Everybody’s Doing It is a romantic comedy with a strong internet dating theme. Written by comedy performer Abigail Collins, this story features divorcée Kat, her friends, family and her dating disasters.
The book is set in London and is heavily laced with British comedy; comedy can be a very individual thing and although I can see what the author was trying to achieve, it didn’t have me chuckling along as much as I had hoped it would. The internet dating theme has had a lot of success in contemporary fiction, but I thought that this book missed adding anything new to the genre; it felt like lots of stand-up comedy material brought together between the covers of a book, rather than a story that I wanted to be invested in which also made me laugh.
So overall, the author’s strong comedy material shone through, but it didn’t work for me as an interesting novel.
Three years after the sudden and deeply traumatic end of her marriage Katherine Wheeler remains terminally single. On the eve of her 39th birthday she sets herself a challenge: within a year she will be pregnant and married. What could possibly go wrong? Cue a series of hilariously awful internet dates, from the handsome doctor with terrible breath, to a prematurely bald pop star, and the extremely well-endowed ‘Anaconda Man’. Hapless actress Kat is supported in her quest by a superb cast of friends and family; gorgeous best pal Jojo, successful, same sex couple Bil and Ben, perennial alcoholic bachelor, Gropey Dave, her oversexed mother, her long-suffering father, her belligerent younger brother and glamorous yummy mummy cousin. Nothing quite goes as expected or hoped for as a shocking family secret, a brush with mortality, and the ever present spectre of working in the gig economy, threaten to turn Kat’s dream into a living nightmare. A frank, funny, feel-good first novel about what it means to be a single woman trying to find a mate in the modern world.
Olga has been reading Five Times Lucky by P. David Temple
I didn’t know the author before I came across this novel but after checking a sample of it, I thought it would be the perfect antidote to the dreary mood that seems to hang over everything these days. I looked forward to a light read. This is a funny book (laugh-out-funny at times), but it comes with its share of serious moments as well. And I enjoyed both aspects of it.
What to say about the plot of this novel… Well, I’ve said it’s funny, and it is a comedy, or rather, it touches on several comedy genres at once: a soap opera; a romantic comedy (yes, there is a central love story and other possible ones hovering around the edges); a quasi stand-up comedy routine full of jokes; a madcap comedy at times; there are elements of physical comedy; we have big spectacle as well (and it’s easy to see how handy the author’s experience with the World Wrestling Federation has been); a more intellectual/phylosophical-style comedy, and everything in between. The description of the novel does a pretty job at providing some semblance of a plot, and the story starts with BunnyLee, a —no longer so young— woman who after trying to become an actress has been working as an English teacher in Thailand for several years and is on her way back to LA to attend the wedding of one of her best friends. She is also going to stay at her friend’s apartment for a couple of weeks while she’s away on her honeymoon, but as her luck (she’s been told by a shaman priest that she is five-times-lucky) would have it, through a series of misunderstandings (I forgot to mention the farce, didn’t I?), she ends up staying as a guest in the house of an ageing Hollywood star, Buck LeGrande, who isn’t quite ready to become a has-been yet, and their friendship/perhaps-something-else falls victim to further misunderstandings and more than a fair bit of paranoia and jealousy. Somehow, the novel becomes a road trip for a while, and a whole host of new characters join the motley crew of BunnyLee, Buck, Buck’s chauffeur (and aspiring scriptwriter), Buck’s Chinese cook (for whom popular culture, media, and his Chinese relatives seem to be the source of all knowledge), and Puddles, the dog, a labradoodle and a true star. Austin, a cowboy and WWF celebrity on his way down, is also on the road, running away from a couple of women on a pink camper van, and their paths are, of course, set to cross. Characters from the world of professional wrestling, a local cowboy, a waiter, a Native American fish and game warden, staff at a Zen spa… also come into the story, don’t ask me to explain how. If you want to know, I invite you to read the book.
Fame, the world of TV and acting, Hollywood, celebrity culture, grief and loss, philosophy and the search for meaning, family relationships… these themes and more make it into the novel as well, and as I’ve said, despite the comedic elements I felt quite touched by the story at times.
I’ve mentioned some of the characters we come across, and although a few of them play small parts, all of them are pretty memorable. The book might be written as a comedy, and we might laugh at the characters at times, but they are not mere caricatures, rather all too human, and no matter how distant they might be from our everyday experience, they are universally recognisable and have endearing and redeeming qualities, even when (or because of) they are making total fools of themselves. Because, who hasn’t been there, especially when there are toupees and tight Spandex leggings involved? (If I had to choose one character, I admit to having a soft spot for Austin, the wrestler, although it’s difficult to top Puddles).
The book is narrated in the third person from a number of different points of view, which are clearly separated in the novel, so there’s no risk of getting confused about whose perspective we are following. This is a very self-aware novel, and an omniscient narrative voice sometimes pokes fun at the whole enterprise, in an interesting exercise of metafiction. It is a very visual novel with scenes that scream to be turned into set pieces in a movie or TV series, and this is combined with digressions where characters and/or author wonder about all kind of weighty subjects, from fate, to the nature of love and life itself. We have contemplative moments interspersed with scenes that explode in a whirlwind of action, energy, and laughter creating a perfect combination of light fun and reflection.
I have highlighted many jokes, insightful and crackwise comments, and many of the scenes, but some are far too long to share. As usual, I’d recommend readers to check a sample of the novel before deciding if it is a good fit for them, but I couldn’t resist sharing a few examples of what you might find.
Like the reader of fiction, one needed to have faith in his or her author, faith in the belief that the narrator knew how best to tell the story, faith that what may have seemed like irrelevant philosophical digresssions were in fact well-crafted artifices both necessay and sufficient to the telling of a compelling story.
