What a month. I’ve not had a terrible start to 2021, but it has certainly been hectic! I was lucky enough to find new employment, and started my new job in the second week of January. I’ve spent so long in the same profession it has been a bit of an eye-opener to find myself at the bottom of the ladder and totally clueless in a new field, but hey, change is good!
As a result my reading has suffered a little this month. After working I’ve been so exhausted I’ve generally just watched a bit of television, ate dinner, then crashed out. It probably hasn’t helped that I’ve chosen to tackle the Thomas Cromwell trilogy by Hilary Mantel – and so far, despite my best efforts, I’m just not getting the hype at all. Whenever I hit a wall with a book and feel like it’s negatively affecting my reading generally, I tend to pick up easy reads to get back on track. So this month? A bit of a mixed bag. Have some quick and dirty reviews….
Title: Hellstar Remina
Author/ Illustrator: Junji Ito
Full disclosure- I am a huge Junji Ito fan, so may be a little biased here. Hellstar Remina is the first new graphic novel I’ve read in a looooong time. I’m not entirely sure why this should be- I used to read a lot of manga when I was in my late teens and early twenties, and then it just fell off my radar completely.
Hellstar Remina is a pretty depressing manga about the discovery of a brand new planet- hurrah! The scientist who discovers this planet names it after his beautiful teenaged daughter Remina, who quickly becomes a star when the media realizes how photogenic she is (really, that seems to be the only reason. Remina is not charismatic at all, but has those gorgeous doe eyes that Ito is so talented at illustrating), and she quickly amasses several extremely loyal/ stalkerish male fans. Things go awry when (the planet) Remina alters its course and quickly hurtles towards Earth, wiping out the rest of our solar system before hovering over Earth menacingly (and, it must be said, extremely patiently given that it is a killer planet). Naturally, this brings out the worst in humanity, and a vigilante group of citizens decide to kill (the girl) Remina and her father, believing them to be cursed and/or heralds of Earth’s impending doom.
How is that for a plot?! It’s pretty epic.
Howeverrrr…. I lost considerable interest in the later acts of the story. I was curious, of course, as to what (the planet) Remina wanted from Earth and humanity, and the images of (the planet) Remina’s surface were intriguing. But (the girl) Remina being carried around Earth’s atmosphere, swirling through the air as the mob somehow still manages to keep up with her? The pacing was off- this seemed to go on and on, and some of the illustrations were pretty confusing to decipher. The final couple of twists didn’t satisfy my curiosity, either. I had expected more and the conclusion felt very anticlimactic.
Title: The Selection
Author: Keira Cass
This book is YA royalty- it has close to a million reviews on Goodreads and the series has been signed up by Netflix, so I’m hardly the first to offer my opinions on America Singer’s story. There’s a lot that’s schlocky and trope-y about The Selection, but honestly, I devoured this book in one afternoon and for that reason alone I simply can’t hate on it. It had me thoroughly entertained and engrossed, and despite the lack of character development and obvious similarities to The Hunger Games, it is difficult to write good YA fiction, so props to Keira Cass.
I’m definitely going to read the next few books in the series, because now I’m pretty damn hooked, despite any issues I might have. I’m just hoping some kind of twist occurs (Prince Maxon and Aspen can’t both be goodies forever, can they? Celeste can’t continue being a two dimensional bitch? America can’t keep getting away with things because she has red hair and a quippy attitude?!) or I’ll lose interest.
Title: The Marketplace
Author: Laura Antoniou
Erotica alert! I don’t have good experiences reading erotica (I tend to find a lot of the writing cliché-ridden, sexist and extremely stereotypical) but had high hopes for this book, as I really enjoyed ‘The Killer Wore Leather’ by the same author last year. This didn’t disappoint. Given that this isn’t a particularly sexy blog, I won’t get into the details, but there’s a lot of kinky sex scenes if you enjoy that kind of thing. I love that Antoniou doesn’t rely on stereotypes- her characters are realistically written, flawed and often surprising. The scenarios and situations they find themselves in may be fantastical at times, yet Antoniou’s writing style is straightforward and concrete. Highly recommended, especially if you aren’t sure of erotica and have perhaps been burned by it before (50 Shades of Grey, I’m looking at you).
Author: Ling Ma
Oh, how appropriate- a novel about a deadly pandemic sweeping the globe, and how a band of unlikely survivors come together to try and make sense of it. This is the third pandemic-specific book I’ve read in about six months, and slots firmly into second place- behind ‘The Dreamers’ but ahead of ‘Station Eleven’ (which I know is much beloved, but I just found a bit of a slog to get through). My main issue with this book was it’s ending. I absolutely loved about 90% of the story, and thought for sure it would receive 5 stars. That is, until (SPOILER ALERT) the absolutely crushingly bad and inconclusive ending. Seriously, what a waste.
Title: The Thursday Murder Club
Author: Richard Osman
Funny and farcical, this book gets major points for being unlike any other crime/mystery novel I’ve ever read before. It’s excellently written, with unique and interesting characters aplenty. Osman has a great talent for characterization, and I particularly loved Elizabeth and found the ridiculousness of the detestable Ian Ventham hilarious. I was pulled in from the get-go and couldn’t put this book down- until the rather sluggish final third. Although it ends strongly, ‘The Thursday Murder Club‘ is let down by too many characters and too many twists (quite a few of which aren’t particularly satisfying). However, I’d still recommend it and can see why it has become so popular- it’s very funny, and one of a kind.