TAROT DECK REVIEW: Arcane Bullshit

I laid my eyes on the Arcane Bullshit tarot deck the first time I believe a year and a half ago. I was reading an article by Sarah Anne Lawless about indie tarot decks, because I was looking for a new addition to my collection. Note to the reader: my collection was composed of a Celtic Tarot deck based on the original RWS deck, and another one always celtic-themed where the 22 major arcana were represented by various God/esses (a mish-mash of Irish and Gaulish deities) and the minor were ogham in different order for each season.
I was looking for something with a more classic tarot imagery to start learning again, but I never found the Marseille or the Raider-Waite-Smith deck particularly appealing. It was a hard challenge.

Until I saw the Arcane Bullshit. Every single image spoke deeply to my soul (which probably says a lot about me). After months of going back and telling myself that “yeah, I wanted something more classic”, I received them as a birthday gift from my boyfriend. And I love every single card.

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Chaos Mom is in my top 5 cards in the deck

The deck is composed of 50 cards and doesn’t follow the standard major/minor so I think we could say it’s not properly tarot, but more of an oracle deck. Despite the name, I found some of the cards mantain some symbols we often see around (i.e. the eye, skulls, etc.) and cards like Knees, Random Clipart, Robododo or the Card of Cards still make a lot of sense to me. Working with them is wonderful, funny and really engaging. When you pull out a card that doesn’t seem to make any sense (litterally!) you really have to let your sixth sense run. What could the Pit Bull in a Triny Truck mean? What’s the Hooker with an Octopus trying to tell you?

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some of my favourite cards of the deck + my tarot journal

It’s like a new world to be discovered, because there is no set interpretation for the cards, although in the Tarot Bullshit app there are some idea on what they could mean. You can also do a reading with the app, which is completely free, and see where it brings you.
Despite their looks, I assure you this deck is absolutely serious – it only does its work in its own way, but it calls you out in such an honest way. I’d say thee cards feel very direct.

I adore working with this deck. I’ve never been good with card divination, but now I feel more interested into it and ready to study it properly (I’m going to get a RWS deck eventually for this purpose) and it has really boosted my confidence to work with cards that I can really understand.

I understand that this is not your standard deck, but I reccomend getting a copy if you like an approach to card reading that is absolutely non dogmatic and leaves you a little bit of freedom in the interpretation, or just to tell a very bizarre story.
I also believe that they would work great with Cards Against Humanity. Just imagine the greatness of such reading!

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REVIEW: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz

October is the month of spoopy things and I couldn’t help but add at least one spoopy book to my reading list for this month.
Scary Stories to Tell in The Dark by Alvin Schwartz is a collection of horror stories for younger readers, but it will make adults shiver as well. It’s a super short book and I found it entertaining and yes, a bit creepy.

Ghosts, monsters and strange creatures are hidden in this book ready to scare the readers who will venture through its pages. I found the stories rather creative and, although I’m not a reader of the genres, I don’t think they play too much on horror tropes even though you can definitely see them here and there (i.e. the girl’s ghost who seeks revenge for her death). The narration is quite simple and direct, but still hooks you up. Suffice to say I found myself staying up to read until 1am, so I would describe it as “rather addicting”. And yes, I was reading the book in the dark (well, with a little light to see obviously!). There are also some “stage directions” telling you when to stop or when to scream if you’re reading the book out loud, maybe to your children or your friends. It’s a detail that makes this book a nice guest at a Halloween party or a sleepover.

illustration by Stephen Gammel

The illustrations by Stephen Gammel are a great addition to the mix and 80% of what drawn me to this book in the first place. They are beautifully grotesque and scary enough, especially for a children’s book. Nothing too horrible, however, just the right mix to make your blood chill in your veins. I actually got scared when flipping the page during the story of the already mentioned ghost girl, when the illustration unexpectedly popped up!

Pleasantly scary, it is the perfect book to get into that Halloween mood!

REVIEW: Dreamwalker by James Oswald

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this cover is beautiful, look at that design!

Erroll and Benfro are two young boys, living wiith their mothers. They don’t live far from each other and both are curious, talented and have a knack for getting themselves into trouble. But they are very different: Erroll is a human and he wants to become a fighting priest. Benfro is a dragon, the last male dragon to be born in Gwlad. And dragons are watched with suspect from humans, who used to kill them in the name of their God. Both of them are going to face the world outside their quite villages, a world full of enemies and magic.

