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 Murder The 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

Discussion: Carve The Mark

February 17, 2017 in Bookish Posts

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

Discussion: Carve The Mark Carve The Mark by Veronica Roth
Series: Carve The Mark #1
Published by HarperCollins on 18th January 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads

On a planet where violence and vengeance rule, in a galaxy where some are favoured by fate, everyone develops a currentgift, a unique power meant to shape the future. While most benefit from their currentgifts, Akos and Cyra do not—their gifts make them vulnerable to others’ control. Can they reclaim their gifts, their fates, and their lives, and reset the balance of power in this world?

Cyra is the sister of the brutal tyrant who rules the Shotet people. Cyra’s currentgift gives her pain and power—something her brother exploits, using her to torture his enemies. But Cyra is much more than just a blade in her brother’s hand: she is resilient, quick on her feet, and smarter than he knows.

Akos is from the peace-loving nation of Thuvhe, and his loyalty to his family is limitless. Though protected by his unusual currentgift, once Akos and his brother are captured by enemy Shotet soldiers, Akos is desperate to get his brother out alive—no matter what the cost. When Akos is thrust into Cyra’s world, the enmity between their countries and families seems insurmountable. They must decide to help each other to survive—or to destroy one another.

I’m not quite sure how this is going to go. I mean, I know how I feel, I just don’t know if I’m going to be able to articulate it.

OK

A bit about me first. I suffer from a chronic illness. For the past 11 years my illness has ruled my life. Among many symptoms, I suffer from chronic pain.

END

I had some issues with this book. I sat quietly in my own wee world reading and formulating my thoughts. I started to wonder if it was just me? Was I being oversensitive? I took to Twitter and soon realised that, no, I was not alone with my concerns.

Set in a distant galaxy, we follow two characters, Akos who is Thuvhesit and Cyra who is Shotet. Their people live on the same planet separated by the Divide and a mutual hatred of one another.

Both of our main characters are ‘fated’; they are among a small group whose futures are fated and have been seen by the Oracles.

Each child in this world grows into a ‘currentgift’. The ‘current’ is the force that passes through all things. Everyone’s currentgift is different and is apparently formed around the personality / needs of the individual. Akos’ gift is that he stops the current, Cyra’s is chronic pain which she suffers from herself and can impart upon others through contact.

Let me start by saying that I was actually initially very pleased to see such a dominant author as Veronica Roth include chronic pain in her novel. Prior to diving into the book, I hoped that perhaps this would help to bring some understanding into the mainstream. Sadly, I was left disappointed, frustrated and even angry with this book.

I did read this entire book and, trust me, I tried to keep an open mind. There were points when I had hope – Cyra’s pain crippling her to the point she’s just in a heap in her room and the portrayal of the side effects that she suffers as a result of painkillers at the start of the book.

However,  I very much take issue with chronic pain being called a ‘currentGIFT’.

Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘gift’ as “a natural ability or talent.”

So, what? I have a talent for inflicting pain upon myself? I’m not convinced that even Britain’s Got Talent would consider THAT a talent!

Ok, so maybe we can agree that on the surface of it ‘gift’ was an unfortunate word choice.

“Every currentgift is a curse”

“But no gift is ONLY a curse”

In fairness, here she does have a point. My illness has taught me a lot about myself. I’m a different person to the one I was pre-illness. I’ve had to reassess, to identify what’s important in life and change everything to find a way to live. While I’d obviously rather I hadn’t had to go through this, I do now understand myself more. I see the world in a slightly different way.

The part that I very much take issue with in terms of Cyra’s currentgift, is the implication that her ‘gift’ is connected to her mental state or personality. I think this is very dangerous territory. When I first became ill a doctor implied that my pain and other symptoms were “all in my head”. Needless to say, most other health professionals were aghast at this statement and thankfully, on the whole, I’ve received excellent care. But this attitude is not uncommon towards chronic illnesses and it’s very damaging to sufferers and their families. To have this concept reinforced by way of a novel, to almost give the ‘okay’ to this kind of attitude is not acceptable to me.

I wish I could articulate my points more clearly. This post has been hard for me to write – it’s an emotional issue. I don’t like being negative, I strive to see the good. Writing a book with a central character who suffers from chronic pain is good, it’s just that I didn’t appreciate the way it was done.

Akos can use his currentgift to alleviate Cyra’s pain. Reliance on other people is something I’ve struggled to come to terms with over the past decade. I feel that this is an issue that could have been explored further, with more impact.

However, the idea of this relief by Akos is also something that bothered me. Although I know from an interview I saw online with Roth that she was conscious of avoiding a ‘magical cure’, that’s kind of how this felt to me.

Cyra’s later method of dealing with her pain also irritated me.

View Spoiler »

ARGH. I apologise that this is more of a rant than anything, but I couldn’t talk about this book without attempting to convey my feelings and issues with it.

I know that others have different issues with the book, so I recommend that you check out a few more reviews as I’m not the right person to address these issues.

If you made it this far, thank you for sticking with me. I’ve tried, however poorly, to explain my feelings on the handling of chronic pain in this book. It’s important to note though that these are just MY feelings.

Have you read this book?

How do YOU feel about the handling of chronic pain in this novel?

Am I just being oversensitive?