Tag: Secrets

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: Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff.

9780099592532I’ve seen this book making its round on Tumblr for quite awhile and I figured that it must be a pretty good book, considering how so many people all over the world have begun reading it.

So I started searching for it online and found that MPH Online had stock of this title. A click or two later and the book was being prepared to be shipped over to my place of residence.

I don’t usually buy books online, but when I do, it must be good enough for me to want it. When it finally arrived in my mailbox, I couldn’t wait to get started. After all, it did look rather tempting from what little I could siphon off the back of the book cover, and the front cover’s design of the word ‘Fates’ being among the flowers and ‘Furies’ being among the thorns.

Fast forward a few weeks later to this very morning after I was rudely awakened by a power cut in our condo. I couldn’t go back to sleep so I stayed up reading the last five chapters until the end and learnt that this has got to be the most complicated and convoluted story I have ever read. Coming back to my mentioning of the front cover design, now I will tell you what the correlation is between the fates and the furies.

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff was the first half of the book told of a marriage between two young lovers who met and tied the knot only after two weeks of meeting one another.

Every story has two sides.
Every relationship has two perspectives.
And sometimes, it turns out, the key to a great marriage is not its truths but its secrets. At the core of this rich, expansive, layered novel, Lauren Groff presents the story of one such marriage over the course of twenty-four years.

At age twenty-two, Lotto and Mathilde are tall, glamorous, madly in love, and destined for greatness. A decade later, their marriage is still the envy of their friends, but with an electric thrill we understand that things are even more complicated and remarkable than they have seemed.

Fates was the story of Lancelot ‘Lotto’ Satterwhite whose point of view of his marriage to Mathilde Yolde was as rosy as the fresh blooms of spring, and as joyous as the first day on a white and snowy Christmas. His side told of happiness when he first met her, the sex he had with her, the gratitude and thankfulness that he felt having her as his wife. He had naively believed that she was pure; an angel sent from Heaven to be by his side through thick and thin. I don’t blame him. After all, as a reader upon reading his side of the story, I thoroughly believed the same.

It was only after I finished reading ‘Fates’ that upon entering the double doors of darkness in Mathilde’s life that I realised I had thrown caution to the wind and thought that their marriage was one of unity and faith. Furies kicked off with the bad news of Lotto’s passing which was never mentioned on the last few pages of his life in the part of Fates. We only learn that Lotto has passed away, leaving his wealth and inheritance to his wife, Mathilde. And now we take a journey to the grimy underworld (literally, if you’ve read what her life was really all about) to learn the truth about Mathilde.

She was neither a hired assassin, nor was she a witch dabbling in dark arts. She just wasn’t your average girl-next-door. She had no friends when she was young. She was abandoned by her parents at her grandparents’ home after a freak accident involving her baby brother, whom she had deliberately meant to harm. Later on, we’ll learn that she had to stand on her own two feet at a tender age of 14, do what she thought was best for her and grow an outer layer of toughness to survive in harsh reality. There were many things tied to her past that she did not share with Lotto. She only showed him what she felt he, and their friends, were entitled to know.

Fates and Furies had been a magical ride for me. Lauren Groff had been poetic in her writing style and waxed lyrical with each word, sentence and paragraph. There had been instances of relatability to famous quotes and phrases from the world of stage plays and theater. Groff’s insightful portrayal of marriage between Lotto and Mathilde had been even more complex than it first appeared. She skillfully strummed the vibrant tunes of love, devotion and annoyance that made up the basis of any real marriage.

I had to pay close attention to what I was reading as the developments would sometimes seem irrelevant or vaguely unreasonable in the first half of the book, yet somehow start being apparently revelatory in the second half. Even before I reached the end of the book, I began to flipped back and re-read the chapters that I’ve already covered. It was indeed a masterful tale of marriage and secrets. Everyone has secrets. It only becomes a burden when these secrets become everyone’s problem.

If you thought that these disclosures and reversals had been piled on a bit too thick, well, they kind of make up for a dizzying ride that will shake your confidence in what you think you know about your spouse — and yourself. It was a book that challenged my beliefs, critiqued my thoughts, and questioned the norm of marriages and what are they really made of.

For a different and more comprehensive version of the Fates and Furies book review, you can go to The Nature of Things. Now I shall keep calm and carry on with my next book, Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie.