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.

#RachelsRandomResourcesBlogTour

The Oshun Diaries Trailer

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

Eye Books

Amazon UK

Amazon

#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.

#BackCover
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!

#BlogTour
#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.

Twitter

Giveaway to Win 5 x PB copies of The Oshun Diaries (UK Only)

*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.

Rafflecopter Link for Giveaway

#TheOshunDiaries

Advertisements
Posted in Book Review, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Noir

An Unsuitable Woman – Kat Gordon – 4* #Review @BoroughPress @katgordon1984 @HarperFiction @fictionpubteam #HistoricalFiction #Kenya #LiteraryFiction

Theo Miller is young, bright and ambitious when he and his earnest younger sister Maud step off the train into the simmering heat of Nairobi. Both eagerly await their new life, yet neither are prepared for the pain it will bring.

When Theo meets American heiress Sylvie de Croÿ, he is welcomed into her inner circle – the Happy Valley set – rich, dazzling expatriates, infamous for their scandalous lifestyles.

Yet behind Sylvie’s intoxicating allure lies a powerful cocktail
of secrets, lust and betrayal. As dark clouds gather over Kenya’s future and his own, Theo must escape this most unsuitable woman – before it is too late.

First published as The Hunters.

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Harper Fiction – Borough Press via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Theo moves to Kenya with his father, an engineer, who was instrumental in pioneering the railway in the colonial world. Now a director, he is to establish a rail network in Kenya in the late 1920s. Theo adores his younger sister, but has a difficult, bordering on an abusive relationship with his mother, who is much younger than his father.

The colonial establishment in Africa is well described in this story, as is the political unrest and the rise of right-wing nationalism, in the mid to late 1930s. The main focus of the story against this tumultuous setting of privilege and political unrest is the ‘Happy Valley set.’

They are rather like the spoilt, immoral group of people, in ”The Great Gatsby, only in Africa, rather than America. After the horrors of the ‘Great War’, and the financial crisis of the late 1920s, this hedonist group, who disdain society’s rules, and live for the moment, have an obvious appeal for a young boy on the cusp of adulthood. His work absorbed father, and seemingly uncaring mother, allow Theo to the freedom to be influenced by this group, which has a tragic effect on his teenage and future life.

The story is rich in historical details and full of vivid imagery, both in terms of the African setting and the clash of colonialism and nationalism. It is complex and absorbing and the characters resonate. Most are emotionally damaged and have dark natures, but even so, you are invested and want to know what happens to them.

Maud is the most courageous of all the characters and is a true pioneer, willing to break through barriers even at the risk of her own comfort and safety.

The story portrays the fear, prejudice and unrest in Africa, during the 1930s well. It is not easy to read in parts, because it jars with 21st-century beliefs and norms, but if you can accept this, it is a worthwhile read.

Posted in Book Review

The Break Line – 4* Review – James Brabazon

Officially Max Mclean doesn’t exist.

The British government denies all knowledge of the work he does on their behalf to keep us safe. But Max and his masters are losing faith in each other. And they’ve given him one last chance to prove he’s still their man.

Sent to a military research facility to meet a former comrade-in-arms, Max finds the bravest man he ever knew locked up for his own protection. His friend lost his mind during an operation in West Africa. The reason? Absolute mortal terror.

Max is determined to find out why.

Ahead lies a perilous, breathtaking mission into the unknown that will call into question everything that Max once believed in.

Acting alone, without back-up, Max lands in Sierra Leone with his friend’s last words ringing in his ears: ‘They’re coming, Max. They’re coming . . .’

Amazon UK

Amazon

 

My Thoughts…

I thought this book would be a military-themed political thriller, in many respects it is. The early part of the story is easy to read, an introduction to Max, the main character, who undertakes the narrator role as it’s written in the first person. The early part of the book disseminates essential clues and facts. The last part of the story, concentrates on Max’s mission, it may be his last if he doesn’t deliver, but the dangers he faces and the horrors he endures and witnesses may take his life, not just his career.

This second half of the story fuses the literary genres. Military thriller merges with paranormal and science- fiction and the resultant prose produces haunting, horrific images in the reader’s mind. Is Max delusional, is this an out of world experience or is this something more sinister? There are no clues here, but if you enjoy your thriller’s twisty with graphic imagery, this one will satisfy your cravings.

