Tag: Characters

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!

Book Review: Past Secrets by Cathy Kelly.

past-secrets-cathy-kelly-goodreadsNo. of pages: 615 pages

Publisher: HarperTorch

Year: September 13, 2012

Setting: Ireland

Official Website: Cathy Kelly

Past Secrets by Cathy Kelly was quite a pleasant book to read but it just added more nights of sex, secrets, lies and betrayal to my misery. Which is a shame as I still have many more Cathy Kelly books to go in the bag of books I borrowed from a friend. Not wanting to be a party pooper to the author’s books but I think I may have overdone it with constantly reading the same kind of books too often in a row.

What I should be doing is interspersing them with the other books that I have that aren’t too full of sugary sweet romance, buckets of tears and hidden stashes of secrets. And to think I thought I was done with Dorothy Koomson’s stuff of reality nightmares but when I decided to continue going down that path, I knew it was a mistake. As it is, life itself is pretty harsh, I didn’t think I needed more reminders of how people aren’t always what they seem or claim to be.

There were too many nights of drama and debauchery for me. One too many. About how lying never helps any situation and it only gets worse when your lies get out of hand. About how it’s better to be yourself than to be someone you’re not or to be someone you think the other person wants you to be. I knew it was time to take a short break from the stuff that reality is made of and go for something a little more me. Like I said, reality is hard enough as it is and I don’t need a book to rub it in. So I went with Skios by Michael Frayn. Which I will talk about when I’ve finished reading it.

Blurb from Goodreads:

The women of Summer Street have their fair share of secrets and soon learn that if you keep a secret too long it will creep out when you least expect it…
The warm and moving new novel from the No. 1 Bestselling author of Always and Forever.
Keep a secret too long and it will creep out when you least expect it…

Behind the shining windows and rose-bedecked gardens of Summer Street, single mother Faye, hides a secret from her teenage daughter Amber. Whilst thirty-year-old Maggie, hides one from herself.

When fiery Amber decides to throw away her future for love, and Maggie finds herself back home looking after her sick mother, secrets begin to bubble over.

The only person on Summer Street who appears to know all the answers is their friend Christie Devlin. Wise and kind, she can see into other people’s hearts to solve their problems. Except that this time, she has secrets of her own to face.

Now, the thing with secrets is that they have a tendency to come out when you least expect them. Not to mention, secrets also have a tendency to rear their ugly heads when you’re going through a tough time and the last thing you need are for them to make things worse.

About the Book

Faye Reid is a single mother to teenager Amber Reid who dresses conservatively and holds down a respectable job in a recruitment office. Despite her professional front, she hides a secret from her daughter about the whereabouts and history of her father. Amber Reid has no idea who her father is and how her mother ended up single-handedly bringing her up. Amber, however, had been studying for her final exams and with a neat talent for art and painting, everyone is expecting her to go to art college. But she herself harbours a secret that she has no idea how to break it to her mother — Amber has no plans of going to college at all! She wants to run away with her boyfriend Karl and his band of musicians as they prepare to go on a tour to New York.

Maggie Maguire has been living with her lecturer boyfriend Grey Stanley for as long as she can remember until one day, she finds him in bed in their apartment with another woman. A young student in her twenties. At the same time, her mother falls down and injures her leg. Her father is clueless about household chores and looking after his wife so he calls his daughter to move back in to help out. It couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time for Maggie to decide what to do so she ditches Grey and moves back home with her parents.

Even Christie Devlin, the friend whom they turned to for advice, is hiding a secret herself. Despite her happy marriage to James Devlin and with two adult sons who now have their own families, Christie is afraid that her secret affair with Carey Wolensky, an artist, will surface and destroy the trust, happiness and joy that she has built so carefully with her husband. Everyone has secrets, so it seemed, in the book but no one wanted to be the one to be honest and upfront about it. Because they knew that their secrets will most certainly tear down the emotional bunkers that they have carefully constructed for the safekeeping of their secrets.

