(1) Cock and Bull by Will Self
Satire / Contemporary: "Cock: A Novelette" is the story of a woman who grows a fully functional penis. "Bull: A Farce" is the story of a man who acquires a vagina and all its companion parts. There are, however, complications."
Cock and Bull are two back to back novellas that portray a narrator's satirical point of view in a most bizarre situation, and explores what could happen if they one day grew the opposite sexes' genitalia on their own bodies. In this sense, Cock features an abused woman who appears trapped in a dismal marriage. The lady grows a fully functional penis, enabling her to become more physically masculine than her waste of space husband as she proceeds to rape and dominate him. Bull on the other hand, sees a man grow a fully functional vagina behind his knee which is then raped by his doctor, and lo and behold, the man becomes pregnant shortly afterwards. Still with me?!
Both novellas are told in Self's somewhat juvenile and utterly pretentious manner as the book aims to shock and gross out the reader, far more than it tries to offer any interesting commentary on the overall gender role reversal theme. Interesting concept, sloppily executed but weird enough to keep me reading until the end. [3/5]
(2) A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
Non-Fiction / Memoir: "A first-person account, told by a 25-year-old veteran of the Sierra Leone conflict."
Ishmael Beah's eyewitness account of growing up as a child in the 90s Sierra Leone war is thoroughly disturbing and heartbreaking to read. His engaging and brutally honest prose transports the reader straight into the heart of the troubles where you can feel the heat of the burning sun on your back, smell the acidity of gunfire and feel the fear as Ishmael and his friends try to flee from the rebels who were destroying his homeland and gunning down his family.
Thankfully this story has something of a happy ending as Ishmael survives to tell the tale, but you can't easily forget about the horrors that you've just read, let alone even try to comprehend what it must have been like to experience them firsthand. There are some things that children should never have to see (or anyone), let alone be forced to do and A Long Way Gone illustrates the real loss of innocence and childhood that war so greedily takes away from them.
Refugees are firmly in the minds of many, despite efforts from our world leaders to try and ignore this enormous humanitarian crisis that's going on right now. I worked with Iraqi refugees shortly after 9/11 and I can still recall their names and stories over a decade later - some things just refuse to leave your mind. I hope that this world starts to show more compassion to this new wave of refugees and that some people stop being so bloody selfish. Look beyond the statistics and try to see the human beings who are affected - you may be surprised to see how similar they are to you and your own family. [4/5]
(3) Just After Sunset by Stephen King
Horror / Short Stories: "Just after sunset, as darkness grips the imagination, is the time when you feel the unexpected creep into the everyday."
Oh Stephen King, what happened with this?! Often short story collections can be pretty hit and miss, but this one really disappointed me as there were only three or four stories out of the thirteen that I truly enjoyed. I liked the thrilling suspense of The Gingerbread Girl, the short but perfectly sweet Harvey's Dream, and the horror of The Cat From Hell, but the rest were sadly dull and lacking.
If you're looking for a Stephen King short story collection, I'd recommend picking up Different Seasons or Skeleton Crew instead. [2/5]