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on 25 February 2002
The trouble with trashy fiction is that it's impossible to tell good trash from bad trash by looking at the cover. They all have identical designs, similar titles and a glowing review from Cosmo. Well, this is good trash. Well-written, funny, likeable, with a heroine who (first in lowbrow fiction) does not appear to be obsessed with her weight. The dialogue is sparky and realistic and the characters are well-rounded and interestingly warped, but the most unusual thing about this book, for a member of this particular genre, is that it has a real sense of place. New York's quirkiness and loveable insanity is captured with accuracy and obvious affection. I liked it a lot. In fact, come to think of it, I'm not sure it was trashy at all. Maybe it was mis-packaged.
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on 12 October 2005
Recently divorced Liv Kellerman finds herself having to move out of her million-dollar Upper East Side apartment that she once shared with her husband into a run down tenement with a non-working refrigerator and used furniture. Even though Liv's father is a famous fashion designer, so she could really move anywhere she wanted but Liv decides not to ask for help and try to make it on her own. Liv starts out on her journey to independence by becoming a reader for a blind judge but she soon decides that that is not the job for her and that she is just pushy enough to be a real estate agent. She soon finds that this is her calling and begins working for an androgynous woman by the name of Dale who owns a real estate gallery, which sells real estate and knick-knacks as well. On the road to independence Liv encounters some of the strangest characters one could imagine none stranger that her love interest Andrew who in my opinion is the nut job of the century which says a whole lot about Liv who decided to date him in the first place.
This book was not at all what I expected. I bought `HIGH MANTINENCE' thinking that it was going to be a light-hearted romantic comedy but it turned out to be a bit dark, very sarcastic and extremely strange. It took me a while to warm up to the book because I couldn't relate to the characters nor did I like them but the further I read the funnier it got until I found myself laughing out loud. I grew to like Liv and her sarcastic nature but continued to despise her boyfriend Andrew (who was living with another woman the entire time) till the bitter end. I could not understand what Liv could have possibly seen in Andrew who upon their first meeting asked her "what would you do if I threw you off of this balcony?" and then proceeded to lift her up and dangle her over the edge. I kept waiting for Liv to see the light and get rid of this creep but she continued to go back to him as their relationship got stranger and stranger. As I said this novel was completely the opposite of what I expected but that's what made me stay up at nigh trying to finish this book.
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on 9 January 2011
Having been introduced to Belle's sharp witty style by ways of 'Little Stalker', this was an equally good read, and as a current househunter, this was hilarious. I love New York and its apartments, most of which I have seen on TV and in books, in some of which I have stayed, and lets be honest, estate agents are good fodder for a humorous novel, right? Having just started 'Going Down', which is a touch cruder than this book, there seems to be a certain evolvement of her style - harsh and bratty in the early books, more refined but no less witty in the later ones. I really think this is a greatly entertaining book, the small chapters make it easy to be read on the bus or while waiting, and its never predictable, except for the fact that men are usually protrayed as useless, cruel, and stupid sad bast*rds. Not that I've got a problem with that.
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on 11 January 2002
If you find High Maintenance's premise that `our heroine' loves her apartment more than her husband as funny as I did, then you'll love the book. It blows a large rasberry at all the fictional women whose lives revolve around finding a love life. This book shows how much there is to love in all of life. Liv Kellermann, whose life it follows, has to be one of my favourite ever characters, as perfect a creation as Sally Jay Gorce in `The Dud Avocado'. Belle has fashioned a young woman who is both hilariously funny, with her particularly quirky view of life, but also deeply human and believable. Liv could easily have been a screwball caricature, but she is also vulnerable, contradictory, and not always likeable. Comparisons may be made with Bridget Jones, but for me that would be misleading. Liv has a mind that crackles, and a heart that beats, in a way that Bridget just doesn't. It mixes joy at the oddness and `ordinary madness' of people, with a lurking menace that moves along the beautifully constructed plot, giving it an appeal to romantics and cynics alike. It made me laugh out loud, and it quietly and genuinely moved me. It's a totally unexpected love story and it opens your eyes. And it just makes me HAPPY.
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HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERon 23 March 2007
Jennifer Belle writes a rare kind of fiction: Lit for chicks who don't like chick-lit. While it may wear the trappings of that fiction, her second novel "High Maintenance" is darker, edgier, funnier, grittier, and far more original and fulfilling, a weird take on the traditional coming-of-age tale.

