Customer Reviews: A Beautiful Lie (Playing with Fire, #1)
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on January 11, 2013
I am definitely a Tara Sivec fan, but this book fell flat for me. I would never make an as*hole comment like "she should stick to romantic comedy," but I do strongly feel she overreached her expertise when she chose to take on an action story with so many moving parts. More on that later - let's start with the good.

The Pros:

- Layers and layers of secrets. Think "Gone Girl" level of lies and surprises. I imagined that Ms. Sivec had to keep a physical storyboard (pictures, names, locations, aliases, titles) just to organize the number of characters and their histories.

- Good pacing. The action keeps the story moving. This is one of those "don't want to put it down because I'm on the verge of another revelation" books. I finished it in two days, which is quick considering the length of the book.

- Hot sex. I appreciate that Ms. Sivec isn't afraid to stray into the erotica realm, since this story is targeted to a slightly older (late 20's) demographic than the Chocolate Lovers series.

Unfortunately, there's only so much suspension of disbelief that a reader can stomach before the mountain of "coincidences" become completely implausible. I tried very hard to not nitpick, but these flaws and holes were impossible to ignore.

The Cons:

- Terminology/technicality issues. There are too many instances of unlikely/incorrect protocols, partnerships, laws and missions to ignore. The military and government have very distinct processes for approaching international conflicts, and the way this story is written is not the way it would be handled in real life. However, I digress on this point because I understand that most readers won't nitpick at things like "Wait, that is not the agency that is supposed to handle that part of the mission" or "That guy would not be that other guy's boss." Whatever, I let it go :)

- Ridiculous timing. There were far too many instances of impossibly timed, serendipitous moments when the right character heard or saw the exact important detail needed to move the story along. It was frustrating that the story was held together by convenient coincidences.

- The "surprises" became grueling. There are only so many "gotcha" moments an author can pull before the reader stops trusting that anything is real. It was like a never-ending Russian nesting doll of "just kiddings."

- The insufferable heroine and hero. Despite their highly specialized careers, those two acted like a pair of irrational teenagers straight from the "New Adult" genre. Their relationship had all the hallmarks of a bad teen romance: jumping to conclusions, long and painfully overwrought misunderstandings that the two never stopped to resolve, going from hot to cold with a single sentence, etc. It was a little insulting to their respective career fields that McCarthy and Parker were portrayed as so impetuous, temperamental and melodramatic.

- The characters are completely one-dimensional. The good guys are selfless and virtuous, the villains are disgusting monsters with no sympathetic qualities or redeeming traits. The only flaws in the perfect hero and heroine are that they put up "walls" and wear "masks" to conceal their feelings for each other. It's such an overused character device that I'm frankly angry to see it used in a book that is supposed to cater to mature readers. Most of us in our late 20's don't act like emo teens over our childhoods anymore.

I personally had higher expectations for Ms. Sivec with this story since I think she's capable of writing with so much heart and finesse, but (and this is a major but!) she did a damn good job for a writer going outside of her genre and comfort zone. I'd recommend this to readers who are less likely to question the details and just enjoy the ride :)
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on January 25, 2013
I don't know what the people who've given this book four and five stars are smoking, but I don't want it, because it ruins one's judgment.

Spoilers abound in this review. This book was poorly researched and made little sense. I'm willing to suspend a ton of disbelief when I read Navy SEAL/CIA etc books, because these are not organizations that encourage a great deal of scrutiny into their day-to-day operations. The things that bothered me about this book were all normal, not at all difficult to look into, matters. [Except for the part where Parker honestly believed that the CIA had killed her friend. Seriously?]

Parker's photojournalism career was so ludicrous, I don't know where to start. She never used digital. Never? Never? I understand that there's a market for photographers who still work primarily in film, but it seems unlikely that she would have been able to rise to the level she's supposed to be at if she didn't ever use the industry's most common medium. Also, even if she did work with film, her camera was ancient. Nikon F2s, unless treated gently, haven't generally held up well. There's no way that a dedicated professional would sacrifice her craft for the sake of nostalgia; she might have kept that as her personal camera, but she would have needed something better for her work.

Let's take the $5,000 4 carat diamond engagement ring that Milo bought for Parker. Unless that ring fell off the back of a truck, or the diamond was of a very low quality, there's no way that ring should have been so cheap. Unless the author left off a digit before the five. Diamond rings are not mysterious, and two seconds of research would have alerted the author to the fact that she either needed to lower the carats or up the price Milo said he paid [if we're going with the "Milo is a lying liar" explanation, Garrett should have twigged that something was off with that price].

