Tag: Dorothy Koomson

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: The Cupid Effect by Dorothy Koomson.

Blurb on Goodreads:

Ceri D’Altroy watches too much Oprah Winfrey – and it’s having serious repercussions. Bored with London life and writing yet another ‘have the perfect orgasm’ feature, she’s decided to take Oprah’s advice and follow her heart’s desire. Going back to college might not be everyone’s dream but all Ceri’s has ever wanted to do is lecture . . .

Unfortunately, Ceri’s new start seems to involve disrupting lives: within days she’s reunited a happily uncoupled couple, encouraged her new flatmate to do something about his unrequited love, and outed the secret relationship of her two colleagues. Only, while Ceri’s playing Cupid for others, the highlight of her social calendar is trying a new hair conditioner. Something needs to be done, but can Ceri stick to her vow to give up her accidental matchmaking for good. . ?

A delicious comedy about love, life and following your heart…

the-cupid-effect-by-dorothy-koomson-goodreads

No. of pages: 352 pages

Publisher: Sphere

Year: August 2, 2007

Setting: London, Leeds

The Cupid Effect is the final book written by Dorothy Koomson that I’ve read and well, I think I’ve read one too many books by her. It’s not that I hate her books, but I think I’ve gone a tad overboard with the whole Koomson marathon. And yes, I am a little relieved that I’m finally done with all her books. Now I’ve started yet another author marathon – books by Cathy Kelly. But that’s a story for another day. Today, I want to talk about The Cupid Effect and how it made me feel at the end of the last page.

The author Dorothy Koomson has a dedicated website for all her titles so you can go to it and find out more about her other books. You can click on her name to get to her page.

About The Book

This is the fourth Dorothy Koomson book that I have read in the first two months of 2017 alone. Lent to me by a close childhood friend, I never thought I’d go back to the years when I used to read light romance and chick-lit. I was a little skeptical on reading books of this category because of the wimpy and sappy atmosphere. It does resemble reality but by a far stretch and some incidents can be somewhat mind-boggling.

This novel, however, is completely chick lit. It has the full package of romance, sex, love, friendship, drama and betrayal… everything! Whatever you want in a chick literature novel, you got it.

The protagonist is Ceresis ‘Ceri’ D’Altroy (somewhat appropriate since the book is about the concept of a modern-day Cupid and Ceri’s name apparently means heart’s desire). Ceri has been watching a lot of Oprah Winfrey shows lately in London and after one too many episodes, she decides to up and leave her cushy job and flat to follow her heart and move to Leeds to become a lecturer and researcher. That is indeed quite a big leap as this isn’t something that could happen comfortably in reality and certainly not without its relevant circumstances. Prior to leaving for Leeds, she made an oath to never get involved in other people’s lives. You know how easy it is to make the promises but keeping them is another matter altogether.

Within moments of moving to Leeds, her oaths were quickly broken and soon she found herself doing exactly what she had forbade herself to do. She eventually finds herself doling out advice to both her new flatmates, Jake and Ed, as well as her colleagues in the college that she was lecturing and researching at. If her new start isn’t as different as her life back in London, how is she ever going to break the spell and move on with her own life instead? Also the question is, why is she the person whom everyone turns to for advice or help in their lives? Will she ever learn NOT to dish out advice?

What I Thought

After reading this book, I kind of had mixed feelings about it. As I mentioned, the book is wholly and entirely chick lit. In fact, most of Koomson’s books were all in the same category except The Ice Cream Girls since that was more on the psychological effects of child abuse, child grooming and paedophilia.

My mixed feelings came from how the plot was delivered. There was hardly any mystery to it and I could tell who’s going to end up with whom, how and why. Predictable, that’s what it was. Predictable and not as much suspense as I thought. Maybe that’s why I stopped reading chick lit when I grew up. I needed books with stimulating content, storylines with substance, plots that thickened (like a bowl of oats that ended up cooling down because you didn’t eat it quick enough) and made you think, characters that supported the whole ‘don’t-judge-a-book-by-its-cover’ phrase. But hey, since the book was free, why not?

