✨ A Gathering Place for Magical Readers and Writers ✨

Practically Pagan – An Alternative Guide to Health & Well-being, by Irisanya Moon

Practically Pagan – An Alternative Guide to Health & Well-being, by Irisanya Moon
Moon Books, 1789043778, 160 pages, December 2020

It’s hard to look after ourselves sometimes. Practically Pagan – An Alternative Guide to Health & Well-being by Irisanya Moon is a wonderful read to connect body, mind, and spirit for the sake of wellness based on one’s own unique body type and natural energy signature. This book is a delightful refresher compared to the traditional book on health, which neglect the spiritual aspects of well-being and also tend to focus exclusively on an ideal image or diet trend.

After a brief introduction, Moon guides the reader to connect with their body just as it is in the present moment. She writes encouragingly, stating “I invite you to trust your deepest knowing. I encourage you to believe that you can care for your body, mind, and spirit even if you’re not 100% sure what the next steps are.”1

This sentiment immediately set me at ease; it made me curious about this health journey and more receptive to what it might look like for me, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach usually promoted. Above all, trust in myself is what I hope to cultivate and I looked forward to immersing myself in the experience.

I began with a few of the exercises Moon suggested: letting go of old stories, feeling all the feelings, and making a soundtrack. I especially enjoyed creating a soundtrack because I learned more about my body’s relationship to rhythm and sound. Finding my groove was a fun way to move my body and get connected to it. Other practices Moon writes about include mapping one’s body, automatic writing, creating an altar, focusing on being present, and more. She offers details on how to incorporate these practices easily into one’s daily life.

The next three sections focus on the body, mind, and spirit, respectively. I liked going one by one, and starting with the body felt appropriate since it’s the most tangible aspect of my health. Moon got me thinking about what my body truly wants in terms of nourishment, movement, and general energy flow.

”When you have a clearer idea of your energy movements, you can begin to schedule things to follow these patterns. If you’re more in tune with your natural patterns, you are less likely to feel out of sync with your life.”2

This line really resonated with me, and I was spurred into a practice of charting my energy through the day. The result has been useful insight into the ebbs and flows of my energy; I also corresponded it with the moon as well and plan to see if there’s a cyclic nature to how my body feels according to the phases of the moon.

Then, while it wasn’t as fun as the body, I found the exercises to settle my mind the most useful section in the book. For someone whose mind is always on overload, often ruminating or stuck in a pattern (I’m a fixed air sign!), I really benefited from Moon’s suggestions on how to release old thoughts and cultivate stillness through meditation.

Finally, the spirit felt like coming home after tending to the other aspects of my well-being. I loved Moon’s gentle reminders to connect with my daily practice, follow the calling of spirit, and discover our divine.

The rest of the book felt like a myth-buster to common health beliefs, inviting a magical perspective to come through and guide the way. Topics include finding balance (or embracing that life will always be shifting but we can find ways to recalibrate), exploring self-care and how to do it in a way that feels right for you without comparison to others, and developing resilience for when we get off course. Moon delves into the effects of trauma on one’s well-being and offers suggestions on healing through practices that cultivate resilience.

The final section is filled with tools to maintain one’s energy and strategies to set up support systems in order to maintain health and wellness. I appreciated Moon acknowledging the role of supportive friends and family in one’s life, as well as the value of self-support. I found myself thinking about how I can cultivate both in my life to maintain personal wellness.

My greatest take away from this book was Moon’s energetic practice of feeling right sized. Throughout my life, at nearly 6’0 feet tall, I’ve always felt like too much. Since childhood, I’ve always required large or extra large clothes, and I believe to compensate, I learned to shrink my aura as though I could energetically make myself seem more  petite.

Doing the Knowing Your Size practice3 made me feel more comfortable in both my body and energy field. As Moon writes, “Sometimes, you might feel bigger or smaller than your normal self. But in this practice, you can also get better at moving between states of being.”4 I’m continuing to work on this and have been going back to the practice often.

Overall, Practically Pagan – An Alternative Guide to Health and Well-being has been a wonderful tool for reconnecting with my wellness. Moon is very grounded in her approach to this topic and much of her guidance can easily be incorporated into one’s daily practice. I recommend this book for those who are seeking a read about integrating body, mind, and spirit to discover their natural energy rhythm and definition of health. There’s even helpful resources and worksheets at the end of the book, which offer space to write one’s reflections on this journey.

Of the Lilin, by Paulette Hampton

Of the Lilin, by Paulette Hampton 
Independently Published, 0615964567, 360 pages, 2021

Oh, the doldrums of coming of age, I’m sure it’s something we all remember *not* so fondly. At least we didn’t have to grapple with supernatural powers, as does protagonist Sage, in Paulette Hampton’s Of the Lilin. This is the first book in The Sage Chronicle series, and I am already eagerly awaiting the next one!

I finished this book within two days because I could hardly put it down. To be honest, the very start of the book caught me off-guard, and I was a bit hesitant to go onward because it is just so dang depressing. After losing her mother, Sage is left in the care of her step-father, who has a mental breakdown after the sudden death of his best friend, who Sage had a romantic involvement with, to further confound the sense of loss. Luckily, her aunt is able to take her in and guide her through the trauma and pain she’s experiencing.

Aunt Madeline is an inn owner, and there are plenty of interesting characters involved in the day-to-day running of the inn. There is Allen, the inn’s chef, as well as a Michelin Star chef named Cameron, who runs Aunt Madeline’s restaurant in town. Then there’s Sage’s cousin, Lily, who leads a high-flying life traveling the world with her fancy job. Additionally, there’s Sage’s best friend, Will, and chef Cameron’s son, Thomas, who also adds to the group dynamic.

Sage is doing her best to cope with the grief and depression that has overcome her; she’s even following Aunt Madeline’s suggestion to see a therapist, but weird things keep happening. She keeps snapping into what feels like a dream where she loses control of her actions and then can’t remember what occurred. She also witnesses scenes that don’t make sense to her, and notices people’s eyes turning black with no soul. When the prescription drugs aren’t enough to end the episodes, cousin Lily steps in to enlighten, or rather endarken, Sage as to what’s going on.