Liv Kellerman has just left her husband.... and their luxurious apartment. Now she misses the apartment more than her marriage. After working briefly for a blind judge, Liv decides to try her hand at real estate -- and quickly discovers that she's a natural. Except she's distracted by her lovesick lesbian boss, a rundown tenement, and new boyfriend Andrew who is still living with another woman. Oh yes, and he likes to chew on her ear when they have sex.

After her boss gets a bit too lovesick (and slightly nuts) for her taste, Liv moves to a better real estate agency, but her life is still in something of an uproar. Andrew is beginning to act weird, and her new clients are not much better -- even asking her to donate ova. When she finds out more about her boyfriend, Liv takes matters into her own hands to achieve the life -- and home -- that she has always longed for.

Woman leaves no-good husband, forges new life and career alone, finds new boyfriend -- chick-lit, right? Wrong. "High Maintenance" avoids the obvious story twists in favor of zany characters and increasingly strange situations. Especially since -- unlike many authors, Belle doesn't seem to think that a hunky boyfriend is the ultimate goal. Happiness (or at least contentment) is.

Considering the story's beginning, "High Maintenance" could've easily been depressing. However, Belle's insightful writing and peculiar scenarios keep things spicy and remarkably funny. She writes matter-of-factly in scenes such as a bathtub (complete with occupant) crashing through a restaurant ceiling, or Liv rushing to a vet's office after Andrew bites off part of her ear.

Liv herself seems like a remarkably real person -- she keeps trying and persevering, even when living in a ratty tenement and working out of an office in a crack-filled slum. While her affair with the cheating ear-biter is annoying, the way she breaks it off -- complete with gun and Mid-Eastern cab driver -- is hilarious.

Belle is particularly good with supporting characters, such as the blind judge, the wronged wife, the crazy apartment-hunters. Yes, they are all weird. But they also seem completely real, as if they could really exist. What is more, her love for New York -- and yes, New Yorkers -- shines through, in passages such as Liv's trip to the Empire State Building.

Funny, dark and sometimes bizarre, "High Maintenance" is a remarkably funny, unusual novel. And it will teach you to never ever date someone who bites your ears.
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on 6 June 2005
High maintanence has to be the worst book I have ever read. It's characters are unlikeable including the main character liv, it has no plot and the story continues to worsen as the story goes on!
I was completely disapointed by this book and would recommend that you NOT buy it.
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on 5 July 2014
Ignore the cover. This is not chicklit. It’s way too good for that label. This is the best literary novel I’ve come across for some time, this is packed with emotional intelligence, wit and charm, and, moreover, funny – genuinely and brilliantly funny. I sat with my tummy aching with laughter over the quote I pulled out to title this review. All of the characters felt real and I wanted to get on a plane, fly to New York, and meet them.

Not that this book is awash with one-liners, or plays everything for a laugh. Along with the delight in the narrative, came the thoughts of Liv Kellerman, who we meet first in an interview to be the Reader for Judge Garrett, a blind judge, and an Englishman. From thereon I was glued to this novel. Liv is an absolute delight, and leads us through the sometimes bizarre events of the novel with perfect insouciance. She is seeing Andrew, who likes to bite her ear when they make love. Andrew is perfectly created, with his mixture of arrogance, charm and sheer exuberant selfishness, but when she finds his journal, she is mortified at what he has written about her.

A good deal of this novel is taken up with Liv’s employment issues, especially after she studies for a realtor’s licence and then joins the company of Dale, who is a Lesbian, and whom she mistakes for a man, until she glimpses the white bra through a gap in her unprepossessing work uniform. Liv is a quick study, smart and lively and I was willing her on throughout all of her reverses and gains.

I’d be very surprised if you didn’t enjoy this gloriously funny and entrancing novel. It’s one-liners are priceless, and the whole thing is a powerhouse of a novel from the opening words.
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on 22 October 2003
Full of humour, warm and unpretentious story. Got my memories of New York back instantly, made me long for a short shopping tour.
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on 5 May 2003
High maintenance convey's the struggle a new yorker has to go through in order to survive but in doing so a hard-faced character is created and no real story takes place. However, as you begin to get into the book you start to understand and empathize with the character.Liv. this together with Jennifer Belle's witty style makes the book hard to put down. Worth a read.
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on 16 February 2007
I didn't enjoy this book, I really struggled to finish it. I found the story annoying, I always had the feeling there was somothing missing in the narration. The characters are not very well described, I'm still not sure if two of them are men or women. An overall shallow book, not entertaining enough to read on a beach.
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