‘Starter for Ten’

I love it when authors continue to write brilliant books without simply copying the winning formulae from their previously successful books. David Nicholls is one of those authors…I have read his books in the wrong order…but this hasn’t ruined the fun. The “correct” order would have been…

1) Starter for Ten

2) The Understudy

3) One Day

This book was recommended to me by a friend and I am very grateful to her for it! I was laughing and sniggering throughout! This is the first non-autobiographical book that has made me laugh! I mean there were are lots of moments in various books that make me chuckle, especially poor Stephen C McQueen (no relation)’s escapades in The Understudy but I was smiling the WHOLE way through this one!

Poor poor protagonist Brian…a character who we can feel comfortable laughing at because we’ve been in similar situations ourselves, we can relate to him! We meet Brian in the 80s shortly before he heads off to University…with acne-covered skin, a penchant for quizzes and an obsession with the work of Kate Bush, he is a brilliant character and yet, he is extremely ordinary. What is hilarious throughout the book is that Brian is unaware of his ordinariness…in fact, it seems that he is waiting for the world to discover how wonderful he is. The only problem is…that those people (unless they are true geniuses…or audition for Big Brother…) usually get brought back to Earth with a bang!

Anyway, Brian goes off to University with big dreams! He is going to attend every single lecture without fail, concentrate on his studies and be one of lives achievers!

This mentality lasts for less than one night as he becomes enchanted by a girl called Alice, one of those beautiful girls who we all knew at University who led boys on and played the innocent victim of unwanted feelings – however, Brian was a bit too keen…so he becomes besotted with Alice, which leads to the inevitable fall. Along the way he auditions for ‘University Challenge’, experiences those moments that we all shared at University (i.e. being told to keep the noise down, not doing as well in an essay as you’d hoped – even if you didn’t put as much effort in as usual, saying something stupid in a nervous moment, which leads to you looking like a fool…trying to work out who we are/who we want to become, first major hangover…etc. etc.) and learns a LOT about himself – not so much about “Eng Lit”.

This book is a joy to read, even if there were parts that I couldn’t personally relate to, those things happened to friends of mine! Although in a ‘Napoleon Dynamite-esque’ way, nothing massively exciting happens, Nicholls’ style of writing is so smooth and enjoyable! The book describes life for one ordinary boy going to University in the 80s…there are plenty of subtle references to life in the 80s, without being too overpowering and frankly, it is hilarious!

This would be a great present for someone starting University, someone currently at University, someone who has been through University…hell, it would be a great present for anyone! 

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‘The Understudy’

Another cracking book from the author of One Day David Nicholls! This hilarious book tells the story of Stephen C McQueen…an understudy to Josh Harper – the 12th Sexiest Man in the World. Not only does Stephen have an unfortunate name but he barely sees his daughter, he has a tiny flat and he pays the bills with small parts in TV programmes and random children’s films…he also plays a dead person quite well apparently…basically, it is fair to say that things aren’t going tremendously for Stephen but they are going brilliantly for Josh Harper…you spend the whole book hoping that Josh will fall down the stairs or something…just so Stephen can catch a break!

This book cleverly tells the story of the underdog…whilst humorously proving that just because you want something to happen, more often than not…you can’t just get it at someone else’s expense. Nicholls has the ability to transform the ‘everyman’ character into the leading man and it is refreshing to read this book as we’ve all had those moments where we’ve misunderstood what someone has said…and then ended up with egg on our faces…we’ve also had those moments where we wonder why we bother pursuing our dreams just to have them shot down.

I’ve literally just been recommended ‘Starter for Ten’, another David Nicholls book…which I’ll be adding to my pile very soon! He seems to have a real knack for creating realistic characters that we can all relate to and I really enjoy reading about them. I urge you to pick up a David Nicholls book and have a read, even if you’re trying to avoid the hype of One Day, you should still give them a chance! You might be surprised!

‘Picture Perfect’

Jodi Picoult never ceases to amaze me! ‘Picture Perfect’ is another brilliant novel that draws you in completely and shows you a whirlwind emotional journey from the first page to the last!

The book begins as an unknown woman is found in a graveyard…she cannot remember her own name, let alone how she got there! Luckily, she bumps into a local policeman (albeit the day before he actually starts working for the police…) and he looks after her until (much to their surprise…) her husband arrives to collect her. Oh, yes did I mention that her husband is world-famous filmstar Alex Rivers? Don’t worry if you aren’t familiar with the name…neither is Cassie…and she’s the one married to him!

Cassie soon finds herself sucked into the madness of celebrity life and unable to get used to the person that she supposedly used to be. As the story unravels and we get a deeper insight into Cassie and Alex’s relationship…we begin to understand what could have led her to the graveyard that night and why she would want to forget the present and find her true self again.

‘Picture Perfect’ is a fantastic book full of twists and turns and Picoult’s writing keeps you guessing until the very end! It also raises interesting ideas about identity and how easy it is to lose sight of yourself when you’re deeply in love with someone, even if being with them is destructive to yourself.