Hidden family secrets reveal that Sage processes powers beyond her own control, but Lily has reported what’s happening to her friend Lucien, who intends to help Sage fulfill her destiny. Lucien – handsome, suave, and elegant – seems to naturally hold sway over people. There’s a darkness underneath his cool exterior, and many who know him wish for him to be gone when he’s at the inn. However, he’s taken an interest in Sage, and he has a duty to ensure she’s set on the right path.

I don’t want to reveal too much of the story, but I will say I honestly loved it. I thought the plot moved at just the right pace, and I was kept engaged the entire time. The reader gets to participate in Sage’s coming-of-age experience, even though it’s easy to see something is going on from an outside perspective before she realizes what is truly happening. And this is probably because the reality of the supernatural power she possesses is not something that would have ever crossed her mind.

Hampton does a wonderful job of creating cohesion among the characters. There’s enough main characters to keep the plot interesting and filled with different perspectives, but there’s not too many that the story feels scattered. Watching how all the relationships unfold and the connections between each person emerge kept my attention as I was reading.

I enjoyed that there was a mythological component to the story as well. Sage’s best friend, Will, has promised to make her a custom ring, so she’s been browsing a book of symbols in the inn’s library. Thomas, son of the beloved and revered chef Cameron, is extremely into mythological studies and trying to get ahead on courses he plans on taking. When Sage notices a symbol on Lucien’s ring, Thomas graciously keeps searching through the book until he finds it. They realize the symbol is the Triangle of Solomon and it is used to command demons.

More and more signs appear that indicate something bigger is happening, but Sage herself is at a loss as to what it could be and often doubts her point of view. I could relate to her as a protagonist because I do believe it’s hard for those with heightened psychic sensitivity to know what’s happening to them, and unfortunately, in our society many intuitive people are diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or depression. Weaving in mental health to the story made it very modern and absorbing. I’m sure many young adults can relate.

This book really does a wonderful job grappling with the notion of light and darkness, and how they both reside within us. It may be harder than it seems to truly draw the line between human and demon, especially with guidance on how to quell the shadow nature and let one’s light shine. Hampton merges concepts of calming, centering energy that can snap one out of the darkness to make for a gripping narrative.

Plus, the ending was absolutely perfect and literally left me with my mouth hanging open like “NO WAY!” that did not just happen. Many of the pieces all start fitting together in rapid succession in the last quarter of the book, and the culmination of events in this book of the series certainly left me wondering what would happen next.

I highly recommend Of the Lilin to readers that enjoy supernatural fantasy, particularly with a dark element. As already mentioned, this book covers mental health topics, demonic entities, and there’s quite a bit of death as well, if only the lingering effects of grief. However, it is also firmly set in a mundane world with relatable characters, human motivations, and budding emotional ties that are sure to continue developing – the perfect mixture of humanity with divinity, good with evil, and indulgence with sacrifice. If anything, it will certainly make you think twice before making deals with demons, though they might be disguised as angels.

Witch Please, by Ann Aguirre

Witch Please: A Charming Small-Town Paranormal Romantic Comedy, by Ann Aguirre
Sourcebooks Casablanca, 1728240166, 368 pages, September 2021

A sexy, funny, romantic tale of witchcraft? Witch Please, I just can’t get enough. Ann Aguirre has immensely brightened up my life with this book, which I just found hilarious. I will admit, it’s more of a romantic comedy with a backdrop of witchcraft than a supernatural tale, but regardless, it’s just what I needed for a light, entertaining read.

The premise is that main character Danica Waterhouse, a technomancer, is living her life, filled with the ups and downs of adulthood. While she has a successful fix-it business with her cousin Clem, she’s also still coping with ill feelings towards her former partner, who after years of “not wanting anything too serious” broke it off with her and was engaged in just a few months.

When the handsome baker in town, Titus Winnaker, also known as CinnaMan to her concern for his delectable buns, ahem, both in the bakery and in real life, if you catch my drift, needs repairs to his oven, Danica’s life changes forever. On his end, there’s instant attraction and he’s basically sure she’s the one from the first time they meet.

Danica too feels the attraction and literal sparks are flying as her magic goes haywire, but there’s family concerns that keep her from opening up to this love. Her mother chose to marry a mundane person, and as a result lost all of her magical power. This is not what Danica wanted for her life, and the path of no longer having her magic was certainly not how she intended to go.

Raised by her grandmother, who persistently badgers Danica to explore Binder (Tinder for witches) in order to find a mate and keep their bloodline pure, she has always considered mundane men off limits. Plus, after her last heartbreak, she made a pact with cousin Clem to stay single for life. With the love of her coven and her magic, she thought that would be enough to sustain her.

After just a few dates and some steamy moments with Titus, it’s clear the attraction isn’t dissipating. Even her spellwork can’t ward off this building attraction. Then to make this worse, her magic malfunctions have drawn a witch hunter to town. Now there’s just one more element in the mix adding to why she needs to break it off with Titus.

It’s nearly impossible not to adore Titus. He’s pretty much the perfect guy: sexy, romantic, reflective, and emotionally attuned to all of Danica’s needs. There’s a reason many of the women in town pop in to Sugar Daddy’s that goes beyond his irresistible pastries. However, Titus also has family problems going on that keep him preoccupied.

After his mother’s death, his father quickly remarried and moved to another state, leaving behind his grown children to essentially start a new life. Titus and sister Maya feel hurt at their father’s lack of a grieving process and are having a hard time accepting his new life. It doesn’t help to find out their new stepmother is expecting, further creating a rift between them and their father.

Needless to say, there’s enough going on in the book to make for a very captivating read. I especially love the way Aguirre wrote the book so that it alternates between Danica and Titus in narration. The internal dialogue of the characters is hilarious and really gives insight into their perceptions, intentions, and self-awareness. All the characters are relatable, and I liked each one very much. The context of the book is all very up-to-date, such as them watching Netflix and using modern slang.

This is also a fun read because of all the steamy parts. Phew! It got quite sensual and erotic. There were chapters where I was seeking out my husband like “Hello!” to relieve some of the steam 😉 So, for those of you who like the passionate, sultry moments as well, this is definitely a great read for that. It certainly added some spice to my life and got the juices flowing.

The only downside worth mentioning is that there were a few parts it felt like it was dragging on. While I was engaged the entire time, the pace isn’t the quickest. Keep in mind, the setting is a small Midwestern town where there’s not too much action. Even the witch hunter coming to town seemed to fizzle out into a very anti-climatic solution that honestly confused me greatly.

