What I've Been Reading Lately: May Books Roundup

Wednesday 31 May 2017

What I've Been Reading Lately: May Books Roundup
A round-up of the books that I've been reading this month:-
The Story of Junk by Linda Yablonsky
The Story of Junk by Linda Yablonsky

Contemporary / Drugs Subculture: "New York City. March 1986. The world is made of junk: junk bonds, junk food, junk powder. At least, that's how it seems to a woman in a downtown walk-up, where every day for five years she's been opening her door to people engaged in the culture of the moment."

From most pop culture books that I've read, the 80s sounded like a really bad time to be in New York if you weren't on heroin and a really bad time to be in New York if you were. I have no idea if either was true, but Yablonsky's The Story of Junk makes for a thrilling read nonetheless. 

Set in downtown New York, everything feels hot and dirty, and heroin is the drug of choice for many. For two young women in love, it starts off as a party/social drug but soon develops into a habit, which then takes over their lives as they turn to dealing it to friends and junkies. The cash is coming in thick and fast, but their world soon comes crashing down when a someone they know tips off a DEA agent and they get busted. But who was it?

The Story of Junk is a well-written, fast-paced thriller with plenty of dark downward spirals amongst the highs. It's gritty and very bleak in places (there's certainly no sugarcoating going on in here), as you'd expect which makes it a compelling read overall, but some parts felt a little rushed. [3/5]

 Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis
Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis

Horror / Contemporary: "Bret Ellis, the narrator of Lunar Park, is a writer whose first novel Less Than Zero catapulted him to international stardom while he was still in college. In the years that followed he found himself adrift in a world of wealth, drugs, and fame, as well as dealing with the unexpected death of his abusive father. Now he doesn't know who he is."

Ellis' characters are almost always the classic anti-hero types that somehow evolve into someone that you just love to hate, and his bitterly awesome satirical prose is addictive to read. Like a lot of his work, Lunar Park delves deep into the human psyche and uncovers some of our worst personality traits, yet this one is a real head-fuck on a level that's beyond a lot of contemporary stuff that I've ever read.

In Lunar Park, the author essentially becomes one of his own characters, in this bizarre mash-up of semi-autographical accounts, blended with some downright horror fiction. It starts off fairly normal enough (for a BBE novel anyhow), as the reader follows the life of a young critically acclaimed author (i.e Bret Easton Ellis) coming to terms with the pressures and pleasures of achieving such high levels of fame and notoriety in such a short period of time. The story then begins its downward spiral into despair as normal suburban living doesn't work out for the author, and instead, a dark psychological horror ensues with evil ghosts, a crazy demonic Furby (yes, really!) and even Patrick Bateman himself pops up for all the shits and giggles as the fictional Ellis' life turns into something resembling a living nightmare.

Lunar Park is a brilliant tale of the American suburban family dream going horribly wrong and fans of Ellis will no doubt lap it up just like I did. [4/5]

Cut by Patricia McCormick
Cut by Patricia McCormick

Young Adult / Mental Health: "Callie cuts herself. Never too deep, never enough to die. But enough to feel the pain. Enough to feel the scream inside. Now she's at Sea Pines, a "residential treatment facility" filled with girls struggling with problems of their own and Callie doesn't want to have anything to do with them."

As you may have already guessed by the title, the main subject matter revolves around self-harming and Cut is told as a first-person account by our protagonist, Callie. She's a 15-year-old girl who cuts herself as a way of coping with the numerous problems that herself and her family are trying to deal with. Callie's mum finds out about the self-harming and sends her to Sea Pines, a private rehabilitation facility for troubled teens. In Sea Pines, Callie's surrounded by girls who are seeking treatment for a range of problems such as eating disorders and substance abuse, and she's encouraged to talk about her issues in group shares, but Callie never speaks to anyone.

Instead, she just listens to the conversations around her, observing her surroundings, and it's from this perspective that we get to really know Callie and begin to understand what's going on with her. Crammed into just over 150 pages, Cut is a YA novel with a lot of substance and heart - you really feel for Callie and I was completely engrossed in the book to see if she gets better. [4/5]

Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk
Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk

Horror / Transgressive Fiction: "Carl Streator is a reporter investigating Sudden Infant Death Syndrome for a soft-news feature. After responding to several calls with paramedics, he notices that all the dead children were read the same poem from the same library book the night before they died."

Lullaby is the fourth book by Chuck Palahniuk that I've now read, and I'd say it's quickly become my second favourite novel by him after Fight Club

The story follows a journalist named Carl Streator, who is researching a feature on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. He unearths a pattern of deaths that have occurred after the children were read a seemingly innocent lullaby from a poetry book, and he quickly realises that this is how he accidentally killed his own wife and child over 20 years ago. Carl becomes hellbent on finding and destroying every single copy of this poetry book to prevent any more deaths, and teams up with a real estate agent who has also discovered this chilling fact and wants to help.

The pair embark on a crazy road trip, resulting in an absurd, fast-paced black comedy told in Palahniuk's much-loved satirical and often deadpan tone. It made me laugh and cringe at the same time, whilst being horrified at some of the events that unfold. Definitely one for all the fans of contemporary transgressive fiction who like their books sprinkled with a heavy dose of weird horror. [4/5]

Success by Martin Amis
Success by Martin Amis

Contemporary: "Bind two fosters brothers with ties of class hatred, sexual rivalry and unrequited love in a tiny London flat, throw in a disloyal girlfriend and a spectacularly unstable sister and you have Amis' answer to a modern-day Jacobean revenge comedy".

Having read a handful of Amis' novels, I was already familiar with his prose and the way that he often likes to take his characters (and the readers) on a journey to some of the most depraved parts of the human psyche. But Success was sadly a chore for me to get through as it lacked a lot of the dark wit and humour that I was hoping for.

The lacklustre storyline of the two foster brothers, both from wildy different backgrounds (Gregory from the posh, successful upper classes and Terry from the unlucky, weary working classes), has its ups and downs, but mostly feels too forced and contrived in many parts. Disappointing! I'd recommend reading Money or London Fields instead. [2/5]

What have you been reading lately?

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  1. These all sounds like awesome books, thanks for sharing. I've recently finished Donna Tartt's Goldfinch and would highly recommend.

    * Electric Sunrise - Fashion and Lifestyle Blog *


    1. Thanks for reading Helen :) Will check out Goldfinch - I loved The Secret History by her! x


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