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Book Review: A Dash of Reality by Lee Murray

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What do you get when you combine a sporting franchise run by an egotistical bozo who is feeling the economic downturn, a female billboard model on the verge of getting fired, and a reality TV show?

A Dash of Reality.

Tauranga based author Lee Murray’s newest book comes under the ‘chic-lit’ heading. So I opened the first page with a bit of trepidation. Reviewing a book of someone I know in a genre that I usually only turn to when I don’t want to tire my brain, and having offered to review said book, well…I wondered if I had really thought this through enough. So, what is A Dash of Reality about?

When Melanie, a billboard model, is given a month’s notice she comes up with an unlikely scheme to keep her job and catapult herself in to the realm of famous people. You know the ones, people, that when someone says their name everyone know who you are talking about.

A reality TV series is born where a bunch of everyday New Zealanders will take part in six running events that ends with a marathon and one winner who will get cash for the charity of their choice.

Melanie has more in mind than just cash for her charity. Winning will mean staying employed, paying the bills, being the face that everyone recognises. Sounds simple doesn’t it?  Ahhh…but we are talking about a Lee Murray book where nothing is as simple as it first seems.

As well as a few corporate douche bags who seem intent on making Melanie’s life hell there is her family: an absent father, a mother who seems preoccupied with appearances, a stepfather who calls her Flakey, a stepsister who would rival either of Cinderella’s stepsisters, and finally a stepbrother who I actually liked.

Luckily Melanie has Jack, her boyfriend and biggest supporter. Melanie’s best friend Janeen’s disabled daughter Caro is also Melanie’s goddaughter. I was so glad that there were at least a few nice people in this girl’s like.

Once or twice I found myself wanting to shake Melanie, and wondered how anyone could do something that dumb. Then I remembered that in my lifetime I have seen a lot dumber things done by a lot smarter people. I have to be honest and include myself in that category. I have also met a few of these people. The ones that seem terribly one sided until you take the time to look deeper and realise they are just as insecure and flaky as you are.  

What is also nice to see is a book set in New Zealand as I know it. Too many times books like these are set in such a generic locale that it could be anywhere, or they are written by someone who has never set foot in the country they are writing about. A Dash of Reality has a distinctive New Zealand flavour in the setting, the humour, the language and the way its characters live and interact.

Chic-Lit sounds like an easy genre, but to get the right mix is a little more difficult than it looks. Too light hearted and I get bored; too deep and it crosses right out of the genre. Luckily for me I really liked A Dash of Reality. Is it War and Peace? Thank God no! That book may be considered a masterpiece, but I have never got past page ten. Every genre has its place. Chic-Lit, when done well can be a great read. A Dash of Reality is done well.

If you find yourself interested in running, at the end of the book are some tips on starting. And Lee should know. Not only is she an award winning writer, but Lee has competed in 18 marathons, a bunch of half marathons and an ultra marathon.

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