It was fun reading about Danica’s coven, but it seemed more like a book club, which is their ruse to keep it secret, than a coven to be honest. The women are more engaged in town gossip and venting about life than doing magic. Granted, each person had their own magical powers, but it seemed like mostly the vivamancers just tended to plant more than group spells. It is for this reason I think it’s more a fun, entertaining read than one really focusing on the reality of being a witch.

Also, all of this book is based on the idea of witchcraft being passed down secretly through bloodline, while Paganism, New Age, etc. are not real things and can be used merely as cover-ups so others don’t ask too many questions. I don’t find this offense in any way, but to some who are very prideful of their craft, it may feel like a slight, though it’s only fiction!

Overall, I really enjoyed Witch Please. It was hilarious, heartfelt, and a really fun premise for a book. By the end, it wove together in a really unique way that brought it all together and left me fulfilled. It also made me really want to go bake something with all the descriptions of eating sweets — mmm!!! I recommend this book to those wanting an easy, lighthearted read filled with romance, magic, and mishaps that make for a wonderful story. I’m sure it will have you chuckling and rooting for love along the way.

Spells Trouble, by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast

Spells Trouble: Sisters of Salem, by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
Wednesday Books, 1250765633, 320 pages, May 2021

As a millennial who grew up watching Double Double Toil and Trouble, there will always be a place in my heart for twin witches. I mean, come on, there’s just something so downright spooky about the psychic connection they share. Well, I’m happy to say that P.C. Cast and daughter Kirstin Cast are back at again with their latest book Spells Trouble: Sisters of Salem, which if you haven’t figured out by now focuses on TWIN witches, Hunter and Mercy Goode. And it’s certainly double the fun!

I will confess, P.C. Cast is one of my favorite authors because she just gets what it means to be a witch and brings to life the most authentic characters in fantasy-filled books that always keep eagerly page-turning. My favorite is P.C.’s Goddess Summoning series, which I always recommend to all my magickal friends for entertaining reading, along with Eternal: More Love Stories with Bite, which she edited. I can’t recommend literally anything she’s written highly enough.

This isn’t the first time this mother-daughter duo has teamed up. Their most well-known series is probably House of Night, which was immensely popular and had many off-shoot series, and they have also authored The Dysasters. Luckily, Spells Trouble is only the first in this latest series, and the next book Omens Bite is expected out in 2022! It filled me with happiness knowing there’s already another book to look forward to next year. Oh yes, which brings me back to the review!

So, essentially Mercy and Hunter Goode come from a long line of witches who guard the five portals to the Underworld in their small, Midwestern town. There’s a special tree for each of the gates, representative of the Underworld it’s guarding (for instance Egyptian, Greek). It is their sacred duty to maintain the gates in order to keep the monsters contained in the Underworld.

However, on the eve of their 16th birthday, when they are dedicating themselves to their chosen god/goddess, all hell breaks loose, literally. Without warning, the twins are thrust into a life or death situation, suddenly finding themselves alone and with little guidance on how to fortify the gates and ensure an incident doesn’t happen again.

As if that’s not enough to deal with, murders start happening around town. Quickly, it becomes clear something has escaped from the Underworld, but determining what is just another mystery the sisters have to solve. Luckily, they have some wonderful friends, as well as a devoted feline familiar that are willing to assist them with their task.

This is the basic run down, but in fact, the book is so much more. It is an intimate portrayal of the sisters finding their own magical powers, learning what it means to be dedicated to their deities, experimenting with spells (some successful, others not so much), and drawing upon their inner strength to make it through a very tough time.

There’s also subplots happening throughout the book, such as Mercy dating a jerky jock, who is sweet to her but a misogynist pig to the others, and Hunter’s experience as a lesbian in a small town. Spoiler alert, their familiar also turns into a person, which is quite entertaining. Hunter and Mercy both also have best friends, Emily and Jax respectively, who add to the dynamic between the characters and provide comic relief and heart-warming love.

While it is a young adult novel, which deals with coming of age themes, I still enjoyed it very much as an adult. I think this is because P.C. and Kristin write with so much honesty and truth about witchcraft, weaving in spells and describing the ritual objects used. I’ve yet to find another author who so effectively blends the practicalities of modern witchcraft with captivating fantasy elements.

The book does have an added supernatural component, but I enjoy this because it’s like the psychic world given 3-D formation. Rather than banishing spirits, the twins are fighting monsters from the Underworld. There’s demonic possession, mythological creatures reeking havoc, and intense physical manifestations of energy, but it makes for a wonderful story.

Also featured is more common spell work, such as one done by Hunter to relieve the grief of her sister. Reading about the girls collecting the items they need, picking out herbs and crystals, and also going through grimoires to find spells were all things I could relate to as a magical practitioner.

I also very much related to the twin’s experience of getting acquired with their powers. Mercy has dedicated herself to be a Green Witch of goddess Freya, while Hunter is a Cosmic Witch dedicated to god Tyr (well, for the most part..). Seeing how each of their powers manifest itself is insight into determining what one’s own magical skill set might be.

Mercy can intuitively connect with nature, calling on trees as allies, but she’s terrible at tarot. While Hunter draws strength from the moon, crystals, and is wonderful at decoding the messages of her tarot deck. She’s also realizing she has quite the skill for blood magic, while Mercy copes with her first sexual experience dedicated to a love and fertility goddess. It’s confusing sometimes stepping into our powers, isn’t it?

All in all, I absolutely loved Spells Trouble, and I recommend it to all witches looking for an entertaining summer read. I think there’s so much potential for this series, and the Casts are authors who never let me down. I’m thrilled to see how this series develops, as I’m already invested in the character and enjoying the plot. It has the right mixture of feel-good emotions stemming from the love, trust, and bravery of the character with the tension from conflict between the twins about what the path forward looks like in regard to their choice of deities. Eek! But I don’t want to give too much away, so I’ll wrap up here by saying this is one to add to the reading list this summer!

