Murder in Midwinter by Fleur Hitchcock

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Title: Murder in Midwinter

Author: Fleur Hitchcock

Genre: Fiction/Children’s Fiction

Publisher: Nosy Crow

Published: 23rd November, 2016

Format: Paperback

Pages: 254

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: When Maya takes a photo from the top of a bus, she has no idea of the trouble it will bring. The bright shop window is gorgeous but the couple arguing in front of it look as though they want to kill each other. And when the flash goes off, they look as though they want to kill her too…

Then a body turns up. The police suggest Maya should go away for a while – somewhere remote, somewhere safe. Her aunt’s farm in the Welsh mountains is a perfect place to hide, and soon it’s snowing hard enough to cut them off completely. No one can get in and n one can get out. But does that mean there’s nothing to fear? 

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A murder mystery for children ages nine and up, Murder in Midwinter introduces future fans of crime fiction and the possible future authors within this genre to a world of solving crimes. As it is aimed at children aged nine and older, there is no blood and gore, thus it fits into the cozy crime genre, like the works of Agatha Christie, Vaseem Khan, Alexander McCall-Smith and the recent Anthony Horowitz novel, Magpie Murders. Through Maya’s eyes, the reader experiences the crime, and the fear of having criminals after them, and not knowing what to do. Using their own initiative though, Maya and her cousin will find a way to get through the next few days and a way to help the police solve the crime.

Maya’ world is turned upside down when she sees the body pulled from the Thames and her sister doesn’t show up for a school concert. With the identifying streak of white in her black hair, Maya is going to be easy to find. She is sent away after her sister is found, but the fear is still there. Hours, and a long distance away from her family, Maya feels isolated in Wales, and having to deal with a cousin who hates her, and a sense of isolation from being trapped inside. When the huge snowstorms come and block people in the village and farm, and block anyone form using the roads, Maya feels a false sense of security, and hopes that this means that everything will be over soon and she can go back home.

A delightful and quick read, Maya’s adventure in crime solving for children is a great way to introduce eager readers to the genre. In the midst of a charming winter and Christmas setting, the reader and characters are thrown into a fast paced plot that takes exciting twists and turns to reach the resolution and revelations at the end of the novel. It is also a journey of finding new friends an family coming together. A story where Maya stands alone when she can abut receives help when she needs to – a wonderful heroine for young girls to identify with. Written from her point of view, it is much more accessible for the age group than other crime novels, depending on the individual reading level.

 

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Tales from the Kingdoms by Sarah Pinsborough

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I received a copy from the publisher for review

Title: Tales from the Kingdoms

Author: Sarah Pinborough

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Hachette/Gollancz

Published: 14/6/2016

RRP: $29.99

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 464

Synopsis: Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty: stories you love, and that we think we all know…but why would a prince fall in love with a woman in a coffin? Why would a queen poison her stepdaughter? And what is a fairy Godmother’s real motivation?

 

Turn the page, and discover these classic fairy stories, told the way they always should have been…

 

 

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Tales of the Kingdom is an exquisite collection of three novellas – Poison, Charm and Beauty – retelling the stories of Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. These tales incorporate elements of more than just these three fairy tales, seamlessly twisting the characters and their stories so that they work together to create a narrative that flows well throughout.

There were a few surprises whilst reading, though I had an inkling of what might happen part way through the second story, I enjoyed reading through to the end to see if the stories were to become intertwined with each other. Was the prince the same prince? Is this why he was not named? The nice inclusion and hints towards other well-known characters and their tales added to the overall story.

Most fairy tales explore the nasty side of evil characters and the nice side of good characters. Pinborough does the opposite; she explores the black, white and grey of all characters, showing that they are not all good, nor are the y all evil – they have reasons, motivations and most of all, she shows most of them as flawed humans, unless they are witches who always seem to have ulterior motives, or whose personalities are such stark contrasts, that these extremes are who they are. This seems to be a new trend in fairy tale retellings, as this is something Once Upon A Time does as well, but in a different way to this book.

Tales of the Kingdom is also a little bit sexy – the sex scenes are not overdone, nor are they the main focus of the story. They are the result of the spells woven by characters throughout and often are the turning point in the tales for the characters, in particular, for who the characters truly are, and perhaps showing the side of them that the happily ever after endings do not show. The messy implications of the actions of true love’s kiss and what it does to the parties involved. The stories perhaps question why true love’s kiss was so important in fairy tales, rather than just getting to know somebody for who they are, but also explores how some people see others and would prefer them to be.

I enjoyed reading this, especially as I have read and seen many fairy tale retellings, including Disney, and each retelling reveals something different about the tales.

Four hundred years of William Shakespeare

Four hundred years of William Shakespeare

2016 marks 400 years since William Shakespeare died and left the world with the legacy of his plays: the tragedies, the comedies and the histories. It has been 452 years since he was born. Living in the Elizabethan era, and for the last years of his life during the reign of King James the VI and I, and was born, and raised in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Shakespeare is best known for his plays, and my first introduction to them was in year nine English with Much Ado About Nothing. From there, I studied Romeo and Juliet in year ten, Othello in year eleven and Antony and Cleopatra in year twelve. At that stage, it was my least favourite of all the ones I had studied, with my favourite at the time being the comedic Much Ado About Nothing.
From there, I studied Henry the Vi, parts one and two in university courses, as well as The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which became another favourite with it’s mythic and fairy tale elements within the story.
Perhaps what makes Shakespeare so interesting and timeless is the way his stories can echo issues of today, and the many retellings of his plays in various formats show how pervasive his work is, even if the audience does not realise at the time that they are watching an adaptation of a play.
Today, Statford-upon-Avon plays host to tourists looking to get a glimpse into how Shakespeare lived, through the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, running tours of the five Shakespeare houses: Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Mary Arden’s Farm, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and Gardens, and Harvard House. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (http://www.shakespeare.org.uk/home.html) maintains these homes and conducts tours for visitors, where one can step back in time and experience the life that the Bard would have lived.
It is hard to imagine the world without the plays and sonnets of Shakespeare, without the words he created that we still use today. The reception his work has received has not ended and I wonder how future generations will view him.