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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Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Family Drama, Travel

Villa of Sun and Secrets Jennifer Bohnet 5* #Review @jenniewriter @BoldwoodBooks #boldwoodblogtour #multigenerational #familydrama #AuthorInterview #SouthofFrance #VillaofSunandSecrets

It’s never too late to live the dream…

Carla Sullivan’s 50th birthday is fast approaching when her whole world is turned upside down. Discovering her feckless husband is having yet another affair and following her mother’s death, she is in need of an escape. Finding an envelope addressed to her mother’s estranged sister Josette in the South of France gives Carla the perfect plan.

Seizing the moment, she packs her bags and heads to Antibes to seek out the enigma known as Tante Josette. But as the two women begin to forge a tentative relationship, family secrets start to unravel, forcing Carla to question her life as she has always known it.

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

My Thoughts…

The author’s knowledge and love of France come through clearly in this story. The setting is vivid, beautiful, and sometimes in sharp contrast to the revelations at the villa.

This is a multi-generational story, a family drama, which unfolds in Tante Josette’s villa in Antibes. Carla’s life has not been easy, an unfaithful husband, looking after her sick mother, and now an empty nest, something needs to change. Finding something in her mother’s possessions gives her the opportunity of a break from her life and uncharacteristically she takes it.

This is a story of love, lies and secrets, new relationships and forgiveness. The chance to see an ending as a new beginning. The issues explored are emotionally draining, but the outcome is hopeful and makes the angst worthwhile.

The characters are flawed, sometimes they lack the courage to take the first step to something better, but they are easy to empathise and believable. The setting is a lovely contrast to the drama and emotions and the story’s ending is heartwarming.

I

Author Interview – Jennifer Bohnet – Villa of Sun and Secrets

What are the inspirations behind your story?

Villa of Sun and Secrets was inspired by the french word for memories – souvenir. Everyone has memories, some good, some bad, some unforgettable and some pushed into the deepest recess of the mind until something, somehow, draws them to the front. Some souvenirs are shared with other people, others are private to the individual and yet sometimes when other people’s private memories begin to be shared it can affect everything you’ve ever known.

What made you choose France for your setting?

I’ve lived in France for twenty years now – for a lot of the time down on the Cote d’Azur, which is a place I realised people love reading about. I’m probably more familiar with the way things are over here than I am with life in the UK these days.

Your story focuses on older women, do you find older or younger women easier to write? Why is this?

A character is a character and you have to get to know them whatever age they are and sometimes they are easier to understand and write than others. But basically, I have to admit I prefer writing about characters who have had some life experience.

When you write what comes first, the characters, the plot or the setting? Why is this?

It’s usually the setting for me – swiftly followed by the characters I place there, then they help me to work out the storyline and the plot.

Do you draw your characters from real life, your imagination, or are they a mix of both? How do you make your characters realistic?

It’s a mixture of both but probably 85% imagination. And I really don’t know the answer to the last part of the question although I do try and ensure that they have flaws which hopefully makes them realistic in the reader’s eyes.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

There are so many authors out there I enjoy reading, but there are a few whose new books I look forward to and buy without hesitation. Veronica Henry, Erica James, Marcia Willett, Jill Mansell are four writers I admire hugely. They draw you in from the first page, their characters are superbly drawn and their stories just flow.

When did you start writing? What’s the best thing about being a writer and the worst?

It feels as though I’ve never, not written to be honest, but it was coming to France that really gave me the time and the space to start writing short stories, serials and finally novels. Before that, I wrote features and lifestyle pieces for various papers. I love finally being able to write full-time. The worst?  Social media to be honest – so much promo has to be done and it takes away from writing time.

 
What are you currently writing?

My next book which is again set in France, tells the story of 4 women, strangers to each other, on holiday on the Riviera, is currently with my editor and I’m awaiting edits. In the meantime, I’m starting to re-edit my backlist which Boldwood Books will be re-issuing soon.

Jennifer’s bio – Jennifer Bohnet is the bestselling author of over 10 women’s fiction titles, including Rosie’s Little Cafe on the Riviera and The Little Kiosk By The Sea. She is originally from the West Country but now lives in the wilds of rural Brittany, France.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Friendship, Guest post, Romance, Travel

The Postcard – Zoe Folbigg – 5* #Review @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books @zolington #ThePostcard #Romance #Relationships #Travel #Backpacking #Paperback #PublicationDay #GuestPost #TheNote #Mystery#BlogTour

#Paperback 8 August 19

The sequel to the bestselling phenomenon The Note – based on the true story of one girl and her ‘Train Man’…

A year after the kiss that brought them together in a snowy train-station doorway, Maya and James are embarking on another journey – this time around the world.

