Blog, Books, Reviews

Review: Freeks

Disclaimer: I received an eARC from netgalley in exchange for a review. This review is spoiler free.

Come one, come all, to Gideon’s Traveling Sideshow, a roving carnival traveling to their latest destination where the payout proves to be grand. As long as they make it to the vernal equinox. However, this isn’t your typical side show filled with cons and shenanigans. No, many of the members of the troupe have real supernatural powers– pyrokinesis, telekinsesis, speaking with the dead, are among the few gifts the novel mentions. No matter where Mara turns, everyone seems to have a special ability. Except for her. Even her fortune telling mother has secrets. Because of this, Mara dreams of having a normal life, free from the only show she’s known. Their latest town may be more trouble than anyone bargained for.

As a tarot reader, I was insanely curious to read this book; I love books that include tarot in their plots. Which is why I wanted a copy to review. I wanted to know how Hocking treated tarot in Freeks. I’m happy to report she doesn’t disappoint. Right off the bat we’re created with a hand drawn tarot card image section divider. Which instantly made me long for a real purchasable deck. I hope they do, the images were fun and fresh.

Mara’s mother is the carnival’s fortune teller, which meant the cards played a more prominent part in the book. Whenever Hocking brought the cards up, I took notice. I’m happy to report that Hocking knows her stuff. Lyanka has her own reading rituals and has a good grasp of modern meanings. Even though the cards are treated more as a prop for her powers, the readings done are easy to read and flow well.

Death DOES show up in a reading, which always makes me flinch. I quickly relaxed however because the card was treated almost exactly in the same way I introduce it to my clients when they draw it. It was almost spooky, and I wondered if somehow Hocking remote viewed in on some of my readings.

Overall, this is a fun young adult novel.  At it’s heart it’s a coming-of-age story for Mara, who wants love and a normal life. In this new town she meets a boy whom she thinks she can have a short relationship with before the Sideshow moves out. She learns to deal with relationships as a young adult and she talks through the difficulties of being a freak and wanting to be normal. However, the main gist of the book doesn’t happen till well after half-way through. Which meant I wanted a longer book, to learn more about Mara’s past and where she came from.

Bottom Line: Freeks is an easy read. I stayed up all night long to finish it. The book’s twists and mysteries kept me guessing– which is the mark of a good book for me. The world is fantastic and I found myself wishing I could stay in it for longer. Freeks reads as a stand alone book, but I’m hoping Hocking continues the adventures of Mara.

Blog, Books, Reviews

Review: Llewellyn’s Complete Guide to Tarot

Disclaimer: I received an eARC from netgalley in exchange for a review. I also purchased a copy for my library.

If it’s one thing I know in reviewing books it’s “don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” I’ve said this before and I’m saying it now. Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Tarot by Anthony Louis is a great book, filled with wonderful tarot tidbits for all tarot enthusiasts. However, this is NOT a complete guide. Louis even states this very clearly in his preface. Instead, this book takes the approach of guiding readers of all types into the broad spectrum of topics tarot contains. Louis sees the book as a complete course in tarot. Topics covered include: why study tarot; tarot history; tarot structure and the differences between RWS, Marseille, and Thoth; card uses; and the various meanings and correspondences the cards have.

What I liked: Louis has a great voice in his writing. There are many areas in the book that he made me laugh with his vernacular. The chapters are chock full of good information. As I read through the book, I found myself thinking about how “scientific” Louis makes tarot sound. He captures the essence of why we use the cards and has answers for many questions people ask about the origins. Louis isn’t afraid to talk about the cards’ Christian influences either (very few books touch on this subject). While describing each individual card, most books stick with meanings laid down by AE Waite or Aliester Crowley. Not in this tome, Louis includes a history of interpretation that dates back to Etteilla. Which is great for those of us who love doing meaning comparison and want to know how card meanings transitioned over time. Another aspect I enjoyed was the fact that Louis references many other authors and their works in the book. It’s like you are also getting to know the wider tarot community while learning about the cards.

What I didn’t like: There is so much in this book that it’s a quick catalogue of topics. Louis doesn’t go too deep with any one subject. Which is fine because otherwise this book would be huge. So, if you were looking for a true “Complete” guide to tarot, then look elsewhere.

Bottom Line: Llewellyn’s Complete Guide to Tarot is a great starter guide to the world of tarot. There’s a lot of good information in this book. I loved how it went towards the sciencey side of the divination tool. Louis. Anthony has a friendly voice which invites you into learning tarot and becoming a member of the tarot tribe.

Books, Reviews

Review: 365 Tarot Spells by Sasha Graham

Disclaimer: I received an eARC from netgalley in exchange for a review. I also purchased a copy for my library.