He wasn’t afraid of heights per se. It was the depths surrounding them that gave him pause —gravity being the one law you should never tempt breaking.
Like so many icons afoot these days in the pantheon of emerging American heroes, Chief Tenaya was a confluence of mixed metaphors. He was an icon in search of a meaning.
The ending fits both the comedy and the romance conventions. It ends up in a high note, and that’s exactly what most of us need right now.
So, if you’re looking for a fun/crazy read, with a bizarre catalogue of characters, are prepared to put your faith in the author and his criteria, are happy to follow him down some unusual and unexpected paths, and are looking for a break from the grey and dreary reality, this is your antidote. I hope this turns into a TV series or a movie, because it will be a hoot.
In FIVE TIMES LUCKY, an intrepid traveler gets more than her share of tabloid celebrity. Who hasn’t wondered what life was like inside the velvet rope of the Hollywood in-crowd? In this fast-moving comedy by P. David Temple, the quest for fame has no boundaries…but celebrity has its downside. We follow ex-actress BunnyLee Welles, who returns to Los Angeles for her best friend’s wedding and finds that she is instantly recognizable. From the customs officer to the baggage clerk to the Lyft driver, everyone knows her single-dimple smile. They mimic her. They take selfies with her. They hand her unsolicited film scripts. In the four years she has been traveling abroad, her sole commercial role for Dial-a-Denture has recently become an online meme. Like it or not, BunnyLee is now famous.
Shelley has been reading The Truth About This Charming Man by Peter Jones
Author: Peter Jones
Category: Romantic Comedy
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
I’m a huge fan of the author’s self-help books, so it was a refreshing change to read his fiction work.
I normally avoid romance novels in general but in The Truth About This Charming Man, the emotional elements run seamlessly alongside the twists and turns of the story. I was totally hooked from the start when we are introduced to William Lewis, ‘Will’ to his friends, and Zlata Ruzencova, his outlandish Czech agent.
I adore Zlata; she is someone you would love to have in your inner circle of friends, and I loved the repetition of ‘I know what I mean’ as she misinterprets many an English phrase. The relationship between her and Will is well developed.
There are many characters in this book, but they all have an important role to play and are wonderfully unique. I loved to loathe Michael Richmond, sympathised entirely with Rachel, and totally fell in love with DJ, Ray and Kate.
I wasn’t very far into reading this book when certain plot lines seemed to be getting wrapped up. I wondered what could happen when everything was so organised, then BAM – a twist to the tale! These twists just kept coming, every time I thought I’d worked it out, there was another revelation and the pace increased.
This is one of those books that keeps you guessing until the very end. It’s not overly romantic and has plenty of action. It’s also highly amusing in parts. Would recommend.
I reviewed The Truth About This Charming Man as part of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team #RBRT
Olga has been reading Going Against Type by Sharon Black
Going Against Type by Sharon Black. A quirky romance that turns expectations on their heads
I am reviewing this novel as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team and I thank her and the author for providing me with a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.
Going Against Type is a romantic comedy that turns many conventions and expectations on their heads. The female protagonist, Charlotte, who goes by Charlie, is a sports journalist who’s always been mad about sport and wanted to be a footballer when she was younger. She still exercises regularly and loves watching and talking about sports more than anything. She’s just out of a traumatic relationship where she sacrificed her sense of self and personality for a man who never appreciated it, and she’s not keen on repeating the same mistake again. Derry, the male protagonist, is also a journalist, but he’s an expert on clothes, fashion, the arts and celebrities in general. They work for rival newspapers and somehow end up writing anonymous features where they take opposing points of views about everything. Their columns and their bickering on the page become popular, but what neither expects is the fact that opposites attract and despite their personal baggage and their different approaches to life they fall for each other, without knowing they are journalistic rivals.
The story is told in the third person, mostly from Charlie’s point of view. She is younger and less confident, still trying to establish herself as a serious sports journalist. Not only her interest in sports, but also her lack of self-awareness, dislike of fashion and shopping, and concentration in her career marks her as different to most female protagonist of what has been called chick-lit. She’s insecure, and her relationship with her friends is strong, but she’s also family-oriented, focused on her work and refuses to drop everything when a handsome man just happens to turn up. Derry is also not your usual eye-candy. Although in appearance he is a Don Juan who goes out with as many models and flashy women as he can, we later discover he’s also had bad experiences, and he’s mostly straight in his dealings with Charlie (apart from keeping from her his writing identity). Despite his reputation, if anything Derry seems a bit too good to be true (and reminded me of some comments about men in romantic novels written by women being a female fantasy rather than real men. Although that’s part of the appeal).
Not being a big sports fan in general, I was more interested in Derry’s line of work than in Charlie’s (apart from fashion, that is not my thing either), and I empathised with her doubts as to what they had in common. On the surface at least, it seems a case of opposites attract, although we do realise later in the novel that they share similar emotional experiences. Perhaps a more detailed account of their dates and time spent with each other would give the readers a better sense of their relationship and where the attraction between the two comes from. They are both likeable characters, the content of their columns —that is shared in the novel— is funny and witty, and some of their exchanges (on paper more than live) remind one of the good old classic comedies, like Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy’s films (although to my mind not quite as sharp). They do go to watch one of their movies at some point in the novel, that I thought it was a nice touch.
If you want a very light romantic read, set in gorgeous Dublin, with a background in the world of journalism, quick-witted and fun, with no erotica or daring sex scenes, I recommend you this novel. It’s perfect to pick up anybody’s spirit.