Tag: Friendships

Book Review: Summer’s Child by Diane Chamberlain.

summers-child-diane-chamberlain-goodreads

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.

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 Chocolate Run by Dorothy Koomson.

the-chocolate-run-by-dorothy-koomson-goodreadsNo. of Pages: 419 pages

Date Published: February 7, 2008 (first published March 25, 2004)

Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group

Author’s Website: Dorothy Koomson

So here’s the other book from the same friend who loaned me The Stepmothers’ Support Group by Sam Baker. Actually, that’s the same friend who loaned me two bags full of books to make up for my 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge (since I only have 15 with me now). This one is called The Chocolate Run by Dorothy Koomson and you know what? After I finished the book, I realised how much it mirrored my life especially during my college years when I used to have a friend who was as bitchy and manipulative as Amber Salpone’s friend, Jenna Leigh Hartman.

Amber Salpone is not a chocoholic. She doesn’t gorge on chocolates nor does she bury her sorrows in packs of chocolates either. Amber is a chocolate sniffer; an individual who gets her kicks from sniffing chocolate, kind of like a glue sniffer, but she needs to her chocolate fix to think and make decisions. Amber compares everyone she meets to chocolate, from her boss Renee to Matt, her then best friend, Jenna’s boyfriend and fiance. Chocolate is a constant in her life, what we’d call her safety net. But she eventually learns that running to chocolate all the time is not always going to help her. As a reult of her commitment-phobic self, she has not been in a relationship for 18 months and she loves every moment of it. Yet, she cannot fathom why she is falling in love with Greg, her male best friend and epic womaniser! Curious, she decides to pursue this relationship with Greg, despite the barriers and personal issues. As she does so, she also realises that her best friend is slowly turning into a skinny, selfish and horrid person whom Amber doesn’t know anymore nor does she want to know either. There are some pretty dark secrets that Amber and her four friends harbour; secrets that threaten to tear apart what seemed like a great friendship. She will have to confront them one day and make her choices about who is her true friend and lover.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Amber Salpone doesn’t keen to keep ending up in bed with her friend Greg Walterson, but she can’t help herself. And every time it “just happens” their secret affair moves closer to being a real relationship, which is a big problem when he’s a womanizer and she’s a commitment-phone. While Amber struggles to accept her new feelings for Greg, she also realizes that her closeness to Jen, her best friend, is slipping away and the two of them are becoming virtual strangers. Slowly but surely, as the stark truths of all their lives are revealed, Amber has to confront the fact that chocolate can’t cure everything and sometimes running away isn’t an option… The Chocolate Run is a delectable tale of lust, love and chocolate.

About The Story

I liked the book to an extent, though like I said, it could probably be because it mirrored a lot of my life during my college years. This is my first book that I’m reading by this author and so far, it was a rather exciting and gripping tale. Each character had his or her story to tell and room to grow. The author wove the story in such a way that you would feel how the main character felt — when Amber was sad, you were sad too; and when her heart broke, so did yours. Renee and Martha, her work colleagues, were amazing supporting characters who added a dash of laughter, sarcasm and wit to the mix but were generally good people and probably better friends than Matt and Jenna.

Amber would have made a wonderful friend to Jenna had their relationship continued to go strong. However, beneath every greatness lies a deep, dark secret. Amber was damaged as an individual. Having survived her parents’ divorce, she was always running away from things that often looked like they had a capacity to hurt her and she couldn’t bear to think about the future. All she wanted was the ‘right here, right now’. She had what I had, a fight-or-flight response built into her and like yours truly, we both chose ‘flight’ as our response to when things got too tough for us. Eventually, however, it became frustrating to know that Amber was running away from some of the greatest things in her life but as a reader, I knew there was always a reason for her flaws.

But she did have someone else whom she could turn to when she was having an issue. That someone was Eric, her stepbrother whose dad fell in love and moved in with her mother. It was really interesting to read the many ways that Amber tried as she worked through her issues. Not just for Greg or with Greg but more so for herself. Despite being seen as strong on the outside, she was usually vulnerable and frightened on the inside. This book gave Amber more than enough space to grow from a meek individual into a strong and capable woman by the end of the novel.

As with every book, there was always someone setting himself or herself up to be hated and despised. In The Chocolate Run, it was Amber’s so-called best friend, Jenna. In fact, the more I read about her, the more she made me remember the friend whom I used to hang out with in college and hated every thing she did, the more I despised her! That’s what attracted me to the book in the first place. I’ve been in Amber’s situation before and I used to have a friend who started off being nice to me but eventually ended up as the most hypocritical person ever. Yet, no one could see this but me. That’s because she was great with others but when it came to me, oh boy, she could be downright critical and judgmental. I felt like a proud mother hen though when Amber realised what was really going on and how she dealt with the situation. She had more balls than me to end the friendship whereas I could not bring myself to tell the person that it was over between us. It felt extremely satisfying since I always hate it when a “bad” character in a book gets off with a caution or a Get Out Of Jail Free card.

What I Thought…

Personally, I thought that this was a very chocolatey story! It wasn’t too sweet and cliched for my liking. It just made me want to dive into a pot full of hot, smooth and silky melted chocolate. At first, when I learnt of how Greg Walterson was throwing himself at Amber, I thought, ‘Oh how lovely it must be to have a man throwing himself at you.‘ And not just any man, mind you, but a man who is a hit with the women yet he only wants to be with you.

Although, I believe alarm bells would go off in my head if I knew what sort of man he is: A serious womaniser. Would I still want to be with him? Would I trust him if he said he gave me his little black book and deleted all the women’s numbers in his mobile phone? Like I mentioned above, the book reminded me a lot about how I was always picking up after a friend who was too busy hooking up and getting hurt to realise how much of our friendship had been unravelled because of that. It was painful then and it is still painful now just thinking about it. The first question would be: Who comes first? Your best friend or your boyfriend? Assuming you knew both of them for around the same period of time. Then, the next question would be: What happens if your boyfriend thinks your best friend is taking you for granted but you don’t see it? What happens if your best friend thinks you’re abandoning her for your boyfriend? I know right?

Amber Salpone is a lot like me (and a lot of other girls or boys in this situation). We tend to overthink a lot and then get nauseous or headachey when things we thought so hard about began as trivial matters and ended up becoming big and complicated. But this is what reality is all about: Friendship torn apart by the drama and lust of love and relationships. It also reminds me of how much we value friendships to the point of being unable to choose between your significant other and your best friend. What we should have is a healthy balance of both, although more often than not, that’s easier said than done. But if I had a friend like Amber Salpone does in the book, I’d be more than ready to dump her and drop the friendship because with toxic friends like Jenna Hartman, you don’t need enemies.