Beyond the Mirror, by M.K. Williams and Natalie Kavanagh

Beyond the Mirror: Seechers, by M.K. Williams and Natalie Kavanagh
Luxon-Drake Publications, 1999962877, 194 pages, March 2020

Beyond the Mirror: Seechers by M.K. Williams and Natalie Kavanagh is a promising first book of a series I look forward to seeing develop, as in, I’m already waiting for the next book to come out. I read this entire book within 24 hours. Much to my husband’s dismay, who was hoping to get out of the house this weekend, I couldn’t put this book down and had no interest in doing anything else but reading on. Hey, it happens when you find a good book to dive into, right? 🙂

I was hooked right from the start, which featured a vivid dream sequence playing out. Here, a young girl shoots a young man standing at the edge of a building’s roof with a mysterious vial of glowing blue liquid in his hand. This pinnacle moment seems to be the culminating peak of the book… but it became so much more!

Thinking it was being told in a frame story technique, where the end is given at the start and you then get to know how the characters got there, I was eagerly awaiting to see what went down. As I was introduced to the characters, I was questioning their intentions and curious about when betrayal might strike when I realized the shooter is initially the young man’s romantic interest. Clearly, I became invested in seeing what got them to the point at the start of the book as I read about how their relationship unfolds.

Slowly and with pure craft, the authors revealed the layers at play in the initial scene to create a deeply enthralling plot centered upon friendship, self-discovery, and, awesomely, combating the “bad guys” of course with newly-found powers of the mind.

The premise of the book is an ancient society, called Seechers, knows the secret hidden gateway to the subconscious. This group initiates new recruits every seven years, and in the meanwhile, live seemingly ordinary lives, while also protecting the balance of energy in the world. You know, no big deal! From the initiated Seechers we meet, it seems they all have their own technique of influencing energy, such as healing wounds or connecting with animals.

It is determined if one has the potential to be a Seecher, which is ultimately their own personal choice when invited, by measuring how much epsilon they have within their brain, specifically in the pineal gland. Those with enough epsilon, a bright blue liquid present in their brain, can undergo activation and join the group. Indicators one may possess this mysterious substance within their brain are heightened imagine, prophetic dreams, and psychic senses of “knowing” things.

However, something suspicious is happening to the potential recruits this year. Many are suddenly disappearing, while others are having dreams of violent kidnappings. The Seechers don’t know who is doing this, but they know their potential recruits are at risk. This causes them to take immediate measures. They decided to gather and test the potential recruits a year before schedule.

The readers know, though, about the scientific work being done at Curative Analytics. Here, there are scientists that are set on harvesting epsilon, believing it shouldn’t only be used by the Seechers and curious about its powers. However, when they do extract it from the minds of potential Seechers, it is tainted and becomes a less powerful version of the substance. This less powerful, “dead” version of epsilon is called epsilac, and the scientists are ruthless in their pursuit of obtaining it.

Aris and Maya, two of the main characters, end up deeply submersed in of all this scheming. Turns out, these two are the young man and woman from the initial scene. On a quest to discover more about the Seechers, Maya draws Aris into the pursuit — only for them to realize Aris is a Seecher himself and more than involved in safeguarding the future of the secret society than they could have ever imagined. In true fashion of curious and bold students, they work to understand the connection between all the strange events happening, landing them smack dab in the middle of all the actions where their crucial decisions have rippling effects for everyone.

I feel the plot has the perfect flow and was very well-developed. There’s so many little hints that point towards more books in this series! I am really curious about the lore behind the Seecheers and their ancient enemies, the Tauredunum Raiders. It was their ancient technology Curative Analytics is using to find the potential Seechers.

All the characters are relatable and well defined, especially Aris. Though the main characters are undergraduates in college, there are other mentors, such as the archetypal professor, so this book appeals to an audience beyond young adults. I found the story very believable and the characters well-defined.

What I liked most was this book combines many spiritual and philosophical ideas, making it a truly intriguing read for anyone with knowledge on these matters. I was suddenly inspired to read Plato’s Republic, reflecting on the allegory of the cave. The concept of the Nihilo, the subconscious world beyond ours, reminded me of the Buddhist void: the place beyond the mind, where all is subconsciously interconnected.

When I finished the book, I was reminded of Kant’s theory of an unbridgeable gap, which acknowledges there is a world that lay beyond the grasp of our senses, in the book’s concept of an unseen middle world where energy can be moved, shaped, and rearranged — though not created, abiding by Newtonian laws of physics. That is, unless one of the new Seechers may have abilities that go beyond this…

Oh, how I love a great fiction read that expands my perception and explores consciousness beyond the usual senses. I think there’s so much talent in being able to bring these concepts to life through storytelling.

While the book does have the typical plot of a secret society, new initiates coming in, a great battle between enemies, and “evil scientists” performing unethical research to further their own motives, I still feel like this book was done in an original and creative way. Williams and Kavanagh are exquisite writers who really know how to weave together an engaging plot.

I highly recommend Beyond The Mirror to those who are seeking a novel that incorporates spirituality and philosophy to create a new tale. I am looking forward to the next book! So much more I want to know about how the story will unfold!

Tok: Magick Tale, by Pablo Reig Mendoza

Tok: Magick Tale, by  Pablo Reig Mendoza
Babelcube Inc., 1071582852, 290 pages, April 2021

Tok: A Magick Tale by Pablo Reig Mendoza is the most wonderful occult fiction book I’ve read in quite some time. This insightful, illuminating tale of magic is so realistic that at times I found myself thinking, “What if this really happened..” In the midst of a time when conspiracy theories run wild about the elite, it seems this book could easily tell the secret magical history of the world. In many ways, I’d like to believe it does, which is evidence of Mendoza’s fiction’s ability to transform the reader. His quality of writing drew me in enough to forget reality, while simultaneously thinking about how to propel myself into a new one.

The premise of the book is about the events that bring together a great London magician, Gerard Duprey, and a former boxer turned mineral magician, Juan Chamorro, who is being initiated into a secret society intent on preserving magic in the world. During the book, the two men’s stories are told simultaneously, with chapters going back and forth from the backstory of past events to the current moment of these two character’s worlds colliding, in a well-coordinated and foreseen timeline.

It is the Bond that decides their fates, which all initiates of the order live to fulfill. Those who are successfully initiated into the Bond can communicate with others telepathically (including other species), gain unique occult powers, and are awakened to the fullness of life through their kundalini energy.

