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A Blogging Good Read - May

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

It's time for the May edition of A Blogging Good Read. Yayyyyy books! Joining me this month are two returning reviewers: Char from T*rexes and Tiaras and Steph (aka @mrs_sock).  What did we read?

Well, Char's choice was Good at Games by Jill Mansell:

I'm not ashamed to admit that I like a bit of chick-lit and I have fond memories of this, my first Jill Mansell book. I must have been about 15 when I picked it up from a table-top sale in Boughton-on-the-Water on a day trip with my grandparents, and it's probably the best 20p I've ever spent. It's one of those books I've picked up time and again to read and haven't got bored of. I always come to the same conclusions - I like Leo and always think Harry-the-Hero is a bit of a sap, and spend most of it wishing I had a superwoman like Maeve around the place. Good at Games is still one of those books I wish carried on a little longer; my only criticism would be that the last few chapters move a bit too quickly for my liking, to wrap everything up.

What did Steph think of it?

I’ve read a lot of Jill Mansell books and loved them, so I was happy to read another. Jill is wonderful at creating believable and likeable characters; you can’t help but like Suzy. I would say Good at Games is predictable but enjoyable, even with the plot twists; a feel good book that is easy to read. It’s possibly a little sweet and with Mansell, you know there will be a happy ending but anything that can you make me laugh aloud is a winner.

I think this was one of the first few Jill Mansell books I read and it's one of my favourites - I find her more recent ones to be getting a bit stale and dull. They're definitely nowhere near as good as this one. I like Suzy, I like Jaz, her rockstar ex-husband, I like Lucille, the wannabe singer, and I definitely like Harry and Leo, a pair of extremely attractive brothers. How could I not like the book?  The characters are so fun, vivid and enjoyable to read about that it's a pleasure to spend time in their company.  Yes, it's on the frothy side but sometimes that's just what you want to read about.

My choice was You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sarra Manning:

I first came across a mention of this book in a random blog post somewhere in the depths of the internet which was talking about sex scenes in books that weren't ridiculously perfect and multi-orgasmic but a bit more awkward and true to life. I thought it sounded a bit different from the usual chick-lit fare, so I bought myself a copy and promptly stayed up till 3am finishing it. I was a big soggy mess by the end. This book pushes a lot of buttons for me about body image and it still makes me cry a lot but I love it anyway.

It's about Neve, book lover and exercise obsessive. In pursuit of the perfect relationship with the perfect man (William, who happens to be living halfway around the world), she sets out to get some experience with Max. It's what she calls a pancake relationship: the first one out of the pan is always a mess but it teaches you how to make the next one perfect.  William comes back from LA towards the end of the book but does Neve turn her back on messy, imperfect happiness with Max in the pursuit of idealised true love with him? Well, what do you think? I can't pretend that the elements of the story are anything other than formulaic but what I like so much about Sarra Manning is how she takes what could be considered a bit cliched and makes it utterly engrossing, funny and poignant.

Did Char like it?

I've not read any Sarra Manning before, so it was nice to encounter a new author in a genre I'll happily read more of. I spent a lot of the first section of the book thinking about how great it would be if I had a three-storey house for my sisters and I to live in, but once I'd got to Part Two, I was happily engrossed in the life of Neve and willing her to see the light; not just about men, but also about herself. I found her self-deprecating thoughts about her size and shape really hit home with me and there was one page towards the end which almost had me in tears of recognition with the self-critical way in which she saw herself. Although the ending was a little predictable, it didn't affect my enjoyment of the book and I read the second half of it in the course of one sitting (interspersed with a few cups of coffee, of course), which is always a good sign.

What did Steph think?

I don’t think I’ve read any of Manning’s books before, so was excited to read a new author. Another author who creates fabulous characters. I liked Neve, I think I could relate to her in some ways, a little bit Bridget Jones. However, she could be irritating at times. There was a definite arrogance to William, and again the story is possibly a bit predictable but enjoyable. I would say Manning writes well, but there is maybe something missing here for me… I just don’t know what it is!

Steph's choice was The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

I chose The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson after reading the synopsis, possibly as I have worked in nursing homes, and the thought of someone upping and escaping to have an adventure appeals to me, when the reality is much sadder and lonelier. Allan is not your typical old man. Rather than celebrate his 100th birthday in the rest home, he decides to run away. He has no plans of where he is going and fate steps in and takes him and his slippers on an adventure. It is not a present day narrative, it covers Allan’s life story and I really wish I could meet him! In some parts the comedy is almost slapstick, Allan is caught up in events he has no control over. The plot is utterly fabulous because it is utterly ridiculous. I sort of hope this version of history is true…

This book caught my attention, something not many books do now, and I couldn’t wait to read the next bit, in fact I missed my stop on the train because I was so engrossed. I’d recommend this book just for Jonasson’s intelligent story telling. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea; it is a bit Forrest Gump in parts, however it is refreshing to read a book with an older main character that isn’t tear inducing.

Did Char enjoy it as much?

For the first section of this book, I was gripped. I liked the pace, was interested in the characters and the way in which the author gave them pet-names ("The Beauty", for example) was something I found quite cute. I liked the way in which the flashbacks of Allan's earlier life were included so that they didn't seem to alter the pace of the story.

And then, I'm not sure what happened. I kept reading, but as more and more coincidental incidents were strung together in Allan's past, they seemed to interest me less and less. I started to find it a little irritating, if I'm honest - it seems as though Jonasson went through a book of the last hundred years of history with a highlighter pen and tried to cram in as many events of note as he possibly could, and I was just willing it to end, but the more I read, the more it seems as though it was going to take me a hundred years to finish. (Ok, that might be a little harsh, but I couldn't let the opportunity to make that comment pass!)

I must admit I agree more with Char than Steph when it comes to this book. In fact our reviews are probably very similar but I promise they were written separately! I liked it at the start - well, you've got to find the whole premise of the story (and title) interesting, haven't you? It didn't take me long to read the first half as I was rather enjoying the romp through the world across the twentieth century, interwoven with a modern day crime caper and peopled by a cast of fun characters.

It was around the midway point that I started to lose interest though. It suddenly hit me that what I was reading was a Scandinavian Forrest Gump, only not as good. It seems as if the author was more concerned with seeing how many significant world events he could hang around the life story of one man rather than creating a story that had any real depth. It all got a bit tedious after a while and I can't say I enjoyed having to slog my way through to the end of it.

Thank you very much Char and Steph!

Next month we'll be reading How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, Geek Love by Katherine Dunn and The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley


  1. oooh it does annoy me when I book starts off great and goes downhill! I'm excited to start reading the June books :) xx

  2. Oh I do want to try The Sweetness at The Bottom of the Pie so I may have to download that one and see if I can get it read before next month!

  3. Hmm, I started the Hundred Year Old Man but abandoned it in favour of something thinner when I was going on a plane - I had enjoyed the first hundred or so pages though - hopefully I'll like it as much as Steph rather than you and Char!

  4. I wish I'd read this post before buying Hundred Year Old Man... maybe I'll like it, I seems to dislike books that others herald as a 'must read'.


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