Review: The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder

May 3, 2018 in Book Reviews, Contemporary, Mystery

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Colour of Bee Larkham’s MurderThe Colour of Bee Larkham's Murder by Sarah J. Harris
Published by HarperCollins on 3rd May 2018
Genres: Mystery, Contemporary
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Whatever happens, don’t tell anyone what you did to Bee Larkham…

Jasper is not ordinary. In fact, he would say he is extraordinary…

Synaesthesia paints the sounds of his world in a kaleidoscope of colours that no one else can see. But on Friday, he discovered a new colour – the colour of murder.

He’s sure something has happened to his neighbour, Bee Larkham, but no-one else seems to be taking it as seriously as they should be. The knife and the screams are all mixed up in his head and he’s scared that he can’t quite remember anything clearly.

But where is Bee? Why hasn’t she come home yet? Jasper must uncover the truth about that night – including his own role in what happened…

Thirteen-year-old Jasper lives with his ex-Royal Marine father. His mother died several years ago and he misses her. Jasper has synaesthesia. Rather than hearing sounds, Jasper sees them as colour. Every sound has its own colour, every voice its own colour palette. His mother understood this – she had synaesthesia too.

Jasper also experiences prosopagnosia, meaning that he can’t recognise faces, even his father’s. He has developed techniques to help him, the colour of people’s voices, the clothes they wear, accessories they have etc. His Dad helps him by wearing his “uniform” – certain colours that Jasper recognises, as well as calling him “son” and speaking in his ochre tone.

Jasper loves art and records the colours of the world in his paintings. Most people can’t appreciate them, but for Jasper they tell the stories of his life.

When a new neighbour, Bee Larkham, comes to the street he befriends her (her voice is sky blue, not quite the cobalt blue of his mother’s) and becomes obsessed with the parakeets in her garden, and the colours they make in his world.

When Jasper becomes convinced that Bee Larkham has been murdered, he becomes increasingly frustrated that people aren’t taking him seriously.

Told from Jasper’s perspective, we get a fascinating look into how he perceives the world. He doesn’t like change, sticks to routine, takes things literally and, consequently, misunderstands those around him. While not actually saying that Jasper is autistic, it is implied in the pages of this book.

We are taken along with Jasper as he tries to piece together what happened to Bee Larkham, all the while being desperate to protect his new friends, the parakeets.

This is an interesting read, that I certainly found educational. Personally, I wasn’t overly familiar with the conditions in this book prior to reading, so it opened my eyes.

I enjoyed the writing and the description of colours that define Jasper’s world. Also, the way we see the truth behind much of Jasper’s naive observations.

I did find it somewhat repetitive at times, but I guess that’s the point – to capture Jasper’s character.

Although this book is told from the eyes of a teenager, and is being likened by many to The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night-Time, I feel it’s important to note that this isn’t a book for children. There are some issues in it that aren’t suitable for a younger audience.

All in all, I enjoyed this novel. I really liked Jasper and enjoyed seeing the world from his perspective, all the while trying to uncover some mysteries for myself.

three-half-stars

Review: Whistle In The Dark

May 1, 2018 in Book Reviews, Contemporary, Mystery

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Whistle In The DarkWhistle In The Dark by Emma Healey
Published by Viking on 3rd May 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
three-stars

Jen and Hugh Maddox have just survived every parent’s worst nightmare.

Relieved, but still terrified, they sit by the hospital bedside of their fifteen-year-old daughter, Lana, who was found bloodied, bruised, and disoriented after going missing for four days during a mother-daughter vacation in the country. As Lana lies mute in the bed, unwilling or unable to articulate what happened to her during that period, the national media speculates wildly and Jen and Hugh try to answer many questions.

Where was Lana? How did she get hurt? Was the teenage boy who befriended her involved? How did she survive outside for all those days? Even when she returns to the family home and her school routine, Lana only provides the same frustrating answer over and over: “I can’t remember.”

For years, Jen had tried to soothe the depressive demons plaguing her younger child, and had always dreaded the worst. Now she has hope—the family has gone through hell and come out the other side. But Jen cannot let go of her need to find the truth. Without telling Hugh or their pregnant older daughter Meg, Jen sets off to retrace Lana’s steps, a journey that will lead her to a deeper understanding of her youngest daughter, her family, and herself.

Jen Maddox has just been reunited with her 15-year-old daughter, Lana, following Lana’s four-day-long disappearance.

Jen and Lana had gone on a mother-daughter painting holiday when Lana went missing – sparking a huge search and nationwide missing persons campaign. Now that Lana’s back, she won’t tell anyone what happened to her. Seeing her daughter cut, battered and bruised, Jen fears for what Lana has been through. She, husband Hugh, and elder daughter Meg are also concerned for Lana’s mental health – how will this ordeal have impacted upon Lana’s depression?