“In every age, there have been two types of people: the disconnected and the connected ones. It is more correct to speak of the conscious and the sleeping, for everything that has neutral or electromagnetic activity of some kind is in line with the Bond, whether deep in the subconscious or on the surface, where the awakened man has managed to give birth to his inner “I”, bringing it from the dreams realm.”1

However, there’s even more to the story. A whole species of occult dragons, who arose from the collective consciousness of man and are keepers of the Bond, have their livelihood at stake because gold is disappearing in the world. Up to the current point in the novel, the dragons had The conflict of Vietnam, supposedly about oil and foreign interest, is actually happening because a Japanese general is stockpiling gold in a hidden spot in the jungles of Vietnam.

It is not only those dedicated to the Bond that are searching for the gold; their enemies, the magicians of the Vatican, who have tried to steal all the magic in the world through the false god, or golem, that is man-made. It is up to Juan with his newly acquired power as a mineral magician to beat the Vatican to it, for the sake of the English Crown.

Oh, had I forgotten to mention Queen Victoria and then Queen Elizabeth is one of the highest initiates of the Bond? It is an elaborate plan by Queen Victoria and her lover the Munshi that all that guides the events of the story in order to liberate magic from Vatican control and restore it to the it’s proper place. Queen Elizabeth guides initiate Mohandas Karamchand (Gandhi) to go off and fulfill his mission in India, while Gerard Duprey will remain in London as the city’s magician. Both are to serve in their own way as peacekeepers for the Crown and play their role in the plan to restore magic.

See, I did say the story could start sounding like an elaborate conspiracy theory: secret foriegn affair and war interests coupled Vatican power plays and secret society-initiated royalty. However, there’s so much more to the story that integrates tons of occult history and knowledge!

For instance, Mendonza’s tale also weaves in the role of Aliester Crowley, John Dee, and Mabel Besant — all initiates of the Bond in his book. It was truly fascinating to see how he depicted Crowley’s role, especially, who was under the guidance of Zor the dark dragon. Suddenly the serpent of the beast makes all that much more sense. Until him, it was Tok, the dragon of justice, who was the leader. The more primordial Zor holds of the knowledge of what happened before the dragons and humanity can remember, such as the race of humans that formed Atlantis.

I also loved his take on Mabel Besant and her mother Anne Besant, along with their role in the Theosophical Society. I recently read the book Mystical Vampire that is all about Mabel Collins, who perhaps Mabel Besant was named after, as her mother had close ties with Mabel Collins when they were both Theosophists. Being emerged in mystical year 1888 through Mendoza’s writing, when the occult seemed so much more alive, was a real pleasure.

Another really neat aspect of the book is all the quotations that Mendona uses to frame each chapter. The book starts out with a passage from Book XVI of the Corpus Hermeticism, which comes full circle by the end. From the get go, I was drawn in, as my current practice is a process of moving through the alchemical stages based on the work as it is described in the Corpus Hermeticism. Other quotes include those from Arthur C. Clarke, Ursula K Le Guin, and Helena Petrovna Blavatsky.

Tok is so interesting because it could be read on the level of an ordinary supernatural tale, but for those with knowledge of the occult, it’s a true gem. The level of esoteric knowledge Mendoza has clearly demonstrates his mastery of esoteric studies. To even piece together the concepts he has in Tok, such as “dreaming peace,” in which Duprey has had to dream of violence in order to maintain peace, until the end where he must do the opposite and unleash all the animosity he’s quelled through the decades.

Then there’s Besant’s automatic writing, which foresees events down to minute details. His explanation of the bond and how energy works in the world shows he has done much work to achieve certain states of consciousness. It’s truly the way Mendoza bridges his imagination with occult history to create such an intriguing tale that is the real magic of this book. I mean, bringing to life Gandhi and Crowley’s spiritual journey, woven together through the steam of higher-knowing that infuses the world is pretty incredible.

Also explored is this notion of spiritual partnership, which I greatly resonated with and have experienced myself. Duprey and Besant are essentially spiritually married, united fully through the Bond, however they do not ever get to physically consummate this relationship or be together after their initiation. I really loved how Mendoza showed there’s a spiritual purpose behind many things that happen in our lives, and what happens when we choose to surrender to the will of spirit rather than forcing one’s own desire on the world.

Even how Mendoza reframed the intent and purpose of the Vietnam War was interesting. Particularly to me because once in a past-life meditation, I received the information that many men had to die at that exact moment in time in order to be reborn again in the current time with the knowledge they gained from that life experience. It’s been one of those things that came to me in meditation that I don’t think of often; I accepted it for what it was at the time. But then reading Tok, I was instantly reminded there are higher purposes to things that we often do not understand.

“… in reality, darkness worked as a just and necessary balanced in such a polarised world. He knew that he intentions that governed the events of men contained the seeds of their opposite, the good, the intrinsic evil, and vice versa.”2

The culmination of the book was incredible. It promotes this sense of integration, evolution, and moving beyond dualities. There’s a new future at hand, for those who have the courage to leave the past behind. This path has been forged by many great minds, powerful movers of energy, and spiritual forces dedicated to something beyond themselves.

I think all magicians would enjoy this book, especially those with background knowledge of the occult and particularly the period of the late 19th century. My only quip would be the lack of women magicians, aside from Queen Elizabeth and Mabel Besant, the narrative was mostly male-centered, but atlas, that seems to be a dominant theme in the Western occult. Nevertheless, I still truly loved the book.

I certainly will be recommending it to the fellow occultists in my life. From Atlantis to Zoroaster, necromancy to the keys of Solomon, this book delved into so much wisdom and perfectly blends it all together. I highly suggest reading Tok to see Mendoza’s fascinating literary craftsmanship.

The Diamond Rose, by Daniela Valenti

The Diamond Rose: A Sentinel 10 Novel, by Daniela Valenti
Daniela Valenti, 1777427304, 258 pages, 2020

I love a good paranormal-romance, mostly because as an intuitive person that’s how all my life usually feels, if only in my own mind. I can always relate to the trials of learning how to use one’s powers wisely while encountering spirits, energies, and deities with their own agenda. I appreciate when a fiction book strengthens my confidence in my own intuition from inspiring me with how a strong character handles what comes their way; sometimes it’s just more relatable than reading a nonfiction book on a topic because I can develop a connection to the characters and use them as inspiration. Therefore, I was thrilled to discover The Diamond Rose by Daniela Valenti, which is the first book in an on-going series, that kept me hooked from the start with a relatable, intriguing plot. I could not get enough of this book and am already eagerly awaiting the next one coming out in 2021!

