Book Review: The Far Side of The Sun by Kate Furnivall.

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When I think of beaches, I think of the sun, sea, sand and surf. The soft white powdered sands sifting through my fingers. The blistering heat of the sun bearing down on my back. The warm sea water on my skin. The surf that has the children screaming with joy and happiness.

Not quite the idyllic notion the book left in my head. On the contrary, it was filled with murder, lies and betrayal. Well, of course that would be the case since they were the backdrop of the book. Blood money, dirty gold, rival gangs, American Mafia, secret affairs and so much more. This book packed so much bang that even though I don’t often read thrillers, this one “thrilled” me til no end that I found it hard to put it down. It was worse on weeknights when I had to sleep early for work the next day but the book just kept calling out to me.

Summary

The Far Side of the Sun by Kate Furnivall was about Dodie Wyatt, an orphaned girl who made her mediocre living as a waitress in the Arcadia Hotel after a string of failed attempts to find a job (no thanks to her past that labelled her as a slut even if it was hardly her fault). She led a blissful and quiet life until one night, when she decided to help a mysterious stranger who was stabbed in an alley and left to die. That fateful act of kindness left her two gold coins, a dead man in her hut (despite trying to save his life), an American hellbent on protecting her and a truck-load of troubles that she was pretty damn sure she didn’t want.

Background

Set in the tropical paradise of the Bahamas in 1943:

Young Dodie Wyatt hoped to escape her turbulent past when she fled to Nassau. Peace was sporadic as the world was at war and what little peace that she had created for herself in her life came to a sudden halt when she found a man dying from a stab wound in an alleyway. Dodie was left to pick up the pieces after the man dies in her hut despite her futile attempts to save him.

Elegant Ella Sanford is married to Reggie Sanford, a prominent British diplomat and assistant to the Duke of Windsor, Governor of the Bahamas. Her days are luxurious with a maid by her side and a personal bodyguard when a scuffle broke out in town between the black colony and the white supremacy. Ella may lead a comfortable life but even the wife of a diplomat can have secrets of her own; ones that threaten to tear apart her safe and ordered life.

However, when Ella’s organised lifestyle collides with the haphazard one of Dodie’s, the two women find themselves caught in the midst of violence and greed that rip through Nassau. Ella finds herself drawn towards her charismatic bodyguard who happened to be a detective in a murder case, while Dodie falls deeply in love with Flynn Hudson, the mysterious American man whose ties with the murdered man she helped only led her through even more trouble than before. Together, Dodie and Flynn fight to uncover the truth behind the gore and bloodshed while struggling to keep each other alive.

Aspects

On one hand, The Far Side of the Sun is loosely based on the unresolved brutal murder of Sir Harry Oakes, a rich and famous member of the top Bahamian society whom the dead man Johnnie Morrell had business dealings with. How far the conspiracy went was anyone’s guess and the two women knew that whoever was behind it would do anything to stop them from asking too many questions. It is a story that looks at love and betrayal, courage and cowardice, at the same time, portraying a forceful bond of friendship that shapes the lives between Dodie and Ella.

On the other hand, the murder mystery behind Morrell’s death and the suspects involved in covering it up is intertwined with the love and lust of Dodie and Ella for their strong and handsome lovers. Ella’s love story is imminent as her sex life in her marriage with her diplomat husband is anything but exciting. When her husband insists on a personal bodyguard, she seizes her chance for a few stolen moments of rough, unbridled sex with him at any given time and day.

Dodie’s love life with Flynn, however, is more of a TV soap series. Flynn refuses to reveal everything about himself and only does so bit by bit when Dodie herself refuses to back down. He was a stranger when she met him at the burning of her hut, yet no matter how odd this may seem and instead of running for the hills, she finds herself falling in love with him. Who wouldn’t, I suppose, if you suddenly have this guardian angel popping up at the most opportune moments to save your skin?

Blogger’s Thoughts

This was my first time reading dark historical fiction and thriller with a main course of the American Maifa, betrayal and treachery, and a side of the sex, lies and secrets. But of course it has to involve 2 damsels in distress. And there’s also the cuckolded husband. It’s hardly about love, even less so for Dodie and Flynn. Saved by a stranger and ending up in bed with him is so typical Hollywood. But I guess Dodie has no choice. She’s stuck with Flynn for now; the man who saved her from being beaten to a pulp, who promised his dead friend Johnnie Morrell that he’d keep her safe from harm. He’s the only companion she has for now.

