Sunday, April 30, 2017

Book Review- Kitchen Table Tarot by Melissa Cynova

"A place at the table, a spot on the shelf, Kitchen Table Tarot lets you help yourself!" 

(That's not from the book, I wrote it while thinking of this review.)

Melissa Cynova wants to talk with you about Tarot. Not in a recruitment way. The book is Kitchen Table Tarot, not "Knock, Knock, Have You Heard About Tarot?"
Inside you will find easy conservation, anecdotes, and yes, Tarot brain fuel.
In writing this piece, I did not want to see other reviews first, however most early praise for the book speaks of how conversational Lis writes with engaging the reader. She literally began reading and teaching Tarot at her kitchen table, and started her website to reach many friends at once to teach and avoid long distance phone charges. Extra points if you remember those!
Her writing brings you to that table, with the luxury of no travel arrangements. You'll not only see her fearless introspection on the cards, but also some moments that she'd like to save us from having already made the mistakes.

What you'll get: a medium sized matte cover trade paperback (or you can buy it as an e-book). Roughly 5x8, it should easily fit in a tote to go.
Pages in at 288; substance without suffering.
Black and White card images of the Llewellyn's Classic Tarot Deck, a modernized version of Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS), and the writing is geared towards any similar type of deck with pictures on all the cards.

Why you may have overlooked this gem: If your first thought is "It's just a beginner's book", you would be correct- to an extent. However, if I had panned this over on that assumption alone I would have missed out on much.
I have read about a 6 card spread (pyramid shape) before. Never tried it, as I only saw 3 lines of cards, for what they were. In a few words from Lis, other connections of the groupings clicked. That's a testimony right there. I've been learning and reading since the 1990's(!) and already learned something. There's only a handful of traditional spreads are featured, as card knowledge foundation and understanding are paramount.
It's also encouraging to see an accomplished reader admit they doggedly read Tarot books (even in a reading!) until it was no longer necessary, except for looking for some fresh meaning.
I'm full of praise Ms. Cynova's treatment of the "difficult" cards. There's no trepidation at all; this is where she channels Sword energy and cuts them bite size for us. Her treatment of the Devil card alone should be mandatory reading as far as I am concerned. Death, Judgement, 10 of swords as well.

Why it's worth it's place in the book nook:
It is easy to get in set in one's ways, and as a perpetual student I like to re-set periodically and go back to "beginners mind". How I would teach Tarot now versus 1996 would be the same deck structure, but different definitions as to how I would present them. Until Tarot, I had never heard the word 'Hierophant' and venture to say neither has the average reader. Explaining a stodgy concept with same delivery in 2017 seems sort of a disservice in my opinion. You may also miss that Lis makes a connection between the Hierophant and computer professionals. Had you already reached that as a possible connection?
Lis answers questions you may not know you had- some of my favorites are found in the "Ethics of Reading" section, where the gems "What if I'm wrong?" and "What if I'm right?" are answered in her assuring ways complete with first hand experiences. She even covers situations in which reading for others (or yourself!) that are not worth the effort.
For those that read with reversals, you will find definitions for them with each card as well. The fact that the author is well read in cards as well as literature gives her definitions resource. It's not too serious though, I can very much appreciate imagining the hands bringing forth the Ace minors hearkening back to the days of Monty Python sketches.
It is worth noting cards are group by number instead of suit.
I think this makes it easier to compare how the number crosses over between the suits.
It's the little touches, such as reading the nod to card 9¾, that makes me hope to see more books in the future from this inspiring author!

What's NOT in this book (That may be important to you):
Not included? Let's see- astrology, Kabbalah, origins of where Tarot may have come from. She's just talking about learning the cards. You can go as far with them as you wish after you grasp the basics.
Also blissfully free of dogma, musts/n'ts, and shoulds/n'ts.
There are no color pictures, but greyscale images for each card are shown.
Lis does identify as intuitive, but only offers sparse discussion on the topic, which does include grounding.
There are no journal prompts, homework, or exercises- In this way it is a Tarot beginners book.
Although she talks about reading professionally, this book can only help you with the reading side, not the business side of making the leap to go pro.

Reviewer Anecdote** "The Freudian Split" as it will now be known, happened while I was reading about the Devil card. Lis takes the traditional artists' drawings to task in a most humorous way, and what I read as a typo that makes this review one of my funniest.
She was making fun of the burning staff (or hot poker, however you may have believed the Devil may hold) and I presumed the word 'spliff' was a mistake. Staff for a spit, since the Devil is roasting these people was my guess. When I asked for confirmation from another, we were 'split'. Word, or faux paus? A little Googling led to a lot of giggling- Funniest typo, or imaginative author? Just like the author's stance on reading, go ahead and interpret it in your own way.

TL;DR? Too Long; Didn't Read?
* This is a fresh, modern beginners Tarot book, with enough substance for an adept to appreciate, or even use in teaching
* Free of stuffy outmoded tradition and requirements (no, you don't have to be given your first deck, or keep it wrapped in silk)
* A perfect gift for a new beginner, filled with honesty and encouragement

++This is where I need to give special thanks to the publishers at Llewellyn Publications for allowing me to borrow an e-preview uncorrected proof copy for review purposes.

This book was already on my wish list, and now in two days, a copy will be in my hands! I prefer a physical book, although a Kindle edition is available as well.

Until next time, Tarot on!~


  1. I have heard great things about this book actually (and may need to get it even if I am a pro hehe!) ;-)

    1. It's a fun, conversational style book- not dry and boring at all. I always enjoy seeing the view thru another reader's eyes!