Tag: Opinions

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!

The Never-Ending Debate of Books vs Movies.

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It was a peaceful Saturday sit-in yesterday for my husband and I. We kicked off the day with some music from the 80s on YouTube and ended with The Bodyguard starring Kevin Costner as the titular character and Whitney Houston as singer-actress Rachel Marron, the client whom Costner’s character was paid to protect.

After the movie (which we watched for free on Yes Movies), I remembered that I wanted to watch The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel as well. Actually, I was supposed to watch that movie immediately after reading the book. But I completely forgot all about it and to be honest, if I did watch it now, I wouldn’t remember the storyline much as I had finished the book last year. But still, it wouldn’t hurt to watch it anyway.

So I did.

But I stopped halfway through the movie.

Because I realised that the movie had not followed much of the book at all! Granted most movies don’t actually follow the book word for word, but there were no proper transitions at all between each scene and the early parts of the movie had not properly explained who each character was and why they had decided to go to India. Whereas in the book, there were chapters that were dedicated to describing each character and his or her purpose in the story.

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Which brings us to this never-ending debate of whether books are still better than movies or vice versa. Of course, it depends on whose side you’re on and what sort of person you are. If you’re like me, an avid reader who swears by the novels she reads and doesn’t let e-books get in the way of your paperback relationship, then books will always triumph over movies. If you’re hardly a reader and prefers to have comic books as your bed-side choice, then movies will be your source of joy and happiness.

It is undeniable that a book always takes the cake over its movie version. Movies will never ever replace the power of imagination that a book has for you through its pages. With books, you can close your eyes and pretend that you’re arm-wrestling with cowboys on the moon with Spongebob Squarepants and Patrick Star on Robot Pirate Island. You can already hear the mechanical sounds in your ears. That’s what imagination does to you and to think that Spongebob and Patrick didn’t even need a book!

But wait, let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. Not all movie adaptations are evil. Some are pretty good even if it meant that they had to be clipped to fit the standard duration. The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Harry Potter franchise and the Chronicles of Narnia were pretty decent movie adaptations.

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Movies can do a lot of things, like making us see a lot of things. They can bring whole new worlds to life before our eyes and turn characters into living and breathing bodies. Movies leave us on the edge of our seats as nail-biting battle scenes are being fought in front of us, or leave us heartbroken and in tears over a death, or smiling with joy at a birth of a newborn child.

Books require complete silence and are a pure, undiluted form of escape, there’s nothing like sitting in a cinema with only the lights streaming from the big screen in front of you, devoid of any other distraction (save for the errant ping of an ignorant cinema-goer) and your attention is paid only on the story playing on the screen.

Movies are amazing creations but they don’t have the same kind of magic that books have. With movies, you’re merely an observer. You don’t feel the emotions that the character feels; you aren’t reading every single one of their innermost thoughts, their doubts, fears and hopes. Movies also have the bad habit of leaving us with this thought, “That’s not how I pictured it to be!” Just like the movie that I watched last night. The book and the movie did not match at all, with what seemed like missing key characters or characters thrown into the mix just for the sake of being there. It’s kind of like fluff-writing where you add in unnecessary items just to plump up the plot and make it seem longer.

But with books, you feel everything, you know everything and you live everything! You can be the saviour of the world; you can be the girl who battles a life-changing disease; you can be a demigod, an alien, an angel, a god, a villain or a hero. You can be anything and everything. There are no limits to who you want to be. There is no limited storytelling time with books compared to movies. Movies have to be condensed to the point of removing or deleting parts which also leads to what I call as mis-transitions. Changes of scenes that have no rhyme or reason of being there. That’s because movies have to be done and over with within a maximum of 3 hours. Any longer and your cinema-goers might just nod off in their seats.

Books don’t need the power of visuals to allow readers to put the story together with the elements in their minds. The stories that you read in books will stay with you forever. Just like music and vinyl, and writing and books. Movies don’t have much to offer except for the scenes that you have seen with your eyes.