What I Thought

Past Secrets was definitely a light and humorous book to read with the plenty of dialogue, description and action. It was a story that talked about fresh beginnings no matter where the characters were, no matter what had happened to them in the past that caused each of them to look for a clean slate and start anew. It is inspiring to read about each character’s journey through hell which made them suffer at first but ultimately, you knew they would eventually triumph. Also, each character had realistic and compelling personalities that was enough for readers to bond and relate with.

The book was pretty decent as there is nothing new about sex, lies and secrets or the petty dramas surrounding friendships and relationships. After all, Dorothy Koomson has been there and done that for me. I still have a string of Cathy Kelly books to read so I think I’ve probably learnt my lesson too. One emotional book at a time, alternating with some of my own less emotional and much darker books. It’s probably just me but I can’t really ride the emotional rollercoaster all the time, even if it was just a story.

Book Review: French Rhapsody by Antoine Laurain.

french-rhapsody-antoine-laurainType: Paperback, 232 pages

Publisher: Gallic Books, October 11, 2016

Setting: Paris, France

Original Title: Rhapsodie française

French Rhapsody by Antoine Laurain was, by far, the last of the short novels that I’ve read for the year. Sad to say, I didn’t feel that it was as great as The Red Notebook and The President’s Hat, also by the same author. I think it was due to the fact that half the book wasn’t really about music and it led me to believe that it did. After all, The Red Notebook was really about a red notebook that Laurent Letellier found in a woman’s lost handbag and The President’s Hat had been about a black felt hat that President Mitterrand had left behind at a restaurant and made its travels around Paris at the hands of various people who found it. I half expected French Rhapsody to be the same, with the band, The Holograms, perhaps regrouping at a later stage to perform once again, together.

Turned out that it wasn’t meant to be.

Back cover synopsis from Goodreads:

Middle-aged doctor Alain Massoulier has received a life-changing letter—thirty-three years too late.

Lost in the Paris postal system for decades, the letter from Polydor, dated 1983, offers a recording contract to The Holograms, in which Alain played lead guitar. Back then The Holograms had believed in their cutting-edge sound. However, the music industry remained indifferent, and eventually the band split up, each going their own way.

Alain is overcome by nostalgia, and is tempted to track down the members of the group. But in a world where everything and everyone has changed . . . where will his quest take him?

Antoine Laurain’s new novel combines his trademark charm with a satirical take on modern France.

Because as I read on, I discovered that the middle part of the book started getting a little more political than I fancied and it made me actually stop reading the book for awhile. I focused on The Vacationers to give myself a break and maybe a different perspective in terms of approaching the book. True enough, it did and when I returned to Laurain’s book, I managed to continue reading and finally finishing it.

The story opened with Alain Massoulier, a dentist, receiving a letter that he believed could have changed the course of his life if he had only received it on time. Unfortunately for Alain, he had received it 33 years too late, and everyone involved in the letter had moved on with their lives and became successful individuals. Thus began a period of searching in Alain’s life to reconnect with the people of his youth. As is always the case, the manhunt came with strange yet wonderful (and sometimes uncalled for) consequences. The plot was a really unique one, complete with many twists and turns, peppered with “holy moly!” moments.

All the characters were most certainly not perfect but they were well-rounded individuals and were pretty convincing. The relationships between each of them were authentic, and the author just about manages to achieve the right amount of both tragedy and humour. I did like the relationship between Jean-Barnard Mazart (JBM) and Aurore though. Herein lies a little secret about them but I won’t spoil the surprise. The politics in the book captured two of the Holograms’ bandmates who have somehow ended up at the opposite ends of the political world, with Laurain’s narrative successfully detailing the tensions between left- and right-wing politics with insight and sensitivity.

Still, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. But that’s just me. I know that some of you may have read the book and loved it, but it didn’t strike a positive chord with me. Yet for all my grouchiness about the storyline, French Rhapsody was still a clever and quirky story. Yes, it was a delight to read because it’s a short novel, compared to the thicker and heavier books. And it was beautifully written, witty, funny and insightful book that fast readers like myself could swallow in one gulp.