Sasha Graham’s 365 Tarot Spells is a both a stand alone volume and companion to her previously published 365 Tarot Spreads. Tarot is a marvelous magical companion. It’s small and portable and can be used in a variety of ways to affect change in one’s life. Graham’s book helps to promote tarot’s use as a flexible tool for producing results. She’s created another day-by-day style book filled with wonderful spells you can use to get what you want in a variety of different ways. Each spell contains a short list of ingredients (some spells require easy to access components in addition to the tarot cards themselves) and a description of how to put the spell into action. A sidebar containing an incantation to activate the spell, a generic card image, and a tidbit from that day in history rounds out each spell.

365 Tarot Spells is a homage to another well designed tarot book called Tarot Spells by Janina Renee. Graham’s spells are well thought out and have a modern, fresh vibe to them. I liked the wide variety of spell topics and cards used for the spells. Graham does guarantee that each card makes an appearance at least once in the book. There is a wonderful and very thorough index of spells and categories in the back of the book that can be used to quickly find just what you need. She’s even added 78 spells for you to connect and bind yourself to each and every tarot card in the deck. Doing so can have the powerful effect of making the whole deck a spectacular tool for creating magic.

There’s a lot of good information in this book. I will say that the layout still has bugs in it. It seems that ePub manufactures are still trying to mimic print layouts. And when they do this, the text suffers because reading on a device isn’t the same as reading off a printed page. There are many cases in the ePub where the side bar cuts text off and overlaps the main spell working. Where there are layout images, they appear very small–sometimes unreadable.

Bottom Line: Looking for new ways to use your beloved tarot decks? Want to learn how to use tarot to attract things to you? Then 365 Tarot Spells is just the book for you. Graham includes a wide range of topics for you to cast spells. This is a modern witches grimoire for casting tarot spells.

Books, Reviews

Review: The Creative Tarot

Cover art for The Creative Tarot by Jessa Crispin

Disclaimer: I received an eARC from netgalley in exchange for a review. I also purchased this book for my library.

Tarot and creativity go hand in hand. In fact, many readers view their tarot spreads as stories to be unfolded and told. I’ve always believed tarot is a perfect creativity companion: in story creation, cheerleading, and inspiration. Enter The Creative Tarot by Jessa Crispin. A writer, a reader, and a creativity coach, Crispin has written a good book for creatives looking to learn and use tarot in their creative works. She carefully introduces tarot to the creative audience by describing the tarot history and mythology. Then she delves into the cards themselves by describing the images on a standard Rider Waite Smith Deck, describing how the cards relate to creative projects, and inspiring all types of creatives to use the cards. The back of the book includes some good spreads and tips on how to read for oneself and for others.

This is an all-inclusive book. Crispin pulls creative examples from all over the spectrum: writing, acting, dancing, art. Every card has wonderful stories and examples from the real world which brings each card forward and relatable. At the end of each description, Crispin has added material for further review and study. There’s songs, movies, and books in this section. I found myself bookmarking items and looking at the prints of artwork online.

Bottom Line: Want to learn more about the connections tarot has to the creative process? Interested in having a book chock full of good inspirational ideas? Want some good spreads on using tarot with your projects? Then you’ll enjoy The Creative Tarot. I believe it’s accessible for all levels of readers and is a fun and enjoyable read.

Blog, Books, Reviews

Review: Tarot Interactions by Deborah Lipp

Cover art for Tarot Interactions by Deborah Lipp

Disclaimer: I received an eARC of this book through netgalley in exchange for this review. This book will be released this July 2015 by Llewellyn Books.

Deborah Lipp’s Tarot Interactions takes tarot enthusiasts, new and advanced, through the various ways they can read and build relationships with the tarot. When I first saw this book for review on Netgalley I expected to see a tome on relating the cards to one another–a dictionary reference on building meaning for two, three, or four cards in a reading. If that’s the type of book you want, this is not for you. Instead, Lipp brings readers an new way of learning tarot in examining various interactions.

Tarot Interactions posits that every bit of using a tarot, from honing your psychic skills using the cards to reading for clients is an interaction. Each chapter discusses a unique view of an interaction using tarot cards. My favorite chapters were the Psyche, Patterns, and Language chapters because they take tarot on a personal level; reminding us that readings begin with learning patterns and seeing how the cards interplay with one another and the client; and the language and stories the cards tell us.

What I liked: This was a great workbook for readers. Lipp’s writing is smooth and easy going and it’s written almost like the reader is in the room with her. There are many exercises that make reading this book in a group setting very easy to do. She even includes answers to her own questions to use as good jumping off points. I also liked how each chapter builds and guides you into the art of tarot reading on one another. There are also some good appendices on her tarot meanings and other good info.

What I didn’t like: I had some issues with some of the example stories. Sometimes there seemed to be inconsistencies between the spread graphics and what was written. I also thought the book was too short. (Not REALLY an issue but I really liked her instructional style and wanted to have more from her.)

Bottom Line: If you want to develop long-lasting relationships with your decks and learn how interactions play in your tarot readings then Tarot Interactions is for you.