Garrett was resigned to the fact that Parker supposedly referred to him primarily by his last name, except that she almost never did. He rarely thought of or called her anything but Parker, but she was consistent in her use of his first name in speech and thought.

Garrett and Annabelle were supposed to be these super duper spy/agent type people, but kept letting their emotions compromise their mission. Once or twice, this could be understandable, but this happened pretty much all the time; they need to cowboy up and do their jobs properly.

The author's way of weaving reminiscences and the presence wasn't well done. The delineation between then and now wasn't always clear, and it seemed more like poor writing than a viable stylistic choice.

None of the conversations in this book would win any prizes for style, but the bad guys' dialog was simply awful. It was overly obvious, lacked nuance, and sounded like it was written by a particularly bloodthirsty 12-year-old.

These and other problems made this book quite hilarious to me, but I wouldn't buy it just for a laugh. Needless to say, I will not be reading the rest of the books in this series.
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on January 5, 2013
T.E. Sivec is best known for amazing, funny, hilarious, vagina talk in the Chocolate Lovers series. One of the few books that I literally laughed-out-loud the entire time reading the series. They have become my favorite books to read and I was so excited to read something new from Ms. Sivec and devour the book like I did with Chocolate Lovers. So when A Beautiful Lie was released I ordered a copy in paperback and couldn't wait to start it.

A Beautiful Lie is everything opposite of that of the Chocolate Lovers series. There is no humor, no completely and utterly inappropriate jokes about sex, and the use of the word vagina was not used once (Dangitt!!). A Beautiful Lie is a action/mystery/romance novel about three best friends from college with a lot of Navy Seal, CIA action thrown in. Annabelle Parker meets two cute boys in a coffee shop during her senior year of college. Her heart flutters for one but she is afraid of love and takes the safe route and picks the boy that makes her laugh and will eventually learn to love over time. The three instantly become best friends even though Parker is with Milo (the boy who made her laugh) while pining for Garrett who also is secretly in love with Parker as well. Love triangle anyone? Eight years later Milo is killed in action while working as a Navy Seal. His best friend Garrett and fiancé Parker think there is more to his death then what the Navy is telling them. They go on a mission to find the truth about Milo's death but end up realizing everything they thought they knew about each other is one big lie.

Sounds great right? I thought so too... I love a good mystery novel with romance thrown in; add a love triangle and I am there! The first 30 pages or so of the book I was hooked, I absolutely loved Garrett and Parker's relationship right off the bat. Garrett is a sexy Navy Seal with the brains to boot and is incredibly romantic- in a secret way since Parker never knew how he felt.

The book is mostly in the POV of Parker and Garrett and you understand right away that they have loved each other in secret the past eight years as Garrett watched his best friend get the girl he always wanted. There are glimpses throughout the book about past events- which kind of confused me at times because it was just thrown into a section of the book without any type of page break or different font/italics.

The book started to lose me after about 30 pages in, almost up until the end. Don't get me wrong, there were times in the middle of the book I liked a lot and some parts I even loved but I was getting really bored for many of the scenes. I found some of the CIA/Navy Seal scenes to be a little over the top and unrealistic in my opinion. With that said, the book definitely picked up towards the end- I totally did not see the ending coming at all, at least not how it all played out and who was really who. It had my full attention!

The CIA/Navy Seal aspect in this book may have not been for me but I loved the love triangle between Parker, Garrett and Milo. The ending was kick-ass with a lot of suspense and had me reading so fast so I could find out what was really going on. I give Ms. Sivec total props for writing a completely different type of book then what she has in the past. I think she is a very talented writer and loved the idea of what A Beautiful Lie is; I just didn't love the book.

I give A Beautiful Lie 3 Stars.
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on March 18, 2013
This is a really bad book, each and everything in this book is nonsensical from the super-woman, Parker who is a CIA agent/world renowned photographer to the utterly non-alpha Garrett, the wimpy SEAL who couldn't tell a girl for 8 long years that he loved her. I can't even think of the completely contrived details of the plot, that seem to be a mishmash of unimaginative spy movies and bad mushy romance. I had to stop @62% of this ridiculous book, when the navy spy-man explains how he used an anagram program to figure out that a man called Milo Roberts had once traveled as Roberto Mils and for some reason this was important. I have to say NO to this book, because it is beyond stupid and I will happily NOT purchase anything written by this author in the future.
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on March 1, 2013
I can't believe all of the good reviews this book got. I wasn't going to do a review but I depend a lot on reviews when selecting a book. To be fair I did not finish it. I got to 20% and started skimming. I put it down and forgot about it at 30%. The "romantic tension" between the main characters is forced and tedious. The CIA/Navy Seal plot read like the author did no research but instead used a bad Lifetime movie as her source of information.
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on March 19, 2014
I really had a hard time reading this book. I would have to stop and re read things to figure out who the narrator was talking about. I've been told a writer should show the story, but this writer used so much narrative it was just telling it.

