Tag: Plots

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: 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: Deep Down Things by Tamara Linse.

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Deep Down Things by Tamara Linse. | Photo by Books Direct.

I’ve read this book earlier, and finished it within a week. Only because I brought the book with me to work and spent some time reading it on my lunch break. I realised that I missed out on a post of my thoughts and opinions about the book, so here it is. Today.

We will kick off with the custom of sharing the synopsis of the book from Goodreads, followed by a new practice of uploading a memorable phrase or quote from the book (if there are any), and lastly, my thoughts on the book, plot and/or characters.

Synopsis:

Deep Down Things, Tamara Linse’s debut novel, is the emotionally riveting story of three siblings torn apart by a charismatic bullrider-turned-writer and the love that triumphs despite tragedy. From the death of her parents at sixteen, Maggie Jordan yearns for lost family, while sister CJ drowns in alcohol and brother Tibs withdraws. When Maggie and an idealistic young writer named Jackdaw fall in love, she is certain that she’s found what she’s looking for. As she helps him write a novel, she gets pregnant, and they marry. But after Maggie gives birth to a darling boy, Jes, she struggles to cope with Jes’s severe birth defect, while Jackdaw struggles to overcome writer’s block brought on by memories of his abusive father. Ambitious, but never seeming so, Deep Down Things may remind you of Kent Haruf’s Plainsong and Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper.

Memorable Phrase:

Welcome to the country town of Loveland, where “people from all over mail in their Valentines so they can have a Loveland postmark”, and where the locals spend their days drinking at the bar, riding bulls in rodeos, or fishing. – Source: Books Direct.

Deep Down Things‘ is written in the form of a heartbreaking account of how three siblings, Maggie (short for Magdelene), CJ (short for Cleopatra Jordan) and Tibs (Tiberius) Jordan, struggle to accept their parents’ deaths and carry on living, while at the same time, struggling to survive with the tragedies that they face in present time. Told alternately from the points-of-view of Maggie, her sister CJ, her brother Tibs, and Tibs’ friend, Jackdaw, readers are able to follow each character’s account on what happens and what has happened in their lives, and how they adjust to it.

Maggie was too young to be affected by her parents’ death, but yearns for the tender loving care that many parents provide to their offspring. CJ is bitter and turns to alcohol and bartending for support. Tibs withdraws and struggles to find himself amidst the chaos. Enter Jackdaw, a charismatic bullrider-turned-writer, and suddenly, the siblings’ lives are turned inside out, and upside down. Maggie falls in love with Jackdaw, much to the chagrin of her sister CJ. Tibs provides his brotherly support but can’t help feeling that there is something wrong with the whole equation. But when Maggie is pregnant with Jackdaw’s baby who was unfortunately born with a severe birth defect, things start to take a turn for the worse.

My verdict:

The plus points of the book were its take on life and reality, how harsh it can be when things don’t turn out right, and pregnancy. It’s easier said than done when people tell you to make lemon juice when life throws lemons at you. Especially when you have suffered so much in the past, only to be reminded again in the present, and you wonder if you have anymore strength left in you to carry on. What are you going to do when you find out that you’re pregnant with someone’s child and you aren’t even married? What do you do when your baby has a birth defect? What happens when the man you fell in love before turns into someone you don’t recognise anymore? These questions are often faced by women, and more often than not, they don’t get the moral and emotional support that they deserve. Maggie faces all of these problems, and she doesn’t even have a reliable adult to lean on. Her parents perished when she was young. Jackdaw’s father can’t be trusted. I don’t recall ever reading about friends that Maggie should be having in the book.

The downside to the book was the behaviour of Jackdaw. If there is one thing that I can’t take sitting down, it’s a man’s cockiness and egoistic behaviour. Of course, this is only a story, but you know how stories go with me. I’m so bloody emphatic that how a book is written will impact me, one way or another. And I was quite annoyed with Jackdaw’s personality and character. Otherwise, the book was actually quite intriguing, enough to keep me going on until I finally turn the last page. Not the best I’ve read, but it served its purpose in keeping me occupied.

Movie Review: Spectre.

Spectre. It's just a speck of dust on my window sill. | Photo by comingsoon.net.
Spectre. It’s just a speck of dust on my window sill… | Photo by comingsoon.net.

I had the privilege of watching the premiere of ‘Spectre‘, the new James Bond instalment (courtesy of my father-in-law, who won four tickets to watch it at GSC in One Utama. So I went with my husband, and both my in-laws). Daniel Craig returned as the troubled, rule-breaking Agent 007, with Ralph Fiennes as ‘M’, Ben Whishaw as ‘Q’, and Naomie Harris as Moneypenny. Other roles were Lea Seydoux as Austrian doctor and possibly Bond’s new love, Madeleine Swann, Christoph Waltz as Oberhauser a.k.a. Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Dave Bautista as the villain Hinx, and Andrew Scott as Max Denbigh. I only know three names, though: Monica Belluci (Lucia), Daniel Craig, and Ralph Fiennes. I have no idea who the rest are.