I enjoyed the concept of this world a lot. If I’m not mistaken, it draws quite heavily from Welsh folklore and culture, of which the names are just the most visible feature. The lessons of magic presented are not much far from what I read in more than one (pagan) book myself, and that was particularly appealing and satisfying. However, I feel like the world building could’ve been done in a much more concise way. It seemed to me that many things were mentioned, but few where explained in depth. Despite it all, there are no elements missing that affect the understanding of the story, so I will call my personal taste on this one.

What really put me off and gave me a hard time going through a third of the book is the fact that the story is very slow. When you start reading it’s not a problem, as you still have to enter the world completely and there is more than one aspect of life in this fantastical world that requires an explanation: the society, the magic, the political situation and the political schemes, the religion. Progressing through the reading, however, it really slows down the reading process and the story seems to be prolonged endlessly without really nothing happening. I also found the change between story lines (that of Erroll and that of Benfro) to be too abrupt sometimes, as the scene is cut and there is a switch back and forth between the two stories.

I don’t believe the storytelling is bad, however, and I must say that I enjoyed it despite its flaws. What I think is that maybe this book serves more as a prologue to give the backstory of the two main characters in the series, instead of being the beginning of the story as one usually understands it. I’m probably going to pick up the next book – as soon as I can put my hands on it – and I’m curious to see where the story goes. Most of all I want to witness the encounter between Benfro and Erroll and the merging of the two main narrative paths of the first book.

A special mention goes to the beautiful cover of this book, which is carton-like, has a beautiful design and it’s also sparkly. One shouldn’t judge a book from its cover, but in this case it is a real work of art!

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REVIEW: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

First book in the All Souls Trilogy, A Discovery of Witches is a paranormal romance settled in a modern world that little differs from our own except for the Demons, Witches and Vampires (the supernaturals, if you want) that live in it alongside humans.

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WARNING, this book has been rated T for Twilight

Goodreads Synopsis: Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell. 

I don’t know where to start writing this review because there are so many bad things about this book. And believe me, I’m not one who loves saying it.
First of all, this book is underdeveloped and I would also say it wasn’t thought out that much. It seems that someone took one of the drafts and published it instead of going on with the editing (which is a problem of its own).

The idea of this story isn’t bad. Maybe it’s not unheard of, humans living unknowinlgy alongside supernatural creatures who have their own things going on. But one can do a lot with a simple idea, right? Harry Potter is kind of based on the same principle, in the end.
However it seems that the author never went anywhere with that concept and so does the narration. There are huge chunk of text that could’ve easily been left out because they are useless to the the plot, its development and the characters. Plus, they heaviliy slow down the reading process and that’s not something you want in a big book.
This gives a huge kick to cohesion in the whole text, add that for some reason we have 2/3 of the book dedicated to the romance of the two main characters instead than letting the story proceed and here you have it. A feeling of dismay. The sensation that you read nothing for the past hour. Five chapters of nothing.

The romance is another problem of mine. What I hated is that, in some way, the romance stopped the main plot completely. Don’t get me wrong: romance is fine, romantic scenes are fine, but you can’t treat the two things like they’re not happening at the same time. Which is another point agains the development of the story and its cohesion.
The romance is the second most horrifiying thing in here. I’m not a fan of instalove romances. Most of all I’m not a fan of pretended edgy romances where the man is so sad and broody, poor thing, and so do whatever I say because I could get really angry. But that’s only because I’m protective, because I love you.
I wouldn’t define it as abusive, in my opinion it’s just a bad use of a bad trope that glorifies unhealthy dynamics in a relationship. It’s degrading for both the female and the male in it, because makes the former look like a scared doe who can’t do anything alone and the other like some kind of psycho parent who wants you to behave if you don’t want to trigger *bad reaction here* (and this really is abusive, come to think of it).

