Posted in Biography, Book Review, Memoir, Non-Fiction, Travel

The Oshun Diaries – Diane Esguerra 4* #Review @DianeLEsguerra @EyeandLightning #NonFiction #Biography #SocialBiography #Culture #religion #Africa #BookReview #GuestPost @rararesources #memoir

#TheOshunDiaries

High priestesses are few and far between, white ones in Africa even more so. When Diane Esguerra hears of a mysterious Austrian woman worshipping the Ifa river goddess Oshun in Nigeria, her curiosity is aroused.

It is the start of an extraordinary friendship that sustains Diane through the death of her son and leads to a quest to take part in Oshun rituals. Prevented by Boko Haram from returning to Nigeria, she finds herself at Ifa shrines in Florida amid vultures, snakes, goats’ heads, machetes, a hurricane and a cigar-smoking god. Her quest steps up a gear when Beyoncé channels Oshun at the Grammys and the goddess goes global.

Mystifying, harrowing and funny, The Oshun Diaries explores the lure of Africa, the life of a remarkable woman and the appeal of the goddess as a symbol of female empowerment.

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Readers can order the book from the Lightning Books website at 30% off (with free UK p&p) if you enter this code at checkout – BLOGTOUROSHUN

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#TheOshunDiaries – #BookReview

I received a copy of this book from Eye Books in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

The cover of this book draws you in, it is vibrant and interesting and makes you want to see what’s inside.

The book is in two parts, the first associated with the meeting with the Austrian Oshun priestess in Africa, and the second with other worshipers in Florida. The professional writing style is easy reading, even if some of the content, especially in the second part is complex. The prose reads like a fictional story, full of vivid imagery, authentic characters and amazing content and events. Its historical details provide a believable setting for the diaries and it resonates.

The African experience is insightful and political, it gives meaning to some of the headlines of the time that I recall. The meeting with the charismatic, dedicated priestess, is enthralling, and it is a page-turning read.

The second part of the book is equally as honest and detailed, this is where the author truly understands what she is exploring. It is an interesting read, with the first part with its astute political comment, is the best part of the book.

A recommended read, if you enjoy adventure, culture and spiritual experiences.

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Guest Post – Diane Esguerra – Goddess for the #MeToo Era

Looking for a ballsy, bewitching goddess with green credentials to follow? Then look no further: Oshun, the ancient river goddess of the Yoruba people of West Africa, is the one for you.

        Sure, there are plenty of cool female deities around to choose from – if goddess worship is what you’re into. Amaterasu No Kami, the Japanese Goddess of the Sun and theAborigine Holy Goddess Mumuna -Who-Made-Us-All, have sizeable followings. Even old favourites like the European Great Mother and Diana and Isis the ancient deities of Rome and Egypt still appeal to a surprising number. So, what is it about Oshun that makes her so special?

Well, for a start she’s not only a goddess of love but also of female empowerment. And she’s prepared to defend to the death women’s right to be respected by men and treated as their equals. If she sees them being given a hard time her anger can be volcanic. Yet with her love of gold, honey, bathing and carrying a mirror around to admire her beauty, Oshun is quintessentially feminine and proud of her abundant sensuality.

She’s a hard worker, too, who played a key role in the Yoruba creation myth. According to the legend, primordial male gods pushed aside the female ones – including Oshun – and decided they would go about creating the earth themselves. They failed miserably. Oshun set herself up as the ringleader of the female deities and protested vigorously on their behalf to the chief deity, Olodumare. He/She gave the order that the female deities should be given the chance to have a go at creation, too. And as it turned out they made a much better job of it, and the earth as we know it came into being.

Indeed, the chief divinity was so impressed with Oshun’s efforts that He/She issued an oracle to the effect that only stupid people think a woman won’t amount to anything in life, and that negative language should never be used against women. The divinity even goes so far as to say that men should kneel and prostrate themselves before women as they have to shoulder the massive responsibility of giving birth to humankind.

Compare this respectful, life-affirming ancient African myth to the creation myth in the bible. Here, not only is Eve held responsible for tempting Adam, and therefore triggering humanity’s fall from grace, God also decides to make her well and truly suffer for it – giving the green light to the patriarchal societies that inevitably followed:

To the woman, he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain, you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” (Genesis 3:14-16)

While we’re on the subject of children, Oshun is also a fertility goddess who has the power to grant them. During the annual Oshun Festival which is held in the goddess’s birthplace – the Sacred Groves of Oshogbo in Oshun State, Nigeria – women come from as far away as China in search of a cure for infertility.

Nature is deemed precious in Oshun’s Sacred Groves. Hunting is forbidden, fishing too – even the trees can’t be chopped about. Woe betide the person who attempts to do so!