The plot dilutes a lot in this movie, with critics rating it less than three stars out of five (read the review here on USA Today). The only best performing Bond movie so far with Daniel Craig in it was Skyfall. The rest were quite soggy in terms of performance. IMDB.com kicked off the movie with:

“A cryptic message from the past sent James Bond on a rogue mission to Mexico City and eventually Rome, where he meets Lucia, the beautiful and forbidden widow of an infamous criminal. Bond infiltrates a secret meeting and uncovers the existence of the sinister organisation known as SPECTRE. Meanwhile back in London, Max Denbigh, the new head of the Centre of National Security, questions Bond’s actions and challenges the relevance of MI6 led by M. Bond covertly enlists Moneypenny and Q to help him seek out Madeleine Swann, the daughter of his old nemesis Mr White, who may hold the clue to untangling the web of SPECTRE. As the daughter of the assassin, she understands Bond in a way most others cannot. As Bond ventures towards the heart of SPECTRE, he learns a chilling connection between himself and the enemy he seeks.”

My thoughts were centred only on one or two things. The first that got tangled in my brain was the opening credits. The song ‘Writing on the Wall’ is the movie soundtrack sung by Sam Smith, a crooner with a falsetto. I’m not sure that I’m able to associate a high-pitched song with the aggression and testosterone-fuelled movie like James Bond. After Adele performed for Skyfall, I expected a strong and steady theme for Spectre. I was wrong. What followed next was a resemblance of ‘tentacle porn’. I’m not trying to be gross here, but watching large octopus silhouttes curling its long, tendril-like arms around guns, women and the villains just reminded me of ‘tentacle porn’.

Then we have the plot. Treachery, treachery, and more treachery. Let’s throw in some backstabbing and betrayals into the treachery mix and voila, we’ve got ourselves a moody and miserable Bond, hellbent on righting the wrongs in his life and taking revenge. That’s what I’d say if anyone asked me for a spontaneous interview on what are my thoughts of the latest Bond movie. What do other Bond fans think about the movie? I don’t know. I only know that I don’t like Daniel Craig. So when the first three Craig-Bond movies came out (Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, and Skyfall), I lost interest. Not that I loved Pierce Brosnan all that much but somehow, I felt Brosnan’s Bond connected with me more than Craig’s Bond. Heck, the first three movies were so insignificant to me that I can barely remember what happened in them, except for when ‘M’ died in Skyfall. I thought Craig looked a bit like a pasty-faced British goblin (much like the other pasty-faced British actor, Robert Pattinson. OMG I hope Pattinson doesn’t get to be Bond, because I’d really stop watching it altogether!).

What about the contents? Think, Michael Bay and Transformers. What do you get? Many series of explosions. Large-scale explosions. Slow-motion explosions. Smaller explosions that erupt into little mushroom clouds of black, dirty smoke before the final closure of a large-scale explosion that leaves nothing pleasant to the eye or ears. At the end of the day, all I can say is that ‘Spectre’ came across as a mix-breed of Transformers and Fast and Furious. The explosions left me jerking in my seat, cringing each time the two supercars zipped down the streets of Rome while dodging other cars along the way. I’m not sure if my husband enjoyed it though.

To Read, Or Not to Read.

Receiving book advice from Dr. Seuss. He's no doctor, but he's right! | Photo by WishesTrumpet.com
Receiving book advice from Dr. Seuss. He’s no doctor, but he’s right! | Photo by WishesTrumpet.com.

My voracious appetite for books and reading has earned me a number of interrogative questions, especially by my relatives on how many books I’ve read, how many books do I buy at one given time, and how is it that I can go for long periods reading and not falling asleep. Because many people I know read non-fiction or biographies of their favourite idols while I usually and only ever read fiction. Whether it’s science-fiction, fantasy-fiction, literary fiction or even historical fiction, they are still fiction and the characters are not real. No doubt there are the facts if it was a historical fiction novel, but the entire plot is still a fictional one.

The most recent question I received was: “Why do I like reading so much?

Let’s put it this way. Reading is my way of escaping reality. Reality is as it is. Harsh, unfair, and often stressful. When I read, my mind, body and soul get transported into the book and everything travels with the characters and the plot. I empathise with my characters, suffering their pain, celebrating their happiness, and enjoying the entertainment that they provide. In other words, I rejoice with the author when he or she wrote the book. I become yet another character in the book, except that my character is more of a “fly on the wall”, watching and observing everything from afar. When I read, everything around me fades away, allowing me to synchronise my thoughts, feelings and emotions with the book in hand. Reading allows me to immerse myself with the events and happenings in the story. At the end of the day, reading allows me to handle stress better.

But what about others? Like my sister, for example. She reads just as much as I do, but because of her line of work, it limits the amount of free time she has, and she rarely is able to use it to read. I’m just as employed as she is, spending almost nine hours in the office, but when night falls, I’m able to put in a couple of chapters. Reading helps me sleep too. The storyline takes over my thoughts, sweeping other stressful matters under the carpet to be handled and settled at a later time and day. I read on week nights, I read on weekends, I read when I’m on holiday. Maybe that’s why people ask me all the time, how is it possible that a day has only 24 hours, yet I’m still able to find time to read.

So, to adhere to Dr. Seuss’ advice, I am indeed a book nut. There are other reasons why people read, and why should be reading. It’s a good habit to start with and a good habit to maintain.

Here are top 5 scientific reasons why people should read:

  1. Develops your verbal abilities
  2. Improves your focus and concentration
  3. Improves your imagination
  4. Improves your memory
  5. Reduces stress (that’s why I read)

*Sourced from: Why to Read.

Here are top 3 quirky reasons why people read:

  1. “Because it’s more effective than anti-depressants and cheaper than therapy.” – Michael E. on Facebook
  2. “To subdue the incessant monologue in my head.” – Alice B. on Facebook
  3. “Because T.V. is boring.” – Tisha H. on Facebook

*Sourced from: Read It Forward.

Question: What about you? Do you read as often as you hoped you would?