Last, but not least, the characters are bad and have less depth than a carton-shaped human figure. Diana, the scholar, is supposedly brilliant and intelligent but she comes out as plain stupid and without an inch of mental strength or personal boundaries. Rad Vamp Dude (i can’t recall his name, sorry) comes into her life and she immediately obeys to what he says and is happy to annihilate herself. She doesn’t get mad even when her mother-in-law admits she drugged her without her consent. Rad Vamp Dude tries to be the coolest vampire in town, but he’s too tropey so the mask fell at page two. Sorry.
The only two cool things were Diana’s lesbian aunts (the only two in the book to show a scrap of intelligence and to tell her that RVD treated her more as a thing than a living being) and the cat. Because he a cat.

This book got one star on Goodreads just because no star is not considered a rating. It’s not something I do often, because I try to look at what’s good in a book. Unfortunately, this time there was nothing to be spared. On the brighter side, that doesn’t add to the pile of series I yet have to finish.

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REVIEW: Off To be The Wizard & NPCs

Fantasy is often considered a geek genres. But what happens when fantasy books are also written by nerds for nerds?

Off To Be the Wizard and NPCs are two fantasy books with completely different stories, motifs and narrative style. Both explore the genres from a more geeky perspective and the result is funny and very enjoyable.

The Stories
18616975When Martin arrives in ye olde times by simply changing some parameters in a file he access with his phone, he thinks to be the only modern man in the place. He also thinks it would be easy to pretend to be a wizard, people in the time will be prone to believe him after all. What he doesn’t think is that maybe he wasn’t the only one to develop such grandiose plan; not until he meets Philip at least.
Watch as Martin is trained into the fine art of making magic by changing some strings of code in a computer file, fail miserably with girls and defeat the occasional villain.

22088245When the usual band of adventurers come into Grumph’s tavern, no one pays them real attention. Adventurers are always an annoyance and it’s better to see them leave. Except that they depart in the most definitive of ways, dying. And while the players around the table are busy making other playable character, four friends who watched them die decide to take their place. Better not to risk the wrath of a touchy king with a soft spot to kill everyone who displease him. Better claim to be adventurers, even without training. Dangers, demons and an infinite dungeon await.

Similarities

  • Both have strong narrative, although different ones: Scott Meyer’s book doesn’t have a fast pace and Martin’s training makes up a huge chunk of the book. Only after that we see the conflict arise. It is given all the place it needs, however.
    NPCs theme is becoming an adventurer, and everything that happens helps the characters achieving their new status. There is more conflict, more battles and more there certainly are more things going on.
  • In both the reality and the world where the story takes place are separated and yet intertwined.
  • In both there is a training of some sort, the characters are asked to gain skills. However the protagonists will do so in completely different ways: Martin won’t face the uncertainties of the adventurers, as they are without any real guide in their journey (except, maybe, for Thistle as the leader of the group).

Differences

  • The world building is good in both games, but deeper in Scoot Meyer’s book. It may be the development of the magical system, or the fact that in Drew Hayes doesn’t really go deep into describing the setting. Spell, Sword and Stealth is the classic allegory of D&D, the elements of the game are given as known facts and the medieval-fantasy like setting is another typical element of the genres. I dare say in NPCs we see more of the characters’ conflict, though.
  • Characters. Of course, they’re totally different books! Yes, but they’re approached in a completely different way. In NPCs we see more internal conflict, along with the events, because the four protagonists have to understand something about themselves. Martin, on the other hand, doesn’t face this struggle. It is true that in both books there’s no choice: you have to go out of your world and meet your new life. However, I had expected Martin to be a little more preoccupied by the fact that he’s not going to see his loved ones for the rest of his life.
  • Off to be the wizard is definitely the sassy of the two. Full of witty remarks and jokes on the geek world, it is both an elogy and a light-hearted, ironic view.

Overall opinion
They are both great reads. Not only they make happy the geek and nerd in all of us, but they’re also fantastic modern fantasy books. The magic system in Scott Meyer’s book is well developed and interesting, more so because it has its source in program code.
In NPCs there is what I consider a wonderful narrative strategy: the in-game world affects in some way our reality, which is absolutely great. Braking the fourth wall always wins my favour.
Veterans of the genres will appreciate the books, and newbies as well, although there are some references (in Off To Be The Wizard) and details left unsaid (in NPCs) that may effect the reading experience if you’re not familiar with the geek/neerd stereotype.

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