September Books List / Reviews

Monday 3 October 2016

September Books List / Reviews
A round-up of the books that I read last month:-

(1) But Enough About Me by Jancee Dunn
Non-Fiction / Memoir: "Jancee Dunn has used Madonna's loo, hung out with Brad Pitt in his trailer, had a good look in Dolly Parton's kitchen cupboards and been mistaken for Ben Affleck's latest squeeze. But how did this small-town girl with no college degree and too much make-up get to meet some of the world's most famous?"

Fun and witty memoir from Rolling Stone journo, Jancee Dunn, describing her time interviewing bands and celebrities (Stone Temple Pilots, Brad Pitt, Madonna etc all get a mention), as well as giving us some insight as to what it was like to grow up during the 80s in New Jersey. But Enough About Me has a typical youthful, coming-of-age vibe about it, and it's also one that comes across as honest and thoroughly entertaining. A great holiday read. [3/5]

(2) The Lotus Crew by Stewart Meyer
Crime-Fiction / Contemporary: "Set in the scorched cityscape of the Reagan-era Lower East Side of Manhattan, The Lotus Crew is a harrowing yet humorous tale of loyalty and betrayal in the face of heroin addiction."

Short and snappy, fast-paced story set on the rough and ready drug-fuelled streets of 80s New York. Gritty in places as you'd expect, but I felt like the author only just skimmed the surface of this murky insight into crime, greed and addiction. Lots of street slang to make it more believable, but there are definitely better books of a similar vein out there. [2/5]

(3) Confessions Of An Eco-Shopper by Kate Lock
Non-Fiction / Environment: "Locally produced pesticides or far-flung organic? Cheap whole chicken or two organic drumsticks? What can one really do to make a difference? Does it involve huge sacrifices? Is it very expensive?"

As it's been 'Organic September' last month, I wanted to pick up a book to inspire me, and spotted this one at the library. Confessions of an Eco-Shopper stays true to its title as the author embarks on a journey to try and become more 'green' in her day-to-day life. She sets herself a series of 'eco-challenges' which force her to explore a whole host of alternatives, some of which are well known and seen as common sense these days such as recycling, to more adventurous stuff such as making your own beauty / skincare products.

I particularly liked how she plotted the chapters as aisles in a supermarket, to encourage the reader to think about the many small changes they can make to become more environmentally friendly. Although much of the book was information that I already knew about, I'd be more than happy to recommend this to beginners / newbies to topics such as the benefits of organic produce and minimising your carbon footprint etc, as it's very engaging and easy to read. [3/5]

(4) The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Non-Fiction / Science: "Henrietta Lacks, as HeLa, is known to present-day scientists for her cells from cervical cancer. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells were taken without her knowledge and still live decades after her death."

Fascinating biography-meets-science exposé. Like many, I had never heard of Henrietta Lacks before as I didn't study biology past GCSE level, but this woman's cells (named HeLa cells) are responsible for many of the major scientific developments that we've had in the past 60 years (the Polio vaccine for one), and they continue to contribute to numerous medical research projects and advancements. 

The book is ultimately very sad, as Henrietta was a poor black woman who died of an aggressive form of cervical cancer in 1950s America. Some of her cancerous cells were taken without her consent before one of her operations and were examined by an ambitious biologist who discovered that they replicated in a rare and unusual way. This meant that scientists could begin to learn more about how the cells in the human body communicated with each other, and also start to look into what they were resistant to, paving the way for ground-breaking research into how cancer develops.

As we know, big pharmacy/medical companies make billions in profit every year, yet Henrietta's family never saw a penny and were not even told about how her cells were being used and sold all around the world, until a much later date. The Lacks family have lived in poverty and been denied medical care because they couldn't afford it (the irony is painfully depressing), so Skloot was inspired to find out more and tell Henrietta's life story to the world. It raises many questions about the ethics of how a person's cells are used, the importance of consent and transparency, and the financial exploitation involved, but it also puts a real person, Henrietta Lacks, to the forefront so that she can finally be remembered and thanked for helping to save the lives of so many people. [4/5]

(5) Fashion Babylon by Imogen Edwards-Jones
Chick Lit: "What is fashion? Who decides what's in and what's out? Why is one little black dress worth five thousand dollars and another worth fifty? Is the catwalk really that catty? What makes a supermodel so super?"

On holiday, I love to switch my brain off and indulge in a trashy read, and Fashion Babylon ticked all the right boxes. It reads like a car crash between a newspaper gossip column and the fashion bits from Cosmo - you know you should be reading something more intelligent but you can't help yourself! Fashion Babylon is a loosely fictitious account of the fashion industry, with lots of sex, drugs and more flashy designer labels than Paris Hilton's wardrobe. Ridiculously good in the worst kind of way! [2/5]

What have you been reading lately?

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