To get a closer idea of how this goddess might appear in human form look no further than Beyoncé. The most famous black female singer on the planet once appeared at the Grammy’s channelling the goddess. This multi-talented, beautiful and sensuous woman isn’t afraid to speak out for women’s rights and against injustice. And in the video which accompanies the track Hold Up on her Lemonade album, she writhes around and levitates in water before emerging in torrents of it and descending a long flight of steps in a golden gown. She then proceeds to roam the neighbourhood smashing open fire hydrants with a baseball bat in Oshun-like anger at her husband Jay Z’s alleged infidelity.

But you don’t have to be a famous singer to tap into the power of this very special goddess. Dress yourself in yellow or gold, light a candle, place a few of Oshun’s favourite items nearby: a bowl of water; a mirror; peacock feathers; honey; a couple of oranges, and then summon the goddess with the following incantation: Yeye, Ye Ye O…Yeye, Ye Ye O…Oshun.

Sit back and enjoy!

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#DianeEsguerra

Diane Esguerra is an English writer and psychotherapist. For a number of years, she worked as a performance artist in Britain, Europe and the United States, and she has written for theatre and television. She is the recipient of a Geneva-Europe Television Award and a Time Out Theatre Award. She is previously the author of Junkie Buddha, the uplifting story of her journey to Peru to scatter her late son’s ashes.

She lives in Surrey with her partner David.

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*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter link below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will be passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for the fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

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Posted in Book Review, Historical Crime Fiction, Murder Mystery

The Corpse Played Dead – Georgina Clarke 5*#Review @canelo_co @clarkegeorgina1 #Crime #HistoricalFiction #MurderMystery #ALizzieHardwickeNovel #London #BookReview

‘All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players…’

When an undercover assignment for the Bow Street magistrate sees prostitute Lizzie Hardwicke trade Ma Farley’s Bawdy House in Soho for life as a seamstress the theatre on Drury Lane, it becomes clear quite quickly – what goes on in the wings is much more intriguing than the theatrics being played out on stage…

Soon Lizzie is once again thrown together with the handsome Inspector Will Davenport when a high profile investor is brutally hanged at centre stage and Lizzie discovers the body. With the suspect list rivalling any casting call, Lizzie will have to use every trick she’s hidden up her sleeves to unravel the tangled threads and bring the culprit into the spotlight. 

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Another eighteenth-century adventure with the irrepressible Lizzie Hardwicke and the self-contained detective Davenport. 

If you haven’t read the first book in the series, ‘Death and the Harlot’, there is enough backstory in this to enjoy this standalone story, but you’re missing out if you don’t read book one.

Lizzie remains a believable historical character, with flaws, a clever mind, courage and compassion. The tentative friendship between her and Davenport develops in this story, the opposites are perfect counterpoints for the other, leading to humour and witty dialogue. The possibility of love hangs in the air, but both are emotionally damaged, and the trust between them will take a while to build.

Lizzie goes undercover as a seamstress in the famous Drury Lane Theatre, a wonderfully atmospheric setting for a historical murder mystery. The disruptive incidents that have occurred soon turn into something more deadly and Lizzie has to find the culprit. 

There are lots of suspects, clues and drama in this story, with a medley of historical figures and authentic fictional characters, it holds your interest, proving to be as enthralling as any play staged in the famous theatre.

A lovely, original story with realistic characters and a clever plot.

Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Literary Fiction

Nightingale Point Luan Goldie 4* Review @HQStories @LuanGoldie #FamilyDrama #LiteraryFiction #UrbanFiction #ContemporaryFiction #BookReview

On an ordinary Saturday morning in 1996, the residents of Nightingale Point wake up to their normal lives and worries.

Mary has a secret life that no one knows about, not even Malachi and Tristan, the brothers she vowed to look after.

Tristan wishes Malachi would stop pining for Pamela. No wonder he’s falling in with the wrong crowd, without Malachi to keep him straight.

Elvis is trying hard to remember the instructions his care worker gave him, but sometimes he gets confused and forgets things.

Pamela wants to run back to Malachi but her overprotective father has locked her in and there’s no way out.

It’s a day like any other until something extraordinary happens. When the sun sets, Nightingale Point is irrevocably changed and somehow, through the darkness, the residents must find a way back to lightness, and back to each other.

Amazon UK

Waterstones

I received a copy of this book from HQ via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Whilst the idea for this story is familiar and contemporary, it is the believable, complex characters that make it worth reading for me. The author’s knowledge of this setting and social ethos makes the reader feel part of the story. The characters easy to empathise, even when they are not always likeable.

The ordinariness of life in the tower block setting makes the tragic event both dramatic and unexpected. There is a careful build-up of characterisation at the beginning so that when the event occurs, you care what happens.