But there are a lot of hidden surprises. So much so that given my desperation to find out what the heck is going on, I had to suppress the urge to flip to the last page and find out who was the real killer!

But when I did get to that part, I certainly did not see it coming. It was like a scene out of Bonnie and Clyde! The great husband and wife team, dirty lawyer Hector Latcham and his drunk good-for-nothing wife Tilly, who manoeuvred and masterminded the whole thing! From the murder of Johnnie Morrell to the beating of Dodie Wyatt to the arson of Dodie’s beach hut to the murder of Sir Harry Oakes to the false imprisonment of Flynn Hudson to the kidnapping of Dodie and Ella Sanford to the accidental murders of Detective Sergeant Dan Calder and finally, his own wife Tilly. Phew! That’s a hell lot of dastardly deeds done in one book! And a real gripping read too!

Of Easter and Christ on April Sunday.

Hi folks, it’s Easter today. I hope I’m not too late to wish you guys a Happy Easter Sunday! Is everyone sweating it out in Cadbury’s Easter Egg Chocolate Hunt? Or better yet, your own Easter egg chocolate hunt in your very own backyard? Perhaps you’re participating in your neighbourhood church’s Easter Sunday mass.

Whatever your activity is today, I hope you are enjoying yourself and having a super happy fun time! I don’t celebrate the same events as you guys do, but I do want to buy a chocolate egg for myself for personal consumption (and also to commemorate the day with everyone!). On a lighter note, here’s a simple infographic I created just for today!

Happy reading!

Happy Easter

Book Review: Summer’s Child by Diane Chamberlain.

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Let me tell you that this was the most complicated, most convoluted plot I have ever read in a book! Never mind that there were so many characters to keep track of but the story thickens as the book progresses!

Phew. I’m glad I got that off my chest!

But no, really, it was as thick as your mother’s homemade fresh seafood chowder. It was so thick that no amount of hot water or milk could ever dilute it!

Pardon the analogy but here, let me tell you why. Oh by the way, don’t be misled by the image above. I read the paperback version of it, not the Kindle one. I just like the design I created, is all. Til next time, and happy reading!

About The Book

At a glance, Summer’s Child might look like a story that centres around the life of an abandoned baby found by a young innocent child on a beach in Kill Devil Hills one blustery summer, which, in turn, affects the lives of the other occupants living on and around the beach. At least that is what it says on the back of the book. But upon reading the entire book, I came to learn that it doesn’t talk much about the abandoned child’s life; rather, it revolves more around the lives of the other characters, from Daria’s struggles with her past, her sister Chloe’s difficulties in coming to terms with her relationship with God and Father Macy, and her best friend Rory Taylor’s encounters with his past, present and (possibly) future.

At 22 years old, Shelly (the abandoned baby found on the beach all those years ago) is at her happiest when she takes her daily strolls along the seaside, collecting shells for her oceanic jewellery hobby and taking in the amazing atmosphere. Despite her happiness, despite the fact that she has a wonderful family who adopted her (Daria Cato, her sister Chloe and her parents) when no one came forward to claim her, she still felt as though something was missing. She wanted to know who her biological parents were and why had they left her on the beach. Shelly may be slightly handicapped but she’s one smart cookie; having managed to contact Rory Taylor (albeit without permission from Daria), the name and face behind True Life Stories, to investigate the events and find her birth mother. What Shelly doesn’t realise is that sometimes, the truth can hurt and the ripples caused can affect the lives of others in her life as well. The contacting of Rory comes as a two-pronged fork: Rory himself harbours a personal interest in Shelly’s story since he’d been one of the teenagers hanging out on the beach that summer. Daria, meanwhile, has been keeping her crush on Rory to herself for years, along with Shelly’s true story.

What I Thought

A lot of the dialogue throughout the book is a ping pong match between the “Should we look into the past to uncover the truth and secrets?” or “Should we just leave the past in the past?“. Thankfully, I didn’t lose interest in the book despite the circles Rory kept running around my head. For most of the book, apart from Rory’s “investigation” into the mystery of who had really abandoned the baby, there is also the focus on Daria’s family and love life as well as the lives of the other characters and how big a role each of them plays in accordance to Daria’s and Shelly’s. From the first chapter itself until the very last, many truths and secrets about the various characters were revealed throughout the book, with the characters questioning their existence and reasons for being around. It is interesting when you think about it, looking at the childhood friendships that were formed and how people changed over the years.

Imagine if you were one of them? What if you ran into someone whom you hadn’t seen in 15 to 20 years, would your perception of them change?

