157 of 180 people found the following review helpful
on December 23, 2009
I had such high hopes. This book had starred reviews which were apparently (forgive me) "beautiful lies." I enjoy a good thriller, even if it isn't high art. But this isn't thrilling. It's slow. And the writing is belabored. Lisa Unger, the author, can't let a noun go by without attaching three or four adjectives or descriptive dependent clauses. People don't just sit on a couch. They walk across the warped, green, linoleum floor and bend their creaking knees to lower themselves, tiredly, to the velvet red couch bought second-hand on a street corner in Williamsburg on a rainy Thursday when no one wanted to be up but the sun was too bright to do otherwise. See what I'm saying? The main character enters a cheap pizza joint and the story stops for an entire page while we read all about the paneling, the floors, every person sitting in the place, and the posture of the proprietress. In other hands, maybe this would be interesting, but here it is like you're trapped in a conversation where the other person REFUSES TO GET TO THE POINT. Maddening. Do not waste your time.
123 of 142 people found the following review helpful
WOW!!! I predict a wonderful future for Lisa Unger's first novel, "Beautiful Lies." I forecast its presence on the NY Times Bestseller List for many a moon. However, unlike a number of successful bestselling novels, this one is well written. It also has a most original plot and a quirky, three dimensional protagonist, as well as realistic minor characters. And, oddly enough, there are no real villains in a story where bad things certainly happen. In the novel her main character, Ridley Jones, says/thinks "there are no heroes or villains in real life, 'only good and bad choices.'
Our gal Ridley is a thirty-something freelance writer who does work for Vanity Fair, New York Magazine, The New Yorker, etc., so she is pretty successful. But rents are high in New York City and even successful freelancers are hard pressed at times to come up with the rent. Ridley does not have this problem. She inherited a healthy sum of money from her uncle, "who wasn't actually an uncle," but her father's best friend. He absolutely adored her. This money cushions her against potential poverty and allows her freedom from financial worries. And "freedom" is a concept of immense importance to her.
Ridley's "fairly uneventful life" is turned upside down one morning...the morning she gains a bit more than her share of 15 minutes of fame. She sees a toddler about to be hit by a speeding truck and leaps into the street to save the boy. Fortuitously...or not, a photographer is on the scene and Ridley, in full action, appears on the cover of the local papers. The story is picked up by the morning talk shows where she and her family bask in the glory of her brief but bright spotlight. They have no idea what her moment of fame will bring her...like an envelope in the mail containing a note and an old photograph. The faded photo is of a young woman - who could be Ridley's double, a man and a little girl who resembles Ridley Jones as a little girl. The note includes a phone number and the question, "Are you my daughter?"
Unhinged, our heroine seeks reassurance from her doting father, a successful pediatrician, and her mother, a controlling, uptight woman. They slough off the incident and tell her that some wacko is having a joke at her expense, insisting that they are her birth parents. Still uncertain, she looks for her older brother, a drug addict who lives on he streets, and when she finds him he makes some disturbing comments which fuel her confusion.
Then she meets her handsome and mysterious new neighbor, Jake, a sculptor and a real hottie. Her life will never be the same.
Set in Manhattan's East Village, just a few blocks from where I live, Ms. Unger really brings the neighborhood to life with her wonderful descriptive writing. "Beautiful Lies," a taut psychological thriller is 375 pages long and I read it in 2 sittings. It is truly UNPUTDOWNABLE!!! I can't recommend a book more highly than that!
54 of 62 people found the following review helpful
on May 17, 2006
I truly enjoyed this book. It wasn't necessarily about the story, although I was riveted, and compelled to turn pages to learn the outcome. Plain and simple, it was about the writing. Lisa Unger's style is refreshing and original. I felt like she, through the voice of her protagonist, was in the room with me, telling me this story.
Beautiful Lies is a first-person account of a young woman named Ridley Jones, who contemplates a single act, and the events leading up to this act, that change her life forever. She became a momentary celebrity after saving a child from being hit by a car. Because her heroic and selfless deed was inadvertently videotaped, the world witnessed it on local and even national television, and her exposure enabled the truth of her identity to be exposed as well.
Throughout the tale, Unger/Jones "talks" to her reader. "I know what you're thinking," she often writes. At first I found this a little annoying, but ultimately, I had to admit in each case, she did know what I was thinking. She had me that hooked. Throughout the story, she interjects little gems of wisdom regarding family dynamics where her parents and brother (her biological parents and biological brother???) are concerned, which had me nodding my head and saying "yes!" One of my favorite lines in the book is: "It's strange how memory gets twisted and pulled like taffy in its retelling, how a single event can mean something different to everyone present." Ultimately, the mysteries are revealed and all the characters--particularly the parents, the mysterious uncle, drug-addict brother, sexy man upstairs, ex-boyfriend and his mother, and the mob-linked laywer--are relevant and satisfying.
This is a great, fast read and I recommend it for readers who appreciate good story telling and down to earth characters.