The aftermath is also well written and explores in a sensitive way what happens to our characters afterwards. The ending is poignant but hopeful. emphasising the quality of the community and the individuals who comprise it. They are born into adversity and rise above it, making a story that could be too sad, life-affirming and heartwarming.

Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Gothic Fiction, Historical Fiction

The Girl at the Window Rowan Coleman 5* #Review @EburyPublishing @rowancoleman #thegirlatthewindow #familydrama #historicalfiction #gothicfiction #emilybronte #wutheringheights #yorkshiremoors #love #loss #grief #bookreview

Ponden Hall is a centuries-old house on the Yorkshire moors, a magical place full of stories. It’s also where Trudy Heaton grew up. And where she ran away from…

Now, after the devastating loss of her husband, she is returning home with her young son, Will, who refuses to believe his father is dead.

While Trudy tries to do her best for her son, she must also attempt to build bridges with her eccentric mother. And then there is the Hall itself: fallen into disrepair but generations of lives and loves still echo in its shadows, sometimes even reaching out to the present…

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Waterstones

I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House – Ebury Publishing via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Reading this story is rather like opening a Pandora’s box, there are surprises, light and dark. love and hate, purity and evil, all intertwined into an epic story that keeps on giving, as you turn the pages.

I love, the clever fusion of genres, family drama, romance, timeslip, historical fact and fiction, paranormal, gothic fiction, are all part of this novel’s embroidery. Whilst, this will not be for everyone, there are many timelines to negotiate, it is compelling and worth the effort, to move out of the ease of contemporary reading into the more elaborate historical details and subterfuge.

This story works for me because of Trudy’s state of mind, she is heartbroken, without hope, and open to any experience that lessens the pain. Her maternal instinct keeps her on track, making sure Will gets the emotional and practical support he needs, but she needs more than this and discovering hidden secrets that the house gives up is part of this. She is a sensitive woman, a loner, her childhood was full of imagination and literature, and it gave her purpose and solace. Now, in her pain, she seeks the familiar and is prepared to accept whatever the house reveals, even if it sometimes defies explanation and is frightening.

This is an escapist novel, something to enthral and capture your imagination, full of emotion and a clever medley of fact and fiction, it makes you want to visit Ponden Hall, and find out if it’s as magical and troubled as it seems.

Posted in Book Review, Free Book, Holiday Romance, Novella, Romance, Short stories

From Antigua with Love #FreeBook #Summer @MillsandBoon @mayablake @AuthorAnnMc @Sophie_Pembroke @HeidiRomRice @AnnieONeilBooks #Antigua #HolidayReads #LetsTalkRomance #Mills&BoonModern

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Free book sent from Mills and Boon.

My Thoughts…

A lovely collection of shorts, about romance in Antigua.

Despite the brevity of the stories, the authors manage to capture the holiday island ethos and the intensity of holiday romance. All have hopeful endings, that let you imagine what comes next. Lovely Summer reading.

#LetsTalkRomance
Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Family Drama, Guest post

The Beach at Doonshean Penny Feeny 4*#Review @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books #FamilyDrama #Ireland #Liverpool #Secrets #BookReview #BlogTour #GuestPost

In Ireland, the past never dies…

Long ago, on a windswept Irish beach, a young father died saving the life of another man’s child.

Thirty years later, his widow, Julia, decides to return to this wild corner of Ireland to lay the past to rest. Her journey sparks others: her daughter Bel, an artist, joins her mother in Ireland, while son Matt and daughter-in-law Rachel, at home in Liverpool, embark on some soul-searching of their own.

 As the threads of past and present intertwine, Julia’s family confront long-buried feelings of guilt, anger, fear and desire.

Only then can they allow the crashing waves of the beach at Doonshean to bond them together once again.

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I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

A heroic, yet tragic event affects the emotional development of two families connected historically by the tragedy on Doonshean beach.mi

The quality that resonates from this story is the family’s dysfunction. Superficially, Julia’s family seems normal, but dig a little deeper and the cracks appear. The characters are believable because they are flawed, and in some cases unlikable. Ronnie’s family is also divided. Her sons left at the first opportunity, and never fulfilled her hopes for them. Especially, Tom. Despite his lucky escape, he doesn’t seem to be making the most of his life, but maybe things are about to change.

This story has a great deal of charm, its an easy, emotional read. Both families are affected by the past tragedy, now they are together again, will something positive emerge?

A story of coincidence, tragedy and family life.

Guest Post- Penny Feeny

All sorts of factors combine in the construction of a novel, little pieces that you put together bit by bit like a jigsaw. I usually begin with the location, somewhere that will transport me and my characters. My previous three novels were all set in Italy, which is instantly seductive – but other countries can be romantic too! I chose the Dingle peninsula in Ireland for The Beach at Doonshean, because it’s an area I know well and one that I love. No visitor can fail to be beguiled by its special magic: the wild unspoilt scenery, the gentle pace of life and the charm and friendliness of the Irish themselves. However, the starting point for the story was an event I’d heard about many years earlier.

