Alchemical Thoughts

Photo from Flickr user Raider of Gin (fairerdingo). Image used under terms of Creative Commons 2.0 Generic Attribution License.

It was a lean month in terms of reviews for January 2018 over at The Itinerant Librarian. I posted a book review and a deck review. In case you missed them, check them out.

Also in January, in case you missed it, I posted my Reading List and report for 2017.


Here we go again with the latest additions to my ever growing TBR list. As always, book title links to go to WorldCat, so you can borrow it from a library near you unless otherwise noted.

Items about books I want to read:

  • A Thanksgiving article, one of those about chefs giving advice for the holiday. I picked up on this for mention of the chef’s book Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. Story via Vox.
  • Here is another foodie book, this one about six Americans in Paris including Julia Child. The  book is The Gourmands’ Way, and it was reviewed in The New York Times.
  • There is a new (to me at least) history of hoaxes that may be relevant in these Hard Times of fake news. The book is Bunk, and it was reviewed in The New York Times.
  • Do you ever wonder what kind of food you could bring to a funeral? Or for any  other occasion? Well, Elizabeth Heiskell’s cookbook What Can I Bring? may provide some answers. Story via The Lexington Herald Leader.
  • Here is an early bit of humor on travel narratives with  A Journey Round My Room by Xavier de Maistre. The book is freely available online at Public Domain Review. If you prefer print, some libraries do have it.
  • Benebell Wen reviews a new (to me at least) Tarot basics book. The book is Going Beyond the Little White Book. Book is self-published, so no WorldCat record as of this post. Wen’s review includes purchase options.
  • A lot of (ignorant) people love to say the U.S. is a Christian nation (spoiler: it is not. Go ahead, read the “Founding Fathers” sometime, secular as they were). Histories of Christianity in the U.S. are plentiful, but there are not many about atheism and secularism in the U.S. This book attempts to remedy that. The book is Village Atheists: How America’s Unbelievers Made Their Way in a Godly Nation. It was discussed at Los Angeles Review of Books.
  • Though the review is a bit mixed, the book still looks interesting, and I may take a look. The book is Mangasia, and it was reviewed at The Manga Critic.
  • Schlock Value reviews one of those old books that you are not quite sure if they are so bad they are good kind of thing. Still, could be interesting to read. The book is Moon Zero Two.
  • This is a totally cute idea. Someone made a book about cats who do pest control at distilleries. The book is Distillery Cats, and it was reviewed at The New York Times. I’ve got to read this one sooner rather than later.
  • Here is another one for cat lovers: If I Fits, I Sits. It’s a book of cat pictures and quotations. Reviewed at City Book Review.
  • I do not care much for sports, but I have read a book or two on some sports-related topic if it was interesting. This one sounds very interesting, so I am adding it to my TBR list. The book is The Pride of Havana: a History of Cuban Baseball. It was reviewed at Shelf Talk.
  • Here is a book about how old books can be turned into works of  art. The book is entitled The Book, and it was featured in City Book Review.
  • This may either be a work of genius or the work of someone who had way too much time on their hands. This author has looked at the Pendejo In Chief’s words and found poetry. Amazing, huh? The book is The Beautiful Poetry of Donald Trump. It was featured in Dangerous Minds.
  • A book on rum? Sure. The book is Rum Curious, and it was highlighted at Drinkhacker.
  • Learn about the real cost of those chicken nuggets in places like McDonald’s in The Hamlet Fire. Marion Nestle highlighted it in her Food Politics blog.
  • Let’s look at some horror. Via Horror Novel Reviews, here is The Devil and My Daughter (no WorldCat record available as of this time),  a book with the plot starting with “a young film crew who shoot an extreme indie horror film.”
  • I not only like to read, but I also like books and the culture around them, so a book like Footnotes from the World’s Greatest Bookstores is the kind of book I would be interested in. Granted, it has a foreword by Garrison Keillor (who turns out to not only be insufferable but turns out he is also an asshole), but I think I can live with that to get the rest of the book. The book was reviewed at Wink Books.


