Review: Freeks

Freeks by Amanda Hocking Cover

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.

Review: Llewellyn’s Complete Guide to Tarot

Llewellyn’s Complete Guide to Tarot Cover

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.

NorthWest Tarot Symposium 2016 is almost here

2016 NWTS poster. Art by Erik C. Dunne.
2016 NWTS poster. Art by Erik C. Dunne.

Last year, I presented a tarot class in my hometown. The organizers asked me to be part of the staff for this year. I agreed and well, this weekend is the 2nd NorthWest Tarot Symposium. I’m excited, as Program Coordinator, I helped pick a great spread of presentations, workshops, and panels for my local tarot community.

On Friday afternoon at 3pm, I’ll be presenting Playing with Two Decks, a class that helps enthusiasts explore ways to use their tarot and oracle decks together. I’m excited to see what everyone thinks. It also dovetails in to a wonderful holistic method that my friend Jennifer Diallo will be teaching on Sunday.

The symposium goes from 3pm Friday, March 4th until Sunday, March 6th. Here’s to our symposium’s success and to our tarot community’s growth!

Divine Love Oracle Project: Create

Create, Divine Love Oracle card designed by me. (Used with permission).
Create, Divine Love Oracle card designed by me. (Used with permission).

I participated in my an group oracle project this last month. Amethyst Mahoney, of Heart and Soul, put out 40 card names and asked a group of women to pick a card. The name of the project is the Divine Love Oracle. The idea of designing a card for a unique oracle deck intrigued me. Scanning through the names of each card, one stood out among the others: Create.

Those who know me, know that my whole word is about creation. I write stories and non-fiction pieces. I craft works of art using pens and paper and sometimes my computer. I also weave the world I want using magic and tarot. Which is why the Create card was a no brainer for me.

Once all the cards were selected, Amethyst gave us a few more rules, the big limiting factor rule for me, was that the cards could not contain words. Wow. Okay, I like a challenge and I think my idea of the Create card does justice to the whole process of creation.

The card starts blank. Just as every creative project starts from nothing. I then had my husband take various shots of my hand, holding a brush. Once I had the right pose, I imported the image and cleaned it up in my photo editing program. My idea was to use the card to show the process of a creative project, in this case a painting, as it unfolds from nothing to something. The black frame sets the structure for the painting to come alive. It displays a border, a frame for what is to come. In the initial stage of creation, a single stroke (or keypress), becomes the first dip into creating something from nothing. I chose fire colors—red, yellow, orange— to splash onto the canvas where the artist’s creation takes place. Fire colors, to me and my magical practice, suggest the initial spark of creation. I left this painting “unfinished” so that those who view the card, could interpret with their imagination and creativity where the artist would go next.

Want to support this project? Go visit the Indie GoGo page, where you can purchase a deck and other wonderful perks!