28 July 2009

Book Review: After The Break by Penny Smith

penysmithafterthebreakKatie Fisher has been finding life a bit boring since she lost her presenting job on Hello Britain!. Sure, she's got new boyfriend Adam to keep her days filled, but the TV work is drying up and Katie is worried about losing public interest. When the latest celeb reality show Celebrity X-Treme comes knocking, Katie decides to take it against the advice of all around her. She thinks she'll be fine in with a Page 3 model, a comedian, and an ex-soap actor but she isn't counting on behind-the-scenes skullduggery. Will the big paycheck and recognition be worth the embarassment and ridicule Katie is bound to suffer over in Norway for her trouble?  Or is "Celebrity X-Treme" the final nail in Katie's coffin?

It's not very often that I will give a book one star, I feel that rating is pretty damning and it really has to be diabolical for me to rate a book such, but Penny Smith's debut Coming Up Next was fully deserving of that rating. I only read until the end so I could review it and warn other people about it, so I'm not sure what I was thinking when I got the follow up to that book from the library, After The Break. Penny is a well-known TV personality, presenting the news and other features on breakfast TV show GMTV, and this is echoed in the book with the lead character Katie presenting her own breakfast time show. Clearly it's not an original idea and didn't need much inspiration but I was hoping that it was going to be better than the awful debut, although it wouldn't have taken much to beat that.

As I said, the character of Katie was also the lead in Penny's first book, so if you haven't read that one first, well done. Honestly, you  haven't missed that much if you haven't read it and this can read as a standalone book well enough as references are made to events that happened in the first book and fill you in enough to understand what is going on. My  main problem with this book was that Katie is the lead once more, because I really hated her character in the first one. She really does remind me so much of Penny that I have to wonder if she based the character on herself - she thinks she is funny when she really isn't, she's sarcastic and just quite annoying to read a whole book about. I began not to care about Katie, which is the opposite of what you should do about the lead character of a book and was quite tempted to skim read the bits about Katie at times because it seemed to drag on and not go anywhere.

The bits I enjoyed about this book was the storyline surrounding Katie's ex boyfriend Bob and her parents. This was far more enjoyable and readable than the story about Katie herself, which says something in itself really. I think the dialogue was far more enjoyable to read, with no forced "comedy" or jokes that just weren't funny being used either. They were much more realistic characters and I feel that perhaps Smith would have done better to have broken away from the setting of a TV show and choose something totally different to write about as it worked a lot better in the book that way for me anyway. The premise of the reality show was a bit of a letdown too because it didn't appear often enough and for long enough for the reader to engage with it and care about the people in it or the outcome. There was a few funny moments dotted around but not enough to make the storyline all that interesting.

It seems that a lot of celebrities are jumping on the writing bandwagon and while some have made a success of it, Penny Smith isn't one of them. Her writing style is very unsmooth and jolty, and I find reading her books quite hard work. I don't deny that there is definite improvement between her debut novel and this one, but the major faults are still there for me - unlikeable characters and uninteresting and slow-progressing storylines. I felt the plot of this book could have been made much more fun, and what actually did happen could have taken half the pages it actually took to take place. If you haven't read Penny's books yet, I wouldn't rush out to get them - if you must, get them from the library then you haven't lost anything. It's really disappointing, but a tad better than the first although that's not saying much.

Rating: 2/5

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