Book Review: My Grandmother Sends Her Regards & Apologises.

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A different version of the same book. | Photo by Goodreads.

After close to three weeks (I think), it is safe to say that I am finally done with this book. One thing I realised about the book was that the title was almost as long as some of the sentences in the story! Well, what I meant to say was that the title was a mouthful to utter, which placed it on par with some of the sentences in the story that were a mouthful to read too.

The image above is of the same book, just with a different title. The one I read was called ‘My Grandmother Sends Her Regards & Apologises.‘ Both titles are equally long, though.

Synopsis:

From the author of the internationally bestselling ‘A Man Called Ove’, a novel about a young girl whose grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters, sending her on a journey that brings to life the world of her grandmother’s fairy tales.

Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy, standing-on-the-balcony-firing-paintball-guns-at-men-who-want-to-talk-about-Jesus-crazy. She is also Elsa’s best, and only, friend. At night Elsa takes refuge in her grandmother’s stories, in the Land of Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas where everybody is different and nobody needs to be normal.

When Elsa’s grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has wronged, Elsa’s greatest adventure begins. Her grandmother’s letters lead her to an apartment building full of drunks, monsters, attack dogs, and totally ordinary old crones, but also to the truth about fairytales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.

It was a truly different story compared to all the other books that I’ve read so far. Most books are written in a straightforward manner, in a sense that when something is about to happen, it will be written as such. But in this case, it is almost similar to the book ‘Room‘ by Emma Donoghue, where the story is seen through the eyes of a child. ‘Room’ was narrated from the point of view of a five-year old boy, while this one was told through the understanding of an almost-eight-year old girl, Elsa. Yes, she insists on being referred to as an “almost-eight-year-old” because she was soon to turn eight.

Elsa’s fairy-tale starts with Granny telling bedtime stories and going to the Land-of-Almost-Awake (much like all the dreamy places that Walt Disney takes us to back in those days), yet with no time for Elsa to absorb it, the little girl soon learns that her beloved granny had passed away from cancer. She hardly has time to digest the information when she suddenly finds herself dragged into a series of missions that her granny had left her in charge of (delivering letters of apology to the tenants of the flat that she stayed in with her mother, stepfather, and her granny before she died). From surly neighbours to a big black dog that stayed somewhere at the top of the flat with a hooded mysterious giant of a man, Elsa must gather all her wits and courage to see these missions through. At the end of the day, the results of her missions will assist her in the last and most dangerous mission of all.

What I liked about the book was the author, Fredrik Backman’s method of story-telling. He used fairy-tales, knights, princesses, dragons, angels, shadows, heroes, wurses (large black dogs), and magical kingdoms to describe Elsa’s brushes with reality and the different types of people she encounters in her life. It’s different from all the other books I read because these rhetorical situations jogs my imagination. You don’t read a children-based book and think like an adult. You pretend that you’re in her world, imagine what’s going on, and that you understand the trouble she’s going through to get the letters delivered (mostly by hand and in person). Pretense is a child’s game. Believe that you’re a superhero and they might just believe you. To adults, it may seem like you’re pulling a fast one over their eyes, but to a child, it’s a game. Since Elsa was fond of treasure hunts, her Granny decided to create one for her, albeit a very lifelike one since it requires her to meet people she never thought she would have to meet and pass them the letters.

At the beginning of the book, I felt that the pace was a bit too slow for my liking and I thought, oh no, why is the growth of the story taking forever to happen? But once I moved closer to the middle of the book, it dawned on me that slowly, the fairy-tale is starting to resemble reality, and that Elsa was being prepared by her grandmother through these stories to face reality when shit does hit the fan.

I won’t say so much now, in case some of you haven’t read the book and are going to read it. All I can say is, you have to be patient (like Elsa often tells herself) and wait until you reach the good parts.

Book Review: Deep Down Things by Tamara Linse.

