Tag: Lies

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

the-far-side-of-the-sun-book-review

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.

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 Vacationers by Emma Straub.

the-vacationers-by-emma-straubType: Paperback, 293 pages

Publisher: Picador, June 5, 2014 (first published in 2014)

Setting: Mallorca, Spain

The Vacationers by Emma Straub is probably one of the few books that I’d buy on a whim online or at the bookstore. Simply because the book’s title may have appeared online as an ad in relation to something I’ve read before. And upon reading the synopsis at the back cover, I’d find that it has just enough value to grace the shelves in my home. Why I say this is due to the fact that I have never heard of Emma Straub before and I usually don’t go for these kind of books. Fiction yes, but not one with the entire emotional baggage, from adultery to betrayal, lies and more hidden secrets than the underwear in my wardrobe!

The Vacationers kicked off with the Post family packing and preparing for a two-week vacation in Mallorca, Spain. Franny Post, wife, mother and author by occupation, had planned the vacation for her family (her husband Jim and daughter Sylvia), her eldest son Bobby and his girlfriend Carmen who is at least ten years older than he is, and her gay best friend Charles and his husband Lawrence. The vacation was supposed to be one of merry times, sand, surf and sea, and laughter in the sun, a place and time to spend valuable moments with one another, despite the deep dark secrets that each of them harbour prior to the trip.

As is always the case, however, a book like this would have secrets and lies carried by each person which is enough to destroy everything that every one of them had built for themselves and for the other individual in their lives. Indeed it does.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

An irresistible, deftly observed novel about the secrets, joys, and jealousies that rise to the surface over the course of an American family’s two-week stay in Mallorca.

For the Posts, a two-week trip to the Balearic island of Mallorca with their extended family and friends is a celebration: Franny and Jim are observing their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary, and their daughter, Sylvia, has graduated from high school. The sunlit island, its mountains and beaches, its tapas and tennis courts, also promise an escape from the tensions simmering at home in Manhattan. But all does not go according to plan: over the course of the vacation, secrets come to light, old and new humiliations are experienced, childhood rivalries resurface, and ancient wounds are exacerbated.

This is a story of the sides of ourselves that we choose to show and those we try to conceal, of the ways we tear each other down and build each other up again, and the bonds that ultimately hold us together. With wry humor and tremendous heart, Emma Straub delivers a richly satisfying story of a family in the midst of a maelstrom of change, emerging irrevocably altered yet whole.

Franny Post was hiding the fact that her husband Jim had an affair with an intern as old as their daughter Sylvia. The act itself had caused a domino effect in Jim’s life, from the embarrassing confrontation with his company management board which led to his dismissal from the company to the icy cold treatments that his wife is giving him at home.  Thankfully, by the time the vacation ended, Jim and Franny’s marriage had seemed to be on the mend and they might just pull through after all.

Bobby is dating Carmen, a fitness freak and personal trainer at the gym where he trains. Despite his parents’ efforts to pay through their noses for his college education and showering him with even more attention than they did to their younger daughter Sylvia, his job at the gym involves selling muscle gain powder and trying to be a personal trainer just like Carmen. He initially had a job as a real estate agent in Miami but when the market started to dip, he tried to give being a trainer a shot. In a futile attempt to make fast cash, he eventually got involved in what seemed like a protein shake pyramid scheme that left him in a huge debt of $150,000 and he hardly made a cent. The duo occupy a part of the story almost entirely separate from all the other vacationers (literally). Although Carmen is always “seen” in her workout clothes, doing various exercises by the pool, she appears to be a kind and stable force in Bobby’s life which is a good thing. Sadly, this did not seem enough to be enough of a reason to be one of the family, probably because she is so much older than he is.

Hence, a part of Bobby’s agenda for the trip was to tell his parents that even at 28, he still needed help, particularly financial help. He had managed to avoid dealing with this until Carmen forced him to spill the beans one night during dinner. That had gotten the ball rolling, gave the story an interesting poke and all the seams began to fall apart. And when Bobby decided to go out clubbing in Mallorca, taking his sister Sylvia with him instead of Carmen, things take a turn for the worse. This eventually comes out and Carmen leaves him and Mallorca for good.

So far, Charles and Lawrence are the least problematic holiday-goers on the trip, although they aren’t actually off the hook either. Lawrence isn’t took keen on his husband Charles’ unnatural closeness with Franny but because they have been best friends for decades, he had no choice but to let it go and do his own thing instead. On a lighter and probably happier note, Charles and Lawrence are preparing to welcome baby Alphonse into their home, a baby boy they had adopted through the agency before they left for Mallorca. Sylvia joins the gay couple in the least problematic group, although she did have a crush on her Spanish tutor, Joan (pronounced ‘Jo-ahhhn’), and spent the entire novel trying to flirt with him in the most American way possible. I don’t blame Joan for having not noticed it from the start.

What I liked about the book was the melting pot of characters. Each one has a different personality and once these various personalities were thrown into the mix, it is kind of interesting to see how they try to live in peace under one roof. I know how that feels as I’ve lived in a townhouse with different people before when I was studying overseas and I’ll be frank with you, it was quite challenging trying to understand each person’s flaws and strengths and living with the flaws.

I guess the moral of the story is that if you’re boiling something on the stove and you don’t watch it closely, it will eventually boil over and make a mess in the kitchen which you’re not looking forward to cleaning up. If you’re already at loggerheads with someone and you have to go on a trip with that person, chances are something is going to flip and both of you will go for the jugular. So it’s good to keep a cool head on your shoulders and if you have to confront someone, do it wisely.

Although, it was to be expected that at some point, everyone would have to kiss and make up, forgive and forget, and move on with life. The Posts’ marriage was rocky right from the start but they managed to pull through. One way or another, someone will have to make a sacrifice and meet the other person halfway. Compromise. Ah yes, that’s the word.

