Tag: Goodreads

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: 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.

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…

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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?

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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.