I love books like this that throw me into the deep end of the sea from the start. Though it does get rather unnerving when the whole truth isn’t out and it’s hard to decipher what’s really going on in the story. Even though I’ll probably only find out what’s what closer to the end of the book. But it’s not very often that books are so riveting to the point where I find it hard to put it down. From the time the baby was found to the time she’s 22 years old. The occuupants of Kill Devils Hill wants Shelly to be left alone, except Rory Taylor who is driven to find out who abandoned her on the beach 22 years ago, and why.

What a crazy, crazy story. Like I said, it was the most complicated and most convoluted story of all time. A baby who was found alive and abandoned on a beach eventually became someone’s daughter, adopted sister, granddaughter, half-sister, and then wife.

A Timeless Tale of Beauty and Nostalgia.

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Recently in Malaysia, the movie Beauty and the Beast had garnered negative attention when the Censorship Board spotted what they interpreted as a gay moment during the song and dance between the pompous Gaston, his sidekick LeFou and the townspeople. Apparently said “gay moment” occurred when LeFou lifted up his shirt to show the love bite that Gaston left on his tummy! Local cinema-goers (and I) beg to differ and tell you that at the very least, it was the adoration that LeFou had for Gaston.

Thankfully, the movie was given the green light to proceed with all scenes intact.

I, too, had the opportunity of watching the movie earlier today, courtesy of the company she works in as a reward to the sales department for hitting their targets. And I thought the movie was brilliant! It was wonderful! It was lovely! It was pretty damn amazing and As a child, I had been a big fan of Disney (and I still am until today), I’m pleased that they didn’t futz it up or butcher it like so many other movie producers and directors had done to other film adaptations.

The musically-inclined in me lapped up every tune, every lyric and every verse belted out by each and every character in the movie. And each song sung during each scene brought me back to my childhood days which I spent watching, Disney cartoons and pretending I was an ordinary girl waiting to meet her Prince Charming. Although that didn’t actually happen but it was still a dream for little ol’ me. Songs like Be Our Guest and Tale As Old As Time took me back almost 20 years ago… It was purely nostalgic!

Director Bill Condon and screenplay writers Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos made sure that every part of the movie fitted like a perfect jigsaw puzzle to the original cartoon. They even found the right actors and actresses to play each of their respective parts!

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Here are some of the characters that I can still recall from watching the movie:

Dan Stevens played the Prince who had been cursed by a witch for turning her away when she sought shelter at his castle during a snowstorm. He was turned into a hideous beast whose spell can only be broken by true love. His servants were not spared either; they had been turned into various objects and furniture with a life and the ability to speak. It’s a pity that neither cartoon nor film had a name for this rugged looking prince. Out of all the Disney cartoons, this prince looks like a manly man. The princes in Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella looked more like pretty boys than manly men.

Emma Watson outgrew her adolescence in the Harry Potter series as Hermione Granger to play Belle, the book-reading, adventure-seeking, fearless young woman who defies Gaston’s request to marry him, goes in search for her elderly father in the dark forest, takes his place in the cursed castle, and learns to love and live with someone completely out of her league. Ironically, she plays a young woman who was born in Paris, France before her father took her away to save her from catching the plague that killed her mother. Watson herself was born as Emma Charlotte Duerre Watson in Paris, France to English parents, Chris Watson and Jacqueline Luesby, both lawyers by profession!

Luke Evans is well-known for his roles as Owen Shaw in Fast & Furious 7 and Bard in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. Gaston was a deliciously evil man! Who can resist the bad boy charms of a muscular French man riding through town on a large black horse? He was relentless in his pursuits and efforts to make Belle his wife, right until the very end of the movie.

Josh Gad did a good imitation of LeFou, the short, squat sidekick of Gaston. Although, in the cartoon, he looked a lot more daft than he did in the movie. But both versions of LeFou had a vast amount of adoration for Gaston. The other celebrities I did not imagine seeing in the movie were Ewan McGregor as Lumiere, Stanley Tucci as Maestro, Sir Ian McKellen as Cogsworth and Emma Thompson as Mrs Potts. Of course, there were other stars whom I did not recognise as well.

Again, I’ll say that the movie was great. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I liked that it brought back such fond memories 20 years ago. I’m not that old considering that I’ve only hit the big 3-0 but taking 20 years off my current age is a big deal! I sat there as the credits rolled after the movie ended, with a tear or two in my eyes. I just couldn’t take my eyes off the screen from start to finish. It was so amazing that I would bring my husband to watch it with me, even if it means watching it for the second time. And this time, I’ll try to focus on the scenes that I might have missed the first time I saw it. I love it so much and I’d love to say more. But I think I will stop here in case I spoil the movie for those who have yet to watch the movie.

