Monday, January 26, 2009

Beautiful Lies and A Likeness in Stone: Thoughts on two books outside my comfort zone

I recently read two books that fall outside my usual comfort zone: Beautiful Lies by Lisa Unger and A Likeness in Stone by Julia Wallis Martin. For different reasons, both books unfortunately didn’t work for me.

Beautiful Lies by Lisa UngerBeautiful Lies by Lisa Unger is the story of Ridley Jones, who, after appearing on television for an act of heroism, receives a mysterious package that indicates she may not be who she thinks she is. I don’t usually read thrillers and unfortunately reading this one hasn’t changed my opinion that this genre isn’t for me. While the novel was fast-paced and intriguing enough to keep me reading until the end, there were a few plot points that really bugged me:

How is it possible that a relatively well-adjusted and seemingly normal person like Ridley doesn’t have a single friend in the world except her creepy ex-boyfriend and his strange mother?

Why would her parents, no matter what their issues, not tell her what they knew when it became obvious that by keeping her in the dark they were endangering her life?

I guess the bottom line for me was that I was unable to suspend my disbelief enough to really enjoy this novel. There were too many coincidences, too many things that didn’t make sense and I also found the main character whiny.

To read other reviews of this book, visit these blogs:
Book ChaseConfessions of a BibliophileReading without RestraintTicket to Anywhere

Thank you to Donna at BookBound for giving me this book to read.

A Likeness in Stone by Julia Wallis MartinA Likeness in Stone by Julia Wallis Martin is a mystery, a genre I do read and love; however, as I’ve mentioned before, my taste in mysteries is fairly limited. I picked up this book because the author was recommended by Elizabeth George, one of my favourite mystery writers. (I found her recommendations on the Fantastic Fiction site.*) I completely ignored the fact that this novel was compared to those of Ruth Rendell and Minette Walters, two authors I carefully avoid as they don’t fit my rule of “no psychopaths or serial killers, no terror and no blow-by-blow descriptions of murder or its results.”

In the first chapter, divers find a corpse in a wardrobe in a submerged house—the dead woman turns out to be Helena Warner, an Oxford student who disappeared some 20 years before. This reopens a case that had remained unsolved despite the fact that the homicide detective in charge at the time was sure he knew who did it. There is no question that Martin writes well and if you enjoy Rendell’s or Walters’ mysteries, then you will undoubtedly enjoy this atmospheric (and creepy) novel as well. Despite the small cast of characters, the story kept me guessing until the very end and completely sucked me in—I stayed up way past my bedtime to finish it. However, it was too creepy for me (it definitely broke the above-mentioned rule), so unfortunately I’ll be staying away from this author in the future too.

A Likeness in Stone was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Novel in 1999.

*George actually recommends The Long Close Call, Wallis Martin’s third book, but I wanted to start with her first, which may have been my mistake.


  1. Sorry you didn't like Beautiful Lies, Avis. I haven't read it yet (no surprise there) and now that I've read your review I'm not sure it'll get to the top of the TBR anytime soon.

    Your 2nd review though sounds good to me - I guess I like creepy!

  2. Yeah, I'm sorry, too, Myckyee! I feel bad because I don't want to ruin it for you! You can definitely have A Likeness in Stone if you want it. I thought it was very good; it was just too creepy for me.

  3. I don't think I've encountered a reader reasonably explain reasons for not liking books this well in a long time. It's quite refreshing.

  4. My book club loved Beautiful Lies but for some reason, I didn't read the book that month. I never picked it up, since hearing the discussion kind of spoiled it for me.

  5. Yeah, Shana, I remember you mentioning that when I posted a teaser from it. I was pretty disappointed not to like it better, but it's possible that it's just not the right genre for me. After all, I can suspend my disbelief for a time travel book, so why not for this type of scenario? I'm not sure entirely what makes the difference, but I just couldn't do it.

  6. I'm sorry these books weren't right for you.

  7. Thanks, Kathy! It's a risk to leave one's comfort zone, but you never know when you'll come across something really great too!

  8. Thans for sharing your opinions of the books--I, as you know, loved Beautiful Lies! Oh well, I guess we all like different genres--and it is always good to find someone with a different perspective of the books you read. Thanks again!