Zeph's Bookish Rambles

and some other stuff maybe

Most of my meditation these days is based on visualization and imagination. I've had a really intense inner life for as long as I can remember, and I recently started deliberately mapping it all out and developing a cohesive world I can travel in my mind. I start in front of my house there, which is in a tree like some kind of fairy tale because it can be, imagination is fun.

From there I travel to whatever part of the world makes sense for the type of meditation I want to do. I might go to the sacred grove for druid work, sit by a lake to think deeply about something, or revisit places I've been in the real world to draw on those memories. Sometimes that's just unguided wandering, sometimes I'll follow a recording, sometimes I use oracle decks. The treehouse I mentioned connects to the world tree and from there I can access all the possible worlds I could imagine.

Fantasy Worlds

Since I got the Vibe Check Deck, I've been doing a lot of that last one. It's a deck of AI-generated art showing places of all kinds. Small rooms, shrines, restaurants, markets, landscapes, etc. All of it gives me post-apocalyptic sci-fi vibes, which is kind of peak optimism for me. And I'm not finding it easy to be optimistic lately, so I like to visit these worlds after the end and believe in a world where there is an after and people still find meaning and connection.

In this post I shared a picture of one of these readings. I typically draw three cards, one for the general setting, one for my home/place in it, and one for the way those come together to create a story. In that example, the sunny green market makes me feel like this is a solarpunk world featuring cooperation and shared resources. The little cottage surrounded by pink foliage and clouds in the second one is exactly the kind of place I would love to live and sings to my little witchy heart.

The third card shares the color palette with the house and the buildings easily match up with the cityscape in the back of the market. None of the aesthetics in these cards really seem to match and I wouldn't expect to see them all in one movie. In particular, the third card stands out as being particularly not green and not meshing well with the garden vibes of the first card. This tells me that the people in this world have deliberately spread out to places and come together to share to make the most of their resources and provide for everyone.

I can picture myself here in that little cottage on the border of these two very different landscapes. Making food and clothing to share with people in those other areas when I visit them. The perfect mix of solitude and community that I crave in my daily life. It's comforting to stay there for awhile, to imagine the work I might be doing on that day, to see myself as a part of that community and feel my work has meaning.

Challenges and Guards

There are a lot of Wonderland/Oz/Labyrinth style places in my inner world. A lot of gates and hidden information. I will envision myself traveling through the course and when I reach a block I pull a card to understand what I need to move forward. Something that needs to be sacrificed, a puzzle I have to solve, a gift given, etc. If the door opens, I move on to the next section. If not, I'll keep working on it or might decide that it's not meant for me today and go back.

Basically any deck could work for this, but I tend to use my own homemade oracles. They're tailored for my specific purposes so I can pick out exactly the right one for whatever kind of work I'm doing, and I already have strong connections to the symbols so it's easy to draw on them to imagine what comes next. It might be interesting to try this with a fandom deck. I'll have to keep that in mind.

Rituals and Shrines

Quite a few of my decks were offerings for various deities or ancestors and I use them specifically to communicate with those entities. I'm an atheist, but I really believe in the power of storytelling and personal narratives and this kind of ritual speaks to me in a deep way. Feelings are weird and again, imagination is cool.

A short distance from my treehouse in the inner world there is an ancient temple with shrines to various gods in one direction, the sacred grove mentioned before in another, and various other places of worship. Inside the house there are several small shrines to my ancestors, other guides, and the gods I work with most.

In rituals after I've done the physical setup and offerings, I'll spend time in meditation visiting the most appropriate worship space. I'll then draw cards from a deck devoted to that individual to see how the ritual was and offering were received, ask if there are any further offerings to be given or questions to be answered or challenges to be done. I think the physical components of a ritual are important and effective, but being able to imagine my ideal worship space and have it all look and feel like I want it to is also helpful for me in internalizing it and making it feel real.

Future Experiment: Meeting the Cards

YouTube keeps recommending me videos of people talking about how they use oracle cards. That didn't make a lot of sense to me, because I pretty much use oracle decks exactly like I use tarot decks. But I recently watched a really cool video about using oracle cards to create spreads and I got really excited to try it. And between that and my recent explorations with the Vibe Check deck, I've also been curious to try new things and stretch my concept of how these things work.

I have three decks that are basically just a lot of characters (well, and a few signposts for one of them): Wisdom of Avalon, Heart of Faerie, and the Faries' Oracles. I use them with tarot spreads and it works fine that way, but making a trip to visit the characters or places in the cards and try to talk to them or interact with their world might be better suited and help me get more out of these decks. I look forward to trying that soon.

I joined ADF (Ár nDraíocht Féin) for the first time back around 2010. I've lapsed and re-joined a few times since then and am a current member, but to be honest I always find it's not a good fit for me and I always wind up deciding it was a mistake. Nothing specific about it, I guess it just never really vibed for me.

I do know that one of the bigger problems I had was the meditation requirement. I just couldn't get into sitting still and counting my breath every day, and I didn't really see the point. They have something called a Two Powers meditation, and that was better, but...then what? I'd be like “ok, chill, I feel the two powers, love it, I'm a tree, cool...has it been 20 minutes yet?”

In one of my classes at school we would spend a few minutes meditating at the start of every day to “let our brains catch up with our bodies” and I hated that because I didn't know what my brain was supposed to do to catch up to my body. It's just...there. I talked to a classmate about my frustration and said I understood it was a metaphor but my brain doesn't really need to catch up and I'd just sit there waiting for everyone else.

Eventually I realized that this is likely an autism and dissociation thing. It's not that my brain was already there, it's that my mind never feels like it's a part of my body, it's always floating a few feet above me and kind of observing. So meditation for me would require some much more intentional work to get my consciousness to feel more embodied. I started doing a lot of guided meditations focused on feeling every part of my body from the head down to the toes. It helped a lot.

It's also helped me take advantage of ease with which my mind dissociates from my body and my tendency to imagine complex and beautiful worlds for it to live in since it's never really liked this one. Now that I understand that's not how consciousness typically works and have gotten a bit more control of it, I can switch back and forth with some effort. So I enjoy doing meditations that involve visualization and journeying through the inner world, and then taking a few minutes to feel my body again when I'm ready or when I'm having trouble with anxiety or focus at work.

I realized the core of meditation, for me, is really about understanding what your mind does naturally so that you can develop a strategy and try different methods to get it to do what you want it to do. So there's not going to be a one-size-fits-all approach since all our minds work so differently. My partner can't visualize things at all, so he'd never be able to do the journeying stuff I enjoy so much, but he can sit and breathe for soooooo long.

(Honestly, I'm getting a little better at that, but it's definitely not my favorite.)

One of the things that helped me was finally joining OBOD, another modern druidry group. I'd avoided it for quite awhile because it's far away whereas I've always had ADF groves fairly close to me, even if I never actually went to them. But since I don't actually go and ADF clearly hadn't been working for me, I gave it a try and have been working through the Bardic course they offer. I love it! I've been learning a lot and making a lot of progress with my meditation practice.

I can't really share details, but for meditation specifically, the former chief Philip Carr-Gomm does “tea with a druid” videos on youtube that end with guided visual meditations I find really useful. They do mesh very well with both the meditations from the course and my own inner landscape, but I think they'd also be very good on their own. So that might be a good starting point for someone looking to incorporate inner world journeying into their own spiritual practices.

I want to talk more about my inner world map and what I do there, but I've also just realized the intro to this post is a full post on its own. So I'll do that as a separate entry and post it soon. In particular, I'll eventually get to this post and give some more background on how I use these cards. But I also have some other non-card-related meditations and I'm excited to talk about all of it. Soon!

The TarotTube topic/hashtag I wrote about awhile back got a sequel, which reminded me I never came back to do the second half of the first one. So now I have even more prompts and this will probably be two more posts after this one. Woooooo.

The idea here is there are a bunch of dichotomies and you pick a deck in your collection for each.

Confronting vs Comforting

My confronting deck is the Arthur Rackham Oracle. It was the deck I worked with for my daily readings in September and it was just calling me tf out every single day. It's a beautiful deck featuring fairy tale/fantasy art and I love it to pieces. A lot of oracles kind of err on the side of positivity, and I was kind of pleasantly surprised by how many cards in this lean neutral to negative. Lots of opportunity to dig deep and work on things that needed attention.

On the other side, my comforting deck is Heart of Faerie Oracle. This is my “mom” deck, and I get it out when I need a hug. I think this might actually be the only deck I've ever pre-ordered (not counting Kickstarters). The Faeries' Oracle was one of my first and still a favorite deck, so even though the style seemed very different I was really excited for another Froud deck. And it is very, very different. But it still has that same approach to faerie that makes the world around me feel magical and hopeful.

Every Day Vs Every So Often

I struggled with this one a bit. There isn't actually any deck I use every day, what I do instead is pick a new deck for my daily readings every month. So at most it would be every day for awhile.

I decided to rework it and talk about one that is pretty much always appropriate to pull from and one that is very limited in use/scope. For both of those, I'm not talking about a published deck but one I put together myself! A couple months ago I had the idea to make some decks using old trading cards my (deceased) aunt would have liked and I wound up making a lot of them.

A good every day deck is my Vintage Disney Oracle. I didn't add anything to these cards or assign them to any existing system, just selected cards as they are. Each one has a still from an animated short film and a quote or plot note underneath. It makes for a good quick one-card draw when I just want to break up the day with something cute and fun.

Then I used some vintage Coca-Cola cards and made my own oracle I call Late Stage Capitalism. I picked out all the cards from this set that were the most horrifying to me and that I didn't want to include in the other decks I'd made from it. Then I wrote titles on each card, mostly words that are kind of ironically positive, like things my parents would probably think are good values but make me feel squicky. Examples are “Choices” for a card boasting you can have regular or giant soda bottles, “Trust Me” for one with a Coca-Cola logo force-feeding the globe a bottle of coke, or “Empire” for one that shows all the Mount Rushmore figures drinking Diet Coke.