Book Review: My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier.

my-cousin-rachel-by-daphne-du-maurierType: Paperback, 335 pages

Publisher: Virago, May 1, 2013 (first published in 1951)

Original Title: My Cousin Rachel

Characters: Philip Ashley, Ambrose Ashley, Rachel Ashley, Signor Rainaldi, Nicholas Kendall, Louise Kendall, Father Pasco, Mrs Pascoe, Mary Pascoe, Seecombe, Tamlyn, and Wellington.

So, here I am, back again with yet another book review. This time, it’s of a mystery, Gothic romance set in Cornwall. Let me briefly tell you what the book was all about before I proceed with sharing my thoughts and opinions of the book.

My Cousin Rachel tells the tale of a young orphan boy by the name of Philip Ashley who became the sole heir of the estates, wealth and fortune that his older cousin, Ambrose, had left behind after his mysterious death while vacationing in Florence, Rome. Philip had suspected that Ambrose’s wife was the guilty party in his death along with the help of her dear friend, the surly Signor Rainaldi. Philip was pretty darn sure that all would have gone smoothly had it not been for his cousin’s failing health and a doctor’s medical advice for him to leave London due to the clammy weather. Ambrose had gone to Florence and would stay there until his health improved. During his stay in Florence, however, he met a distant cousin by the name of Rachel and within a short time, they got married. Much to Philip’s chagrin.

 Synopsis by Goodreads:

I threw the piece of paper on the fire. She saw it burn…

Orphaned at an early age, Philip Ashley is raised by his benevolent older cousin, Ambrose. Resolutely single, Ambrose delights in Philip as his heir, a man who will come to love his grand house as much as he does himself. But the cosy world the two have constructed is shattered when Ambrose sets off on a trip to Florence. There he falls in love and marries – and there he dies suddenly. 

In almost no time at all, the new widow – Philip’s cousin Rachel – turns up in England. Despite himself, Philip is drawn to this beautiful, sophisticated, mysterious woman like a moth to the flame. And yet… might she have had a hand in Ambrose’s death?

The thing is, Philip did not have any proof of Rachel’s involvement in his death, save for a few disturbing letters that Ambrose had mailed to him over the course of his stay in Florence. And being the only one whom the letters were addressed to, Philip was the sole witness of his cousin’s suffering at the hands of their distant cousin. Anger and hatred boiled and bubbled in his blood, a deafening roar in his ears when he learnt of his cousin’s death. It made matters worse when Rachel had announced that she was coming to London for a while and possibly stay with either Philip or his godfather, Nicholas Kendall, for the time being. Philip could barely come to terms with his cousin leaving him for Florence, then getting married, and then dying without a trace or proof as to how he died.

It had been a rather intriguing story from the start, with me being thrust into the cobwebs of distrust, lies and deceit so early on in the book. Questions of how Ambrose died and who might have had a hand in his death had already flooded my mind, but it was too early in the first half of the book to tell if there really had been any clues leading to his death. One could clearly tell, however, that there were striking similarities between Ambrose and his young cousin and heir, Philip. Which sort of made me wonder if they were as innocent in the first place. Still, it had been too early to tell.

But as I carried on reading, I realised that while there were no indications as to whether Rachel was truly the guilty party or not, the manners of a petulant child were starting to arise in the form of the 24-year-old Philip Ashley. His actions as a gentleman left much to be desired. He was either blind to the nature of women, as Louise Kendall, his childhood friend and daughter of his godfather, puts it, or he was just a bull-headed boy with far too much ego. For someone approaching his mid-twenties, he sure was one hell of a spoilt brat! Perhaps, like Rachel had insinuated somewhere in the book, Philip just never saw enough of the world but really, some of the things he’d done in the book were just brought on by impulse. It made him appear naive and foolish.

Eventually, I got to a point where relief was just another 5 chapters to go before I was done with the book. I couldn’t wait, though, to find out if either Rachel was telling the truth or whether Philip had seriously gone out of his mind. A cloying young Englishman, spoilt, bratty and arrogant, acting like a child. I felt so tempted to reach into the pages and smack him upside behind the head. He was neither a man nor a child. He was, by far, the most foolish and idiotic person. Here’s another scene depicting his foolishness when instead of asking for a birthday present like any normal and sane person would do, he decides to give away his entire wealth and estate to a woman he barely knew. Nothing Louise said could break him out of his reverie.

Throughout the entire book, the reader would constantly question if Ambrose Ashley was to blame for his self-centeredness and arrogant ways and mistreatment of Rachel, or was Philip Ashley just to blind-sided to see things for what they are and not for what he thinks they are, or was their cousin Rachel really to blame for her treacherous ways. But one could question the possibility of whether she had done it in an act of self-defense or that she had planned on killing him for his vast fortune.

These were the questions for which even I did not have the answers to:

  • Did he really die from a mysterious illness to the brain?
  • Or was he poisoned as he believed himself to have been done in at the hands of Rachel?
  • Had Philip really planned on leaving Rachel approach death without warning her of the unfinished bridge?
  • And who was this Signor Rainaldi who never left Rachel’s side?
  • Was he the perpetrator behind Rachel’s plans?

After all the author had not made any assumptions nor given any conclusions. But she did leave enough room for her readers to constantly ask themselves, “Who was the guilty party?” It was left to the understanding of the reader.

By the way, did you know that the book, My Cousin Rachel, had also been made into a movie in 1953? Directed by Henry Koster, the film had starred Olivia De Havilland as the titular character, Rachel, with a very young Richard Burton as Philip Ashley. You can view the movie trailer here on YouTube.