Learn more Download now Shop now Browse your favorite restaurants Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Learn More Shop now Learn more Shop Fire Shop Kindle Amazon Music Unlimited for Family Shop now Shop now Learn more

on 16 May 2016
I've given this two stars, rather than one, as there was a mystery involved, so I kept skim-reading (three or four words from each page) until I found the answer. I don't waste time on poor literature - why do people insist on finishing awful novels 'because they never leave a book unfinished'? - but one way or another I did make it to the end, hence two stars.

Most of it was dire. The characters were unlikeable, save perhaps for the handsome, gay guy called Orlando, who only played a very small role. I mean really unlikeable, people you wouldn't want in your life. The characterization was so poor that you couldn't know anyone. There was someone called Sam. I kept forgetting if it was a man or a woman. She was particularly unpleasant and I couldn't tell you why she was there at all.

So the story basically runs like this: Laura earns a poor living hand-making gold charms; she lives with Jack, and has one friend, who tries, unpaid, to help her with her business. Laura appears to want to be invisible, wearing only Jack's cast off clothes and is even described somewhere as having grey hair. One day Rob Blake, handsome but objectionable, walks into her studio and demands that she stops making all commissions and concentrates on making a charm necklace for the wife he adores. Laura refuses, but later changes her mind for financial reasons, and agrees to make charms representing seven relationships with people from his wife's past or present, including a previous love interest(?!). So, although she has no time to spare to get everything made by the deadline, she has to drive around interviewing people and then agrees to go on a short skiing trip where she can meet the others. She goes ostensibly as Orlando's plus one, which no-one seems to find strange.

Always in the background is this hint of a former life. There is even some sort of unexplained fit or seizure. On the skiing trip, it transpires that this grey, dull woman is something of a skiing ace, and is happy to jump from helicopters and go snowboarding or whatever, doing everything exceptionally well, and punching the air in excitement. One of the men makes a beeline for her, despite his fiancee being present. She is lent an evening dress, has her hair and make-up done and, voila! Cinderella moment!

The author appears to be trying to insert humour, and there is a lot of giggling (yes, giggling!) amongst the ladies, but it isn't funny. At times it's cringe-worthy. Laura has a habit of not locking bedroom or bathroom doors, so obviously people walk in at inconvenient moments. In one scene, she is taking a bath in someone else's house, a small child walks in declaring she needs "a pooh" (direct quote) and proceeds to perform, with mother coming in and wiping bottom, etc. Seriously! I'm embarrassed simply commenting on it.

And it was boring. So much stuff irrelevant to the story! And people paying thousands of pounds for charms? Really? I thought the fad with charms had died out in the sixties and seventies, and they were boring even then.

The book seems to go on and on, and would have been much improved if it had been literally half its length. Or a third. The mystery, when it's finally solved, was actually quite interesting, Laura's former life is explained and what you expect by this time to happen does happen.

I would only recommend this if you have time to waste and can't find anything else to read.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 2 January 2013
Original Review on my blog: [...]
Title: The Perfect Present
Author: Karen Swan
Publication Date: 8th November 2012
Publisher: Pan

Haunted by a past she can't escape, Laura Cunningham desires nothing more than to keep her world small and precise - her quiet relationship and growing jewellery business are all she needs to get by. Until the December day when Rob Blake walks into her studio and commissions a necklace that will tell his enigmatic wife Cat's life in charms.

As Laura interviews Cat's family,friends and former lovers, she steps out of her world and into theirs - a charmed world where weekends are spent in Verbier and the air is lavender-scented, where friends are wild, extravagant and jealous, and a big love has to compete with grand passions. Hearts are opened, secrets revealed and as the necklace begins to fill up with trinkets, Cat's intoxicating life envelops Laura's own.By the time she has to identify the final charm, Laura's metamorphosis is almost complete. But the last story to tell has the power to change all of their lives forever, and Laura is forced to choose between who she really is and who it is she wants to be.

This was another perfect Christmas read this year, First time I saw The Perfect Present I just knew it was going to be a great read, it was such a cute front cover a very good chick lit cover and very eye catching.
I've never read a book by Karen Swan before so i was a bit worried I might not like this, but I was totally wrong, I loved every minute of it.

We meet the ever so sweet Laura Cunningham who is haunted by her past and has a pretty basic and small life of her growing jewellery business, her quiet relationship and a lovely best friend who keeps her sane and helps in her business. Laura is busy away sorting all her Christmas orders and making little charms when the ever so charming Rob Blake swans in and asks Laura to make him a necklace with lots of charms which each charm will represent each piece of his Wife Cat's life.

Laura must interview a few people in Cat's family,friends and former lovers..But Laura steps out of her own world into Cat's..will she change altogether or will she stay enclosed in her small simple life?