Fast-paced and full of action driven, adrenaline-fuelled scenes, this story holds your interest. The secret Max discovers places this novel firmly in the 21st century and takes the concept of biological weaponry to another level. Max is an edgy, driven character with a dark past and family issues, his emotional character undergoes a radical change through the story, and he makes a good anti-hero.

I received a copy of this book from Penguin UK, Michael Joseph Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: Jeff Dawson – No Ordinary Killing – Extract – 4* Review

The Empire has a deadly secret…

1899, South Africa:  As the Boer War rages, Captain Ingo Finch of the Royal Army Medical Corps pieces together casualties at the front. Then, recovering in Cape Town, he is woken by local police. A British officer has been murdered, and an RAMC signature is required for the post-mortem.

Shocked by the identity of the victim, the bizarre nature of the crime and what appears a too-convenient resolution, Finch turns detective. He is soon thrust into a perilous maze of espionage and murder.

Along with an Australian nurse, Annie, and an escaped diamond miner, Mbutu, Finch finds he has stumbled on a terrifying secret, one that will shake the Empire to its core…

Links to Book:

Amazon (UK)

Kobo (UK)

Google Books (UK)

Apple Books (UK)

Extract

Chapter Two

The black shape of the field hospital eventually hove into view. Outside, two Indian porters – Hindus, skinny, barefoot – were waiting with a stretcher.

Finch eased himself over the splintered tailboard.

“I’m afraid you wouldn’t pass muster at the officers’ mess,” boomed a voice behind him.

“What the hell, sir? We went out there under a truce,” Finch spluttered. “A medical mission. White flag—”

Major Cox gave a discreet cough and bade Finch follow, his immaculate brown boots crunching a path across the gravelly dirt.

The Afrikaner cattle ranch had been stranded the wrong side of the border, a few miles west of the Free State. Requisitioned by the Royal Army Medical Corps, it was serving well in its new guise – modest but solid, preferable to canvas.

Finch hobbled after his superior, making heavy weather of catching up. From the barn, with its corrugated iron roof, he could hear the lowing – not of beasts but of men, casualties from the afternoon assault, their pain a constant, ambient dirge.

Cox ducked after the major under a dewy awning. In a jerry-rigged ante-chamber, an adjutant sat at an upturned orange crate, prodding at a battered typewriter in the halo of a hurricane lamp, a Morse tapper set to one side.

In the outhouse behind it, Cox stooped through a doorway, lit his own lantern and hung it from a hook in the beam of the low ceiling. A worn green baize card table served as his desk. A canvas cot, with regulation blanket, neatly folded, ran under the window.

“Brandy?” he offered.

Finch shrugged, feigning nonchalance.

Cox set two enamel mugs on the table all the same and, from somewhere, produced a dusty bottle of Santhagens.

“Transvaal Armagnac.”

He uncorked it, poured two generous measures, and tapped the side of his nose conspiratorially as to its provenance.

In one letter home, Finch had recorded his first impression – that on civvy street Cox would have made a slick businessman. He looked the part – the belly, the shining leather, the sleek hair, the oiled moustache.

Cox was going to make him wait – the theatre of superiority. There were two canvas chairs. Cox took the one behind the desk and gestured for Finch to sit before it.

There was a low distant rumble, like far-off thunder – the Royal Navy guns wheeled up from the south. The biggest, ‘Joe Chamberlain’, could send a shell five miles, or so they said.

Cox’s cup vibrated against the bottle, a high-pitched rasp that sounded like a bumble bee.

“Spent a whole day pounding the hills only to discover the blighters have dug themselves into the ground.”

“I’m no strategist, sir, but sending neat squares of men to march at a heavily armed trench in the middle of the day does not appear the most prudent fighting tactic.”

Some of the Highlanders he’d tended in the field were still clutching lengths of knotted rope, tied off at 6ft intervals, the means by which they could maintain perfect formation, right up to the last.

“You’re right,” came the touché. “You’re not a strategist.”

Until recently, medical personnel had not been given leave to dress up in khaki, still less trusted with a corps formed in their honour. That Cox, a cavalryman, had been seconded to oversee a bunch of fey medics seemed a lingering source of resentment.

“What the hell was the brass thinking, sir? Us, the Boers. We were treating the wounded. Together. They were helping us for God’s sake. Then the bloody artillery starts shelling, right in the middle of it. We’re stuck out there. No provisions, no weapons, nothing. Sitting ducks.”

“It was unfortunate.”

