Friday Favourites: things we read and watched in April

By Hodderscape Team

Posted on April 29, 2016 in Books, Friday Favourites, Television with tags

From vampires to time travellers, the best things we read and watched in April!


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I was slightly nervous about the possibility of turning something as twisty, ingenious, mind-boggling and sheerly brilliant as Stephen King’s time travel masterpiece to the screen. But in the hands of Executive Producer JJ Abrams and show runner Bridget Carpenter the early episodes of this eight-part series are simply beguiling. The evocation of 60s New England and Texas is immaculate. This being TV, the 900 page matter of the novel is somewhat compressed: Jake Epping’s journey into the past to thwart JFK’s assassination begins in 1960, not 1958; Bill Turcotte has a much bigger role than I recall in the novel as Jake’s sidekick; some of the nice sidebars of the novel are left out… but the propulsive thrust is totally there. I just watched Episode Three which introduces Jake to Sadie Dunhill and their romance promises to be as bitter sweet as it in the book. There are a number of Stephen King Easter Eggs hidden in the show including a certain 1958 red Plymouth Fury. They never made rear wings like that again. A delight, and created with real love and passion. As Carpenter says: ‘if you like ‘Back to the Future’ and you like the ‘Bourne Identity’ then please watch this show.’

– Oliver

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

© Orion Children's Books

© Orion Children’s Books

The first book I can remember being read to as a kid was one about a vegetarian vampire who drank tomato juice. Then there was the obligatory Anne Rice phase which metamorphosed into the obligatory Poppy Z. Brite phrase. I’ve read a lot of vampire books.

Vampires will always have a special place in my heart, but I don’t read all that many vampire novels anymore. However, I was seduced by The Coldest Girl in Coldtown’s neat cover and devoured it like Nosferatu presented with a comely virgin bride. It takes place in a world where the vampire infection has spread to such an extent that the US has to establish ‘Coldtowns’, towns where vampires and infected humans are quarantined. Life within these Coldtowns is a mixture of deathly glamour and squalor. The vampires rules the roost and host decadent parties where humans are served up like delectable canapes. Safe to say, life isn’t great for the human population and they carve out a meagre existent, living in abandoned buildings and trading whatever they can to get by. The main character, Tana, is forced to live in when of these Coldtowns when she thinks she’s become infected with vampirism.

It’s an excellent, original take on vampires and the best vampire YA novel I’ve read in a long time!

– Fleur


Pretty Little Liars

© Warner Home Video

© Warner Home Video

About six years late to the party, I’ve started watching Pretty Little Liars. It’s super-trashy but I absolutely LOVE it – the teen drama, the hammy acting, the thread of suspense subtly (or perhaps not-so-subtly) woven throughout as a group of four beautiful friends are haunted by mysterious text messages from ‘A’ after the scheming fifth member of their group, Alison, goes missing in mysterious circumstances after a sleepover. The queen bee of the group, Alison was beautiful, popular and powerful, with complete control over the other girls. When Alison’s body is found a year later, it seems impossible that her vengeful ghost could be haunting her former friends… doesn’t it? Secrets and lies abound in true dramatic fashion. And there is loads of great hair.

– Emily


© 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

© 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Favourite thing watched: Archer. This show is so consistently funny, it’s my go-to for a quick fix of humour. The female characters are particularly great, like Pam (my fave), Lana, and, of course, Malory. There’s some great casting choices here, too – you’ll hear the voices of alumni from Arrested Development (Lucille! Kitty!), 30 Rock (Dr Spaceman!), Bob’s Burgers (Bob!), BoJack Horseman (Sextina Aquafina!) and the show’s creator makes appearances as Ray Gillette.

– Aimee

Corvus: A Life with Birds by Esther Woolfson

© Granta Books

© Granta Books

Most birds are, like, woo, I’m a bird, look at me flyyyy tweet tweet. But covids – crows, ravens, rooks, jays, magpies – they’re different. They remember that their grandparents were dinosaurs. Not boring herbivores, but carnivores. Velociraptors. T rexes. Giant attitudinal meat-eating monsters. 

Naturally, I love them. I like all birds, but there’s a special place in my heart for the corvids. The neighbourhood I grew up in had a local family of crows, and my father and I spent many happy hours watching and discussing them. We even got to save one, once, when a young crow got tangled in some netting in our backyard. My father let me hold the crow for a moment so I could feel how light it was – it was an incredible experience. There was a central pairing that were clearly the nucleus of the entire clan; one had a distinct limping-hopping gait, so she was very recognisable; she felt a bit like an old friend. We didn’t have magpies in my area, but I’ve come to love them since moving to the UK; I love their attitude, their ridiculous strut, their gorgeous plumage. 

So it was with utter delight that I stumbled into Esther Woolfson’s lovely book Corvus, a gentle, conversational account of her experience hand-rearing a rook (named Chicken) and a magpie (named Spike). Corvus is full of fascinating facts about the birds, and about raising/keeping birds in general – it opens with her attempts to establish a dovecote – but the true delight of the book is how affectionately Woolfson writes about Chicken and Spike. I won’t lie; I laughed throughout, irritated my husband by reading bits aloud, and even cried a little. I can’t recommend Corvus highly enough.

– Anne

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Queen-of-the-TearlingI read The Queen of the Tearling and now am almost at the end of Invasion of the Tearling. I found the world building strange but interesting, it started off as a fantasy that teased at being something different but it is only made explicitly clear in the second book when we find out how the world was before. I can see why people like it so much, it’s a lot of fun to read and really draws you in – especially watching how Kelsea (the queen) changes throughout the course of the books. I’m looking forward to finishing the series!

– Sharan

Ghost Story by Peter Straub

© Gollancz

© Gollancz

In my search for a truly spine-chilling read I came across Ghost Story by Peter Straub, listed in several places as one of the scariest.

It has its moments that one might consider ‘creepy’ in the first half of the book, but it sure took a while to get going. I couldn’t really tell where it was going until just over half way through and threads of the story started to come together.

The Chowder Society started to meet frequently to tell their ‘ghost stories’ following an unfortunate incident that happened within the group of friends that they had since been too traumatised to discuss. Little do they know that they are writing their own fates until it’s too late, and they are left at the mercy of a powerful force that they have severely p*ssed off and they are running out of time to find a way to destroy it. 

I still have about 20 pages of the book to read… so no spoiler comments please!

It has got more scary towards the end, but I think with books I must be pretty hard to scare. Any suggestions welcome for my continued fright fest!

– Amy


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