It's a very gallows-humor sort of deck and I use it when I'm stressed about work or money things. Or sometimes just the need to interact with society. It'd be a real downer to use regularly, but it's pretty good for making me laugh when I already feel like crying.

Over-rated vs Under-rated

I'm approaching this one a little differently, too. I don't think any of my decks are actually over-rated because I think they're all great. But I do have one that I took for granted and that has taught me some valuable lessons on both sides of this.

The Celtic Dragon Tarot was one of my first decks. I loved it soooo much. I used it to read for friends even though I was brand new to tarot because the illustrations are so intuitive there wasn't really any need to have the meanings memorized. And there's dragons! So many dragons.

I lost my tarot decks when I went back to my parents' house for the summer. Luckily, my collection was only 3 decks at that time (all the ones my local Sam Goody carried!) and I learned my lesson not to start collecting again until I actually finished school and moved out. So when that finally happened and I wanted to start by getting my old decks, one was out of print and the Celtic Dragon had changed its card stock. I'd been thinking about that card stock for years. The texture was so specific, smooth and cool to the touch and flexible without feeling fragile.

The new deck I bought was nothing like it. And it made me so sad any time I tried to use it because even though it was still beautiful, it wasn't the deck I remembered. I felt so guilty for letting that first deck go and devastated that I might never feel those cards again. I found the original version on ebay recently and bought it. And it feels so great! Just like I remember. Now that I know more about cards and have seen a lot to compare them, I can see that the new ones are actually an improvement in basically every way. But I don't care, I missed these cards and I have them again!

For right now, I'm keeping both. The difference in texture gives them completely different vibes and I colored the edges differently to match those vibes. They both stay in the same bag, and they remind me to take better care of the things I value but also not to get too hung up on the way things used to be. I think I'll probably pass one of them on at some point, but I'm not there yet.

Light Work vs Shadow Work

The decks that made the most sense to me for this are another kind of matched set of oracles I made. In this case, they're both standard playing card decks. I assigned symbols for each card and wrote the titles in sharpie, sometimes with very simple illustrations or written in a way that the word itself is an illustration.

I won't get into the specific titles or descriptions because they're both connected to meditation/journey work I do and are very specific and private to me. But in general, the first one (light work) is based on fairy tales, Ghibli films, and similar kid-friendly stories about interacting with spiritual realms. The other (shadow work) is a chthonic deck inspired by myths of Dionysus, Persephone, Hekate, and Loki.

Before I met my partner, he went through a phrase where he was really into astrology, which he now does not believe in at all. I think he's probably a little embarrassed about it, but he'll still talk about it pretty openly. Everyone goes through a process of learning about the world and deciding how to learn it.

I never got into astrology because I don't actually know what time I was born beyond early morning and my mom hates answering questions. So I was always kinda sad I couldn't do one because it wouldn't be “accurate.”

Today I finally realized that was some serious nonsense. I don't believe in astrology, I don't think it's magic and your personality is predetermined like that. I treat it like tarot, the way you respond to whatever you find is the most important part of the process. The cards themselves are arbitrary, sometimes they fit and sometimes you have to stretch to make them fit, and I've learned way more from disagreeing with texts and cards and teachers than I ever have from just memorizing answers.

So it doesn't really matter what my star chart looks like or whether I got the time right, and therefore it doesn't much matter what time I was actually born. To me, with apologies if you believe astrology is actually very accurate and precise and must be followed to the letter.

I do know from when my mom had to answer questions for a class assignment that I was born pretty early in the morning, so I decided on a time that felt right in that range (and then later learned there's a pretty long gap in the categories that matter and therefore I had a good enough idea anyway) and told my partner I was gonna do my chart. And also that I was jealous I could never do mine, which I had apparently never said before because he would have told me that it's not that precise, but whatever.

We still have the astrology book he learned from and told me about very soon after we started dating. “The Only Astrology Book You'll Ever Need” by Joanna Martine Woolfolk. So I grabbed it and started going through it, but I was getting confused so he helped me out step by step and now I have a chart! And some very basic notes on what each house represents.

There's so much information I didn't know astrology included, it was a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to actually digging into the book on my own and learning more about what all of this brand new shiny information is supposed to mean for me and deciding how I feel about it.

And then go back and listen to “Written in the Stars” by Alexandria Bellefleur again. That was one of my books from last year and it was so good. There's a lot of references to astrology that aren't really important to understand and enjoy the book, but might be more fun when I have a better idea what the main character is talking about. And then the other two books in the series!

It's also officially time for my Grady Hendrix book of the year. I haven't read “We Sold Our Souls” yet even though I've had it for a few years and I have read all his other books in my collection, so I guess it's finally time! (It's not like I haven't wanted to read it, I just always wanted to read another one more.)

