Sunday, 13 March 2011

Book Review: Good At Games by Jill Mansell

Good at GamesGood at Games by Jill Mansell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I did enjoy this book, and I'm going to find it hard to review without giving away spoilers, however, there are a few reasons why this book didn't get four stars from me.

The first one, and this might be completely me and my preference, was the jumping of viewpoints in the same scene.  And although funny, (this book did have me laughing out loud), at times it was hard to follow, especially early on when I wasn't used to it and thought the character's head I was supposed to be in had become a mind reader, then I realised the viewpoints had actually switched to another character.

Maybe it's because I don't write like that; I try to stick inside one character's head per scene, and don't really go in too many heads.  (Jill Mansell even gave us point of view of minor characters, including the dog at one stage - though it worked for the joke). 

With this book, I just felt I wasn't firmly in the head of the main characters, therefore didn't feel so deeply involved to want to root them on.  I've read a lot of books that stick to limited third person too, so my brain automatically was thinking this author's made a mistake - until I realised it was her style.  So this book is very omniscient in viewpoints - if I've got that right? - and I'm not sure it's something I like constantly.  I've read Mills and Boon where it slips, but usually only once in a scene, and can be subtly done.

You do get used to it - eventually - but I did find it jarring.

The second thing I wasn't sure about was who the hero was supposed to be.  It's a toss up between the two brothers where Suzy is concerned (who is the main heroine), and to be honest, at one point, I didn't want Suzy falling for either of them.  Later it gets cleared up a bit, but even so, I don't know if the confusion was deliberate on the author or not, but I'm in doubts whether I liked it.

The third thing; I had a very mixed image of Suzy.  I got the impression she was supposed to be a very attractive, curvy woman - to appeal to us all, and to imply men don't just go for skin and bone.  Suzy mentions (in her head) she's a a size 14 (which is absolutely fine by the way, too!) - then a few chapters later, she's comparing her 9-and-a-half-stone self against waif like Celeste.  Then later, it IS reiterated she's a size 14.

I'm 10 stone, about 5'6" and I'm a size 12 - is Suzy barely 5" or something?  I imagined her tall, and beautifully voluptuous - basically a normal girl really not worried about what she ate - therefore at her weight, she'd be no bigger than a 12, gosh she might even squeeze into a 10 depending on her height!  Even as a 12 the comments about super slim/skinny Celeste and Gaby would still work.  So this minor detail about weight irked me I'm afraid.  Fine, if the size 14 was to appeal to the female readers, but don't make her 9 and a half stone - was that a typo missed?  Should she have been 10 and a half stone?

One thing I did like was the setting... only up the road from me, Bristol.  It's making me wonder if I should keep a town name in my own novel... however Jill Mansell is an established author, I am a mere wannabe...

The style of writing, or voice, took a while to get used to.  Extremely sharp and witty, yet with the point of view changing it sometimes became hard to follow - almost scatty.

This is the first Jill Mansell book I've read, and I'd definitely give her another go as once I got used to the book, I enjoyed her sense of humour.  I'll just be prepared for the viewpoint changes next time.

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  1. The little details can throw a book for me. I would have been mentally calculating the size and weight too! Such a small thing, but it becomes a big issue when it makes the reader stop believing.

  2. Jill left a message on Goodreads (I'm assuming it was THE Jill Mansell) that she was 5'4", 9 and half stone and was a size 14. However, for me, and seeing a friend today, discussing it, 9 and a half stone just doesn't give me the picture of a woman who's a size 14 - maybe in tops if she's busty, but not around the hips. And I pictured Suzy being a bit taller than 5' 4" too!

    Really, it's me being nit picky... I've found reading books and reviewing them, as I'm also an aspiring writer, you see things differently. Though I still think I'm an easy going reader... so the things I spot and write about in a review, for me are things that niggled or threw me out of the story temporarily.


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