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Normal people sneak out to a party and have fun. Maya Rao ends the evening by incinerating the guy who attacks her.
Nik Lucas, sexy, new in town and totally forbidden, happens to walk in on her. Normal guys would run for the hills. Nik knows a whole lot more than he's telling.
Maya doesn't believe the gods are real, doesn't waste her time with mere mythology. But when gods, demons and hellhound's become the new normal and wielding fire becomes her new skill, she must decide what it is she really believes.
Can Maya accept that normal is something she will never be because it isn't normal to be
...the Hand of Kali.
...the Hand of Kali.
I have been a writer from the time I was old enough to recognise that reading was a doorway into my imagination. Poetry was my first foray into the art of the written word. Books were my best friends, my escape, my haven. I am essentially a recluse but this part of my personality is impossible to practise given I have two teenage daughters, who are actually my friends, my tea-makers, my confidantes… I am blessed with a husband who has left me for golf. It’s a fair trade as I have left him for writing. We are both passionate supporters of each other's loves – it works wonderfully…
My heart is currently broken in two. One half resides in South Africa where my old roots still remain, and my heart still longs for the endless beaches and the smell of moist soil after a summer downpour. My love for Ma Afrika will never fade. The other half of me has been transplanted to the Land of the Long White Cloud. The land of the Taniwha, beautiful Maraes, and volcanoes. The land of green, pure beauty that truly inspires. And because I am so torn between these two lands – I shall forever remain cross-eyed.
Maya flinched. A thousand tiny knives of white-hot pain splintered through her skin. Her teacher’s knuckles crunched against her cheekbone and she spared a fleeting thought for the beautiful bruise sure to flower across the side of her face by the next morning. It was her own fault. Her attention had strayed. Again. Not that she was very good at any form of martial arts anyway. But she did try.
She should have tried harder. If she had, she wouldn’t be lying flat on her back with the whole room spinning around her. She wouldn't be lying so close to the gym mat that she had to wonder if the odd smell came from the plastic or from the hundreds of sweaty fighting bodies travelling over it every day. Neither would she be cursing the fact that she'd be sporting this hideous bruise all the way until prom.
“Honey, are you okay?” Leela Rao hurried to her daughter’s side, her dark hair escaping from the knot at the top of her head. She knelt and threw a narrow-eyed glance at Maya’s teacher.
At least Mom cared enough to check if I’m still alive. Maya groaned as her mom's fingers probed her cheekbone, only causing further pain. And maybe even breaking off splintered bone.
Her mom tucked a stray strand of Maya's black hair behind her ear and sat on her heels. “It’s fine, nothing broken. But you will have a lovely bruise for the next few days.”
“Yeah, let’s see what Child Services says.” Maya muttered. She was prone to opening her mouth and spewing out words without thinking. It’s what usually got her in trouble. She immediately regretted the words and hoped her mom hadn't heard. One look at her mom told her otherwise. Leela frowned and shook her head, as if wanting to scold, but knowing the time and the place was entirely wrong for disciplining her daughter. Still, Maya had no intention of apologizing.
“Come on. If you’re fine enough to be a smart-ass then you’re fine to get back up and practice.” Her Kung Fu teacher smiled, all teeth, and stuck his hand in front of Maya’s face. She glared at the hand. She really had no choice so she took it and allowed him to lift her back to her feet in one fluid move. “No pain no gain, hey Maya?”
She dusted herself off despite knowing full well no dust clung to her. She kept her eyes on the floor, not daring look around. How many of the other students had witnessed her embarrassing knockout?
Nik was there too, somewhere within the broiling group, greeting their instructors and filing out of the studio. Nik who always seemed to be around, ever since his arrival three months ago. If he didn't happen to run in the same circles as her, Maya would have suspected him of stalking. But no, they went to the same school, and within days of Nik’s arrival they shared the same martial arts class, even had a few short and awkward conversations when she’d caught him watching and he hadn’t been able to flee easily.
Nik Lucas, with his dark curling hair, strong chiseled features and deep black eyes.
Nik Lucas. The forbidden fruit.
Nope, only nice Indian boys need apply. Besides, if she’d heard it once she’d heard it a thousand times - when she was ready for boys then she was ready for marriage. Nik remained off-limits. Too white. Not Indian enough. Whatever. Maya couldn't even allow herself the pleasure of daydreams. She’d be setting her heart up for the inevitable break.
Maya tried to stop thinking of Nik, tried to convince herself he'd probably missed the whole debacle. She resumed her position, wide stance, bent knees, weight on the balls of her feet. Her cheek stung, a reminder to keep her eyes on her teacher's hands, or rather her Sifu. She had to call him Sifu during her lessons. Them’s the rules. She really wanted to grit her teeth but the blow to her cheekbone bled icy pain into her jaw.
