(1) A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
Contemporary / Black Humour: "Meet Martin, JJ, Jess, and Maureen. Four people who come together on New Year's Eve: a former TV talk show host, a musician, a teenage girl, and a mother. They encounter one another on the roof of Topper's House, a London destination famous as the last stop for those ready to end their lives."
Only someone like Nick Hornby could take a difficult and taboo subject matter such as suicide and create something hilarious (black comedy style) and heartwarming from it. From the outset, this should have been a thoroughly depressing novel, however it looks at four interesting and very different characters, and intertwines their lives together like magic. I won't say too much for spoilers sake, but if you've read the blurb and thought it wasn't for you due to the suicide concept, think again because it's really not like that. I've always enjoyed Hornby's easy going prose for when I want a lighter read, but even I was surprised by how much I enjoyed A Long Way Down. Dare I even say it's an ideal 'holiday' read?! [3/5]
(2) Sex, Drugs And Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman
Non-fiction / Pop Culture Essays: "Countless writers and artists have spoken for a generation, but no one has done it quite like Chuck Klosterman. With an exhaustive knowledge of popular culture and an almost effortless ability to spin prose out of unlikely subject matter, Klosterman attacks the entire spectrum of postmodern America."
If you're writing a satirical, non-fiction manifesto on pop culture themes, you need to be witty, engaging and perhaps a little controversial. Klosterman tries to do all of this in Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs but somehow his words just don't cut it with me and he falls victim to the old chestnut of 'trying way too hard to be cool'. I find him repetitive and just boring, so much so that I couldn't finish this book and barely made it pass page 30. One to skip I'm afraid. [0/5]
(3) Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue
Historical Fiction / Period Drama: "Born to rough cloth in working-class London in 1748, Mary Saunders hungers for linen and lace. Her lust for a shiny red ribbon leads her to a life of prostitution at a young age, where she encounters a freedom unknown to virtuous young women."
Every now and again, I like to indulge in a scandalous historical fiction story with strong political undertones and Slammerkin definitely ticked all of the right boxes for what I was looking for. Cue a young, poverty stricken protagonist named Mary who wants the finer things in life and has an obsession with expensive silk and lace clothes as her mother is a just a poor humble seamstress. It's 18th Century England, and the options for a young ambitious girl are rather grim. She can either try to marry her way into a better life and be completely subservient to a husband, or she can sell her body for money so she can buy the clothes that she so desperately desires. Life doesn't turn out well for Mary, and she finds herself in the dark, seedy business of prostitution with some rather graphic and triggering scenes to illustrate this. Despite the despairing nature of the story, it's fast paced and utterly gripping as we follow Mary on her downward spiral and I was enthralled with it until the bitter end. [4/5]
(4) Shampoo Planet by Douglas Coupland
Contemporary Classic / Satire: "Tyler Johnson is a 20-year-old MTV child. Once a baby raised in a hippie commune, he is now an ambitious Reagan youth dreaming of a career with the corporation whose offices his mother once firebombed."
On paper, I should be singing the praises of Shampoo Planet simply because Generation X is one of my favourite books, but in reality I thought Shampoo Planet was wholly disappointing and mediocre at best. Billed as Generation X's 'thematic follow up', I had built up high hopes, but sadly it wasn't meant to be. For me, Shampoo Planet wasn't anywhere near as scathingly brilliant as its predecessor, and I grew tired of the same repetitive rhetoric half way through the book. There were some choice witty phrases here and there, but not enough to keep me wanting more. [2/5]
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