Lists and bibliographies:


I saw this little writing prompt over at Based on a True Story, and I figured it would be easy enough and fun enough to try out. The questions are the ones provided. The answers are mine.


1. What are your top three book pet hates?

  • Dreck that looks good but ends up making me mad and wasting my time.
  • Fans of overrated books and authors that just won’t shut up about them.
  • Paperbacks that are poorly made and fall apart after one reading.

2. Describe your perfect reading spot.

In bed. In a rocking chair is also nice.

3. Tell us three book confessions.

  • I do not give a shit about the following: Harry Potter, Game of Thrones (or much of R.R. Martin’s work), True Blood, Dan Brown, James Patterson, and a few other over-hyped writers and works. Do not try to convince me. As I said, I do not give a shit. You be happy over there in your part of the world. I am happy over here just fine. (Notice I did not say I have not read any of these. Some I  have. I just do not give a shit.) Oh, and I also do not give a shit who knows it.
  • I was an English major (B.A. and M.A.), and there are a good number of “classics” I  have not actually read. No, I do not feel bad about it. That’s what Cliff’s Notes and Masterplots are for. How do you think a lot of grad students get through comprehensive exams? It ain’t by always reading the whole thing.
  • As a kid, I never went to a public library. My parents just never took us to one. We did have books at  home, and my mother  encouraged reading. It feels a bit weird because I am a librarian now, and librarians usually have that one story of how some public librarian touched them (not that way, you pervs) and gave them inspiration to eventually become librarians. I found my inspiring librarian when I was in graduate school.

4. When was the last time you cried at a book?

I have never cried when I read a book. I have gotten pissed off at quite a few though.

5. How many books are on your bedside table?

Well, let me think a moment. As of this post, there are five, which are:

  • Agatha Christie, Masterpieces of Murder (a collection of some of her novels).
  • Mario Puzo, The Godfather (started re-reading this as I got an urge to just read something for comfort).
  • Rose Caraway, ed., For the Men and the Women who Love Them (erotica anthology that I have been a bit slow in reading. Hard Times do  not help your mood in reading erotica, but I will get it read. I do feel bad I have not read it already, but as I said, Hard Times do not help).
  • A book on cocktails that has been on the TBR status for a while but I have not managed to get to it yet. (You can tell it has been there a while since I cannot recall the title now without looking.)
  • The Mammoth Book of Dracula, a short stories about Dracula anthology.

Plus I have a bunch of stuff on my iPad (on the Bluefire Reader and on the Kindle for iPad).

6. What is your favorite snack whist you’re reading?

I usually do not snack while I read, but when I do it can be crackers and cheese. I do enjoy my cup of coffee when reading now and then too.

7. Name three books you’d recommend to everyone.

This depends on what day you are asking. At this moment I would recommend the following (links to my reviews):

8. Show us a picture of your favorite shelf on your bookcase.

Work book shelf

Not a favorite, but it makes for a good photo. This is a corner of my book shelf in my office at work. Some of the books were books I read as part of the Dean’s Faculty Reading Group (a campus sort of book club). Others are work related. The jar says “Tips Support Counterintelligence.” And yes, tips are accepted 😉


9. Write how much books mean to you in 3 words.

Books are life.

10. What’s your biggest reading secret?

You mean besides the confessions above? What the  heck else do you want from me? Well, it is not much  of a secret now, but I am learning how to read Tarot and oracle cards.


With these four prompts, I get to wrap up the challenge. This is the first time I have attempted this kind of blogging challenge, a challenge where you do prompts over a month, and doing it around Tarot has been interesting as well as helped me reflect a bit on my Tarot learning journey. Doing them ahead of time too has been helpful given my schedule is not always one that allows me to do this on every single day. So, here we go with the last four prompts:

Day 28: Share one celebrity that you would refuse to read for, no matter how much they paid you (and why!).

