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Rant and Review

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Apologies readers but a mini rant is up ahead. I am still feeling dreadful and have been in bed for the past two days. I think it might be flu now - I have zero energy and keep fluctuating between freezing and boiling hot. In other words, I'm probably not coping with life quite as well as normal but argh, I have things I need to get off my chest.

Car insurance. GARGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! I do not cope well with comparison type websites at the best of times (train websites are the absolute death of me) and especially not when it comes to car insurance. Why is it so outrageously expensive? I thought it was bad last year at nearly £600 but this year the cheapest quote I've found is £748.

SEVEN HUNDRED AND FORTY EIGHT POUNDS. It is fully ridiculous. Nothing has changed. If anything, things have improved because I've got another year's no claims bonus and that's meant to help, isn't it? And I'm doing everything right. I have an older driver on the policy, I don't do many miles per year, it's a small car that isn't worth very much. It can only be the postcode. I don't think the area I live in is that bad but clearly the insurers do. Luckily, being the depressingly sensible type, I have a separate account that I put £90 a month into to cover things like insurance, tax and repairs so I'm not going to bankrupt myself to pay for it, although that account is now somewhat empty. There seems no logic whatsoever to the pricing. It's almost as expensive now as it was when I first passed my test 8 years ago and it makes no sense.

Don't even get me started on petrol prices. Over £45 for a tank of petrol in my little car? Jesus wept.

Or the fact that a year's worth of proper breakdown cover is another £80. Go me for haggling the AA down from £164 though! But just think of all the other stuff I could be spending that £800 on instead. Books for example. Many, many books. And in a neat segue, here comes a book review.

I've just finished reading Jump! by Jilly Cooper. You go into a Jilly Cooper book expecting certain things - overuse of the word ravishing, lots of romping, constant referrals to scent instead of perfume, lavish descriptions of nature and many puns, mostly in relation to people's names. I find all of these things quite comforting in her books (in fact I wrote a parody once for a forum I post on - so much fun to do) so that didn't put me off at all.

Was it a good book though? I am going to have to say no.

I just felt like it needed a damn good edit and clearly it didn't get one. This seems to be increasingly common with established authors. I think they get carried away with the worlds they create and their editors don't seem to have the balls to get the red pen out and start slashing. I'd be interested to know exactly what the editor of this book actually did do because if this is the final product, the first draft must have been horrendous.

Yes, she writes big books with lots of characters but there were just way too many characters in this one and so many of them were entirely two-dimensional and superfluous. It led to some really bad and confusing dialogue - pages and pages where all of the characters seem to say a line each (half of them bad jokes) despite not being involved in the same conversation. The time sequence is patchy, there are loads of plot holes left unexplored and unanswered and it just doesn't feel well rounded at all.

As usual, there are a couple of romantic plots running through the story. I'm not going to join in with the bashing of the main one (read the Amazon reviews for that) which seems based on the fact that it's centred on two 60+ year olds. Cos you know, god forbid that older people are allowed to fall in love. Personally I thought it was quite sweet and certainly better written than the other one which involved Amber. I just wish Amber had been allowed a slightly better happy-ever-after moment. I have no romance in my life so I like it in books and felt mildly cheated by the "we're together now" line which was pretty much all that it boiled down to in the end. As for Amber herself, she's a nice character but not particularly distinctive. She seems boiled together from a quite a few other Jilly Cooper heroines - not necessarily a bad thing in a lesser character but not quite enough for one of the leads in such a big book.

Oh and I really, strongly, object to anyone writing a storyline in which a 15 year old gets unwillingly involved in group sex with 3 people twice her age. It was so distasteful and actually really unnecessary in terms of plot. And then no repercussions whatsoever for any of the older characters, as if it's somehow absolutely fine!

Despite all that, I did still enjoy bits of it. The book romps along quite well considering the aforementioned plot flaws, there are some really funny moments and I always like to catch up with some of her established characters. I do like her books, even when they're clearly as full of problems as this one is. If you've never tried any of them then please don't be put off by this - start with Riders instead. The earlier ones (Riders, Rivals, Polo) are far and away the best and it makes sense to start at the beginning and work your way through. Or if you don't have the patience for a 700 page book, try and track down some of her shorter books (Octavia, Harriet, Imogen etc). They're very much a product of the 60's and 70's so don't expect anything approaching political correctness but they're very good fun.