Yay October!

Things that I've been reading/watching/listening to lately and have too much to say for a mastodon post but too little to say to talk about them on their own blog post.

Do Revenge

I listened to the Netflix suggestion immediately for a change, and I'm glad I did. This was so much fun and just a little cringe at times but overall very worth it.

Camila Mendes and Maya Hawke are both incredible and their characters are horrifically delightful and I want all the best for these awful, awful people. Also Sarah Michelle Gellar is in this and she's just GAH. I don't even have words, I just love her so much.

The cringe is mostly the way “woke” words are used, but I think even that is more because it's overlapping with other things I've seen recently. I love She-Hulk and I thought The Craft: Legacy was great, seeing girl-centric with all the focus on relationships and personal power makes me really happy. And the occasional nod to real-world patriarchal bullshit is nice and cathartic. But at a certain point it just feels obligatory and hollow and takes too much focus away from the feminine joy and power I want to see.

In this movie it's only ever used ironically. The cishet white boy villain uses performative wokeness as a weapon, the Latina main character only ever mentions that she's a woman of color (her words) when she's reminding people how bad it looks for them to target her. It's really gross. And I can't tell if it's supposed to be gross or if someone thought we needed this. Or whether it's supposed to be that they're handling it badly or that the writers think this is what social justice looks like.

Or maybe it's just what they think teenagers look like, regardless of what they're doing. It does have a general vibe of teens being awful because learning compassion takes time and experience and trauma, so maybe misusing this language is more of the same. I don't know, I don't get it, but I still really like the movie and it's only ever a few moments at a time.

Definitely worth a watch, and if you do let me know what you think please.

Cobra Kai

I can't anymore and that makes me sad.

I watched the first episode of the new season and I've liked this show a lot but it just keeps trying to ramp up the stakes and drama and I really need some fluff. Why can't it just be a fun show about kids learning karate and being friends?

Bloodthirst Hearts

This is a podcast/radio drama about a group of former close friends at a convention where there is also an actual embodiment of the monster from the series they're celebrating. I'm only a few episodes in but I love it so far. Friendship, fandom, and monsters! Yay!

Hocus Pocus Tarot

Does this count as media? Whatever, it's related to a movie, I'm counting it.

It's such a cute deck. But more than that, it's a really good deck and useful for thinking and learning about tarot. What drew me to tarot in the first place was the idea that all these archetypes match so well to so many stories, that we all go through these cycles and live these symbols over and over again. That made sense for the majors but I had difficulty with the minor arcana until someone explained to me that each of the suits is also telling their own story that you can follow from card to card.

And that sounds great but can be hard to see when you're just looking at individual cars, especially pip cards without a clear scene illustrating the ideas they represent. I worried about that with this deck since it is a pip deck, but I didn't need to worry.

I do recommend reading through the entire guide book before starting to play with the deck. All of the cards are shown in the book, so you can read the descriptions and follow the story they tell and then on each page look at the card next to its description to get an idea of why it was chosen and make that connection with the card.

It turns out that even if you're just looking at a number of candles, the candles are drawn differently on each card, you can see shadows or note the style and bring to mind what that represents in the larger story. I haven't needed to check the book since that first reading, and I think this is my new go-to recommendation for someone who wants to get started reading tarot.

What else am I doing?

I've kept up the daily tarot draw. Working from home makes this habit a lot easier to build since I don't have to depend on getting up early setting aside time for it. I just keep the deck at my work desk so while I'm waiting for my computer to boot up I can shuffle yesterday's card back into it and draw the new one. I display it right between my monitors so I'm looking at it all day long and it's working really well so far.

I also started a journaling practice so at the end of the day I can reflect on the card and what I think I need to learn from it. For awhile I'd been considering this but was trying to decide if I should start a new blog for it even though that caused some anxiety.

It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that doing very personal journaling online is actually terrible for me and probably part of why I'd abandoned various spiritual practices in the past decade or so. So now I'm journaling offline again, still with a computer because writing by hand hurts my hands and also results in entries I can't read, but just for myself. Much better solution.

I'm reading actual books again, too, just slowly. After watching a documentary about tree communication networks (“Intelligent Trees,” absolutely worth a watch) and being completely fascinated, I found a couple of books on the subject and I'm super excited about them. Suzanne Simard's “Finding the Mother Tree” is first and I'm not very far in it yet, but I'm enjoying it and expect to keep reading.

I've also been listening to Kiki's Delivery Service when I need a narrative to follow to keep my mind focused at work. That hasn't been so much of a problem lately so it's going slow, I've still got about an hour left in the book after several months. But I do want to save it for when I need it since I know it works so well, so that might take awhile.

Any thoughts or recommendations? Let me know!

I've started watching a lot of tarot-related channels on Youtube, and I guess tags go around there a lot where a bunch of people make themed videos talking about their decks. I wanna play! But I don't actually want to make a video myself, yikes.