Day 29: What are your beliefs around the mechanics of a reading? How do you think it works? Is it your subconscious, higher self, Spirit?

Day 30: What is the most culturally inclusive deck that you own?

Day 31: What are your favorite Tarot apps, do you work with them? On what platforms smart phone, tablet, etc.?


Day 28. Definitely the Pendejo In Chief. He is known for not listening to anything you try to tell him anyhow, so why bother? He does not have enough money to get a reading from me. He is way too stubborn and self-centered for anyone to try to tell him anything. And the same goes for anyone who voted for him or supported him or continues to support him. I definitely do not want any of those people anywhere near me, and if I know they are one of them, I will not read for them. I am sure they can find a reader; it just will not be me.


Day 29. I am not sure on the beliefs about readings. I am pretty much a heathen, though I would not totally see myself as full atheist. I am somewhat spiritual and still seeking kind of thing. I think readings and readers can vary from people who are very spiritual and guided by some higher power (whatever you wish to call it) to those who do it by the book to folks who know the symbols and combine it with a cold reading ability. Allow me to add that I do not think having the ability to cold read is necessarily a bad thing. I think, if you pin me down, an ideal reading combines intuition, a little spirituality, some cold reading, and a little book learning. In other words, it is not just one thing, but a combination of factors that make a reading. These factors vary from reader to reader, and depending on how each reader combines them in a variety of ways is how you see if a reading is good or not. For me, this can account as to the wide variety of readers and how they read. After all, you can put a spread out, and if you have five or more readers, they may all give you a different reading of the same cards. That I do find interesting.


Day 30. I have two decks that I see as culturally inclusive at this moment: the Gaian Tarot (Colbert) and the Modern Spellcaster’s Tarot (Marquis). Deck links here go to my reviews of the decks.


Day 31. I do not really work with Tarot and oracle card apps. I have some Tarot sampler apps on my smart phone that I got to try out, from Fool’s Dog, but otherwise, I do not have any specific apps I use. I prefer to use cards in print. However, I like the idea that in a pinch I can do Tarot on my phone when I do not have a deck handy.


You can find Ethony’s original prompts here.

Combining days once more into a single post. I find that this works for me better than making a bunch of very short posts. Anyhow, here are the prompts for these three days:

Day 25: Tarot or oracle– which one would you read with for the rest of your life, if you had to pick one? And why?

Day 26: Thoughts on Tarot become “mainstream”?

Day 27: Share your first professional reading experience (either as a reader or seeker).

If I am forced to choose, it would be Tarot what I would read with for the rest of my life. I think it is because of the structure. Tarot has a specific set of symbols, structure, and arrangement. For the most part, a Tarot deck is a Tarot deck no matter which deck you pick up. As much as I like oracle cards, each deck is its own world. In the end, I am glad that I do not have to make this choice.

I do not have any substantial thoughts on Tarot becoming mainstream. If anything, I like the idea that it is becoming more accessible to the hoi polloi like me. It is nice to see that it is not just something for the select few in some far off cabal or something old ladies do from their homes in the other side of the tracks. I am not a fan personally of exclusivity and exclusionary practices, so this is a nice development in my humble opinion. Learning it also appeals to the librarian in me who enjoys reading and learning new things. If nothing else, I hope that as it gets more mainstream, the stigmas that were attached to it gradually fade away. Having Tarot and oracle decks can be as common as having a deck of regular playing cards; that would be a nice vision I think.

I need to note I have never had a professional reading experience neither as reader nor seeker. I would love to have a professional do one for me some day, but I have not found anyone I feel I can approach at this point. As for me, I sure as heck am not ready to do professional readings. Would I do it some day? Maybe. I think I would rather do it here and there for friends and put a tip jar out. At least for now.

You can find Ethony’s original prompts here.

Once more I am combining prompts these are going to be short answers for me. The prompts are mainly designed for those who make and upload videos, but in writing, these are short answer items, well, to me at least. The prompts are:

Day 22: Share the card that was the hardest for you to “get” when you were first learning the Tarot. How do you feel about the card now?