  1. It was always a bone of contention with my mum that I didn't drive. Having read your rant, I am quite pleased I don't! Postcodes have a LOT to answer for. And if we did drive, touring theatricals pay through the nose too! Like when I was going to take out personal cover...because I sewed for a living I was put in the same catergory as surgeons and the cost was HUGE. Okay if you WERE a surgeon, but not on my income!!
    Oh wow. Jilly Cooper! Sounds like she might need to retire! But I did enjoy reading R,R and P.
    And goodness...Happy New Year, Alex! I've been a very unsociale blogger, recently.
    Sorry you've been so rough...I prescribe a large dosage of Hot Toddy! Get Well Soon!
    Z xx

  2. I have never read a Jilly Cooper but in some strange way, I kind of want to now! I love stuff thats so bad its good. I had a mate at uni who used to collect all the 70's mills and boon books from charity shops, the cover art was ace! Everyone who borrowed them would annotate them, made them even funnier!

    Hope you feel better soon :) xx

  3. Argh! That blessed flu. You'd think these freezing temperatures we'd been suffering would have killed off all that lurgy. Definately second a hot toddy.
    I'm rather glad I don't drive, it's bad enough cruising the net for a cheap flight.
    I never really fot Jilly Cooper, read Riders years ago and wasn't my thing. At least you persevered. xxx

  4. love your blog title!


  5. Oh Alex, I am so glad I don't have a car anymore, I'm not sure how people manage.

    Never read any Jilly, if I see one in a charity shop I shall pick one up and give it a go.

  6. Go Girl Go!!!! Too bloody true - the cost of tunning a car!!! Ridiculess!

  7. Car insurance makes me kinda glad I don't drive!

  8. Loving the rant then the review. :)
    From cars to romping in one blog post, that's certainly something.

    I agree on car insurance. We got our renewal and they wanted an extra £10 pm, even though we'd not claimed and hold 2 other policies with them, one angry phone call later and we are under the previous monthly payment. It's getting silly with cars though.


  9. Dear Alex, oh! I hope you feel better soon. I swear by drinking pints of water with 1000mg of soluble paracetamol. Try it!

    I didn't get Jump for Christmas and not sure I like the sound of it after reading that. I love all the older books especially the girls names xx

  10. I share your pain with the car insurance, mine went up to £1010 from £490!! after days of price comparison i got it down to £590. Don't think it's your postcode hun, insurance has gone up for everybody, apparently due to all the accidents last january with the ice then again in december has pushed premiums up in general. You live close to me and we are in the 'posh' side of the city lol..

    Hope your feeling better soon!! xx
    Sharron xxxx

  11. Oh Alex, I agree so wholeheartedly with everything you've said here! My car insurance went up about £100 this year, which isn't too bad but still baffling when you've done nothing wrong!

    Jump was the second book I downloaded for my Kindle and I felt the same as you when I'd finished it. I got so sick of reading the pages and pages of character bios at the beginning, I skipped straight to the story! It was disappointing because I really liked Wicked, which was a move away from her classics but still a great read. Riders is perfection, though!

    Hope you feel better soon xx

  12. Train prices have gone up so much too, harrumph. Almost enough to make me start cycling (except for London traffic, I don't have a death wish).

    J Cooper must have some obsession with group sex, the one in Riders was pretty awful too - and again no repurcussions for the sods, though ultimately it equated to gang rape.

  13. i can drive but have never had a car, mostly for the reasons you've talked about here! my boyf has a small car & i think his insurance was about the same as yours this expensive!

    i've never read a jilly cooper book to be honest, they've never really appealed. that storyline you mention sounds pretty wrong, oooer!

    i was ill with a flu-y thing last week & its no fun, hope you start feeling better soon :)

  14. Aww- I hope you're feeling better soon! It's hard not to feel miserable when you're ill, and I really sympathise with the feeling.
    My parents were just having a discussion about the ridiculous expenses of a car. I know they're practical but right now I am so glad I don't have that worry!

    Florrie x

  15. I'm not a driver so I have no idea about the nightmare that is car insurance, and I've never read a Jilly Cooper book, though I've seen Riders at the library. I'm more into fantasy books. I'm still stuck in fairytale land, haha. Hope you get your car insurance sorted soon. Ooh, sent your letter off today as well :) xxx

  16. Sometimes I get annoyed that I don't have a car and then I hear stories like this and thank the heavens above. Cars seem to be the single biggest drain on people's income in terms of unexpected expenditure - either something falls off them or the insurance does something spazzy. There's just no way I would be in a position to cope with something like that happening. At least the worst that can happen to me is that the bus is late!

    Hope you're feeling better soon.

  17. Oh no! My insurance was less than £300 last year now I'm worried what it's going to be this year!! It's partly the fault of all the bloody bogus whiplash claims isn't it? Still though, I wouldn't go back to public transport if I could help it.