The Never-Ending Debate of Books vs Movies.

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It was a peaceful Saturday sit-in yesterday for my husband and I. We kicked off the day with some music from the 80s on YouTube and ended with The Bodyguard starring Kevin Costner as the titular character and Whitney Houston as singer-actress Rachel Marron, the client whom Costner’s character was paid to protect.

After the movie (which we watched for free on Yes Movies), I remembered that I wanted to watch The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel as well. Actually, I was supposed to watch that movie immediately after reading the book. But I completely forgot all about it and to be honest, if I did watch it now, I wouldn’t remember the storyline much as I had finished the book last year. But still, it wouldn’t hurt to watch it anyway.

So I did.

But I stopped halfway through the movie.

Because I realised that the movie had not followed much of the book at all! Granted most movies don’t actually follow the book word for word, but there were no proper transitions at all between each scene and the early parts of the movie had not properly explained who each character was and why they had decided to go to India. Whereas in the book, there were chapters that were dedicated to describing each character and his or her purpose in the story.

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Which brings us to this never-ending debate of whether books are still better than movies or vice versa. Of course, it depends on whose side you’re on and what sort of person you are. If you’re like me, an avid reader who swears by the novels she reads and doesn’t let e-books get in the way of your paperback relationship, then books will always triumph over movies. If you’re hardly a reader and prefers to have comic books as your bed-side choice, then movies will be your source of joy and happiness.

It is undeniable that a book always takes the cake over its movie version. Movies will never ever replace the power of imagination that a book has for you through its pages. With books, you can close your eyes and pretend that you’re arm-wrestling with cowboys on the moon with Spongebob Squarepants and Patrick Star on Robot Pirate Island. You can already hear the mechanical sounds in your ears. That’s what imagination does to you and to think that Spongebob and Patrick didn’t even need a book!

But wait, let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. Not all movie adaptations are evil. Some are pretty good even if it meant that they had to be clipped to fit the standard duration. The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Harry Potter franchise and the Chronicles of Narnia were pretty decent movie adaptations.

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Movies can do a lot of things, like making us see a lot of things. They can bring whole new worlds to life before our eyes and turn characters into living and breathing bodies. Movies leave us on the edge of our seats as nail-biting battle scenes are being fought in front of us, or leave us heartbroken and in tears over a death, or smiling with joy at a birth of a newborn child.

Books require complete silence and are a pure, undiluted form of escape, there’s nothing like sitting in a cinema with only the lights streaming from the big screen in front of you, devoid of any other distraction (save for the errant ping of an ignorant cinema-goer) and your attention is paid only on the story playing on the screen.

Movies are amazing creations but they don’t have the same kind of magic that books have. With movies, you’re merely an observer. You don’t feel the emotions that the character feels; you aren’t reading every single one of their innermost thoughts, their doubts, fears and hopes. Movies also have the bad habit of leaving us with this thought, “That’s not how I pictured it to be!” Just like the movie that I watched last night. The book and the movie did not match at all, with what seemed like missing key characters or characters thrown into the mix just for the sake of being there. It’s kind of like fluff-writing where you add in unnecessary items just to plump up the plot and make it seem longer.

But with books, you feel everything, you know everything and you live everything! You can be the saviour of the world; you can be the girl who battles a life-changing disease; you can be a demigod, an alien, an angel, a god, a villain or a hero. You can be anything and everything. There are no limits to who you want to be. There is no limited storytelling time with books compared to movies. Movies have to be condensed to the point of removing or deleting parts which also leads to what I call as mis-transitions. Changes of scenes that have no rhyme or reason of being there. That’s because movies have to be done and over with within a maximum of 3 hours. Any longer and your cinema-goers might just nod off in their seats.

Books don’t need the power of visuals to allow readers to put the story together with the elements in their minds. The stories that you read in books will stay with you forever. Just like music and vinyl, and writing and books. Movies don’t have much to offer except for the scenes that you have seen with your eyes.

That is why books for me will always be better. When you read a book, nothing else exists around you and you can be that whole other person in a completely new and amazing world. You can be someone else, live that person’s life, be free of your own troubles, even if it’s only for a few hundred pages. Books are the medicine for your mind, the magic for your imagination. Which is why I stopped halfway through The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel movie and preferred to maintain the pristine image of the story in my head since I’ve read the book. Which is why for me, movies may be great but books will always be greater.