I absolutely adored this book ever so much, In the book you never really find out what haunts Laura until the last quarter of the book which actually had me in tears and felt very sorry for her indeed.
I loved the little places she visits while on her travels for the interviews, where she meets the ever so batty Kitty who is an old best friend of Cat's who has a crazy life but still wishes to be part of Cat's life but that just isn't going to happen...

I loved the style of writing and Karen definitely described everything in beautiful detail and at times I wished I could of been part of Laura's life or even the ever so handsome Rob Blake...now he just had me drooling hehe.

I loved all the characters in the book, I don't want to give the names away too much but they are all crazy but also wonderful in their own sort of way and how some of them piece Cat's life together through the interviews and the charms did make me smile.
This book is definitely in my top 10 books of the Christmas reads for 2012. You must grab a copy and read., It will make you smile,cry but also giggle.I will certainly be reading more of Karen's books and will make sure some of my friends do too!
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 21 November 2012
Laura Cunningham hasn't had an easy life, but she loves her job as a jewellery maker, working in her own isolated studio, while she lives with boyfriend Jack, and works with best friend and manager Fee. Laura only works to commissions, so when she's approached by Rob Blake who demands she makes an intricate charm necklacke for his wife, she's a bit taken aback. Reluctantly, Laura accepts and for the next few weeks, her life is changed as she embraces Rob's expensive lifestyle, flitting abroad to Verbier and skiing with Cat's nearest and dearest, to wild, expensive parties and auctions. But as the necklace slowly fills up with charms that Laura is creating, Cat's lifestyle is rubbing off more and more on Laura's own life. Can Cat's necklace make Laura face up to what it is she's running away from, and will the necklace leave all of their lives changed forever?

As I mentioned before, I did the start of the book was a little bit slow, and it took my perseverance to keep going with it, and know that something better was ahead, and I'm pleased that I did. Laura was an interesting character, someone I didn't fully warm to throughout the book and found a little bit fickle, and I had the feeling there was something being held back about her that would explain a lot of things. I was right, as things are revealed as the book progresses which does explain a lot of Laura's behaviour, but I still didn't like some of her actions in the book, and she is certainly a flawed character. I felt very sorry for her boyfriend Jack, he was the perfect boyfriend in so many ways, but wasn't getting the love and respect back he deserved, probably something which didn't help my response to Laura at all!

I really loved the focus on a charm necklace (although of course quite similar to Melissa Hill's latest book The Charm Bracelet), and how each charm was created after Laura interviewing each of Cat's friends and family to find the "real her". Of course, this mean secrets are revealed, and Laura struggles to cope with what she's finding out, and the fact she's being swept away by the lavish lifestyle suddenly thrust upon her. The people in Cat's life, including Cat herself actually, weren't very nice people, all a bit obsessed with their own lives, money and designer labels (which were frequently name dropped throughout the book!). The only one I really liked was Kitty, the busy housewife who seemed to be the only genuine person in the whole book! However, having a cast of dislikeable people makes for interesting reading as things develop, and I really wasn't sure how it was all going to end for Laura, Rob, Cat and co. The festive feeling was there throughout the book, although not laid on too thick (sadly!) , just the odd mention, and of course the winteriness of Verbier and skiing transports you to that winter frame of mind!

This is a very involved story with quite a few characters that you really have to sit down and concentrate to read to keep on top of all the things going on, but it's a very enjoyable novel that sweeps you away in the glamorous lifestyles of the characters within, and get drawn into Laura's puzzling past that still affects her present. It was fun to read about the friendships in the book, how they've changed as people get older and circumstances change, and how things aren't always as they seem between the friends. It's an emotional read, but one that doesn't get too carried away with the "tugging on your heartstrings" storyline, it's enough to make you feel for Laura, and understand why she is the way she is, but also teaches us how we certainly don't know everything about people that we think we do. I enjoyed it, and look forward to more from Karen Swan.
0Comment| 11 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 4 February 2013
This is a wonderful chic lit book. Not normally a book that I would go for but from page one I was hooked as I entered the world of Laura Cunningham with her passion for red shoes and her bespoke jewellery business where she worked overlooking the sea in a tumble down building.

Who would have known the effect that the charming, handsome and very sexy Rob Blake would have on her life when he asked her to make a charm bracelet for his wife's birthday. His request being that it held seven charms to signify the relationship held with the seven most important people in his wife's life.

Of course, to find out their relationships meant being flown to Verbier for a weekends skiing trip in the Blake's chalet to meet all the people in question. Did I mention he was gloriously rich and the bracelet was to cost £20k. Meeting Cat, his wife. A woman we all love to hate. With the perfect husband, her perfect looks, designer wardrobe and jet-set lifestyle. She has everything her heart could desire but not everything is as it seems.

Laura, out of her depth with these rich, upper class group of friends enters an alien world. She's shy, reclusive and hides from the world but her past has not been easy and now is the time to face her demons, and accept what's happened and move on.

