Love, Lies and Linguine

 

 

love lies linguine.jpgTitle: Love, Lies and Linguine

Author: Hilary Spiers

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: February 2017/25 January 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 448

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: When two widowed sisters embark on a holiday to Italy, they have no idea that the trip will upend their comfortable lives forever. From the author of Hester and Harriet.

‘This is a great read. The sisters are wonderful characters filled with life, and the story has lots of quirky village characters. Hester and Harriet would be a perfect addition to your summer reading list.’ Good Reading, 4-star review of Hester & Harriet

Hester and Harriet lead comfortable lives in a pretty cottage in an English village. Having opened their minds, home and hearts to Daria, a mysterious migrant, and her baby son Milo, the widowed sisters decide to further expand their own horizons by venturing forth to Italy for their annual holiday.

Back in England, Daria and Milo are celebrating – they’ve received official refugee status with papers to confirm they can make England their home. Meanwhile nephew Ben, who knows only too well how much he owes his aunts, is hurtling towards a different sort of celebration – one he’s trying to backpedal out of as fast as he possibly can.

With a huge secret hanging between the sisters, an unlikely new love on the landscape for Hester and new beginnings also beckoning for Harriet, Italy provides more opportunities for adventure than either of them could ever have imagined. But which ones will Hester and Harriet choose?

As Hester and Harriet throw all their cards on the table in Italy, and potential catastrophe threatens Ben in England, it’s anyone’s guess how chaos will be kept at bay.

~*~

Love, Lies and Linguine picks up from 2015’s Hester and Harriet, where we left off with Daria, her son Milo, and brother Artem applying for refugee status in Britain from Belarus, and Hester and Harriet’s nephew, Ben, finding out what he wanted to do after school. In this lovely, and amusing follow up to the 2015 novel, Hester and Harriet take a holiday to Italy for a birthday – Harriet takes part in an art class, whilst Hester enjoys a cooking class with a well-known chef, and the company of Lionel Parchment, an elderly gentleman also there that week.

While they’re away, their nephew, Ben, is convinced by some school acquaintances, to throw a party at the empty house his aunts live in, The Laurels. Ben’s defiant no is ignored, and he is soon embroiled in a world of secrecy, trying to hide the party from his parents. However, Ben is not the only one with secrets to keep from people, especially post-party. Harriet is faced with something she thought she’d never have to face, and Hester’s secret about her and Lionel will almost rip the usually close sisters apart.

I first stumbled across Hester and Harriet about a year ago, and found the different style intriguing. Using phrases such as Hester says, or Harriet finds Ben made the story interesting and inviting – it allowed the reader to see into their lives, and it worked when the story had to change perspective between the sisters, or Ben – in both novels. In Love, Lies and Linguine, the story goes between England – Ben, and Italy – Hester or Harriet – over the course of a week. Each section is a day of the week – structuring it in a way that shows and tells with a balance that I rarely find – and it works to tell the story. Every event or conversation – big or small – has an impact on the outcome of the story, Harriet faces her past, Ben faces up to his mistakes, and finds a way to fix things for his aunts before they find out, and Hester faces a new love.

Full of laughs throughout, and a sense of mystery about a few plot points that fit the plot nicely, Love, Lies and Linguine is a wonderful summer read, or any time read. I particularly enjoyed the very last lines, having a little chuckle to myself. It is a charming read, about normal people and the extraordinary things that happen to them at times, but also about life, and confronting things you don’t necessarily want to confront. They tied in nicely with the rest of the plot, and the characters of Hester and Harriet.

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The Uncommoners: The Crooked Sixpence by Jennifer Bell

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Title: The Uncommoners: The Crooked Sixpence

Author: Jennifer Bell

Genre: Fantasy/Fiction

Publisher: Corgi

Published: August 2016

Format: Paperback

Pages: 360

Price: $17.99

Synopsis: An uncommonly good and magical tale of Ivy’s adventures in Lundinor, a spellbinding city underneath London where ordinary objects have amazing powers. Welcome to a world where nothing is quite as it seems . . .

Dive head first into the world of Lundinor in this magical adventure story for anyone with a Hogwarts-shaped hole in their life.

When their grandmother Sylvie is rushed to hospital, Ivy Sparrow and her annoying big brother Seb cannot imagine what adventure lies in store. Returning to Sylvie’s house, they find it has been ransacked by unknown intruders – before a mysterious feather scratches an ominous message onto the kitchen wall. A very strange policeman turns up on the scene, determined to apprehend them . . . with a toilet brush. Ivy and Seb make their escape – only to find themselves in a completely uncommon world, where ordinary objects have amazing powers. The forces of evil are closing in fast, and Ivy and Seb must get to the bottom of a family secret . . . before it’s too late.