Michele Cozzens, Author of A Line Between Friends and The Things I Wish I'd Said.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
If there's anything better than discoving a really great first-time author, I don't know what it is. I LOVED Beautiful Lies. Basically, once I'd picked up the book, I just couldn't put it down until I'd finished it.
The protagonist, Ridley, was so real. She told her story in the first person and addressed the reader directly. I swear, I could be friends with her.
And the story she had to tell... It started so plausably and got so convoluted. But I was with her every step of the way. Unger made me buy a fairly far-fetched plot. But mostly, I just wanted to know what was going to happen. What HAD already happened to this girl.
Here's how it begins: Ridley Jones is a successful freelance journalist in NY. She's a happy person with a loving family and a good life. One day a random act of heroism gets her photo splashed across the news for a week. In the wake of her brief celebrity, she receives a photograph in the mail. It's a photo of man she's never seen, a woman who bares a striking resemblance to her, and a two-year old girl who looks like she did as a baby--though she's never seen a photo of herself that young. The accompanying note says, "I think you're my daughter." Ridley is not adopted.
The story aqccelerates at a break-neck pace from there. But aside from great characters, and a strong plot, this is an exceptionally well-written thriller. It's being billed as a "literary thriller," and I don't know that I'd go that far, but this novel is way above average.
I can't wait to see what Lisa Unger writes next. I hope she writes fast!
30 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Let me begin with a caveat: I don't read that many mystery books. But the reason I don't (clunky, over heated prose and stock characters) was not the problem I had with this book. Unger has a nice, witty sense of self-awareness in her writing that had me rooting for the book(and she paints a nice picture of the East Village, NYC). I liked the main character quite a bit. But the problem with the book is that the "horrific" discoveries the main character makes about something in general and something about herself do not warrant all of the intrigue and shock on her part. I'm not going to ruin the plot for those interested in reading this. But suffice to say that any reasonable person would be thankful rather than shocked or hurt upon discovery of the "beautiful lie" that leaves the main character bereft for far too many pages. In addition, it is difficult to understand why such desperate efforts are made by so many respectable people to maintain a cover up of what could well be thought of as an heroic mission undertaken many years in the past. To simply treat some morally complicated act as if is was evil merely for the purpose of creating suspense, particularly given all of the truly evil things there are in the world (or even just the East Village) just seems silly.
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
I liked Lisa Unger's Fragile: A Novel, so I decided to check out her first novel, Beautiful Lies. Gosh, what a disappointment! The main character of this novel is the most immature, self-centered and annoying thirty-something you could ever imagine. You'd be hard pressed to find a 12-year-old as immature and bratty as Ridley.
Ridley calls herself a writer, even though she never really writes anything. She never had to work for a living and has always been pampered by her relatives. This privileged life bores her and she decides to entertain herself with a touch of drama. The entire novel is about Ridley running from one man to another (her father, her brother, her former boyfriend, her new boyfriend), trying to get them to make her feel "safe" and "comforted." When the safety and comfort they provide is not up to her standards, she runs out dramatically and rushes to the next man in line.
This character is the biggest drama queen you can imagine. Every trivial little emotion she experiences or thinks she experiences gets analyzed to death. She blows every tiny little thing completely out of proportion and obsesses over it endlessly. I lost count of how many times she "almost" had a nervous breakdown for absolutely no reason. To give just one example of her drama queen skills, when her boyfriend asks her whether she prefers to call the person she is curious about on the phone or would she like him to go take a look at their house first, Ridley compares this choice with having to choose the method to kill yourself.
Ridley regularly breaks into endless quasi-philosophical monologues filled with the most mind-numbing platitudes you can imagine. Equally annoying is her tendency to address the readers directly to tell them what she knows they must be thinking right now and why they are wrong in thinking it. The so-called mystery in this novel is pretty much non-existent. Anybody who is a little bit less of a drama queen than Ridley could have solved it in 15 minutes.
In short, unless you like reading about spoiled rich drama queens, don't waste time or money on this book. I got the Kindle version for 78 cents, but I would have been pretty annoyed if I had to pay the full price for it.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on May 30, 2007
I read this novel in only 2 days, could not put it down because I wanted to find out what was going to happen. A woman gets "15 minutes of fame" through rescuing a little boy, and then out of the blue receives a package indicating that the people she thought were her parents might not actually be her parents. And when she tried to uncover where the package might have come from, she finds out some information that certain people do not want anyone to know about (and puts herself in possible danger by doing so). I had my suspicions about how the story would wrap up early on... but, not to give anything away, there were too many things that did not quite seem to make sense when I reached the end. NOT because I am too stupid to figure them out. Some things regarding who the father actually is (when you find out, you may have the same question... see my post in the forum below after you've read it), and the so-called shady connections of the lawyer in the story seemed kind of, well... let's just say that it seemed awfully contrived just to make the plot "thicker" and to throw the reader off the scent, and not something that might have realistically happened. And, there were some other items that were intentionally never really resolved at the end - you want to know WHY things happened, and the author either to be quirky or because she can't think of a reason herself (seems almost like she was under a deadline to get the book done and couldn't pull it all together adequately in time) gyps you out of a resolution after you spend your valuable time reading the whole thing.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on February 12, 2012
Book Club Review
(2 1/2 stars)
Our book club's book for February was BEAUTIFUL LIES, by Lisa Unger. Now, there is an interesting story behind how we chose this book.