I thoroughly enjoyed Emma Healey’s debut Elizabeth Is Missing (you can find my review here), so I was so excited to see Whistle In The Dark appear on NetGalley and instantly requested it. The thing is though, when you’ve loved an author’s first book, do you have unfairly high expectations for the next? I fear that was the case with this novel. I enjoyed it but I couldn’t help but compare it.

The mystery surrounding Lana’s disappearance and her unwillingness to share her story is what spurred on my reading with this book. I really did want to learn what had happened to Lana and why she wouldn’t discuss it.

I like the way the story was told from Jen’s perspective – a mother who has long tried to the best for her child, to help her through her mental health difficulties and who finds herself faced with a seemingly changed daughter, with an unknown trauma.

With Jen as narrator, we see the characters through her eyes. Her elder daughter, so together and unlike her mother, her husband who, while supportive, does seem to think she overreacts, and Lana whom she can’t get close to – can’t even tell if she likes her.

I guess I found this book to be overall a bit flat. I kept reading, kept waiting for all to unravel and I was left feeling that I wanted a bit more from this book. I really enjoy Healey’s writing, but as I said at the start, I fear I went into reading this with unfair expectations, and that probably left me feeling the way I did.

I must add though that, like Elizabeth is Missing, this book addresses some important subjects and I’m sure it will help to raise awareness.

three-stars

Review: The Smoke Thieves

April 28, 2018 in Book Reviews, Fantasy, YA Fantasy

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Smoke ThievesThe Smoke Thieves by Sally Green
Series: The Smoke Thieves #1
Published by Penguin on 3rd May 2018
Genres: Fantasy, YA Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-half-stars

A princess, a traitor, a soldier, a hunter and a thief. Five teenagers with the fate of the world in their hands. Five nations destined for conflict.

In Brigant, Princess Catherine prepares for a political marriage arranged by her brutal and ambitious father, while her true love, Ambrose, faces the executioner's block. In Calidor, downtrodden servant March seeks revenge on the prince who betrayed his people. In Pitoria, feckless Edyon steals cheap baubles for cheaper thrills as he drifts from town to town. And in the barren northern territories, thirteen-year-old Tash is running for her life as she plays bait for the gruff demon hunter Gravell.

As alliances shift and shatter, and old certainties are overturned, our five heroes find their past lives transformed and their futures inextricably linked by the unpredictable tides of magic and war. Who will rise and who will fall? And who will claim the ultimate prize?

I’m not even going to try to explain The Smoke Thieves. Usually, I like to attempt a wee overview but in all honesty, I don’t think I could do this book justice in a summary! So, read the one above!

Told from the perspectives of five characters; Tash, a demon hunter; Catherine, a princess betrothed to a prince she’s never met; Ambrose, a soldier and personal bodyguard to Catherine; March, a servant and traitor; and Edyon, a thief and bastard son of a trader.

I loved this book! I’m often wary of stories that are told through a host of different characters, as sometimes I can feel that we don’t really get to know the characters well enough. Or  I inevitably dislike a character and dread reading their chapter. The Smoke Thieves thankfully bucked that trend. I loved all of the characters, found their voices distinct and felt we got to know them all and the world around them.

I’ll be honest and say that I found the beginning a little slow at times, but before I knew it, I was swept up in this world and in the characters and I couldn’t put the book down.

I think Green has built a fascinating world, one that I didn’t want to leave: Brigant, with its cruel, oppressive king and attitude towards women in contrast to Pitoria with its colour, dance and customs. I’d like to have explored Calidor a bit more but I’ve no doubt that will happen in future books.

This story is packed with intrigue, deceit, and deception. There’s fighting, demon smoke, hatred, political manoeuvres, revenge and even love. I truly didn’t want it to end.

Now, I rarely pay attention to comparisons but when I finished reading I saw this…

“a new epic fantasy series perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Game of Thrones”

and bizarrely, I agree with that! As I was reading I did actually think of it as a YA Game of Thrones.  Maybe it was the travelling, the food, and the multiple perspectives, but I can see where they are coming from with that.

This is a wonderful epic fantasy that stopped my heart at times, made me chortle at others, and made me crave delicious foods!

I loved Green’s writing, this world, her characters and way the book is poised for the next instalment of the series. I seriously cannot wait for book two!

The Smoke Thieves

Image from Goldsboro Books.

Oh and if you fancy getting your hands on a signed, hardback edition I just noticed that Goldsboro Books have some copies available!

four-half-stars

Review: Dear Martin

April 25, 2018 in Book Reviews, Contemporary, YA

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Dear MartinDear Martin by Nic Stone
Published by Simon & Schuster UK on 3rd May 2018 (UK)
Genres: Contemporary, YA
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
five-stars

Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League – but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighbourhood behind, he can't escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates.

Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up – way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty police officer beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it's Justyce who is under attack.

After reading fantastic reviews upon its publication in the US, I was delighted to find Dear Martin due for publication in the UK. Wow, those reviews were right, this is a tremendously powerful book.

Justyce is a 17-year-old high school senior. He’s fourth in his graduating class, captain of the debate team and is on course for an Ivy League education in law. He’s also one of the few black guys in his school – his best friend Manny being another.

Inspired by the heartbreaking stories that we see of racial profiling by the police force in the US, this story explores what it’s like to be judged and prejudiced because of the colour of your skin.

The story beings with Jus being wrongly arrested for trying to help his drunk ex-girlfriend into the back of her car to drive her home. Evidently, the police assumed carjacking.

This sets in motion an experiment whereby Jus decides to take inspiration from the great Martin Luther King Jr – what would Martin do? Jus begins writing to Martin as his eyes are opened wider and wider to the racism that exists in his country.

I don’t want to give you much more detail than that. It’s a book that you need to read for yourself. It tackles so many prevalent issues through the life and interactions of one black teenage boy in Atlanta.

I adored Jus from the outset, his character leaps off the pages. But all of the characters in this book are important – as are the choices that many of them have to make.

This is a stunning, heartbreaking novel that should be read by ALL! I can’t find the words to do it justice. Just read it!

five-stars

Review: The Unmapped Mind

April 2, 2018 in Biography, Memoir, Book Reviews

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Unmapped MindThe Unmapped Mind: A Memoir of Neurology, Incurable Disease and Learning How To Live by Christian Donlan
Published by Viking on 5th April 2018
Genres: Biography
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-stars

"My daughter took her first steps on the day I was diagnosed - a juxtaposition so perfect, so trite, so filled with the tacky artifice of real life that I am generally too embarrassed to tell anybody about it."

Shortly after his daughter Leontine was born, Christian Donlan's world shifted an inch to the left. He started to miss light switches and door handles when reaching for them. He would injure himself in a hundred stupid ways every day. First playful and then maddening, these strange experiences were the early symptoms of multiple sclerosis, an incurable and degenerative neurological disease.

As his young daughter starts to investigate the world around her, he too finds himself exploring a new landscape - the shifting and bewildering territory of the brain. He is a tourist in his own body, a stranger in a place that plays bizarre tricks on him, from dizzying double vision to mystifying memory loss. Determined to master his new environment, Christian takes us on a fascinating and illuminating journey: through the history of neurology, the joys and anxieties of parenthood, and the ultimate realisation of what, after everything you take for granted has been stripped away from you, is truly important in life.

I enjoy the odd memoir and the description of this particular title grasped my attention. Probably for a variety of reasons 1) my Mum and my Aunt have MS 2) I have my own illness which requires a constant battle of learning how to live and 3) I wanted to learn more about the neurology of MS.

Before I started I must admit I’d no idea who Christian Donlan was, so I’d no idea what to expect in terms of writing – wow this man can write! It turns out he’s an award-winning journalist, I can see why. From the first paragraph, I was hooked. You might look at the title of this book and worry that it’ll be a bit heavy-going. Fear not, Donlan’s writing style is absorbing, he makes the ‘technical’ stuff easy to read. Most of all, it’s like sitting down in a room with a friend, chatting. That’s really the best way I can describe this book. Donlan’s writing and his turn of phrase is a delight – subject matter aside.

Donlan shares with us his journey as a thirty-something husband and new father as he discovers that he has MS.

But it’s more than just his story. We learn about neurology and MS itself. Donlan tells the story of his own illness but also educates the reader on the scope, variety, and stages of MS. As I said, my Mum has MS so I have an understanding of the disease, but Mum’s symptoms are largely different from Donlan’s. I knew this could happen, as everyone’s MS is different, but reading about further symptoms and challenges outwith my own, narrow field of vision was illuminating.

Likewise illuminating, inspiring-even is Donlan’s incredible honesty within these pages. As a reader, I felt Donlan was completely open and honest, even when it perhaps might not reflect so well on him. I applaud his bravery and openness.

From my own personal perspective, Donlan’s processing of his diagnosis was, I guess, reassuring. I could relate so much to that realisation that your life isn’t going to be quite like you had envisioned. In fact, I rarely highlight text when I’m reading but there was much of this book that spoke to me, that I felt was worth noting and remembering.

Donlan’s exploration of his relationships with those around him was a further area of great interest to me. It made me consider differing perspectives, not only how hard diagnosis and illness can be on the patient but on those around them too.

I fear I’ve rambled on a bit here, jumping all over – apologies. There is just so much to this book – a glimpse into a family at a turning point in their lives, the honesty, the impressive writing, the informative and educational side. Donlan lets us into his world and I guarantee that everyone will find something to take away from this book.

four-stars