 

~*~

The Uncommoners: The Crooked Sixpence draws the reader in from the first page. With their parents away at work, Ivy and Seb Sparrow are staying with their Granma Sylvie. When an accident lands her in hospital, Ivy and Seb are drawn into a world that lies below London, an uncommon world where common objects do extraordinary things. They are intrigued and scared, and accompanied by Ethel Dread, and Valian Kaye, are thrown into the chaos of a group of uncommoners in search of something that is claimed to be linked to their family – and Granma Sylvie. Soon, Ivy, Seb and Valian have lots of people chasing them, from those who wish to see justice done and find out what really happened on the Twelfth Night 1969, when Granma Sylvie disappeared, to those who wish to harm their family. They only have a few days to fix things and save their family, so Ivy and Seb are up against the clock – an uncommon clock, that is.

The Uncommoners evokes the tradition of hidden fantasy worlds that sometimes mirror our own, or that can be hidden in plain sight such as Narnia, or the wizarding world of Harry Potter, or even Neil Gaiman’s London Below, yet Lundinor still has a charm of it’s own that is separate from each of these other worlds, a place where magic enhances the every day and where you never know what kind of race of the dead you will meet – will they be good or bad, or somewhere in between? Ivy and Seb must navigate this world after being thrust into it, much like the Pevensie children in Narnia or Harry Potter in the wizarding world when he first finds out he is a wizard. I feel like this is just the beginning of a series of books that will hopefully become as well loved as Harry Potter or Narnia – any books that invite children into a magical world are lovely and this is no exception. Whilst it may be in good company with Harry Potter and Narnia, it has distinct differences and the world of Lundinor has a Victorian England feel to it, evoking nursery rhymes, and the old markets and streets that populate the world of Charles Dickens. It is a world that I enjoyed visiting and that I hope to return to soon if this is indeed a series, as it ended with that sort of feeling.

An ideal read for anyone aged nine and older who enjoys fantasy and new worlds and magic, Ivy and Seb are awesome characters and I liked their growth over the novel and the way they cared about each other.

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? 

~*~

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.

 

On The Blue Train by Kristel Thornell

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Title: On The Blue Train

Author: Kristel Thornell

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: October 2016

Format: paperback

Pages: 348

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: What really did happen to Agatha Christie during her mysterious eleven-day disappearance just as she was on the cusp of fame? An entrancing novel of creativity and grief.

 

Yes, she said, finally. Breaks are important. There are times when it’s wiser to get away. From it all.

 

It was the work of a moment, on 4 December 1926, Agatha Christie of London became Teresa Neele, resident of the spa hotel, the Harrogate Hydro. With her wedding ring left behind her, and her minimal belongings unpacked, Agatha’s lost days begin.

 

Lying to her fellow guests about the death of a husband and child, Teresa settles in to the anonymity she so fiercely desires. Until, Harry McKenna, bruised from the end of his own marriage, asks her to dance.

 

In this entrancing novel of creativity and grief, Kristel Thornell writes of Agatha Christie’s retreat from a life that had become too difficult. With verve and sensitivity, Thornell writes when Christie could not.

 

~*~

 

During a writer’s block in 1926, renowned crime writer, Agatha Christie disappears for just under two weeks, and assumes the name Theresa Neele during her stay at the Harrogate Hydro in Kristel Thornell’s fictionalisation of these events. The story is told from the point of view of Agatha Christie’s alternative persona, Theresa Neele, possibly brought on by trauma of the car accident she had had en route. In the eleven days she spends as Theresa Neele, she is another person, not a famous author, not a wife, and not a mother. Thornell’s story speaks for someone through the character she created for herself where perhaps Agatha Christie could not. This mix of fact and fantasy, a case where the true details may never really be known, or the full story not told, the mystery of the disappearance of the Queen of Crime is as intriguing as her characters Poirot and Miss Marple, and the genre of cozy crime that they contributed to that has brought about detectives such as Mma Precious Ramotswe, Inspector Ashwin Chopra and Thursday Next, in a variety of stories and cases that are still enjoyed today.

After reading it, questions still remain. What really made Christie disappear? Was she confused and disoriented? Or was she fed up with her husband and his philandering? Or was she just at her wits end with the novel she was working on at the time and needed a break? Thornell tries to answer these questions through the creative fantasy world that the facts and history have informed. It is a great read for fans of mystery, fans of Agatha Christie or a great introduction to the world that informed Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Miss Marple. It is well written, and has a feeling of being written ninety years ago, as opposed to 2016. It is a sensitive treatment of a great mystery that was brought on by the very disappearance of one of the best known mystery writers in the world.

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