A woman I knew (actually she was my landlady) had been widowed when her husband drowned saving the life of a child – leaving behind three children of his own. The horror of this tragedy made a strong impression on me, but there was curiosity too. What happened to the rescued child? What kind of adult did they become? Does knowing that your life has been saved give you an extra sense of responsibility? Is it a privilege or a burden? And what repercussions does such an act of heroism have on the people who come after? Do they feel they have to measure up? I can’t pretend I know the answers to these questions but I wanted to explore the possibilities and the likely effects on the two families involved. What if they came across each other several years later?

The Beach at Doonshean covers a period of ten days or so in the lives of the Wentworths and the Farrellys. Various members of each clan are already facing a personal turning point when circumstances throw them together again. Bel has had a health scare and is longing to fall in love, Rachael is doubting her ability to be a good mother, and Tom has suddenly acquired a child he didn’t know existed. I wanted to find a catalyst that would reflect the disruption they were all experiencing. The volcanic ash cloud of 2010 was a freak incident at the time and mostly forgotten now (there’ve since been so many other bizarre aircraft delays!) but for those caught up in the chaos, it had a significant impact. Flights were grounded for a week and the knock-on effects lasted for several days as people tried to get back to their homes and their normal lives. For my purposes, this created an ideal scenario in which Julia Wentworth, first widowed, then divorced and now newly retired, could set in motion a chain of events which would lead to much soul-searching in both families.

The action is set between Liverpool, which has undergone a wonderful renaissance since I first came to live here, and the beautiful windswept south-west of Ireland where we go on holiday regularly. County Kerry has a famously spectacular coastline and magnificent Atlantic beaches with endless stretches of golden sand; you can even catch the unforgettable sight of a shoal of dolphins leaping for their dinner. But my story needed a beach with a riptide – and one that was not too remote. It’s not often that you would deliberately seek out a danger spot, but Doonshean, just outside the little town of Dingle, fit the bill perfectly. I should add that there is only one section of the beach subject to the riptide, so there is absolutely no excuse not to visit and enjoy this wonderful corner of the world!

I hope you enjoy the book too!   

Penny Feeny

Penny Feeny has lived and worked in Cambridge, London and Rome. Since settling in Liverpool many years ago she has been an arts administrator, editor, radio presenter, advice worker, and has brought up five children. Her short fiction has been widely published and broadcast and won several awards. Her first novel, That Summer in Ischia, was one of the Summer of 2011’s best selling titles.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Friendship, Romance

Being Someone Adrian Harvey 4* #Review @UrbaneBooks @ade_harvey @LoveBooksGroup #LoveBooksTours #Romance #SelfDiscovery #Adventure #BlogTour#LifeChoices

#BeingSomeone #Paperback

Being Someone is a life story, a love story, a human story. 

James has fallen through life, plotting a course of least resistance, taking each day as it comes and waiting for that indefinable something to turn up, to give his story meaning. His journey lacks one vital element a fellow traveller. Then he meets Lainey. Confident. Beautiful. Captivating. And James rewrites himself to win her heart. Lainey gives James a reason to grow, paints a bright future, promises the happy ending he has sought so keenly. But when we discover we can live the greatest story of all, are we able to share the pages with someone else? 

Being Someone is an emotive tale of love, of self-discovery and adventure a story of the eternal search for happiness in another, without ultimately losing ourselves.  

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I received a copy of this book from Urbane Books in return for an honest review.

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My Thoughts…

A thought-provoking contemporary story, about life choices, and the mystery that is love.

The story begins with a story told to James, one of the protagonists, about an elephant and his mahout. The story is one of love, respect and trust, which is shattered by one careless, almost unconscious action. Leaving the elephant guilty and lonely, seeking solace by honouring his dead mahout, until his own demise. Whilst this is a beautiful, poignant tale, you, like James, question what relevance it may have to his life story until it does.

James is a twenty-first-century man, entitled, and content to let life come to him until he meets the one, Lainey, who unsettles him and makes him want more. She is a vital, passionate woman, and their love story is epic, but then life happens, and the cracks appear.

The story explores their love, the conflicts they face, both internal and external, and the consequences of the life choices they make, for their forever happiness. It is brutal in parts, and honest, and James’ often appears cold and unfeeling, but it is interesting to explore his emotions and motivations.

The settings add to the story by echoing their relationship status, The first story’s relevance becomes clear as the story progresses.

An engaging contemporary love story, and insight into relationships in the twenty-first-century.

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