Well, I kind of do. I even made a vtuber avatar that's more or less ready to go. I like the idea of it. I just get anxious about the idea of actually doing it and being seen.


I don't have a channel, but I do have a blog! I can talk about decks on a blog, that's not scary!

The first one is Tarot To The Extreme starting with this video and is all about various categories of opposites in tarot decks. Minimalist/maximalist, confronting/comforting, etc. I realize it's not going to be quite as cool without being able to flip through the cards, but I'll link decks so there's at least the option of seeing some examples.

Also there are a lot of categories and I like to ramble, so I have no idea how many parts to this there will be. I'm just going to write until I feel like it's too long and then break for another day.


The Kawaii Tarot is a very minimalist deck that doesn't at all match my usual deck requirements, to be honest. I hate pips and generally avoid any deck that doesn't have full and emotive illustrations. But it's just so frickin' cute! And pink! And CUTE!

The link I gave is the card meaning page, and those little simplistic drawings are basically the entire card. Just that on a pretty pink field. Gah. Definitely relying a lot on previous knowledge from other decks. And my memory for the suits isn't that great, so it's also a lot of looking things up.

But I love it and I enjoy using it anyway, just usually as a secondary deck if I want some more info on a reading with a more intuitive deck. I'm even considering getting the Spoopy Tarot from the same company when it comes out, but haven't decided yet. It's a lot more my typical aesthetic and just as cute, but also just as vague. Hmmmm.


The Wisdom of Avalon Oracle looks simple enough on the surface, but there are so many different types of cards in this deck. Definitely through me off for awhile at first. Most oracles I've seen are very simple and tend to avoid anything resembling suits or divisions, just a lot of variations on a theme.

This one has road signs with guide words as well as a handful of different guide/messenger groupings. Of the latter, each has the group at the top, followed by their name, then some keywords, then a full and beautiful picture. So much information! The groups are Messengers (closest thing to the Major Arcana), Faery Guides (tied to elements), and Animal Guides (basically could be its own oracle like a lot of other animal oracles, but just as one part of this one!).

I love this deck a lot, but I don't use it like a typical deck. Since it already seems set up as characters or places you might encounter as the lead in a fairy tale, I just put the deck face down in front of me like a book and turn each card like its own page. I keep turning until I feel like the story is complete. It's a lot of fun, and it was also a great exercise in exploring different ways I might approach readings.


Nudity warning.

The Faeries' Oracle was one of my first ever decks, and still one of my favorites. It was followed by the Heart of Faerie deck which will come up in the next post so I won't say much about that one here, but they do pair well together. The Faeries' Oracle is both the scarier and brighter of that pair.

A lot of the faeries read as a bit more malicious or at least mischievous in this deck than in its partner, and quite a few of the illustrations are a bit unsettling. That's not a bad thing, I like spooky and unsettling imagery in small doses sometimes and I love every single one of these cards. But, you know. Spooky.

You'd think that would make it more of a nighttime deck, but part of the unsettling-ness of it is that these are all meant to be characters hidden in plain sight, not creeping through the night. I like to use this deck during the day because it helps me open my eyes to magic and wonder in the middle of all the mundane rationality of the sun and the workday. It's really good for that. Much like watching other Froud projects like Labyrinth or The Dark Crystal, it's almost hard not to believe in magic afterwards.


Another nudity warning. That's pretty common in a lot of decks, really.

Despite drawing the day/night contrast between the two Faerie decks above and that also being a night deck, I'm not going to talk about Heart of Faerie here. Mostly because it was a perfect match for another category and I didn't want to double up. So I'll just stick a pin in that.

Right now I'm going to talk about another nighttime deck, Tarot of the Sidhe. Look at this deck. Beautiful! It's so bright and colorful, just looking at any of these cards wakes me right up.

If the Faeries' Oracle shows us a vision of magic that can exist in broad daylight, Tarot of the Sidhe shows what it looks like completely unfettered by the rational and controlled environment of the day. With this deck I take a step out of my ordinary world and right into theirs. Some caution is required, so it's good that none of these images is entirely comfortable. You should be a little uncomfortable this far into someone else's realm with someone else's rules. It's spooky in all the best ways.

Best Shuffle

Trigger warning for eyes, bones, organs...if you squick easy, maybe don't look.

Earthbound Oracle is a unique deck sized much more like a regular set of playing cards and therefore incredibly easy to riffle shuffle. Or at least, much easier than most tarot and oracle decks. It features some unsettling imagery, but it speaks to me and I like it.

Worst Shuffle

Warning for partial nudity

Most decks are too big for me to comfortably riffle shuffle, but the Art Nouveau Mini Tarot is SO. TINY! Turns out that's even worse for shuffling.