The premise of The Diamond Rose is the protagonist, a medical student named Amanda, suddenly develops psychic abilities during a solar flare. Luckily, her best friend since childhood, Lydia, also has her psychic powers activated so she’s not alone in this venture. Together, the women are encouraged to join the most powerful secret society in order to learn how to control their powers and receive protection from a mafia-like Committee. The fact that the Committee is the most powerful, filled with secrets, and may or may not have its Sentinel’s best interest at heart only adds interest to how this will play out in the long-run within the series. Meanwhile, Amanda struggles with feelings for her stoic, handsome, and ripped partner James, while also fending herself from the attraction of Alain, a rogue assassin stalking her. The mixture of intrigue and romance set the stages for Amanda as she navigates this new way of life in a way many modern women can relate to – drinking her tea, lots of baths, and frequent shopping.

What I liked most about The Diamond Rose was the cast of characters that Valenti brings to life. From the start, she develops layered-interactions between the characters, generating enough conflict to be engaging but also a sense of teamwork. It made me wish I had my own team of psychics to tackle energy-suck plasma and mind-controlling bad guys with! The variety of characters, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, make for a force to be reckoned with. You can see they are a team, but there’s still alliances that are forming, which keep it interesting as you keep guessing at what may transpire between them.

I especially appreciate the focus in the plot on Amanda’s relationship with her best friend Lydia because it demonstrates a healthy and mature friendship between women. Too often, women are pitted against each other as competitors, portraying them as envious or not to be trusted. I found it refreshing to see the dynamic between these two, who openly share their opinions on the other’s love life (is the guy ever really good enough for your bestie?), work through their disagreements, and continue to be honest and loving with each despite differences of opinion.

Beyond the variety of characters, there’s also competing secret societies, each with their own agenda that add even more complexity to the story. The book perfectly satiates readers’ curiosity about these rumored secret societies, so often alluded to in modern times, while laying a web that ties another main character, Basil, and his family to these different organizations.This is just one example of the foundation laid by Valenti that keeps the readers questioning what lay ahead for the characters further into the series.

Another unique feature of the book is Valenti’s profession as a psychiatrist, which allows her to expertly weave in psychological and medical concepts. Being that many of the characters have a scientific background, she creates the perfect counter of reason and logic to all the paranormal happenings, which adds humor and keeps the story grounded in a reality that seems plausible to the reader. Valenti’s use of contrasting perspectives enables the reader to see the characters’ perspective from a scientific view-point and also supernatural one, especially in disagreements between Lydia and Amanda, and leaves the reader’s reflection on whose point is right.

My favorite part of the book was when the Sentinels get their initial training. I have been very into studying defense and protection magic recently, and Amanda gave me a lot of inspiration for accepting my abilities and learning how to protect myself with them. I used the technique for turning off psychic receiving that Amanda got in training in real life with much success. It was fun to engage with the experience of the characters in this way and to imagine what it’d be like to be a Sentinel myself.

One-downside of the book for readers may be their frustration with Amanda’s romantic choices. Just like a good friend, you’ll be screaming “Why are you putting yourself through this heartache?” when she full-fledge throws herself into a rather toxic relationship. Since it seems Amanda’s childhood wounds are only healed by utterly consuming love, she tosses all reason to the side and dives in headfirst to an “unconditional” love affair with a domineering suitor. It’s a classic mash-up of toxicity and bonding over abuse that fuels the love, in my opinion, and this may have some more level-headed women smacking their palm to their face saying, “Girl, get a grip.” However, by the end, the twist of events certainly seems to be a set-up for the evolving plot in the upcoming books. As much as I wanted to hate on Amanda for her choices, I also have experienced my fair share of flings with the bad boy. Being that she’s young, I hope to see her mature as the series goes on.

The only other thing worth mentioning about The Diamond Rose is that it’s lacking any BIPOC in it, which is a bit disheartening. I think a little more diversity would make it more appealing to a wider range of audience. Amanda is a very much “basic white girl,” though still with enough depth to make her an interesting lead.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Diamond Rose and read it under 24 hours (I even stayed up late one night because I wanted to know what would come next). I think Valenti is off to a great start with the series – I’m already invested in the characters – and I look forward to seeing what’s next for the Sentinels. This book perfectly blends the suspense that comes from a good thriller with the romance at the heart of chick lit. I highly recommend it for anyone whose is seeking a paranormal-romance, especially for those who are looking for a fictional role model to inspire them as they hone their psychic abilities.

House of Sleep, by Brad Kelly

House of Sleep, by Brad Kelly
Independently Published, 8593128638, 312 pages, January 2021

What is that place where reality ends and dreams begin? Can our dreams impact our reality, and in turn can reality be shaped by our dreams? These philosophical questions are brilliantly explored in the recently published book House of Sleep by Brad Kelly. This genre-melding fictional story invites the reader to question the nature of our dreams, where we derive personal satisfaction from in our life, and the ultimate quest for the existence of an omnipresent divine being.

Lynn is distraught after the death of her fiancé. She had recently become pregnant and within a short span of time, she lost both the baby and her beloved Michael. Maintaining her career as a psychiatrist becomes a challenge as she slips deeper into despair. Spiraling out of control and desperate to connect with Michael again, Lynn decides to take the opportunity to attend a retreat, which happens to be nearby and completely free. With the encouragement and safety net of her trusted best friend Nikki keeping tabs on her, Lynn desires to embrace this experience and see what may come of it.

Simultaneously, readers are introduced to the other protagonist Daniel, who is disease-ridden and at the mercy of a religiously fervent father that believes him to be demonically possessed. After a lifetime of being subjected to his father’s violent zealotry, Daniel has finally gathered the inner strength to leave home and seek out his older brother who had left the abusive home years prior. Growing up, Daniel’s older brother had been his refuge, as he did his best to shield Daniel from the blows of their father and share with him all he had learned about the world. The parting words he left Daniel with were to get to a doctor and then find him.

The lives of Lynn and Daniel, along with many other colorful characters, become intertwined at the House of Sleep. Led by a mysterious man called The Diving Man, the House of Sleep is creating a bridge in the dream realm to usher in a new reality. As he spouts philosophical wisdom and transcendent spiritual insights, the main characters are led to question who this person is and whether he is to be trusted. Some followers give him full credence, while another is keeping tabs on this man for detective research. The ambiguity of it all leaves room for the reader to continually question if the Diving Man is a brilliant cult leader or incarnate god. All the people called there have a role to play, but what is the price of the great work these dreamers are doing?