This book was a pure escape from reality and as the story progresses and we learn all about Laura the plot twists and weaves and throws us some very unexpected twists. Where exactly does the love of red shoes come from is a question I asked myself throughout the book? I can't wait to read more this author.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 22 December 2012
For 99p I thought I'd give this book a go and it is by far the best book I've read in some time.

Laura is a jeweller, living in a small village with her loving boyfriend Jack and being big sister to her best friend Fee. The book opens with a letter from Laura's mother to both Laura & her twin sister Lily aged 6 as she prepares to die. No mention of this is made throughout the book as it focuses entirely on Laura and her mysterious new client Rob who commissions Laura to make a charm necklace for his wife Cat's birthday. He wants her to speak to the 7 main people in his wife's life and make a charm for each representing the essence of their relationship. Laura initially says no but when payment for the necklace allows her to make her boyfriend Jack's xmas wish come true she reluctantly agrees.

In order to learn about Cat she finds herself pulled into the lives of this impossibly glamorous couple and their circle of friends and not only does Laura find out much about them but also begins to reveal much more about her past than she's previously been prepared to explore.

This book is the first in a while to have me gripped and making me want to rush back to my kindle app to keep reading. The characters are so varied, some instantly likeable, others not so much and some hiding a great deal that the story drip feeds nicely.

It is wonderfully written, engaging and was the best buy I've made in ages so I'd highly highly recommend this one.
0Comment| 13 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 23 December 2012
I got this on the basis of all the four/five star reviews, but personally found it very unrealistic and boring, even the 'twist' at the end was odd. I couldn't identify with any of the characters who all seemed really shallow and the whole plot was hard to follow or make sense of. The langauge was just up on Mills and Boon. i.e his back muscles rippled as he crossed the room/her aquamarine eyes sparkled. Not exact quotes but the sort of thing I read. The whole story was too far fetched. To put in persepctive I usually enjoy Jodi Picoult and Diane Chamberlain for easy reading. This wasn't in their league. Of course, other reviews enjoyed the story, but I'm glad I only paid 99p for it.
11 Comment| 5 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 26 March 2013
I have enjoyed nearly all of Karen Swan's books so far. I bought this a few weeks ago and read it, not quite picking up all the social undercurrents (there is a large cast!) and so read it again this week.
The book opens with a heartbreaking letter from a mother to her twin daughters and moves on to follow Laura Cunningham's commission to make a piece of jewellery for a rich man's wife. The rich man is astoundingly handsome, as expected and Laura's job is to interview his wife's friends and make charms reflecting their relationship with Cat, the wife.
It's an interesting progression, that whilst Laura is an enigmatic stranger, with a commission to fulfil, she becomes an enigma to herself as well. As for Cat's friends, they welcome her into the group and Laura shows that not everyone is what they appear to be - especially Laura herself.
It could have been so easy to depict Cat as a spoilt and shallow person, but Karen Swan has managed to make Cat and her friends as realistic as possible. No one is flawless in this world.
I would have liked to know more about Laura's sister and what her life was really like - I don't want to give the plot away.
Karen Swan writes great action sequences. She's growing as an author, each book has been better than the last and I'll definitely buy her next as soon as it's released.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 6 December 2016
This was a wonderfully written story that had me reading until I finished it - even through a pounding, stuffy head - well into the wee hours of the morning (which did nothing for the pounding head!!).

To be honest there was only one thing that really annoyed me, and it had to do with the naming of so many stores (WH Smith, Costa Coffee, Accessorize, Dorothy Perkins amongst other things) mentioned all in the space of a few paragraphs in chapter Five. I don't mind reading a few names thrown in here and there, but when an entire paragraph (or two) is taken up by it, it can get rather tedious and more to the point, it can throw you off. Luckily, it was only that one small part otherwise I would have had to dock a star!

I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone. The absolute human-ness of the characters is something that you simply don't encounter in many books.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 16 December 2012

I liked the idea of the book. The heroine Laura Cunningham is a jewellery designer who lives a quiet life by the sea with her boyfriend and dog. She makes jewellery that really means something to the person and works only to commission. Rich businessman Rob Blake approaches her to make a necklace for his wife's birthday that tells her life story in 7 charms. Laura has to interview the most significant people in Cat's life and come up with a charm that encapsulates their relationship. Initially not keen Laura finds herself taking on the task and stepping into the Blakes' life - so very different from her own.

I have never read anything by Karen Swan before but it is high praise indeed when I say this is definitely the best book I have read since anything by JoJo Moyes. The story reveals itself gradually like a pass the parcel removing a layer at a time and becoming all the more intriguing as it does. Not only Cat's life is revealed but little by little Laura's life also. The last few chapters I found very moving indeed. The ending also surprised me from where I thought it was going as I neared the end.

Will definitely look for more by this author.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 2 January 2013
An enjoyable read. I wanted to know more about Laura's past and the book kept me interested. There were some inconsistencies in the writing which annoyed me. An example being that charm necklace that book is based on as referred to as a bracelet at one point!
11 Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse

Need customer service? Click here