I am working through very, very slowly. (It is intense.) The rest are my throwing-spaghetti-at-the-wall-to-see-what-sticks attempts and frankly, I'm not grabbed.

It doesn't help that a wicked summer cold swept through the house this weekend, leaving all of us exhausted and snotty. I've made good progress on my knitting project, however!

What are you reading today?

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Book Review: Borderline by Mishell Baker

First line: It was midmorning on a Monday when magic walked into my life wearing a beige Ann Taylor suit and sensible flats.

I'm afraid I'm not going to be able to adequately write about this book because it's quickly become one of those reads that has merged a little with my DNA. How do you reasonably talk about a book like that?

An inventive urban fantasy, this novel features a heroine who has Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and is a double amputee. Languishing in a psychiatric center after a failed suicide attempt, Millie -- once a promising film director --is invited to join the Arcadia Project, a mysterious organization that manages relationships between this world and the fey. 

Baker's writing is wonderful: with the Los Angeles setting and our cast of misfits, there's a noir-y feel to this urban fantasy that makes it read fresh and fast.  Baker manages to do some incredible world-building in a deft, readable manner; even though our heroine was new to this world, too, neither of us were subjected to info dumps. And while there were moments when I had to sit impatiently for the reveal, it was in a good way, not in a sloppy writing way. This book had all the emotional elements I want in a compelling read -- romance and desire, intrigue and double cross, sense of place and landscape -- but nothing manifested in an anticipated way.

Meeting Millie, as it were, was a lightning strike for me. At the risk of oversharing, my experience with BPD has been limited and I've only had a vague understanding of it and how it impacts me and my behavior. But Baker's articulation of BPD -- including treatment -- was so illuminating, it literally introduced me to things that therapy hadn't and reassured me that the rough parts of myself that I despise need not be hated. Millie is a deeply imperfect and flawed heroine who makes for compelling reading and her missteps and corrections reassured me that I can be okay despite my own failings.

I actually listened to half this book as an audiobook before diving in and reading, and the audiobook production is great. I actually still hear Arden Hammersmith, the audiobook narrator, in my head while reading certain characters.

Although the first book in a trilogy, this one has a great ending that closes up plots so you need not be on the hook to read the next two books -- but you're going to really, really want to. I selected this as my book club's September read and at least two members went out and read the remaining two books immediately upon finishing this one, they -- like me -- were hooked on Millie and her world.

Title: Borderline
Author: Mishell Baker
Genre: Fiction (Fantasy / Los Angeles / Mental Health / Faeries / Mystery / Film Industry / Friendship)
Publisher/Publication Date: Saga Press (3/1/2016)
Source: My public library

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Book Review: Passing by Nella Larsen

First line: It was the last letter in Irene Redfield's little pile of morning mail.

This slender novel reveals a deep, rich, emotional story as well as a snapshot of life in 1929 Harlem. Through the awkward reunion of Irene and Clare, we're also offered a glimpse into the complicated world of identity and colorism and the soul-crushing pain of being othered.

Undoubtedly a timely read no matter when, this book felt especially important to me in this time of Black Lives Matter and the importance of skin tone in film casting. (And speaking of casting, the upcoming film version of this book has been cast and I'm so excited!)

There's nothing oblique or obfuscated in this story (other than Clare's behavior, of course). Irene and Clare are young black women, married with children. But Irene is proud of her identity and her family and to her surprise, gorgeous Clare has passed herself as white, and is married to a very racist white man. The bulk of the story is about how Irene and Clare navigate this terrible secret -- when Clare seems so close to flaunting it -- and it's obvious Clare is intrigued, perhaps even jealous, of Irene and her life.  The vibe of the story reminded of Kate Chopin and A Doll's House with its undercurrent of frustrated stagnation forced on women by society.

This edition includes an extremely brainy Critical Forward by Mae Henderson that sadly went over my head; her notes on the text, however, were fascinating and appreciated and gave me deeper understanding to the clues Larsen peppered in the narrative.

I read Justina Ireland's Dread Nation immediately after this one, and while the two books couldn't be more different, they're thematic cousins. One grounded in fantasy, the other reality, but centered both on the struggle women of color experience in trying to survive -- never mind survive happily.
"I'm beginning to believe," she murmured, "that no one is ever completely happy, or free, or safe."

Title: Passing
Author: Nella Larsen
Genre: Fiction (New York City / African-American Life / Marriage / Parenthood / 1920s / Tragedy)
Publisher/Publication Date: The Modern Library (2002)
Source: My public library
Reading Challenges: The Classics Club

Friday, August 3, 2018

Weekend reads and struggling to be present...

This weekend I'm hoping to finish Theodora Goss' The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter which is so ridiculously fun, I can't even deal. It's about the daughters of famous Victorian scientists and their struggle to deal with the legacy of their fathers. If you love Victorian and Gothic lit, this will be catnip for you!

I just got a new tarot deck, The British Gothic Tarot, which I am also loving; and it's a fab overlap with my current read. (It's making me consider more book and tarot pairings!)

Musing a bit on what to do with this blog (yet again) since I'm finding it hard to keep up here and be present (and active) with the other blogs I enjoy. How do you all do it?

And of course -- what are you reading this weekend?