When it came to the characters, I found the female protagonist Ceri D’Altroy a little self-obsessed while the rest of the supporting cast had common social ailments yet unable to handle them well. One night stands, petty separations and falling for a girl whom you just met are really just common social ailments which can be solved with open and honest communication. But for the sake of it being in a book, I suppose the author had to fluff it up a bit. Ceri, on the other hand, ended up spending most of her adult life helping others and while she brought this upon herself, I’m still surprised she was moaning and groaning a lot about it. Again, I know, it’s just a book. Still, it’s like the endless television dramas like Days Of Our Lives where the drama and betrayal scenes were given a social injection to plump it up for the viewers’ sake.

What I found different about the book and quite refreshing actually, was the exchange of Star Trek references by Ceri and the Staring Man a.k.a. Bosley (yes, the Charlie’s Angels Bosley) a.k.a. Angel (finally, Ceri’s very own Angel who is not in the television series Buffy: The Vampire Slayer – I’m even more amazed that the author had used this in the book!).

But while I found certain parts of it annoying, there are the bits and bobs that were pretty okay. For one, despite my earlier rants about the plot being substance-less, it is still a lighter read compared to the ones I just read with The Ice Cream Girls being the heaviest. It was a lot less serious too. And I never thought there was such a concept as a modern-day Cupid. I thought people just dished out advice like how I used to do with friends back in my college days whenever they came to me with friendship or relationship problems, and they could either heed your advice or not.

Ultimately, the phrase of not judging a book by its cover rings all too well throughout the book. From Chapter One all the way until the very last page, it was like a fireworks of emotions. Also, whether Ceri actually had a hand in messing about with other people’s lives or not, I still think that things do happen for a reason and if people aren’t careful, these same things can change in a blink of an eye.

Book Review: Goodnight, Beautiful by Dorothy Koomson.

Blurb on Goodreads:

Nova will do anything for her closest friend, Mal, whom she has known since childhood. So when Mal and his wife, Stephanie, ask Nova to be a surrogate mother, she agrees—despite her reservations about what it might mean for their friendship. Then Nova’s fears are realized. Halfway through the pregnancy, Stephanie finds a text from her husband to Nova that reads “Goodnight, beautiful.” Already suspicious of their deep connection, Stephanie demands that Mal cut all ties to Nova and their unborn baby, leaving Nova to raise the child alone.

Eight years later, Nova is anxiously waiting for her son, Leo, to wake up from a coma, while childless Stephanie is desperately trying to save her failing marriage. Despite her anger and hurt, Nova wants Mal to have the chance to know his son before it’s too late. Will it take a tragedy to remind them all how much they mean to one another?

goodnight-beautiful-dorothy-koomson-goodreads

No. of pages: 433 pages

Publisher: Sphere

Year: February 4th, 2008

Setting: Leeds, London

It has been a good Dorothy Koomson marathon with the first ever book I’ve read by her being The Chocolate Run, followed by The Ice Cream Girls, and the last one being The Cupid Effect which I’m halfway in now and will likely blog about it the following weekend if I’m able to finish reading it by then.

Goodnight, Beautiful has been the most heart-reading and emotional book I’ve read compared to the previous two books by her. And the book kicked off with the main character’s son lying in hospital after a surgery-induced coma on a brain aneurysm. Just for soul’s sake, a friend’s mother had passed away from brain aneurysm late last year so having ro read again on the aneurysm thing made me feel kind of sad.

Dorothy Koomson has made herself a name in my home library as an author who doesn’t shy away from reality and the difficult subjects that life throws at us. Goodnight, Beautiful touches on the kind of tragedy that affects real people in the real world, including but not limited to pregnancy, jealousy and the fear of having a child in a coma.

About The Story

The book is centred mostly around the lives of two female characters: Nova Kumalisi and Stephanie Wacken. Nova is Malvolio ‘Mal’ Wacken’s best friend since childhood while Stephanie is Mal’s wife. Nova had always thought she and Mal had something going on but neither wanted to broach the subject for fear of affecting their friendship. Mal eventually met Stephanie and got married, despite knowing she would be unable to have children.