“Unfortunate? I was there for five hours. Shot at for five hours …”

Finch slumped back. It was hard not to drift away. He ran his hands through his hair. It was thick for a man of 40, at least his Italian barber flattered him. He was in decent shape too, if maybe half a stone for the worse. But he was no soldier. That was for the kids; the obedient, unthinking kids – kids like Miles.

“The private … Lancashires. I’ll see that he gets commended. And you—”

“I’m not after a bloody medal.”

Cox shot Finch a look, then softened.

“Ingo,” he said. “I’m grateful.”

There followed a perfunctory raising of mugs, a clink and a silent, savouring sip.

Finch had never known tiredness like it. It gnawed at the muscles around his eyes and scrambled his thoughts such that the words that slurred out of his mouth did not necessarily correlate to the ones forming in his head.

“Your casualty … the lieutenant?” asked Cox.

“Bruised, battered. He’ll be okay.”

“Did he talk?” Cox added.

“Talk?”

“You know, say anything?”

Laid out on the sacking on the floor of the cart, the lieutenant had groaned periodically, then began muttering in a delirium.

“A day’s worth of African sun can do terrible things to a man.”

“Nothing coherent? No names, orders?”

Finch shrugged. Logic had ceased to have any place in war.

“If he does …” said Cox.

There was a knock on the door – the adjutant brandishing a chit. He handed it to Cox and took a pace back. Cox absorbed the information. He held up an apologetic palm while he did so.

“Right away. Right away,” he muttered, then gave the slip back to the adjutant and dismissed him.

The major rose. Finch had had his moment.

“Good work, Captain. That will be all … Staff will arrange for a hot drink and some grub.”

Finch was about to protest that he was required in surgery.

“They’ll send it over.”

And, with that, the major was gone.

Finch took a minute or two to finish his drink. The guns rumbled on. He stood up and stretched his aching body. His left knee, in particular, would need disinfecting, patching up.

Outside, feathers of sleet swirled in the air. On the wind came the poppoppop of small arms fire. The infantry assault was underway. At this distance, it sounded so ineffectual, so childish. He thought he heard the skirl of pipes.

The barefoot Indian stretcher bearers were congregating, hunched together. Very soon, the first of what would be an endless stream of ambulances would come rattling into the yard.

An RAMC sergeant with a clipboard and two staff nurses emerged and huddled under an overhang, ready to direct the wounded to the correct area – dressing, theatre or to be laid on the straw in the far end of the barn where the only attention they’d receive would come in the form of some trite ministrations from the chaplain.

Finch asked an orderly to fetch him the strongest mug of tea he could brew, with enough sugar in it to make a spoon stand up.

My Thoughts… 

A realistic historical crime drama set against the background of the Boer war.

Captain Finch, a doctor, becomes an unlikely detective as he investigates the death of his superior officer. Told primarily from Finch and Mbutu( An escaped diamond miner) points of view, they describe different events that are cleverly linked as the story progresses. Annie, a nurse, joins the story later and she becomes a vital source of strength for Finch as the conspiracy deepens and their lives are endangered.

The historical detail is vivid and absorbing and illustrates the horror of war for civilians, soldiers and animals caught up in the mayhem. The racial prejudice of the time is realistically depicted and demonstrates how poorly the indigent population were treated by both sides in the war.

The characters are well drawn and fit perfectly into this sinister murder mystery scenario created at the end of the 19th-century in war-torn Africa. Finch is a courageous man, but his trusting nature leads him to make some questionable choices, which make his and Annie’s survival precarious. The antagonist takes many forms, but ultimately the real evil is more potent than Finch could envisage.

The story is detailed and lengthy but full of action, historical interest and a well thought out whodunnit.

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

Jeff Dawson is a journalist and author. He has been a long-standing contributor to The Sunday Times Culture section, writing regular A-list interview-led arts features (interviewees including the likes of Robert De Niro, George Clooney, Dustin Hoffman, Hugh Grant, Angelina Jolie, Jerry Seinfeld and Nicole Kidman). He is also a former US Editor of Empire magazine.

Jeff is the author of three non-fiction books — Tarantino/Quentin Tarantino: The Cinema of Cool, Back Home: England And The 1970 World Cup, which The Times rated “truly outstanding”, and Dead Reckoning: The Dunedin Star Disaster, the latter nominated for the Mountbatten Maritime Prize.

Twitter: @jeffdaw