Not an effective way to keep my interest. Just seemed to say things in a round about way or slowly.

I got this free from Amazon and I have been reading 2 to 3 free books a day for the past month or so... But this is the first book that I couldn't finish that others had rated so highly.

Darn, I really wanted to like this book.
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on February 5, 2013
So Mollie Harper at Tough Critic Book Reviews says READ THIS BOOK! She doesn't just hand out 5 stars to every book and I trust her judgement so I'm on it.

As I start reading, I like the characters but I'm not loving the writing style.
And when I feel like I've been reading forever, thinking I must be getting close to the end... I hit my screen display and see I'm at 25%. Only 25%? Sweet baby Jesus, punch me in the face.
Well, I better keep reading since everyone says this is such a great book. Obviously it picks up!
At 40% I ask if my husband will just speed read it to me because I can't bare to read any more. I'd quit reading but I'm one of those psychos that HAS to finish a book or it will nag me til I die.
Half way through I'm so bored I want to take a break and go online to see if this author has written anything else I've read.

And holy crap- I see that not only had I read her other stuff, I LOVED her other stuff!!! The Chocolate series is Hilarious. I loved every bite of Seduction and Snacks. You must read it! The chocolate series books are funny and vulgar and funny and witty and funny and original and.... Ok, this is a different book review.

So at this point, I figure it must be me. I must be the lone reader who's not loving this book. :( I hit all the jaw dropping facts near the end and I STILL wanted to skim the pages.
Such a shame. I wish I could say it sucked me in and I couldn't put it down. But sadly enough it took me weeks to get through and I usually read a book in a day. I really didn't like the 3rd person aspect. It jumped perspectives too often for me. As in every other sentence. And it also jumped time frames over and over with no distinguishing italics or markings of any kind.

Don't get me wrong- There is a good story in here! Some of the author's ideas for the plot were fantastic! And the romance between Parker and Garrett??? Yes please and thank you. And I loved Garret! So much!
It's NOT an awful book. It's not. It's just not this WOW 5 star book everyone is giving.... in my humble and probably worthless opinion.

I don't think Sivec is a one trick pony or should only stick to comedy. As evidence by the great ideas in this book, she's crazy talented and has a HUGE future ahead of her as an author! I just think so much of this book was a little drawn out (<cough cough> dry <cough cough>) and some major editing would make it amazing. There were some details along the line that were really unbelievable(5k 4 carat ring, details on the mission, etc) . And while I really liked Parker and Garret together, they seemed so immature communication-wise about their relationship (way too hot and cold), and really irresponsible in their jobs by letting their sexual tension get in the way. And one last pet peeve- Milo and Garret are referred to by their 1st names the whole time (Unless in conversation) but Annabelle goes by her last name...Parker. I know that's so small and stupid but it irked me to no end.

I really didn't want to write a review since I didn't love it, but someone convinced me to since readers rely heavily on the reviews on whether or not to spend their money on these books. I do love the author's other books and I look forward to seeing what else she writes, I just hope it's not in 3rd person.
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on February 15, 2013
I literally could not make it past the first two chapters. Did a 12 year old girl write this? Trite, completely unrealistic, just downright stupid. It is an insult to anyone with an education above the 6th grade. Don't waste your time.
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on March 24, 2014
Crazy! The way this author switches from one characters perspective to another's will make you your head spin. It is not tight, or good writing technique. Readers should not have to keep asking themselves who is thinking what. Also, as stated by another reviewer, the flashbacks to the past were confusing to follow. I did not even get past the first chapter because of these major defects in the composition of this book.
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on March 4, 2014
As hyped up as this book was, I was disappointed in it. The first several chapters were so convoluted that I found myself having to re-read what I had already read. It was flashback after flashback with a small bit of the present thrown in. I had to force myself to keep reading, hoping that it would get better.

It didn't.

The plot bunnies multiplied so fast that I found myself rolling my eyes at each contrived twist and turn. The angst between the main characters felt forced...repeatedly. There were numerous typos and bad punctuation.

Basically I have closure issues and can't stand to start a book without finishing it. That's the only reason I made it all the way through this one, and I feel like I've lost hours of my life that I will never get back again.
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