It's incredibly pretty and I like to look at the cards, but I always kind of make a mess trying to shuffle, even just an overhand shuffle. The cards just want to fly right out of my hands. I don't use this deck often anyway, not because of the shuffle but just because I have it dedicated to a specific purpose instead of everyday use. But I am glad that needing to shuffle it doesn't happen to come up much.

That's half the categories, so I'll stop here for now and come back with the rest soon.

I've been putting off reading another similar book until I do this because I can get characters mixed up in my mind. But I've been busy and so also put this off long enough that I'm not 100% sure I'm going to get all the names and such right. Oh well!

Things I Liked

The gender discussion Felix goes to was very familiar. I haven't ever been to a meeting for quite the same purpose, but I have been in a lot of similar queer support/advocacy groups. And the people mentioned at the meeting all gave me this “oh yeah, I know you” vibe and that was kind of fun.

Not learning Felix's deadname at any point, yay!

A whole lot of queer joy in general. The “guess who's a demiboy!” post was cute and fun. That search for words and communities that make you feel seen.

The acknowledgement that things have gotten better and that a lot of us didn't have the kind of language or opportunity to find and declare ourselves that kids have now, but also that things are still hard and kids still need our support. And also some things aren't generational and it's not that simple. If I was a teenager now with the same parents, I might have a better idea of who I am and be able to voice it to myself, but I still wouldn't have had support and would have had to wait till I was an adult to transition.

So I'm sure there are still kids in similar situations and everyone is struggling with something. But it's still great to see how much better the world around us has gotten and that maybe they're not dealing with all the same struggles. And it's hard not to be jealous of that sometimes. I feel like I'm finally getting to be the person I wanted to be when I was a teenager but I'm in my mid-30s so I'm also getting “you're too old to dress/wear your hair/act like that” from people around me sometimes. Whatever, we didn't all get to be kids when we were kids.

Things I Didn't Like (As Much)

The Declan romance had its problems, but so do all relationships. I feel like it was developing in a really nice and natural way and then all of a sudden at the end it shifted and everyone was talking about how toxic it was. Like, why? Because it was online? That's a bit messed up.

Because of a one-sided power dynamic because one of them knew who the other was and was lying? Yeah, I could see that a bit more. There were definitely opportunities earlier in the book where I thought it would have made sense for Felix to let Declan know and I wish he had taken them. But I don't think it's insurmountable.

Like sometimes in life you have multiple options and they could all be good but they could all also hurt someone. Sometimes you have to choose between two or more good things that will each require effort and struggle. I didn't like that suddenly the Declan route was toxic and they both knew it so they could split without much trouble and Ezra was just the one right obvious easy match.

I guess I either just needed more explanation of why his relationship with Declan was harmful or an acknowledgement that what they had could be really good but that it would require work they weren't prepared to do or something.


I really enjoyed living with this world and characters for a few days. Everything is well-developed and immersive, which is pretty much what I want most in a book. And the mix of very hard painful things that happen and the joy and optimism that outshine them made reading this a wonderful experience and helps me feel hopeful for my own life.

Good reading for a fellow demiguy (I hate the word demiboy, I'm too old to be any kind of boy) or anyone else really.

I saw a thing on fb awhile ago that was asking people to list 5 shows to give someone an idea of their tastes and interests. Then I lost it. Then I thought, “hey, I could do that with a lot of categories actually!” Here are some. In no particular order.

Also at this particular time. I'm sure later I'll think of some and be like “oh noooo that should make the list,” but this is where my head is now. And that does probably mean these are ones that aren't necessarily the best but are frequently on my mind.

Live-Action TV Shows

  1. Runaways
  2. Umbrella Academy
  3. Boy Meets World
  4. Gilmore Girls
  5. Grace & Frankie

Animated TV Shows

  1. Steven Universe
  2. Magic Knight Rayearth
  3. Love, Chunibyo, and Other Delusions
  4. Sealab 2021
  5. X-Men: Evolution

Books (non-graphic novels)

  1. Good Omens – Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
  2. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes – Caitlin Doughty
  3. Horrorstor – Grady Hendrix
  4. Revolt of the Angels – Anatole France
  5. A Memory Called Empire – Arkady Martine


  1. Hocus Pocus
  2. Practical Magic
  3. Dogma
  4. Rise of the Guardians
  5. The Music Man

Video Games

  1. Mass Effect
  2. Journey
  3. Final Fantasy XIV
  4. Animal Crossing: New Horizons
  5. The Sims


  1. Fall Out Boy (of course)
  2. Pup
  3. Against Me
  4. Semisonic
  5. Hop Along

(Non-Fall Out Boy) Albums

  1. Pray for the Wicked – Panic at the Disco
  2. All About Chemistry – Semisonic
  3. Bark Your Head Off, Dog – Hop Along
  4. August and Everything After – Counting Crows
  5. Strange Desire – Bleachers

Fall Out Boy Albums

  1. Save Rock & Roll
  2. Folie A Deux
  3. Take This to Your Grave
  4. Infinity on High
  5. Evening Out With Your Girlfriend