    Hope you feel better soon :( xx

  18. I am so with you on the car insurance rant, that is completely ridiculous!

    Also, I saw Jump! in Sainsbury's the other day and was a little tempted, but was planning to ask what you thought of it before i purchase - I've never read any Jilly Cooper, but may search out some of the earlier ones in the library..

  19. Aww that sucks you are feeling so lousy. Hope you get better quickly.

    Gosh I'm quite thankful right now to not have a car. That's so expensive!! You are right to be annoyed.

    Never read Jilly Cooper before as it has never appealed to me but maybe I should check out some of the earlier ones.


  20. I am reading a book at the moment that I am having several issues with, but I am determined to persevere and finish it, I actually feel rather sad that it’s not what I wanted it to be, saying that there is still time for it to develop.

    I’ve never read Jilly Cooper, but it is always disappointing when a book ‘that should’ have been great just doesn’t live up to expectations.

    And I hope you feel better soon x

  21. Oh no, not the lurgy! I know exactly how you feel.

    I renewed my insurance last week too - it jumped from £180 to £269 and that's for a 27 year old car! What's annoying too is that my NCB is at it's maximum *shakes fist*.

    Here's hoping you're on the mend soon. x

  22. Man thats a LOT for insurance - I was moaning last year cause mine went up by £150, partly cause I 'moved house', according to one insurer. Eh what?! Think mine came out about £450 with 6 years no claim, not good, keep looking! Also started walking everywhere to avoid buying petrol, I try not to think of the better ways my money could be spent! :)

  23. Oh lord, I know - having a car is just ridonkulously expensive! Though public transport isn't exactly cheap either, alas.

    I don't mind offensive/controversial plotlines in books or movies, AS LONG as they contribute something to the story i.e. are relevant in some significant way. This one you mention doesn't seem to me, so I would be just as irked as you if I stumbled upon it!

  24. I've heard of that book but I think I might skip out on it now ;) Have you read "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" series?? I would SERIOUSLY recommend them! They make being sick a little bit more tolerable too!

  25. Oh, that's such a shame, I really like Jilly Cooper, even though her books are fluff I tend to find them quite well-written. I loved Riders and Score, and even Wicked. Will avoid this one though, unless I see it for peanuts at a car boot!

    Onto the other topic I FEEL YOUR PAIN. This time last year it was £30 a tank for my little car, now it's closer to £50 and fuel keeps rising! I've been third party insured until now, but am going fully comp this year as need to build up my no claims, your post has slightly terrified me, not gonna lie! It's not until March but think I may have to start saving, urk.

    Feel better!

  26. Hi Alex, sorry to hear that you have succumbed to the flu, I posted a little package off to you yesterday morning, I hope it reaches you quickly and cheers you up.

    Prices in the UK seem extraordinary, especially in these difficult times, don't get me started on the shocking state of trains I don't know how they get away with charging those extortionate prices for badly overcrowded, filthy, dirty trains with no service and that is if the service is running at all and they want to encourage more people to use them! there having a laugh, the French train service which is state owned put's the British service to shame British rail should have never been privatised. Ooh what happened there, sorry about that quick rant!

    I read all Jilly Coopers early books years ago and remember really enjoying them, I don't think I like the sound of her latest book.

    Keep cosy and look after yourself, hope you feel better soon.

    Lots of cyber hugs.

    Dash. XX

  27. I hope you are feeling better soon, take care of yourself. Yes, car insurance- insane!

  28. hiya, I loved Riders and Rivals...Polo is a fave.....really great bonker-busters....but Jump, hhhmmmmm....even tho it had the love rat AKA Rupert did not quite sing to my heart!

    I still love Jilly, though lately she has sailed VERY close to the wind with this book, the "Amber" scene and her last book Wicked.....which had some disturbing moments!

    Nice to be back in the stables though...I've missed that!


  29. Supportive article,understandable language to everyone are plus point of this blog.

  30. We're looking at moving to south liverpool and compared to Widnes the car insurance is nearly doubled :( That is with 2 people on the policy instead of 1 too though but grrr. The price of petrol irritates me too, i've started driving slower and more carefully in order to preserve petrol! I read somewhere that the harder you press on the accelerator the more petrol the engine uses.

  31. My insurance came down this year but only by switching providers :( I got my breakdown cover from the green insurance company and Inc home start and key insurance it was about £40 for the year. Petrol prices are getting silly but I couldn't go back to using public transport.

    I've havent read any Jilly Cooper and she has never appealed to me I think it's because of all the horsey stuff!


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