As a group we have been disappointed by later books in series we've read (for example, by M.C. Beaton, Sue Grafton, Nevada Barr, and others). So we decided this time around that we were going to pick an author we've been wanting to read but NOT choose his or her most recent book, but rather the first book in the series or by that author, so that we would have that sense of "freshness."
So, that said, a lot of us have heard good things about Lisa Unger, so we decided to start with her first book, and BEAUTIFUL LIES is it.
The story takes place in New York City, where freelance writer Ridley Jones (who lives a quiet, not super-exciting life) saves a child from being hit by a car in Manhattan. The press coverage makes her face recognizable in the media, and that's where the trouble begins. A man emerges from nowhere, saying he is her father - not the man who raised her in suburban New Jersey, a respected doctor.
In the meantime, a mysterious stranger moves in upstairs from her in her rickety east side apartment (she lives above a pizzeria), and he starts enmeshing himself in her life a little too aggressively. She starts falling for him, and together they start trying to unravel the mystery of her past. But Ridley never quite knows whether he's truly in love with her or just using her for his own (undisclosed) purposes.
As a group, we had mixed reactions to this book. For the first hundred pages or so, it is a fast and intriguing read. Then it starts to get annoying. The narrator is constantly interrupting her story to talk directly to the reader ("Let me ask you, reader, how you would have felt in this set of circumstances"), a device that some of us were OK with and that some of us found extremely offputting. Then she starts crying on every other page, turning herself from a somewhat strong and independent woman into a whiny, crying complainer - not something that is particularly enjoyable to read. THEN, to make matters worse, she starts doing really, really stupid things - like agreeing to meet a total stranger on the edges of Van Cortland Park (in the Bronx) in the middle of the night, by herself. Huh? Ridley lost a lot of us at that point, and she never got us back.
Finally, there are several plot points that aren't resolved. I understand that they are resolved in the sequel, but few of us expressed a desire to read it.
So, our verdict as a group who hadn't read any Lisa Unger before - We know she's supposed to be good, but maybe she's one of those people (unlike M.C. Beaton) who got better as she went along. About half of us gave the book a thumbs up (if not an enthusiastic thumbs up) and half give it a thumbs down. Sad to say, those who gave it the thumbs down were turned off and won't read more Unger. I personally would give her another chance because I think she's a good writer, but probably not for a while.
By the way, this discussion led us into interesting discussions of what turns us off (i.e., sets us against reading an author again) and what opens up our mind (i.e., makes us want to read more by the author or give the author a second chance). We decided that whiny, annoying characters set us against an author's later books, or if we read a later book in a series, the sense that the book has been "phoned in" ends up being a deal breaker. On the other hand, if we don't particularly care for a plot but feel that the author has created good characters and is a good writer, we will give her a second chance to win us over.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 23, 2010
I'm conflicted when it comes to Beautiful Lies. There was a part of me that enjoyed the book; there were times in which I couldn't walk away from the story. However, there were things about this book that bothered me on so many levels. I've identified a few of them below:
*For starters, there was Ridley. She has to be the most annoying protagonist I have encountered in a long time. I didn't appreciate her inflated sense of self, especially when she would interrupt the flow of the story to say, "I know what you're thinking." I didn't particularly care for her convenient ignorance that seemed to materialize simply for the sake of suspense. Her rambling was out of control; I kept skipping these long sections of nothingness while screaming silently for her to get to the point. Finally, I never believed that Ridley was in her 30s; due to her immature actions and speech, her true age seemed to be that of a teenager.
*There were too many inaccurate and murky details. For instance, Ridley was named after Ridley Scott, but Scott didn't make his first feature film until the late 70s, which was long after Ridley was born. How could her father have named her after a famous director who didn't become famous until Ridley was six or seven years old? In addition, time and space were too ambiguous. It seemed as if Ridley was walking the streets of NY alone at the most implausible times. Other details, such as the phone in her pocket with the open line, were murky and unnecessarily confusing as well.
*Finally, a lot of the suspense/action scenes were too neat and easy. The diner scene, the meeting with the attorney and the climax were just a few of the neat and easy scenes that completely defied the laws of probability. I found myself saying aloud, "Ok, that would never happen."
As I mentioned earlier, a part of me liked the book. I simply would have liked it a lot better if I hadn't been distracted and annoyed by the elements mentioned above.
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on June 19, 2006
I thought I would love this book. I eagerly awaited its arrival from my book club. I was so disappointed. The premise seemed so promising but instead, I found the book predictable and unbelievable at times. The strangest feeling I had was that I didn't like ANY of the characters and that's a first for me. I didn't care if any of them were in danger. None of them were likable -- especially the heroine and her hunky boyfriend. I had to force myself to finish the book hoping the whole time that it would get better. This is coming from someone who adores a good novel full of mystery and intrigue.