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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#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!

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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 Biography, Book Review, Memoir, Non-Fiction, Parenting and Famlies

The First Breath- Olivia Gordon – 4 #Review @booksbybluebird @panmacmillan @OliviaGordon #NonFiction #Medical#Pregnancy #FetalMedicine #NeonatalMedicine

What happens when pregnancy and the first few weeks of a baby’s life don’t go as planned? How have advances in modern medicine and perinatal genetics redefined our perceptions of what is possible?

The First Breath by Olivia Gordon is a powerful medical memoir about the extraordinary fetal and neonatal medicine bringing today’s babies into the world. Unveiling the intense patient-doctor relationship at work with every birth, this book reflects on the cutting-edge medicine that has saved a generation of babies, the combination of love and fear a parent feels for a child they haven’t yet met and what can happen before a baby’s first breath.

Olivia Gordon was twenty-nine weeks pregnant when a scan found that her baby was critically ill. Thanks to a risky operation in utero and five months in neonatal care, her son survived.

The First Breath is the first popular science book to tell the story of the fast developing fields of fetal and neonatal medicine. It explores motherhood and the female experience of medicine through Olivia’s personal story and sensitive, intimate case histories of other mothers’ high-risk births.

The First Breath asks what it means to become the mother of a child who would not have survived birth only a generation ago, showing how doctors and nurses save the most vulnerable lives and how medicine has developed to make it possible for these lives to even begin.

Amazon UK

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I received a copy of this from Pan Macmillan – Bluebird via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

The story, this book tells is amazing, the sheer scope of the medical advancement, over the last twenty years is well documented here. It’s not just about the science, and the pioneering doctors, there is also the unashamedly human side to this story. The personal experiences of the author, and the mothers, fathers, doctors and nurses interviewed by her.

The balance of facts and case studies is good. The science is complex and will not suit everyone, but it is written, in an easy to understand way, and illuminated by personal experience. The ethical side of this medical advancement isn’t ignored, as the reader is presented with both the facts and the human outcomes.

The experiences of the parents, particularly the mothers, is the best part of the book for me. They are courageous, honest and inspiring.

Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: Shari Low – Because Mummy Said So – Extract and 4*Review

The era of the yummy mummy has finally gone.

To celebrate this, Shari Low has taken a baby wipe to the glossy veneer of the school of perfect parenting and written Because Mummy Said So to show us the truth about motherhood in all of its sleep-deprived, frazzled glory.

This is a book that every experienced, new or soon-to-be parent will relate to – well, hallelujah and praise be those who worship at the temple of Febreze. For over a decade, Shari wrote a hugely popular weekly newspaper column documenting the ups, downs and bio-hazardous laundry baskets of family life.

Because Mummy Said So is a collection of her favourite stories of parenting, featuring superheroes in pull up pants, embarrassing mistakes, disastrous summer holidays, childhood milestones, tear-jerking nativity plays, eight bouts of chickenpox and many, many discussions that were finished with the ultimate parental sticky situation get-out clause…

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Extract- Ready, Aim, Fire…

If reincarnation does in fact exist, can I please make a special request to come back as Julia Roberts? The lovely Julia was pictured last week leaving a Pilates class with her six-week-old twins. It was a sweet, precious and intimate snapshot of domestication: just Julia, her husband, her babies, and an army of helpers so large it could have invaded a small country.

Ladies, how many things are wrong with that scenario? Well, for a start, when my babies were six weeks old I couldn’t find my way out of my dressing gown, never mind into a wee Juicy Couture tracky for a jaunt up the leisure centre.

Secondly, the gilded A-lister was partaking in the practice of evil: an exercise class. Doesn’t she know that there’s an unwritten rule among the sisterhood (or should that be motherhood)? For at least two months – or in my case, years – after childbirth, we’re supposed to milk the memory of the physical trauma we’ve inflicted on our bodies by endeavouring at all times to have our feet in an elevated position and our mouths in close proximity to a chocolate snack. It’s the law.

