Tuesday, 3 September 2013

What have we been reading recently?

We've been reading some splendid books over the past couple of weeks. Actually we've barely even looked up from them, except to see our bus stops whooshing by.

We're starting a brand new book column next week, headed up by Kat, but to give her chance to finish thumbing her pages, here's the lowdown on what we've been reading this month.

Sian: I've had a bit of a bumper book month. I kicked off with Beautiful Ruins which was utterly wonderful. It's tragic, romantic and so funny. Then I bought Eve in Hollywood after falling madly in love with Rules of Civility. I read this on a Saturday morning and couldn't help feel disappointed. The short stories felt rushed and the beautiful language I'd adored in the initial book was nowhere to be found.

Most recently I picked up a copy of A Serpentine Affair at a train station and it made my three hour (wedding hungover) trip from Devon to London whizz by. It's one of the most gripping books I've ever read. Part mystery, part friendship-feud-saga, I got home and didn't speak to anyone until I'd finished it.

Frances: I bought a copy of Beautiful Ruins at Bookseller Crow at the same time as Sian. There were lots of emails flying to and fro about how wonderful it is - it really is comically, romantically, tragically marvellous. And the gorgeous cover means it'll last longer on my bookshelf before being given away than the usual paperback. I read a brilliant non-fiction book, Bachelor Girl by Betty Israel, a zippy survey of how single woman have been portrayed from Florence Nightingale through to Bridget Jones.

I'm currently going very slowly through NW. I usually really enjoy Zadie Smith but I'm finding this one tough work.

Sara: I've read two Ira Levin books: Rosemary's Baby and The Stepford Wives. Whether or not you've seen the films, the books are a must-read. He's a master at quietly building an ominous atmosphere. Like the women in the books, you know something is wrong but can't put your finger on what - and with the whole community telling them they're mad, you start to doubt your instincts. Both have utterly devastating endings. Don't read the introductions by Chuck Palaniuk until you've finished them, he gives away the plot. Bad form, Chuck.

Kat: For the last fortnight I have been engrossed in the world of Fables. It's a huge graphic novel series - steady - in which fairytale characters have fled a terrible enemy and set up camp in modern-day New York, with all past sins forgiven under a town compact. So, the witch from Hansel and Gretel leads up the team of sorcerors, Big Bad Wolf is now a shapeshifter and Fabletown's sheriff, while Old King Cole presses the flesh as their mayor, with Snow White doing all the donkey work as his deputy.

The books are ingeniously plotted, filled with derring-do, comedy, tragedy and sarcasm, as though a modern-day Shakespeare decided to go nuts over comics. The main books and most of the side stories are written by the powerhouse that is Bill Willingham, but I also really enjoyed Lauren "The Shining Girls" Beukes' take on Rapunzel in Fairest: Hidden Kingdom, a different story in the same universe.

Fables is a beautiful place to spend time, and you grow incredibly attached to the characters. FYI, Little Miss Muffet is a real bitch.

Want to tell us what you've been reading recently, or recommend a book to Kat? Leave us a comment below.

12 comments:

  1. Thanks for the recommendations! Just bought The Serpentine Affair and Beautiful Ruins : )

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    1. You have SUCH fun reading ahead of you!

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  2. Sara - if weird building suspense is your thing you should really read The Third Child by Doris Lessing. Nothing like her others which I know I should go back to but just can't concentrate on.

    Kat - I started Fables with my ex last year and have been meaning to pick them up again since we finished - this might be the kick I needed.

    All - I'm definitely looking into A Serpentine Affair - and also for info, I'm eating a cornetto. Aces!

    Laura

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    1. Cornetto, woo! I didn't have super high hopes for A Serpentine Affair - I'd never heard of it and only picked it up to fill a train gap. I quite literally could not put it down, whereas with Beautiful Ruins, I found myself wanting to savour every page.

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    2. I'm currently reading Eternity is Temporary by Bill Broady - a similarly unheard of pickup, which is excellent. It's got a really hazy summery feel about it, like walking through a 70s picture with rounded corners. Or an instagram filter.

      The cornetto was excellent. I may or may not have eaten two.

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    3. Thanks Laura, I'll check that out!

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  3. Ok, I've only just started A Serpentine Affair but it's annoying me already. The prose feels so clunky, like she's spelling out the entire back story for everything all the time, rather than trusting the reader to fill in some gaps. Should I just plough on?

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    1. Oh no, I'll feel sad if you're not enjoying it! Plough on, plough on.

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  4. I've just finished reading The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, and I absolutely loved it - one of those books you just want to roll around in its so beautifully written, and captivating. Really sad I've finished it, so go and buy it and read it everyone, I envy you if you haven't read it!

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    1. I loved The Night Circus too! I found it a bit difficult to get into; the style was very Twiglet and self-conscious at the beginning, but once it eased up a bit I thought it was beautiful. Great read.

      @Anonymous - Get onto Fables stat! Such a lovely fortnight x

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  5. If you're loving Fables (and if you're so inclined) there's an episodic adventure game coming out in the next few months all based on Bigby's adventures as a private eye before the happenings of the first book. It made by the guys who did the Walking Dead game (which was so amazing I cried multiple times!

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    Replies
    1. I was just about to say exactly the same thing! I'm really looking forward to it--Bigby is by far my favourite.

      Have either of you read Wolves of the Heartlands?

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