(Non-Fall Out Boy) Songs

  1. “Round Here” – Counting Crows
  2. “The End of the World” – U2
  3. “Rhiannon” – Fleetwood Mac
  4. “It's A Hit” – Rilo Kiley
  5. “Black Me Out” – Against Me

Fall Out Boy Songs

  2. Death Valley
  3. Reinventing the Wheel to Run Myself Over
  4. Alpha Dog
  5. Bishops Knife Trick


  1. Batgirl of Burnside
  2. The Wicked & the Divine
  3. Jem & the Holograms
  4. Unbeatable Squirrel Girl
  5. Pumpkinheads


  1. Kelly Thompson
  2. Kieron Gillen
  3. Mariko Tamaki
  4. Neil Gaiman
  5. Rainbow Rowell


  1. Jen Bartel
  2. Sophie Campbell
  3. Jamie McKelvie
  4. David Aja
  5. Mike Maihack

Board/Tabletop Games

  1. Disney Villains
  2. Ticket to Ride
  3. Pandemic
  4. Dixit
  5. Sentinels of the Multiverse

Myths (as Friends episode titles)

  1. The one where Loki got his mouth sewn shut for being too smart
  2. The one where Zephyr and Apollo learn to stop being so possessive maybe
  3. The one with the box of bad things
  4. The one where Loki's a horse
  5. The one with the snake and the garden


  1. Baby-Sitters Club Club
  2. Good Christian Fun
  3. The Dollop
  4. Riverdale After Dark
  5. Secret Dinosaur Cult

CW: spoilers, politics, depression, long post

I was expecting cheesy YA romance. And there was a lot of that. It was pretty good.

I was not expecting a political-themed AU trying to fix the past 4 years. There was a lot of that, too. It was hopeful and nice, I can see how reading it at the right time would have been healing. Reading it now just makes me tired.

So many times in the past few years when people talk about whatever horrible thing Trump has done now, how we know for a fact that he's committed crimes both in office and to get there in the first place, etc...all I can say is “Yeah, and wouldn't it be nice if that mattered?”

Red, White, & Royal Blue takes place in a universe where it matters. And it just winds up looking delusional and unhelpful. Or maybe I'm just hopeless and bitter and that's affecting the way I read it. Probably a little of both.

The Politics

It deals with the private email server drama, even a mention of Alex thinking he'd been warned about them at some point but can't remember the details, a tiny bit of foreshadowing in case anyone didn't already know where this was going from the first time we see/hear his email address.

But it does this without any mention of the Clintons even though the Obamas and a few other familiar real life characters are mentioned multiple times by name, because Alex's mom is basically the stand-in for HRC in this universe and there can't be two. You don't want her to have beaten HRC, so the latter just doesn't exist. The queen and the rest of the royal family are treated similarly.

And while I can understand the reasons for it, I'm really not comfortable about just erasing these powerful women from the universe when so much of the rest of our recent history is kept intact. It's a weird choice and I would have preferred a more complete departure from our world. It winds up feeling to me like “everything would be fine and we'd be living in a perfectly reasonable progressive world if Hillary Clinton just didn't exist.” And, you know, that's fucked up.

I know it's not what the writer means to say, since it's more like “this could be the world if misogyny and hate hadn't won in 2016.” But it feels like it's saying that. And it's digging at old wounds and really this is exactly the wrong time for me to be reading it.

The Romance

It's...fine. I commented on Mastodon that it reminded me a lot of some Inception fanfic and after finishing it that still feels like the best comparison. A big difference is that these characters are quite a bit younger and their intensity feels like a bit too much for me.

Granted, when I was that age I was pretty intense, too. That's probably why I don't like it, really. At 23 I had a really unhealthy attachment to a girl I was dating who did not (I found out later) feel the same way about me, and I'm still pretty embarrassed when I think about it. At that age it's easy to feel like everything's forever, like nothing has ever been this important, that you know exactly what you want out of life and it will never change.

Then it does, and you adjust, and you learn not to expect so much or pin all your hopes on one thing or person. And one thing I really like about this book is that, in spite of all the youthful hopefulness, there's a distinction between “feeling forever about him” and “being with him forever.”

“Happily ever after” is an utterly ridiculous and even harmful concept, but temporary relationships shape you in ways that last forever. And that's important, too. I like that Alex's parents have a healthy divorce and that they can both encourage him to love without the expectation that it's supposed to be forever or that it not lasting is a failure. I think going into relationships thinking “I believe in this and think it will change me in good ways” is a better, healthier, more beneficial outlook than “til death do us part.”

So a big yay for letting them have their ridiculous early-20s emotions but also setting reasonable expectations.


Hey, bisexual characters who actually identify as bisexual! That's a major point in the book's favor. Also, non-white characters including a Latino protagonist/POV-character. He's also one of the bisexual characters, so that's awesome. I think also a trans background character maybe? But I can't remember if that was actually stated or if I made it up. If it was mentioned, it was only once in passing and I appreciate that.

