Bricking It- Nick Spalding

I discovered Bricking It on the Kindle Bestsellers list and thought that, if thousands of other of people were buying it, I would give it a go, too. I hadn’t actually even read the Amazon description when I started reading it, so I really didn’t know what to expect.

 

I instantly liked the chatty and friendly tone that greeted me, from both narrates. Their brother and sister dynamic was presented well, and fairly realistically: almost endless bickering and teasing, but with their sibling love could always be spotted underneath it all. This brother and sister relationship also meant that, from the very start, the book was humorous, but not in a way that tried to be clever or witty- it was simply the sort of humour that comes out of siblings criticising each other: Dan was the typical stereotype of the slightly lazy younger brother, and Hayley the stereotypical controlling older sister that always likes to highlights her little brother’s faults.

 

In spite of the main characters’ relationship is fairly common in a novel, the situation around which their relationship is presented is not: they are left to renovate their late Grandmother’s country house- hence the book’s title. This subject was much more comedic that one might initially imagine, as the siblings discover a completely new side of their Grandmother that they, happily, were unaware of before the project, and the team they hire to complete the renovation fill the book with humour.

 

However, other than simply finding the book funny, I was genuinely interested in the outcome of the property renovation and the future of the house, given that there was so much hesitation at the start. And even though romance wasn’t at the forefront of the book, I did want to follow the relationships that did develop between one of the characters- especially those that I did not see coming at all! What’s more, I did genuinely care for Nick and Hayley, and I think that is partly down to Spalding perfecting the amount of background information- I knew enough about them to empathise with them, but didn’t feel that I was overloaded with information that was crafted to make me feel a specific way.

 

I think what also added to my enjoyment of the book is that Spalding’s writing style is very inoffensive- and I mean that as a compliment, rather than a suggestion that it’s boring. He does not attempt to use over ambitious vocabulary, be overly witty, or try to over complicate anything. This means that I was able to read the content of the book, without any distractions of an irritating writing style.

 

With all considered, I would definitely recommend Bricking It. Just because the narrative wasn’t complex, that is not to say that it was not interesting, and it definitely included a handful of surprises! It was easy to read without being simplistic, and was easy to pick up and put down. I will explore some other of Spalding’s works.

 

 

Mini Shopaholic- Sophie Kinsella

Mini Shopaholic is a very different book to the type I would usually choose, and my boyfriend did look at me with a very puzzled expression when he saw it, but when I went to the charity shop to pick up my holiday reading material supply, I decided to give it a go. Since when has choosing a guaranteed light-hearted easy-read every turned out badly? I must admit that it was left until last on the reading list, but that is not to say that I wish I didn’t buy it.

 

From the first page, the book was exactly what I was expecting: a little cheesy, clichéd and over-the-top, but none of these are necessarily a bad thing. These aspects allowed for a quick entrance into the narrative, with a protagonist that most women can identify with at least a little and, given its conforming to all conventions of ‘chick-lit’, I knew what I could expect straight away.

 

If not a little irritating at times, because of the simple narrative ( don’t expect any shocking twists and turns- what you see is pretty much what you get) and how conveniently things fell into place ( I was secretly hoping that something would go disastrously wrong regarding the party), the story did actually make me laugh out loud at some points. The inclusion of letters that Becky had sent to various important figures in an attempt to land herself a new job or opportunity were particularly comedic, perhaps out of the sheer silliness of the idea. Also, as well as adding further humour to the narrative, I can imagine that Minnie’s misbehaviour acts as another point of identification for the women who are the target audience of Kinsella’s work, snatching time to read in between running errands and looking after the children, which could offer them a moment of relief.

 

In spite of everything positive about this book, I must admit that the main character, Becky, is infuriatingly frustrating at times- but perhaps this is the idea? I couldn’t quite work it out. I was unsure whether her self-reference as ‘Becky Brandon (née Bloomwood)’ was supposed to be a sign of her somewhat over-confident, slightly irritating nature, or if it is something that Kinsella does with most of her female protagonists, but either way, it became really irritating by the end of the book.

 

While I would usually be critical of a narrative as simple as this, yearning for more mysteries and complexities, in the situation of a holiday read, when it was sometimes to hot to function properly, a book like this was definitely appreciated. I would not recommend this book to someone who likes to be surprised, or wants a book that is too compelling to put down. However, if you are after a light read that you can easily put down and pick up, without the worry of losing track of what’s happening, Mini Shopaholic could be a great choice.

How To Be Good- Nick Hornby

I was familiar was Nick Hornby’s writing style since we had studied About A Boy as part of our English GCSE and I had really enjoyed his wit, so I was more than prepared to give How To Be Good a go. I knew I would finish this in no time, given that it was fairly short and I was reading it on holiday so I could give it my undivided attention.

 

What I quite liked from the start was that, even though the narrative was written from the perspective of Katie, it was obvious that we weren’t supposed to necessarily like her. This is different to many books that I have read, where the reader is supposed to take the side of the narrator. Having said this, however, despite disliking her, I think it was impossible to not identify with her at least a little bit- she admitted that she actively tried to shape her life so that she looked like a good person, she recognised that she wasn’t essentially good. Everything she does, her job as a GP, her efforts to raise her children as well as possible, her worries about social issues, are all in order to make herself look like a good person. Yet she still commits an inexcusable deed: adultery. It is the fact that Katie’s character is a little more complex and not black-and-white good or bad like so many fictional mother figures that I appreciated so much.