The book tells of Nova’s and Stephanie’s experiences and how it affected them as they grew up, and lends us an insight as to why they behaved and acted the way they did. I wouldn’t blame you for choosing a side, though, and it also depends on whose side you’re on. I took Nova’s side mostly because I’d been in her shoes once upon a time (minus the getting pregnant part) and I hated Stephanie with gusto because I’ve met people like her and had friends like her. To me, Stephanie was an evil witch, someone with a sad past who would readily use it as an excuse to her behaviour but not enough to say that it justifies her behaviour and actions.

Since Stephanie was unable to bear children, Mal decided to ask his best friend Nova to be a surrogate mother. Nova had concerns about the matter but seeing how close she was to Mal during their growing-up years, she didn’t think twice about it and agreed to it. But when Stephanie discovers a text in Mal’s phone, simply saying, “Goodnight, beautiful” to Nova. she felt a twinge of jealousy growing in her chest and delivered the ultimatum to Mal: that he will have to choose between his wife, and Nova and the baby without so much of giving him a proper reason. Eight years on, Nova had kept the baby, named him Leo and married a policeman and ex-Army personnel named Keith. Life, however, deals a horrible blow to Nova. Leo had been involved in an accident which resulted in him suffering from a brain aneurysm and had to undergo surgery. The surgery left him in a coma in hospital for weeks and Nova is only praying for her son’s recovery.

What I Thought

Despite everything; the sadness, the heartbreaking moments, the tears… I still believe that Goodnight, Beautiful was a bitter-sweet enjoyable read. I mean, yes, we could all do without the pain but the book was still so touching, right until the very end. I loved the characters (well, except Stephanie) and the storyline was so gripping and realistic! I could almost feel myself standing at Mal’s side, smacking him upside on the back of his head for letting Nova go without so much of a fight. What a wuss. But the master behind all this is the author. Koomson is an amazing writer and her books have always moved me, even the previous two that I read.

She explored the areas of jealousy and what it can do to your relationships, what effect surrogate motherhood can have on the person carrying the child and those around them, and how having a child in a coma can effect your entire world. It was a beautiful book no doubt and Koomson wrote it very well. The depths she dove in allowed the book to have meaning and substance. From the first page itself, I felt the book grabbing me by the throat and threatening not to let go. Each time I finished a chapter, I was too curious to want to put it down because I kept wanting to know what’s going to happen next. I find that not many books can do that to me. It’s definitely unlike The Chocolate RunThe Ice Cream Girls and The Cupid Effect (which I’m reading now) where all three tend to be pretty angsty at times.

So would I recommend this book? Yes, definitely! Although I’d warn you to prepare a box of tissues in advance if you are the type to break down easily at a drop of a hat. Also, don’t bother expecting any sort of romance here because when there is a hint of it, you might just want to throttle Stephanie for spoiling everything.

Book Review: The Ice Cream Girls by Dorothy Koomson.

Synopsis by Goodreads:

As teenagers Poppy Carlisle and Serena Gorringe were the only witnesses to a tragic event. Amid heated public debate, the two seemingly glamorous teens were dubbed ‘The Ice Cream Girls’ by the press and were dealt with by the courts.

Years later, having led very different lives, Poppy is keen to set the record straight about what really happened, while married mother-of-two Serena wants no one in her present to find out about her past. But some secrets will not stay buried – and if theirs is revealed, everything will become a living hell all over again…

the-ice-cream-girls-by-dorothy-koomson-goodreads

No. of pages: 452 pages

Publisher: Sphere

Year: 2010

Setting: Brighton

Scanning through the book spines in the two bags that my friend prepared for me, I stumbled upon this also by Dorothy Koomson. I thought, “Wow, what a pretty book! Look at all the pastel colours on the front cover!” Well, I’d tell you not to be fooled by it. Because it is NOT what you think it’s about. It is NOT a sweet story. The story gets under your skin and makes you shiver in disgust at the idea of how much the two poor girls were manhandled by a man whom they looked up to and who should have been looking after them instead of taking advantage of them. There, I’ve said it.

Now let me tell you what it’s really all about.

About The Book

I’ll give you a fair warning. Remember when I said up there not to judge a book by its cover? Yes, really, don’t. Just because it looks pretty on the outside doesn’t mean it’s sweet and lovely on the inside. Don’t get me wrong, though. Whatever the case the book may be, it still is a rather captivating and inducing read.

