Reviewing a book written by a friend can be a daunting task. Thankfully, Melissa Cynova (although “Lis” is the familiar name by which I know the author) has made an easy time of it for me with her new—fresh off the line—book published by Llewellyn Publications. And it looks GREAT. There is a little twinge of jealousy in every tarot professional who is in the midst of writing a book—like me—when we see one of our friends pull off the feat. But it’s a great motivator and inspiration to know that our friends have made a success of themselves…
My copy of this book arrived through Amazon.com, where I had pre-ordered it, knowing that it was a book written by a friend. My acquaintance with Lis might in some respects seems fleeting since I know her from a tarot convention, but such events tend to make for fast friends and social media these days helps us to keep tabs on those with whom we are acquainted. Lis and I partnered for workshop exercises during two different workshop presentations—one with Mary Greer, and another with Katrina Wynne—both stellar tarot masters in their own right. Later during the weekend, Lis volunteered her services administrating a workshop on the Empress card (III) when one of the workshop leaders wasn’t able to make it to the event. The Empress card was a great focus for Lis, who emotes a lot of nurturing qualities in her family life and among her friends.
Lis has a strong feminist woman’s personality, and the thing I appreciate most about this book is that it SHINES through with Lis’s personality and straightforward style. I could picture her speaking the words from her book directly out of her mouth. I suppose that means that this book has a very colloquial style to it. I wonder if I didn’t know Lis personally how that would read, but I know it comes off just fine—part of Lis’s charm is her down-to-earth, grounding nature, and the reason people love her is for her humorous turn of phrase.
The full title of this book is: Kitchen Table Tarot: Pull Up a Chair, Shuffle the Cards, and Let’s Talk Tarot—and the title pretty much indicates the down-to-earth, let’s-do-this, no-nonsense-kind of writing that you’re gonna get throughout this whole book. There is a little bit of a ball-bustin’ attitude here. Lis has a philosophy of “firm…but gentle.” She’s gonna tell it like it is. She explains this style—which extends to her client reading style as well—in her chapter on ethics where she states:
“I could do that. I could give you a reading that left out the bad things and only mentioned the good. I could—it’s pretty easy. It would be a crappy reading, though. It would have no depth, little honesty, and no integrity, but it would be pretty and shiny.
“The thing about readings—and about fairy tales, for that matter—is that they’re not all rainbows and sparkles. Bad things happen in life, and our responses to those things shape who we are and where we’re headed. Getting a heads-up about some of those bad things can give you tools to defend yourself or to prepare…”
Liz and I don’t have the exact same style of reading, but the point is that we put our individual personalities into it. We don’t necessarily have the same rote interpretations for all the cards, but we get to the core issues through many years of experience and knowledge. Which is really what’s important… And that’s completely okay. Different strokes for different folks and different styles can still bring smiles. Lis emphasizes the fact—several times—that she referred to tarot definition books for the first ten years of “practicing” her craft. Then she was able to leave the books behind and blossom on her own, and her readings only got better the longer she reads and the more she absorbed (and continues to learn). You definitely get this message and sense through Lis’s writing and her stories—everyone has their own schtick…nobody’s gonna tell you there’s only one definitive way to read tarot—because there isn’t one. All we, as more experienced readers, can do is give you our best recommendations and stories based on what we’ve experienced personally. Lis’s best recommendation is to find your own thing, your own voice, your own schtick… just do it with some rationality and prudence (which is what any good tarot instructor will recommend).
Besides all this straight talk, more than half the book is devoted to interpretations of every card in the tarot deck, so a person could use this book as their go-to definition resource (just like the ones that Lis used when she was learning). The book does tend to make the presumption that if you’re reading this book, that you are interested in becoming a professional tarot reader. The author regales us with war stories from the field as a sort of word-to-the-wise cautionary tale. (There’s an entire chaptered titled “When Readings Go Weird.”) These are the kind of stories with which almost any long-time tarot reader can entertain you. But of course, the tarot isn’t strictly the basis of a business profession. It is also a personal meditation tool, a personal-growth resource, a party ice-breaker,…basically the tarot can be as personal, private, or as public as you want it to be…and also can be a tool for ultimately becoming a professional reader. This book is a gentle encouragement for those interested or curious about the profession.
Now, for your entertainment, please enjoy this looping video of Lis and I at the 2016 Northwest Tarot Symposium…
You can find out more about Lis on her website—Little Fox Tarot
And she’s got an Instagram site, too!
Her book can be ordered through your local independent bookseller, or through Amazon.com.