And thirdly – and this is the real killer – Team Julia was carrying everything for her. She didn’t have a bulk-size box of Huggies strapped to her back. There were no bottles of milk dribbling up the arm of her jumper as she attempted to juggle baby, bag and feeding equipment. And she wasn’t within projectile-vomit range of either of her newborns.

That’s not motherhood, it’s a holiday.

While Miss Roberts gets the five-star, deluxe version of motherhood, this week I’ve been subjected to the self-catering, dodgy plumbing and offensive odours version. In the latest episode of my oh-so-glamorous life, I decided it was time for almost-three-year-old Brad to lose the nappies.

For those of you who are just tucking into a wee cup of tea and a bacon roll, I’ll spare you the details. But let’s just say that disinfectant spray became my very best friend. On the first day of Brad’s nappy liberation, I spent the whole time on my hands and knees contemplating puddles. Who knew children that small could store that much water? My second-born son is the toddler equivalent of a Saharan camel.

By lunchtime, I was soaked, exhausted and could feel the thud of my will to live tunnelling to freedom.

Worse, Brad was getting thoroughly sceptical about my promise that ‘Big Boys Pants’ would give him supernatural powers. Hopefully, one of which would be the ability to control his bladder.

Never has my familiar prima-donna war cry, ‘I bet Jackie Collins doesn’t have to put up with this pish!’ had a more literal meaning.

At four o’clock, wet, smelling of Eau de Sewer and covered in stains that I didn’t even want to think about, I speed-dialled the husband for moral support. It didn’t go well.

‘Hi, honey, having a good day?’ he had the absolute temerity to ask.

A GOOD DAY? Aaargh!

Yes, I know the poor man was only being polite but in my pee-soaked brain that somehow became a patronising comment from a smug bloke sitting in a comfy chair, in a civilised office, having conversations with other adults that consisted of words of more than one syllable, all the while partaking of hot and cold running bloody cappuccinos.

How dare he!

I slammed the phone down in disgust. I didn’t say I was rational. I’m a mother of two toddlers – that’s not in the job description.

Next day, over breakfast I was mulling over my dilemmas for the day: whether donning waterproof clothing was an overreaction, whether Dettox was available in gallon-size tubs and how to convince my husband that we didn’t, in fact, require a marriage guidance counsellor. So absorbed was I in my woes that I didn’t notice that Brad had left the table for a far comfier seat – one atop the porcelain throne. Yes, my wee angel had finally mastered the concept of waste management.

Overjoyed, I had an irresistible compulsion to call the One O’Clock News team to announce the thrilling news: Brad was toilet-trained. There’s only one downside – his aim isn’t brilliant. But then, I’ve never met a grown man who doesn’t share that problem, so I’m guessing it’s a gender thing.

There’s obviously a limit to the supernatural powers of Big Boy Pants.

My Thoughts…

Candid snapshots of life with children are popular at the moment, what makes this one different is that it is retrospective. A collection of thoughts that featured in the author’s column at the time ranging from 2004 -2017. Some of the people and events mentioned will bring back memories and add entertainment value to these amusing anecdotes about parenting and being a working mum.

This book is a fun-filled read for all parents, and its innate honesty is part of its charm. Being the perfect mummy, while holding down a full-time job was a mantra in the nineties, and the first decade of the twenty-first century, thankfully this stereotype has been ousted in recent years by a more realistic view of parenting which this book certainly showcases.

It’s worth reading because its funny, realistic, thought-provoking and poignant and given that many of the stories started in the early noughties a true original that has sparked the honest parenting blogs and books that currently are an important part of our culture.

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

Shari Low has published eighteen books under her own name and pseudonyms Millie Conway and Ronni Cooper. She is also one half of the writing duo, Shari King. She lives near Glasgow with her husband, two teenagers and a labradoodle. 