 

I also found Katie’s children rather charming characters. Hornby succeeds in showing that children are simply a product of their parents, and will adopt a mixture of each of their traits, for better and for worse. Hornby manages to capture the way children simply speak their minds, often leaving parents with no idea how to respond, which added to the overall comedy of How To Be Good, reminding me somewhat of the children in the BBC sitcom Outnumbered.

 

Additionally, the general comedy of the attempted transition of a middle class family living in the London suburbs, heavily influenced by consumerist culture into a socially aware, selfless and giving family, due to GoodNews did keep me wanting to read more. I was curious to see whether Katie could really be transformed into a different person in the way that her husband had.

 

However, on the subject of GoodNews, I did find his character a little strange. It was obvious that he was supposed to serve a type of purpose, or to deliver a specific message, but I couldn’t quite figure out what this message was suppose to be, other than ‘be a good person’, which is probably a little simplistic considering Hornby’s evident talent.

 

With all considered, I would say that Hornby’s How To Be Good is not for everyone. If you enjoy books where lots happens and situations change noticeably then it probably isn’t the book for you. However, if you don’t mind having to put up with a couple of things that don’t quite sit comfortably, just so that you can appreciate the skill of good writing, then you should definitely give it a go!

The Girl On The Train- Paula Hawkins

Everyone has been raving about this book since it came out. They claimed that if you loved Gone Girl, The Girl On The Train was a sure pleaser, too. For this reason, it was the first book on by ‘To buy’ list for my holiday. Before I had even opened it, I sent my friend a picture of the pool with the book in view, and they told me it had them hooked, so naturally I could not wait to read it.

Even when I began reading it, it didn’t disappoint. I liked the quotations before the actual story began, excited to see what relevance they may have further on. In fact, even a few chapters into the book I still had high hopes-it wasn’t immediately captivating, but I was willing for it to grab me in the way that I had enjoyed the book it had been compared to so much.

 

I felt what I’m sure readers were supposed to feel about each of the three women whose perspectives the story is written in: pity for Rachel, intrigue towards Megan and hostility towards Anna. However, the deeper I ventured into the book the more I was disappointed.

 

Firstly, yes, I could understand Rachel’s embarrassment at the loss of her job and her reasons for not telling her flatmate but, in reality, why would she continue (and how could she afford) to continue to journey into London every day for no reason? I also thought that the stories of her ‘erratic’ behaviour towards Anna and Tom in the past were a little half-hearted- they would have been great if they had been developed properly, but they never seemed to arrive at anything. The character of Rachel’s mum also seemed a little underdeveloped- I could see how it was necessary for her to feature, but I feel that she could have been executed more effectively. Anna’s character was, more than anything, frustrating. This may have been on purpose, but it was infuriating to have to be put in the shoes of somehow who could be so blinded by their own arrogance. Even in the very last chapters, when one would expect her to begin to show some compassion towards Rachel, she remained as hostile and unkind as ever.

 

Unfortunately it wasn’t just the characters that I found frustrating- the narrative itself was also annoyingly predictable. Hawkins did attempt red herrings and twists but, personally, I think these were poorly executed and I could always see them coming. Even as the truth is uncovered before the end, I did not feel that it was the ‘big reveal’ that it seemed it was supposed to be and the only reason that I continued to turn the pages so quickly was because I was interested in seeing how it was revealed and what the final result would be.

 

I found the writing style also irritated me, too. However, I do recognise that this may be a personal choice. I can appreciate the attempts at being witty, but I just felt that it did not work, and occasionally resulted in the misuse of punctuation to achieve a certain tone, which is one of my personal bugbears.  It also seemed that Hawkins wished to appear eloquent, through the use of low frequency vocabulary, but this just didn’t fit comfortably with the characters in terms of their class or level of intelligence and, in my opinion, it added nothing to the characters nor the narrative.

 

However, in spite of the fact that the writing style and the characters did not appeal to me, I was impressed by the concept of part of the narrative: that when you see the same sight or people on such a regular basis, they become so familiar that your brain can be tricked into thinking you know them. As someone who has commuted into central London on the tube every weekday for the past year, I can understand how your mind makes up little stories about the faces you see everyday and their reason for making their journey at the same time as you everyday.

 

I don’t think I could recommend this book, simply because I was so disappointed by it after how it was recommended to me. I wanted to assure myself that I wasn’t simply being a harsh critic so I gave it to my boyfriend, without telling him my views on it, and he told me he felt exactly the same. In fact, I was considering breaking my own rule of never giving up on a book, but I desperately wanted to make myself enjoy it and I didn’t want to miss out on something that everyone else was raving about. Perhaps I misunderstood the book, or missed a vital concept in it that would have meant I enjoyed it, but I just didn’t. I would be incredibly interested in hearing your point of view, because everyone else I have spoken to can’t understand why I disliked it so much!