The story of The Ice Cream Girls was told in two voices: 15-year old teenagers, Poppy Carlisle and Serena Gorringe with each name on each chapter, intertwining one another. Both girls had fallen in love with their teacher Marcus Halnsley, who was a handsome and charming man. Little did the girls know that Marcus had a much darker and more sadistic side which he’d revealed to the girls once they were both smitten with him. One thing to remember though. Poppy and Serena were never friends. In fact, they hadn’t known either of them existed until he decided to introduce them to each other for his own devilish reasons. They had only been mere 15-year olds when they found themselves completely and utterly head over heels in love with Marcus, who had used his position and seniority to control, bully and manipulate them to do his bidding. He literally controlled their behaviours, thoughts and actions. He manipulated their feelings and emotions. He bullied and beat them up if he thought they were misbehaving. Despite the torture and the abuse, the two girls found it difficult to turn and walk away.

Until one night, they had enough and fought back. The consequences that followed were devastating. Being the only two witnesses to the tragic event, Poppy and Serena were arrested, charged and tried in court, and were vilified and scrutinised by the press and the public. A photograph of the girls were found, which had been taken and staged by Marcus before he died. The photograph showed them wearing tiny bikinis and eating ice cream, which led to society branding them as ‘The Ice Cream Girls’. A court session later and their lives took vastly different paths. Poppy Carlisle had been convicted of murder and sent to prison. Serena, however, had been found ‘not guilty’ and released to live her life. 20 years later, Poppy emerges from prison on parole and decides to set the record straight. She still believes that she’s innocent while Serena was the one with the murder charge on her head and was determined to make her confess. Serena, on the other hand, is not willing to set foot anywhere near her past and wants to let the past remain firmly that way, in the past.

Dorothy Koomson did a great job with the book. Having intertwined the chapters with each alternate one bearing Poppy’s or Serena’s name. It was a little challenging for me because I had to make sure I know what I was reading or I’d get confused over who’s done what. The book threw up some questions, thought, about their innocence and defence. I thought it was hard to believe that either girl had been a murderer although what they went through would be questionable to their actions. Perhaps the author hadn’t wanted to focus too much on the court and trial process; her direction was to tell a story on domestic violence, child abuse and emotional manipulation.

What I Thought

Despite all that, I found myself thoroughly enjoying it. The plot draws you in from the very beginning and leaves you desperate to know what happened that fateful night and whether the killer would be revealed. It was a beautifully-written novel; part crime, part thriller, part romance (although the last bit is questionable – how could it be romance if the person whom you’re in love with turns out to be a sadistic monster who preys on the young and innocent for the sake of his pleasure?). The author was spot-on with her chilling tale of lost childhood, manipulation, brutality and betrayal. The story itself had been laden with tension right from the start and you fall for it, hook line and sinker!

The book got under my skin from the first chapter itself and I usually don’t stay up late trying to finish reading a book, but when I do, I make sure the following day is a public holiday. I finished it early this morning at 5:00am so I can be here to tell you all about it. It is, as I said, a painful story on domestic violence, child abuse and emotional manipulation at its best. Imagine you’re a teenager only to have your life torn apart and changed forever when you meet a man like Marcus Halnsley. Although in reality, relationships between teachers and students aren’t something new. But they do occur and when they do, they’re not a pretty sight. Imagine being physically, emotionally and mentally abused by someone whom you thought was supposed to protect you and take care of you! Instead, he grooms you to be what he wants to see and love; he takes advantage of your innocence; he forbids you to have a social life outside of your relationship with him. And when you decide to end the relationship, you know it won’t be easy. That was how it was for Poppy and Serena.

Things got tense and took a turn for the worse. When they realised what they have done, it was too late to take it back. If they had stayed, he would have survived. Yet, neither of them could bear to let him live for fear that he would then turn around and destroy their lives. But they wouldn’t have known that he would die under the hand of someone else. Someone near and dear to him. Someone much closer to him than the two girls ever were. For that, Poppy was misjudged, accused and wrongfully jailed for 20 years in prison while Serena never overcame the fear and anxiety caused unto her over the years.