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Posted in Book Review

Why Mummy Swears – Gill Sims – 5* Review

Welcome to Mummy’s world…
The Boy Child Peter is connected to his iPad by an umbilical cord, The Girl Child Jane is desperate to make her fortune as an Instagram lifestyle influencer, while Daddy is constantly off on exotic business trips…
Mummy’s marriage is feeling the strain, her kids are running wild, and the house is steadily developing a forest of mould. Only Judgy, the Proud and Noble Terrier, remains loyal as always.
Mummy has also found herself a new challenge, working for a hot new tech start-up. But not only is she worrying if, at forty-two, she could actually get up off a bean bag with dignity, she’s also somehow (accidentally) rebranded herself as a single party girl who works hard, plays hard and doesn’t have to run out when the nanny calls in sick.
Can Mummy keep up the facade while keeping her family afloat? Can she really get away with wearing ‘comfy trousers’ to work? And, more importantly, can she find the time to pour herself a large G+T?
Probably effing not.

Amazon UK

Amazon

 My Thoughts…

Full of satirical humour, this hilarious account of being a mum in the 21st-century is guaranteed to make you laugh and empathise with Mummy Ellen as she recounts her experiences with demanding but lovable kids, a less than appreciative husband and parents who present nearly as many problems as her children.

Its nearly twenty years since my kids were this age but I still remember the picky eaters and the constant sibling squabbling, so this story is timeless. The writing style is easy to read and chatty, but beneath the fun and despair, Ellen feels on a daily basis there are relevant examples of how women are perceived within the family and by society at large.

Whether you are in the midst of bringing up a young family or are experiencing it the second time around like me as a granny, this book will lighten your day and let you know it doesn’t only happen to you.

A pertinent, fun read, that you’ll find hard to put down. I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins – non-fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Book Review

Real Food Kids Will Love – Annabel Karmel – 4* Review

Annabel Karmel brings you a mouth-watering batch of never before seen recipes featuring delicious ingredients with serious nutritional credentials. With beautiful photographs and fresh design, this is an essential book for every modern parent. Chapters range from Fifteen Minute Meals to Healthy ‘Fast Food’, via Holiday Cooking with Kids and Lunchbox Snacks, and fresh, easy and modern dishes include Quinoa Chicken Fingers, Crispy Baked Cod, The Best Buttermilk Pancakes and Carrot Cake Balls. The chapters are designed to make choosing a fuss-free dish simple. Many recipes include swap-outs to cater for those with food allergies, intolerances or particularly fussy eaters! There is a huge range of meat-free and vegan meal options as well as recipes including meat and fish. Real Food Kids Will Love offers everything today’s parents are looking for once their babies are ready to start joining in with family mealtimes. Each dish is designed to be enjoyed by the whole family, while remaining simple, healthy, and not too salty or sugary for young children.

Amazon UK 

Amazon

My Thoughts…

Full of interesting modern recipes that are designed to appeal to children, but will be enjoyed by the entire family. The recipes use everyday, reasonably priced ingredients and the preparation method are easy to follow.

 There’s nothing inherently new in this cookery book, but the information on portions sizes, ways of getting children to eat the food that’s good for them is useful.

Aimed at children of toddler age and above, older children can help make some of the recipes, so they understand what goes into a healthy meal.

Always on the lookout for new recipes and things that my grandson will eat, I’m going to enjoy recreating the recipes in this book.

I received a copy of this book from Pan Macmillan- Bluebird via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review

Annie Lowrey- 4* Review -Give People Money

 

 

Imagine if every month the government deposited $1,000 into your checking account, with nothing expected in return. It sounds crazy, but it has become one of the most influential and hotly debated policy ideas of our time. Futurists, radicals, libertarians, socialists, union representatives, feminists, conservatives, Bernie supporters, development economists, child-care workers, welfare recipients, and politicians from India to Finland to Canada to Mexico–all are talking about UBI.

Economics writer Annie Lowrey looks at the global UBI movement. She travels to Kenya to see how a UBI is lifting the poorest people on earth out of destitution, India to see how inefficient government programs are failing the poor, South Korea to interrogate UBI’s intellectual pedigree, and Silicon Valley to meet the tech titans financing UBI pilots in expectation of a world with advanced artificial intelligence and little need for human labor.