That is why books for me will always be better. When you read a book, nothing else exists around you and you can be that whole other person in a completely new and amazing world. You can be someone else, live that person’s life, be free of your own troubles, even if it’s only for a few hundred pages. Books are the medicine for your mind, the magic for your imagination. Which is why I stopped halfway through The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel movie and preferred to maintain the pristine image of the story in my head since I’ve read the book. Which is why for me, movies may be great but books will always be greater.

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.

A Costly Convenience for the Digital Savvy.

Sometimes I wonder if modern technology today is good for us. Technology has helped to save lives, complete tasks, build machines, design skyscrapers and manufacture various modes of transportation. Yet at the same time, technology can also destroy what we have worked so hard to create. It can turn round any time and stab us in the back especially if it falls into the wrong hands.

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Why I’m bringing this up is because there have been a spate of break-ins occuring lately in so-called gated-and-guarded properties. Despite the number of guard patrols, high-tech security perimeter fencing, video surveillance and smartphone-controlled alarm systems, these culprits are still able to enter our homes without breaking a sweat.

This leaves me with these questions: Do they know how to hack into our safety measures that we have so carefully placed on our homes? Or perhaps they have a hacking software that unlatches the safety hooks that we’ve placed to protect ourselves?

In this new age of technology, there exists a wide range of tech gears and gadgets in the market that promise to simplify or enhance our lives. For the big spenders, a real-life, to-scale car conversion kit or an underwater recreational vehicle (RV) will certainly leave a glossy impression with their friends. For the restless travellers, breaking the bank for the latest, state-of-the-art gadgets will likely put you in the centre of attention.

Like I mentioned above, technology can be a double-edged sword depending on who is the one wielding it. The underwater RV is certainly not a practical purchase and you would be wary of bringing your expensive gear with you when you go around the world. Although we can forgive you for thinking of how easily some wallet-draining thingamabobs fit into our carry-on to make our next trip stress-free; from tech toys that allow you to keep an eye on your home or pets while you’re away, to handy gadgets for translation, or multi-USB-port power banks to keep your mobile phones powered up (phew, what a mouthful!).

Who can forget the automated and secure locks that are fast becoming an integral part of smart homes? Who knew that we would live long enough to see the deployment of keyless entry systems that can easily be managed with a tap of your finger on your smartphone app? You may jump for joy now knowing you can instantly grant and revoke access to your home while you’re on-the-go. But have you given any thought to what might happen if your phone fell into the wrong hands?

See, this is when technology can backfire and betray you.

It’s one thing to have convenience at your fingertips but it’s a whole different story when things go awry. The bar has been raised even higher with many hotels implementing the utilisation of mobile applications as their hotel room keys, which allows guests to bypass the front desk altogether. Now how about that? Have you ever made a reservation at a hotel room like this before? Would you think of this as a convenience or a threat?

While the ability to book a flight and reserve a hotel room online is nothing new, the switch to the focus on how much your smartphone capability is. In 2012, a mere 2 per cent of passengers preferred to use their smartphones for travel booking but that number had increased more than three times to 70 per cent in 2015! Travellers rarely part from their smartphones, and a larger value of mobile technology may reside in its ability to provide a seamless experience while in transit.

To make matters worse, the invention of geolocation has now provided us with the ability to receive status updates based on what part of the travel process we are in, from security lines to flight delays to full itinerary changes. Do we really need to know exactly where you have been, what you are doing at that very instant and who you are with now? Not likely. Letting the whole world know your whereabouts is a huge risk if that data and information fall into the wrong hands. So what would your best practice be then?

As the creation of new travel tools increases with a host of amazing opportunities to share and consider, so does your responsibility to address these issues and take control of your well-being. Your safety is yours alone to monitor and manage. The last thing you need is to open up your home to strangers who don’t care much for your dog.

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.