The trip starts promisingly, with an opulent and romantic Indian wedding. But as their travels continue, Maya fears that ‘love at first sight’ might not survive trains, planes and tuk-tuks, especially when she realises that what she really wants is a baby, and James doesn’t feel the same. 

Can Maya and James navigate their different hopes and dreams to stay together? Or is love at first sight just a myth after all…

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I received a copy of this book from Aria – Head of Zeus Books in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

I must be the only person in the UK who didn’t read ‘The Note’, but fortunately ‘The Postcard’ whilst being a sequel, is also a separate adventure for Maya and James and reads well as a standalone.

There is a curious diversion from Maya’s story as she prepares to go on around the world trip with #TheTrainMan. A different character, confused, lost and vulnerable, is introduced, the menace and mystery of this encounter are on your mind as Maya and James start their journey, and then the person’s identity and the situation is revealed, and you wonder if, where and when, Maya will meet her?

The characters and relationships you explore in this story are complex and realistic, whether they be from Maya’s past, present or on the trip of a lifetime. Her best friend’s story is so far removed from Maya’s at this time, and yet both think they want what the other is experiencing.

There is a lovely balance of humour and poignancy in this, the romance is still there, but tempered with reality and therefore authentic. Maya and James find out who they are as a couple as a series of conflicts, try to break them.

The final conflict is adrenaline-fueled, suspenseful and unexpectedly poignant. These scenes are full of vivid imagery that really lets you experience the tension, terror and tumultuousness of the events. Romance and love prevail, and the final scenes provide a heartwarming and believable ending.

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Guest Post – Zoe Folbigg – The Postcard

Welcome back, Maya and James!

If you enjoyed my debut book The Note then I hope you love the sequel, The Postcard, even more. At first, I was nervy about revisiting Maya and James and writing about what happens after the happy ever after. The Note was based on my own story of how I fell for a stranger on a train on my daily commute and then married him. It was a story I had told a thousand times even before I’d fictionalised it; before Aria offered me a book deal; before it became a bestseller.

When I wrote my second novel, The Distance, a story about long-distance love, based (almost) entirely on characters plucked from my imagination and nothing to do with me or my husband, I enjoyed the liberating feeling of writing about something totally different, telling a new story.

So when Aria suggested a sequel, I was worried. How could I move Maya and James’ story on? In reality, Train Man and I got married and had kids. We settled down to school runs, sports clubs and Friday-night fajitas. Nowadays the most drama in our lives tends to be Sainsbury’s selling out of coriander (those fajitas matter), or me falling over in the mums’ race on Sports Day. Embarrassing, yes, but none of my current life felt like novel material.

Then I remembered the “in-between”.  Those years in a relationship when you’re out of the early throes of glorious newness, when you’re still self-conscious about morning breath and think each other’s bad outfit choices are adorable, but you’re not quite ready for his ‘n’ hers Mahabis or actually saying, “This is the person I want to spend the rest of my life with!”, even if you think it. A period when family and friends ask about marriage and babies in hushed tones and want to move your relationship on to the next stage, even if you haven’t discussed it yet.

Our “in-between” coincided with some amazing travels: a holiday to Argentina with friends, Costa Rica for my 30th (double income no kids = nice holidays) and then a year-long round-the-world trip (redundancy = a “sod-it, it’s now or never” attitude).

Before these trips, friends would gush about the proposal opportunities, how we would definitely come back engaged, that surely Train Man had something up his sleeve, and I felt a mixture of hope and pressure, excitement and resentment.

So while pondering a sequel I remembered that phase. The round-the-world trip was chock full of vibrant places, crazy characters, beautiful scenery, and weirdly that in-between issue that I realised would be as pertinent to Maya and James as it is to many people.

Once I started writing The Postcard and I took Maya and James on their own travels, I fell in love with their new chapter: I could almost smell the coriander and coconut of dinner on the Mekong; hear the beat of a drum at a Hindu wedding; see the mossy limestone karsts looking down on them at a beach in Thailand. And I could hear the ring of that lingering question: “Do you think he’ll ask you to marry him?!” “Do you think you’d ask him?” All from my kitchen table.

So welcome back Maya and James! It’s been an honour to pick up their story and revisit all these amazing places for The Postcard – and I hope you enjoy it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.

Zoë Folbigg is a magazine journalist and digital editor, starting at Cosmopolitan in 2001 and since freelancing for titles including Glamour, Fabulous, Daily Mail, Healthy, LOOK, Top Santé, Mother & Baby, ELLE, Sunday Times Style and Style.com. In 2008 she had a weekly column in Fabulous magazine documenting her year-long round-the-world trip with ‘Train Man’ – a man she had met on her daily commute. She since married Train Man and lives in Hertfordshire with him and their two young sons. Twitter Facebook Instagram Website