What would YOU have done, if you were in either of the girl’s shoes?

Paragraphs of Decadence from ‘The Chocolate Run’ by Dorothy Koomson.

what-chocolate-are-you

It’s been quite awhile now, probably more than two weeks that I last finished reading The Chocolate Run by Dorothy Koomson. It was truly an interesting and unique book. I loved it despite the endless drama by the quartet of friends (Matt and Jenna, Amber and Greg). What I loved especially about the book is the author’s ability in describing a character by attributing them to different kinds of chocolate. Then again, it could have been research but man, she must have done some pretty good research to know what chocolate suits which character!

These were what I unearthed while I was reading the book (and yes, I took snapshots of the chocolatey paragraphs that stuck out with me the longest). These were the confectionery descriptions that Amber Salpone doled out on some of the people she met (I’m only missing the one she :

When describing Jenna Hartman, Amber’s then-best-friend:

She wasn’t like any chocolate or sweet I’d ever encountered. She was one of those new chocolate bars that you settled on as you walked into a shop. Its wrapping was so effortlessly classy that it made everything around it seemed so gaudy and cheap. This chocolate was unique. It was real white chocolate. Not the creamy colour most white chocolates are but snow white. It had lots of cream and milk and white sugar but minimal cocoa. It was soft around the edges, very quick and easy to melt so you had to be careful how you handled it. And because of that, because of the element of risk involved, most people would ignore it, going instead for what they knew. Grabbing their Mars or Twix or Dairy Milk because when it came down to it, most people tended to stick to what was familiar. And under that white chocolate bubbled real champagne. Fun, refreshing champagne, an experience you wanted to last and last.

When describing Martha, Amber’s co-worker at the WYIFF:

I knew instantly that she was a fruit and nut. Something reliable, an old favourite you liked having around. She’d always be your favourite piece of confectionery, you’d always think of her if you were having a party or needed someone to talk to. She was unpretentious like the chocolate and sweet like the raisins in a fruit and nut. But Martha had an excess of nuts. The hard bits you weren’t expecting to encounter when you were chilling. The nut you could break your tooth on if you pushed it. You found that out very quickly because with Martha, what you saw was what you got.

When describing Matt, Jen’s boyfriend and fiance:

With Matt, it was toffee. He was in no way chocolate and all the sensuous delights it brought. Inside him, at the very core of his being was a lump of toffee. Something that had no depth. Under each layer was nothing but more toffee. Try as you might you’d find nothing but hard, unchanging, unadventurous toffee. Alright, it was made with the best ingredients: hand-spun butter, thick and gloopy cream from an organically-raised cow, top quality sun-grown sugarcane sugar, but it was still toffee. It was still unchanging. I liked toffee but there was only so much of it you can take.

When describing Renee, Amber’s manager at the WYIFF:

Renee was a brandy liqueur truffle, made with genuine French brandy. Classy inside and out. Smooth, pure, dark chocolate. Bitter on the outside and covered in cocoa powder. Once you bit into it, though, the brandy startled you. It was smooth, warming. It gently heated your throat, then your oesophagus, then your stomach. Once it got to know you, this brandy liqueur truffle had no kick. It might threaten it by being brandy, but in reality, it was smooth and loveable. You never forgot a real brandy truffle – its unusualness was always there at the back of your mind. And you never forgot Renee, no matter how hard you tried. 

When describing Greg Walterson, Matt’s best friend:

Greg had been created by someone who didn’t know when to stop; someone who when presented with top-quality ingredients, chose to endow one man with them rather than dishing them out fairly amongst the rest of the male populace. Greg’s eyes, for example, were like Minstrels, were like shiny discs of hard, dark chocolate. His hair was so black it was blue-black and hung like long curls of liquorice around his face. His slightly olive skin was lovingly moulded onto his strong bone structure. And his lips… his lips were as succulent as pink Jelly Babies.

I don’t know about you guys but anyone who uses chocolates to describe another person is my favourite kind of person! It goes to show that you really have to know your chocolates before slapping on a name or type of chocolate onto whoever you were describing! Simply and truly amazing. And now, it’s making me feel like raiding my refrigerator for a piece of chocolate.