Day 23: Share a Tarot deck that you just had to “break up” with (it no longer resonates with you).

Day 24: If you could design a 79th Tarot card that everyone would use– what would it look like? What would it represent?


Day 22. I would say I struggled a bit with the court cards, especially the pages as I started out in my Tarot journey. I am not the most sociable person, so relating the court cards to people in my life was not easy, and some Tarot advice sources said that was the way to go. Once I figured out that they could also represent traits in me, or traits in others around me, rather than literal persons, I was able to relate to the cards a bit better. Jane Lyle’s The Illustrated Guide to Tarot (link to my review), a simple book I keep handy for basic Tarot reference, also gives “abstract” meanings for the court cards, and I have found those to be helpful for me in interpreting those cards.

Day 23: I have mentioned this before, but this would be The Hobbit Tarot. This is not a matter of breaking up after the fact. This was more of a bad marriage that should have never happened, and I am annulling it as soon as possible. This was one of two decks I have bought in my life without researching the images beforehand. I got it because I like The Hobbit book and also because at the time at the store the price was obscenely cheap. However, there is my lesson not to be lured to a deck by an obscenely cheap price. Sometimes, well, you get what you pay for, and in this case it was seriously bad. As I said previously, what the hell U.S. Games was smoking when they allowed this thing to be published is beyond me. The art is not too bad (I have seen worse), but it has nothing whatsoever to do with Tarot. It is one of those decks they took some theme art and rammed it into Tarot, and the results here are just plain awful. As far as I am concerned, this deck needs to suffer the same fate as the old E.T. Atari cartridges. Rest assured I will never, ever buy a deck without looking up the images online someplace beforehand.

Day 24: This is easy. I am just doing a blank card you can draw on. Make it what you want it to be.


You can find all the other prompts here.


Today’s prompt: Share some of your favorite deck storage!

I do not have any fancy ways of storing my decks. When I can, I leave them in the boxes they came in. If the deck has a good sturdy

Deck boxes for Santa Muerte Tarot and Wisdom of the Oracle Divination Cards

These are two decks that came in nice boxes. I wish more decks came like this in small sturdy boxed that are durable and you can carry around. On a side note, I recently got the Wild Unknown Tarot. That package came in a nice big box with the deck in its own sturdy box you can carry. That is good packaging right there.

box, I keep it in there. Why mess with a good thing I say. For a few decks that either did not have a box when I got them or came in flimsy boxes that will get tossed out for not being durable, I try to put the decks in some kind of bag of pouch. I have no ability to knit or sew, so I get bags and pouches where I can, and since I live on a librarian salary, I try to spend little on acquiring them. For instance, I go to places like Target (their dollar spot) or Michael’s and buy small bags and pouches for gifts that may hold a deck when they go on sale.

As for shelving, I do have a dedicated shelf for them in my closet in my home office/workstation, but that is starting to get to overflow a bit, mainly because many decks come in those big unwieldy boxes. The nicer boxes will stay, but the cheap thin cardboard ones will likely go as soon as I find a bag for the deck, and I then cut the box up for art to put in my Tarot journal.

Overall, deck storage is definitely an ongoing work in progress, and I am only getting started. Stay tuned.

Sample card deck bags

Some of the deck bags I use to store card decks. The one shaped like a fish came from Target’s Dollar Spot. I had bought it to store my Oceanic Tarot, but now it has my Unicorn Tarot, which I acquired used and did not come with a box or bag. The other three bags came from Michael’s after Christmas sale. I bought a bunch of these, so I have more waiting to be used. The decks inside are my Steampunk (Moore and Fell), the New Century Tarot (another one that I got used. It came with a book, but no bag or pouch), and my basic Marseilles. Overall, I am on a tight budget, so cheap is how I often go. If it works, it works.


You can find Ethony’s original prompts here.

March 2018
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