Kelly does a wonderful job of keeping the readers guessing. The book is divided into three parts each section and ends with a metaphorical ellipsis. Just when the reader thinks they have it figured out, there’s a new twist to the story. There is a blending of past, present, and future that creates a labyrinth of time. The characters must work together to discover the truth about the secret dream work they are doing and its impact on the lives of everyone involved.

The best part of the book is the monologue of the Diving Man, presumably speaking to himself in his own mind. Packed with revelation and wisdom, these words open portals to new dimensions of the mind. Having the courage to flip reality on its head invites splendid perceptions, and the Diving Man has the background to truly push at the seams of reality to bring forth the truth of spiritual and human existence. Reading his words, you begin to wonder about who or what God is and how is this state of being truly achieved?

“Don’t you see that God has truly died? There are no lies and so every word a metaphor, and those you make in a moment live live as wires in your head, so. . . we (yes, yes, yes) we killed him and he was pleased to go. It had been long enough trying to hammer the point home.  But there is a way to take his place. And how many broken-souled caveats to the start-it-all-over paradigm would you actually trade to place someone back in that cobwebbing throne.” 1

While on the surface this book may seem like a narcissist’s dream of massing followers to do his bidding based on their desire to assuage their personal suffering, the Diving Man’s wisdom remains compelling. His unique life circumstances have primed him for the role even he must play in the symphony of the Universe. The book brings to light just how far grief can push people to go in the quest to regain the love lost and find meaning once again in their life.

I will say the book can feel a bit dark at times. I chalk this up to the lens through which Kelly writes: the stark realism contrasting the symbolic dreams of the people in the House of Sleep. It becomes a real battle between Saturnian and Neptunian forces. As Lynn tries to escape the pain of her reality and reconnect with her love in dreams, Daniel is emerging from the delusion he’s been trapped in his entire life to discover the true nature of reality. The link between them is the real key to awakening, and the role of the Diving Man becomes increasingly warped.

I recommend House of Sleep for readers that enjoy the work of Chuck Palahniuk and Philip K. Dick. The blending of psychedelics and psychology to probe the interior of human minds in both waking and dreaming life invites revelatory insight. You may hear the prompting of the Diving Man whispering his life’s knowledge into your ear, but it’s up to you to decide the action must be taken based on your subjective reality in the dreams. If you would like to sample Kelly’s work and get a feel for his writing style, you can read his short stories here: https://www.bradkellyesque.com/short.

The Lantern Oracle, by Angelina Mirabito

The Lantern Oracle, by Angelina Mirabito, PhD and illustrated by Yuly Alego
Blue Angel Publishing, 1925538908, 44 cards, 144 pages, July 2020

In the rush of life, it can be common to overlook the importance of a strong spiritual foundation. The Lantern Oracle by Angelina Mirabito, PhD is a reminder of the sacredness in the everyday life of all women. In this touching deck, the beauty of connection among women across the span of time is woven together to create a spring of generational insight. This deck is a gateway to exploring woman’s wisdom through the archetypal forms of feminine consciousness: Maiden, Mother, Guardian, and Crone.

“Together, the young ladies and women of The Lantern Oracle nurture clarity, self-empowerment, and healing. They provide access to the eternal feminine energy, living love, and wisdom as medicine to work with, personalise, and integrate.”1

Mirabito introduces the concept of the deck in the guidebook, which explains how the 44-card deck has 11 cards in each of the four sections of feminine archetypal energy mentioned above. There is a description provided for all of these archetypes that demonstrates how one builds upon the former. For instance Mirabito writes, “Choices that are often naively and idealistically made during the Maiden stage can culminate in the birthing of a new reality or an illusion during the Mother stage.”2

Something I think is unique, which I really appreciate, is her addition of Guardian as an archetypal energy, which seems to add another layer of depth to the traditional triple goddess expression of energy (Maiden, Mother, Crone). I’ve always felt there was a phase in-between Mother and Crone, which Mirabito aptly expresses in the deck and guidebook explanations of the cards in this section.

The Guardian phase is the time of midlife, where one discovers their sense of self in an empowered way. These messages are about learning to stand in one’s own authority, having been renewed through the mistakes of young adulthood and now having learned to carry oneself with composure. Maturity, regeneration, and a sense of responsibility highlight this passageway.

The illustrations on The Lantern Oracle cards, done by Yuly Ageo, really create an encompassing sense of connection between all women, which once again adds to the feeling of this being a deck of universal wisdom. Though there is a mixture of fantasy, with some images having elf-like ears, most of the cards feature ordinary women of all ages. The commonality between these women is evident, who all on their journey towards wholeness and personal fulfillment must face the ups and downs of the wheel of life.

Within Ageo’s images on the cards, I can see the challenges, fears, hopes, and dreams of these women, which emotionally brings them to life for me. Even if the women on the cards don’t look like me physically (there are many cultures portrayed), as I shuffle through the deck I am able to identify the faces of my grandmothers, aunts, mother, and friends because there is a sense of solidarity on the path of feminine wisdom. These cards become a visual reminder of the shared experiences we go through as a collective on the path to learning how to nurture, empower, and tend to ourselves with care, no matter where we originate from or live.

My favorite part of the deck is Marabito’s choice of cards and the wisdom within each one. The different cards have a sense of authenticity, that give meaningful spiritual insight without glossing over reality, putting a positive spin, or becoming too ominous. It feels as though the wisest part of oneself is speaking through the cards, a higher self if you will. Due to the cross-generational messages of the cards, healing is accessible through connection to parts of yourself in former life stages, as well as future ones.

For instance, Trusting Tricksters, is card number six in the Maiden section. I certainly know that as a Maiden I trust quite a few tricksters, who lead me astray and caused confusion in my life. Drawing this card in the present reminds me of that time in life, makes me recall the lessons I learned, and then allows me to consciously put that wisdom into action.

I especially find the cards for Motherhood empowering too right now, as these are the words I wish I had someone telling me as I make my way through early adulthood. Cards such as Melting Mask (16), Radical Honesty (18), and Enough (20) all remind me of the necessity of feeling like I am worthy, moving away from roles that suffocate my spirit, and aligning with who I truly feel myself to be. While these are the lessons we should be teaching all women, it is this wisdom that is often more difficult to hear in a world that drowns out the voice of our soul all too often.

