Saturday, 23 January 2016

Recent Reads #6

My new year's resolution is holding strong. I spend approximately 6 hours a week on trains (plus all the time spent at stations/on stationary trains because of delays) so I've got a lot of time to read at the moment. And it's great, I love it, and it's the only thing that makes commuting bearable. I'm still making my way through 99p Kindle Christmas buys, all of which are books I knew virtually nothing about before starting to read them, and all of which I've been pretty impressed with. 

Games People Play - Louise Voss
This was a good'un. Also a long'un, taking me a good week or so to read. I thought it was really good though. I love a novel with multiple narrators: why have one perspective when you can have three? Why learn about the deepest darkest thoughts of one person when you can know it three? Needless to say, we met three narrators: Rachel (daughter), Susie (mother), Gordana (grandmother, but not Susie's mother) - all of whom were really likeable, especially Gordana, but I'm a sucker for a grandma and a troubled past. So the story plays out from several different angles. Rachel, a rising British tennis star, goes through a rubbish time: boyfriends, health, family; Susie, a runaway mother, also faces some troubles: fiancé, guilt, ex-husband, new-boyfriend-who-isn't-actually-new-boyfriend; Gordana has it the worst and stays the strongest. Games People Play is, above all, a story of family - and the importance of family in the face of troubles. With love stories, scandals and quite a bit of tennis interwoven, family remains the constant, providing the integral support all the characters require. I laughed, I *almost* cried and I was shocked. There's plenty of twists and turns, characters you hate, and characters that you learn to love. A really good read with a killer plot and a happy(ish) ending. 
4.5 / 5

The Good Girl - Mary Kubica
I began this book unsure, but thankfully I was on a train with nothing else to do so persisted - and it was probably worth it. I've decided that I love a good crime novel on the train, because it keeps my mind busy and means that I don't get too scared (because it's daytime and I'm surrounded by people). We start with a kidnapping, Mia, the 'good girl', a teacher and respected member of the community. Mia is also daughter to one of the most famous judge's in Chicago, from a family of extremely wealthy lawyers - but has rebelled, prioritising morality and community over money, and has very little contact with her family. So, as the parents of a daughter from whom you are relatively estranged, what do you do when she goes missing? We follow the journey of Mia (pre and post kidnap), her mother, her kidnapper and the detective in charge - we are spoiled by four narrators! Whilst I found some of the plot fairly mundane, becoming slightly disinterested in Mia and her kidnapping, I was constantly fascinated by the story of her family - and this was the real appeal of the novel for me. Having said that, the narrative of Mia post-kidnap was really interesting, and a very moving portrayal of loss and grief. This book was good at doing the unexpected, and this all became very clear towards the end when everything was tied up. I was not prepared for the enormous twist at the end, which was very brave, but I wish a little more time had been spent on this; in some ways, it felt like a bit of an afterthought, plonked on to the end of the novel. It was definitely one of those books that you don't absolutely adore when you're reading it, but you appreciate it at the end. 
3 / 5

Starter for Ten - David Nicholls
Sometimes, at 9am on a Thursday morning, a Scandinavian crime novel where a woman has already been sexually assaulted and murdered in front of her daughter in the first 10 pages, is just not what you need. So it's time to turn back to a trusty classic, one of my favourite books. I've read Starter for Ten at least four times before, and seen the film even more times, but I love it and it never gets old. Though it's David Nicholls' first published novel, I think it's his best: it's his funniest, his most honest and his least cliché. We follow Brian Jackson, a seemingly unlikely university candidate, through his first year at university. The first-person narrative, I think, was an excellent call - as we really get to know Brian - we root for him, we feel sad with him and we cringe with him. The plot focuses around the University Challenge team; a huge fan of the show as a child, Brian, through a series of misfortunes (his and others), manages to secure a place on the team. It's a story about being the odd one out, and about finding a place for yourself; about not giving up; and an embarrassingly authentic representation of your first year at university. If you haven't read it, please read it. If you're not going to read it, at least watch the film. 
5 / 5


  1. I absolutely love Starter for Ten... well, all David Nicholl's novels really! I think I agree with you about it being his best novel, although One Day does come close. It has a less "Hollywood blockbuster" feel, I guess! And the film version actually does the book justice (for once!) - James McAvoy is great! I particularly enjoyed Starter for Ten because Brian's from Southend like me, so I felt I could relate to it (a bit...)! Have you read his other more unknown novel The Understudy?

    1. Hi Abby! David Nicholls is a hero - I saw him at Kew Literary Festival last year, and it was great to hear him talk about, not just his books, but his screenplays as well. I totally agree about doing the book justice; I was really hesitant when I first watched it, but James McAvoy is so perfect for the role. I have read it, yes, but I didn't think much of it. It's the only of David Nicholls' novels that I've read and finished feeling underwhelmed. x


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