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Deep Down Things by Tamara Linse. | Photo by Books Direct.

I’ve read this book earlier, and finished it within a week. Only because I brought the book with me to work and spent some time reading it on my lunch break. I realised that I missed out on a post of my thoughts and opinions about the book, so here it is. Today.

We will kick off with the custom of sharing the synopsis of the book from Goodreads, followed by a new practice of uploading a memorable phrase or quote from the book (if there are any), and lastly, my thoughts on the book, plot and/or characters.

Synopsis:

Deep Down Things, Tamara Linse’s debut novel, is the emotionally riveting story of three siblings torn apart by a charismatic bullrider-turned-writer and the love that triumphs despite tragedy. From the death of her parents at sixteen, Maggie Jordan yearns for lost family, while sister CJ drowns in alcohol and brother Tibs withdraws. When Maggie and an idealistic young writer named Jackdaw fall in love, she is certain that she’s found what she’s looking for. As she helps him write a novel, she gets pregnant, and they marry. But after Maggie gives birth to a darling boy, Jes, she struggles to cope with Jes’s severe birth defect, while Jackdaw struggles to overcome writer’s block brought on by memories of his abusive father. Ambitious, but never seeming so, Deep Down Things may remind you of Kent Haruf’s Plainsong and Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper.

Memorable Phrase:

Welcome to the country town of Loveland, where “people from all over mail in their Valentines so they can have a Loveland postmark”, and where the locals spend their days drinking at the bar, riding bulls in rodeos, or fishing. – Source: Books Direct.

Deep Down Things‘ is written in the form of a heartbreaking account of how three siblings, Maggie (short for Magdelene), CJ (short for Cleopatra Jordan) and Tibs (Tiberius) Jordan, struggle to accept their parents’ deaths and carry on living, while at the same time, struggling to survive with the tragedies that they face in present time. Told alternately from the points-of-view of Maggie, her sister CJ, her brother Tibs, and Tibs’ friend, Jackdaw, readers are able to follow each character’s account on what happens and what has happened in their lives, and how they adjust to it.

Maggie was too young to be affected by her parents’ death, but yearns for the tender loving care that many parents provide to their offspring. CJ is bitter and turns to alcohol and bartending for support. Tibs withdraws and struggles to find himself amidst the chaos. Enter Jackdaw, a charismatic bullrider-turned-writer, and suddenly, the siblings’ lives are turned inside out, and upside down. Maggie falls in love with Jackdaw, much to the chagrin of her sister CJ. Tibs provides his brotherly support but can’t help feeling that there is something wrong with the whole equation. But when Maggie is pregnant with Jackdaw’s baby who was unfortunately born with a severe birth defect, things start to take a turn for the worse.

My verdict:

The plus points of the book were its take on life and reality, how harsh it can be when things don’t turn out right, and pregnancy. It’s easier said than done when people tell you to make lemon juice when life throws lemons at you. Especially when you have suffered so much in the past, only to be reminded again in the present, and you wonder if you have anymore strength left in you to carry on. What are you going to do when you find out that you’re pregnant with someone’s child and you aren’t even married? What do you do when your baby has a birth defect? What happens when the man you fell in love before turns into someone you don’t recognise anymore? These questions are often faced by women, and more often than not, they don’t get the moral and emotional support that they deserve. Maggie faces all of these problems, and she doesn’t even have a reliable adult to lean on. Her parents perished when she was young. Jackdaw’s father can’t be trusted. I don’t recall ever reading about friends that Maggie should be having in the book.

The downside to the book was the behaviour of Jackdaw. If there is one thing that I can’t take sitting down, it’s a man’s cockiness and egoistic behaviour. Of course, this is only a story, but you know how stories go with me. I’m so bloody emphatic that how a book is written will impact me, one way or another. And I was quite annoyed with Jackdaw’s personality and character. Otherwise, the book was actually quite intriguing, enough to keep me going on until I finally turn the last page. Not the best I’ve read, but it served its purpose in keeping me occupied.