Maya blocked her instructor’s first strike with an effortless snap of her wrist. He was going easy on her. Which meant he’d bring out the big guns soon enough. She tested her jaw, moving it side to side as she circled him. Eye to eye. Hand to hand. She hoped eating wouldn't be a problem.
Two lightning fast moves later, she froze nose to skin with his fist. He'd spared her the full impact of the punch. He wasn’t usually that generous. Maya blinked, staring at his golden-brown eyes over the edges of his knuckles. Nope, not a hint of sympathy. Nothing.
She sank into her stance again and knew it would inevitably end in trouble. This time he used a smooth roundhouse kick, and whacked her feet from under her. The bone-shattering impact with the ground left Maya in stunned agony. Way worse after the blow to her cheekbone. Way worse when her head hit the floor so hard she almost passed out.
“Dad!” Maya cried, her voice filled with unshed tears and pain.
“Sorry honey, are you okay?” he peered at her, a cheeky grin pasted on his face. It wasn't fair when he did that. In fact he got away with everything because of that stupid, lopsided grin. He pushed wet strands of hair from her cheeks, his fingers moving to her neck to check her pulse. “Maybe we should call it a day, okay?”
Er... Like I’m going to actually say no? Really Dad?. She nodded, and allowed him to help her to her feet. When her knees buckled he swung her into his arms.
So embarrassing. Sixteen years old, and her father carried her as if she weighed the same as she had ten years ago. But she let him, resting her head on his chest. This time she refused to fight him.
Teacher or not, next time he’d better watch out.
Maya’s mom fluffed up her pillows and smiled down at her daughter. “You’ll be happy to know this injury will get you out of going to temple this week.”
“Why is that? Wouldn’t it be better to go and show all your friends you are bringing up you daughter the traditional well-disciplined way?” The words were out and there was nothing she could do to take them back.
“Maya,” her mom gasped. But the shock melted from her face as she sat on the edge of Maya’s bed. “Honey, you know we haven’t brought you up in the ‘traditional’ way. You wouldn’t be learning to fight if we did.”
“So why am I? You and dad can both see how terrible I am?. Why don’t you let me give it up?” Maya pouted, glad they’d moved on to another topic.
Her mom tucked Maya's hair behind ear; she'd always said Maya shouldn't hide her pretty face behind her hair. “Because you have must learn to protect yourself. We need to know that you have at least some ability to defend yourself. Just in case.”
“In case of what? Somerville's probably the safest suburb in the state of California. Maybe even the whole of the western seaboard.” Maya grumbled, grabbing a cushion from beside her she began to pull at the beaded tassels. She’d been training under her dad’s tutelage since she was six years old. He’d been running the school ever since her parents arrived in America when Maya was just a baby.
“Well you just never know-” a note of hesitation in her mom’s voice drew Maya’s gaze. Her mom opened her mouth to say something, but a moment later the urge seemed to subside and she went silent. Then she sighed and said, “Maya you should send up a prayer or two.” Maya stared as her mom pointed a finger to the ceiling. “You probably need all the help you can get especially with a black eye that bad.”
“Mom,” Maya scolded, shocked she’d suggest such a thing. “You know what I think.”
“Yes, honey. I know you don’t believe now. But someday soon you may no longer have a choice. “Now get some rest.” Her mom stood up, gently patted Maya’s cheek before leaning over to kiss her forehead. Her waist length hair, so like Maya’s swayed as she walked out of the room. At the doorway she turned and winked at her daughter, “If you don’t want the gods to help you then you better be prepared to help yourself.”
The door closed with a snick just as the cushion Maya had been playing with hit it. Maya shook her head, chuckling. Her mom always had a way with words. Although her parents had accepted she didn’t fully believe in the theology of Hinduism, her mom never failed to try her luck at convincing her every so often. Still, she was thankful they didn’t force her to perform all the rituals and customs. They were less Orthodox than the other parents in the community, like Ria’s father. But they still maintained their belief in the gods. It's merely mythology. Not actually real.
But when her mother looked at her that way, Maya had to wonder what it really took to believe.
This was a very intense book. I found it very interesting that this Hindu family was so culturally strict in some ways and so informal in others. I have several friends who are Hindu and others who have lived in that area of the world and it is rare, particularly for girls to be granted that kind of leniency, especially in first generation families.
Of course, as I read further I began to see the reasoning, but it did give me a different view while reading as I compared it to my friends and exchange students descriptions of their lives or their family member’s lives.
I enjoyed reading this book. It was exciting, scary, funny, sad, and an excellent read.
I give this book 4 out of 5 clouds.
This product or book may have been distributed for review; this in no way affects my opinions or reviews.