I don't think every book needs to play marginalized identity bingo and I'm not stressing about a lack of asexuality or non-binary characters. What I will say is that I was originally kind of annoyed at the surprise!bisexuality because I feel like it's overused and I expect most people have an inkling by then.

BUT. I immediately got over that because he has, hands down, the best “in retrospect I guess so much is obvious” inner monologues I think I've ever read. It basically goes from “I know I'm not gay because I kissed a girl once and it was nice” to “also I can't possibly be gay because all the times I made out with my male best friend I never once freaked out about it” in about two seconds and it is amazing.

He later examines his feelings and how he kind of locked away feelings that were difficult to deal with and would hold him back and so he probably kind of knew but didn't deal with it. And that's much more relatable. Heck, I started imagining my life as a boy at like age 10 but didn't start identifying as trans until I was in my mid 20s. There's just a lot of life in the way of deep introspection. So that makes sense to me, and I like that once he does start to examine it he's all in.

Fanfic Vibes in Original Works

Yeah, this is one of those. I like them.

There were some overly silly bits, some epic karaoke that just stretches my imagination too far, etc. But overall it's nice and fun and I like that writers are leaning into the fanfic-y tendencies to focus more on feelings and relationships than traditional plotlines. I like the book most when it's doing this and least when it's trying to tell a story of political corruption.

And while, as I already said, I don't really like the erasure of some real-world people but not others...I do really like the approach of just making up our own characters as stand-ins. I just think it should be applied more universally.

Velvet Goldmine is another good example. Like, we know what archetypes they're going for in this movie. We know who these artists are supposed to be. But they're not those artists and it's not just in name, they're completely different characters in the style of real-world stars but who have their own unique experiences.

I often think bandfic writers should do something similar. Fanon seems to have its own version of everyone anyway, it seems the appeal is more the idea of gay bandmates in love than the actual people, so...just get together and everyone crowdsource an AU fan-made band that you can write about without being skeevy. Problem solved!

Or even better, a whole alternate universe full of similar bands so anyone can contribute their own and you could just build up this whole fictional music scene and they can all interact with each other. Something like that. Listen, I don't write fiction, I don't know how any of this works. It just sounds nice.


It's good, read it if you want some bisexual rep and a naively sweet love story set in a brighter and more hopeful universe than our own.


I've been soooooo impatient for this book to come out. And now it's here and I've read it and I have Thoughts.

I decided I'm actually going to do two versions of this, a spoiler-free one I'll post tonight and a much longer, in-depth, very very spoiler-filled exploration I'll probably be working on for at least a few more days. Because, really. I have a LOT to say and I want to say it all and it's probably more than most people want to read.

Anyway, let's dive in!

It's a quick and enjoyable read, maybe lacking a bit of substance. If Carry On read like a fanfic, this one is even more so – a fanfic of a fanfic.

The plot is a little scattered and rushed, the characters and relationships don't really get the amount of focus and resolution I'd like, and overall I'm left feeling a bit unfinished.

If you're expecting a complete story with a typical narrative shape, this will likely leave you feeling a bit lost. But I don't think that's necessarily an actual downside to this book. It's not a tidy hero story to be wrapped up and moved on from – they already did that. This book starts on an ending and ends on a beginning, and in-between is kind of just an endearing mess (like Simon and Baz, really).

That's one of those neat things fanfiction allows writers – a chance to treat characters more like living people, give them lives that don't have neat chapter endings, let them be lost and just live their lives once in awhile. I like that Rowell feels comfortable bringing that fanfiction energy to these books, it's nice to just spend some time with characters I love without feeling like we're on a train rushing towards a particular destination.

I was hoping for more of an examination of Simon's feelings and identity. Intentional or not, Carry On fell into the trap of having a seemingly bisexual character without ever using the word and therefore contributes to bisexual erasure. And that wasn't fixed here, either by having Simon identify that way or having any other character fill the gap.

Not every story has to have every identity represented, obviously. I really don't think it's intentional and I think it makes sense for Simon not to have it figured out. And it's not like he's really got time to be worried about that here, and it's fine for someone to never decide on a label. It's just troubling how often it happens when the character dates both men and women, and it does get a little frustrating to never see yourself represented.

I get why that's a deal-breaker for some, though I'll also admit it had to be pointed out to me even though I'm panromantic. It's just not a huge part of my identity and not something that I really tend to look for in my fiction, so I guess I also kind of relate to Simon and his apparent lack of interest in exploring it further when he's got other things on his mind. That is also a type of representation and it's important. I just hold out hope that there will be more of these characters at some point, more chances to address it or for other identities and experiences to be represented.

Also I'll be on the lookout now for similar universes with much more of a queer slant. Especially by queer authors and for queer audiences. Recommendations totally welcome.

Alternately, let's all just invent our own queer magical universes. That might be a good next creative project for me. Hmmm.

Overall rating 4.5/5