Working with these cards on a daily basis has improved my confidence, made me feel more attuned to my soul, and also reminded me of the inevitable turning of the great wheel of life. I am more relaxed accepting where I am currently, facing what comes my way with a sense of calmness and ease, acknowledging there is always going to be room for growth, new experiences, and transformation. With this deck, I have a trusted resource to guide me in love, compassion, and strength through life’s ups and downs.

I recommend The Lantern Oracle for those looking to bring feminine wisdom into their life on a daily basis for guidance, encouragement, and attunement. Mirabito’s words are so genuine, and just what I need to hear on a daily basis to remember my innate wisdom and soul’s path. Alejo’s artwork is absolutely beautiful, reminding me of my connection to all women, despite our external differences. The inclusive nature of feminine energy shines through this deck and holds space for integrating the lessons of the four phases of consciousness we all pass through on our spiritual journey. This deck is a true spiritual treasure whose timeless quality makes it perfect for working with long term.

Forbidden Fruits, by Joscelyn Godwin and Guido Mina di Sospiro

Forbidden Fruits: An Occult Novel, by Joscelyn Godwin and Guido Mina di Sospiro
Inner Traditions, 9781644111574, 288 pages, December 2020

What happens when Mexican Gothic crosses with The Da Vinci Code? You get the spellbinding novel, Forbidden Fruits: An Occult Novel by Josecelyn Godwin and Guido Mina di Sospiro. This  thrilling mystery kept me guessing “who dun it” until the near end. I mean, a book that weaves together the magic of alchemy and entheogens, turning history on its head, in order to prevent the spread of evil in present times. Needless to say, I was hooked from the get-go and read the whole thing in 24-hours because I couldn’t put it down.

Godwin and di Sospiro have previously co-authored another book, titled The Forbidden Book. Keeping with the theme of forbidden, the authors continue to use their background to unveil information through fiction once again. Godwin has written extensively about spiritual connection fostered through music in his books which include Harmonies of Heaven and Earth, Cosmic Music, and Music, Mysticism & Magic . Di Sospiro also has a background in music as a classically trained guitarist, but is most well known for the short film he wrote and directed If I Could Do it all Over Again, I’d Do it All Over You. He’s also published the books Leeward and Windward, which also has an alchemical theme, and The Metaphysics of Ping-Pong, which focuses on philosophical topics.

I’ll admit I was a bit leery at the start of Forbidden Fruits that it would be too much of a thriller for my taste, as there are violent scenes interspersed throughout. However, the action scenes are tempered by plenty of nuanced character interaction and dialogue that keep the story intriguing from start to finish. While the plot is centered upon a murder mystery, which can easily become run of the mill, there were many distinguishing features that set this book apart from others.

To begin, the main character, Monica, is an archeologist who is funded by a very eccentric man named Sebastian. After years of searching, they have just happened upon an ancient find that has the potential to change the perception of history. However, this plot thread is only one of many. There’s also the oracle predictions warning an ancient secret society of evil on the island, neo-nazis who are wreaking havoc and murdering innocent people, and a huge immigration problem of Africans flocking to the coasts of Malta. With Sebastian being a noble and respected figure in Malta, he finds himself smack dab in the middle of the turmoil.

I won’t give away the climax of the book, but a turn of events forces Monica to team up with Sebsatian’s elusive son, Raphael to solve the case, all while assassins are out for them as well. There are endless twists and turns in the book that don’t come together until the very last pages of the book. I really enjoyed the variety of possible ways the story could go and watching the storm brew, wondering how things would play out.

There were many modern social justice issues raised, from the growth of hate groups to widespread immigration. While I am not very familiar with the current socio-political climate of Europe, specifically in Italy and Malta where the story takes place, I can see the current global trends happening in the United States as well with the rise of hate groups and human rights issues at the borders. The integration of present world problems heightened my ability to connect to the story, as I could easily understand and relate to the challenges the characters faced.

The best part about this book is how it incorporates alchemy, archeology, and entheogens into the plot. While there are countless stories of wizards, magicians, and occult societies dabbling in labs trying to find the Elixir of Life or the Philosopher’s Stone, I had never seen alchemy from the lens portrayed in Forbidden Fruits. Godwin and di Sospiro have done a wonderful job of illuminating the alchemy through Raphael and his journey to uncover the mysteries hidden within; readers get to experience firsthand the character’s perspective of ritually consuming the sacred soma.

Alchemical drawings and apocalyptic texts sprung to life when viewed from the perspective of entheogen consumption. Godwin and di Sospiro create a whole new paradigm through which to understand Jesus Christ’s message and the words of the Bible by linking it to the ritual consumption of entheogens. While Carl Jung’s Red Book never seemed much more than imaginal pictures to me, I suddenly understood through the writing of the authors how these images can in fact truly mirror archetypal energies.

In our technologically and secular world, the idea of demons and maleficent forces seem arcane. However, reading Forbidden Fruits spurred on my investigation into demonology, helping me to see the value in knowing these energies that could potentially still be within the world. By blending the supernatural with occult knowledge, I feel as though Godwin and di Sospiro elucidated the value of alchemy, beyond the personal plight of truth, knowledge, and life essence often perpetuated in the mythos.

What I enjoyed the most was the humility of the alchemists. With trust in their order and dedication to the natural law, one’s station in life was not as important as the legacy of the alchemical wisdom they protect. With the rise in conspiracy theories, secret societies seem to be all the rage in popular culture, and often to the detriment of these sacred orders. I appreciated there was no self-effacement on the order’s part to assert their will, but rather they used their tools to assist the protagonist Raphael in his own mission quite discreetly. Forbidden Fruits accurately captures the true nature of the groups that protect esoteric knowledge with dignity, respect, and loyalty — a concept that could use some reviving in modern times.

I highly recommend Forbidden Fruits to anyone looking for a good mystery novel, especially if you have an interest in the occult. Godwin and di Sospora have created an illuminating novel that makes the reader question the true nature of Christianity, while also demonstrating and offering insight into how the use of entheogens may be one of the oldest sacred rituals. The characters ultimately must decide for themselves how far they are willing to go to find the truth, and following along in their journey is absolutely fascinating.