Lowrey examines the potential of such a sweeping policy and the challenges the movement faces, among them contradictory aims, uncomfortable costs, and, most powerfully, the entrenched belief that no one should get something for nothing. She shows how this arcane policy offers not only a potential answer for our most intractable economic and social problems but also a better foundation for our society in this age of turbulence and marvels. 

Amazon UK

Amazon

My Thoughts…

An excellent discussion of the principles of Universal Basic Income (UBI), with illuminating case studies from across the world. The majority of the text concentrates on the United States economy, political structure and social systems, but the ideas translate to both developed and underdeveloped countries

Other types of social reform are also discussed. Some ideas, such as universal Child Benefit and access to healthcare both endemic in British society, since the twentieth century, although it has to be said the successive government in recent years have actively worked to dismantle them.

The UBI principle is not new, but perhaps it has never been more relevant with a growing social divide between the rich and the poor, exacerbated by technological developments reducing the needs for routinised jobs. The idea that everyone should receive a basic income regardless of status would bring most out of poverty and improve their quality of life.

This book shows the cost while high is not prohibitive and the improvement in people’s lives, which may ultimately reduce health and social costs, immense. Funding such a scheme is not the only issue, the population’s mindset needs to change, to accept everyone’s right to have a decent life, whether or not they have money, a high earning job and good health.

Women could be the primary benefactors from UBI, often they assume the role of homemaker and carer of elderly relatives. They are penalised for this in financial and social terms. Even though by doing so they allow countries to make a significant financial saving. They also improve the lives of their children and relatives by providing them with a caring, supportive environment. These are roles I have personally undertaken, and while I gained immeasurable emotional benefit from doing this, I have suffered in career terms and financially.

Written in an informative, easy to read style, well-researched with clear, representative arguments, this book is worth reading, whether or not you are interested in economics.

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

 

Posted in Memoir, Non-Fiction

Finding Gobi Dion Leonard 5* Review

In 2016, Dion Leonard, a seasoned ultramarathon runner, unexpectedly stumbled across a little stray dog while competing in a gruelling 155-mile race across the Gobi Desert. The lovable pup, who earned the name ‘Gobi’, proved that what she lacked in size, she more than made up for in heart, as she went step for step with Dion over the treacherous Tian Shan Mountains, managing to keep pace with him for nearly 80 miles.

As Dion witnessed the incredible determination of this small animal, he felt something change within himself. In the past, he had always focused on winning and being the best, but his goal now was simply to make sure that his new friend was safe, nourished and hydrated. Although Dion did not finish first, he felt he had won something far greater and promised to bring Gobi back to the UK for good to become a new addition to his family. This was the start of a journey neither of them would ever forget with a roller coaster ride of drama, grief, heartbreak, joy and love that changed their lives forever.

Finding Gobi is the ultimate story of hope, of resilience and of friendship, proving once again, that dogs really are ‘man’s best friend.’

Amazon UK

Amazon

My Thoughts… 

A lovely, honest, heartfelt memoir from an ultramarathon runner. Dion shares how meeting a little dog in China during a gruelling race changed and enriched his life.

This true-life story has a happy ending, so you know from the beginning whatever happens things turn out well for Dion and his doggy friend.

Dion is a driven individual whose childhood ended abruptly with the death of the man he called dad. Much of Dion’s motivation for pushing himself beyond reasonable limits can be traced back to his childhood. The memoir flows like a novel and is full of action, conflict, grounded characters and poignant moments.

Meeting Gobi is serendipitous, and Dion is determined she will be his. The sacrifices he makes, the people he meets and the different culture he learns to live with making this an enthralling read. Gobi’s story is touching, and many times your heart is in your mouth as you wonder if she will ever make it to the UK and life with Dion.

The insight into 21st-Century China is fascinating. The real-life action is heartstopping and the bond between man and dog rewarding. So familiar to everyone who shares their life with a doggy friend.  Whether or not, China, dogs and running are part of your life you will enjoy this well-paced, action-packed, original story, I did.

I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins Non-Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.