The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder

The Colour of Bee Larkham’s MurderThe Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder by Sarah J. Harris
Published by HarperCollins on May 3rd 2018
Pages: 464
Goodreads

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…

Plot: ★★★
Characters: ★★★
Readability: ★★★

The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder is a book that’s been recommended to me multiple times, pretty much always with a comparison to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (which I loved) so I figured it was time to finally pick it up. I listened to the audiobook – that’s how I’m doing a lot of my reading at the moment given my new commute! – and finished the 12 hours in 4 days.  To put that into context, my commute is about 90 minutes a day, which would have only covered 6 hours: half the total listening time. That shows how much extra time I put in outside of commuting, which is a good indication of how addicted I was!

The story is simple enough: Jasper Whishart’s neighbour, Bee Larkham, is missing, and he’s convinced something bad has happened to her.  It’s a reasonably simple mystery – there aren’t too many characters to keep track of – but as it’s Jasper who tries to figure out what happened, all our evidence comes from his point of view. His faceblindness makes it tricky, because you can never be quite sure who said or did what.  While this isn’t actually the only book I’ve read with a synesthete (Mondays are Red by Nicola Morgan) it’s nevertheless a very unique take on a mystery.  I enjoyed that unique spin, as I can feel like mysteries and thrillers feel a bit too similar at times.  Jasper’s colour attributions, his autism and the way he reacted to events was undeniably interesting, and I found it hard not to feel for him.  I enjoyed the plot twists and wanted to know what happened to Bee, as well as what would happen in the end once the truth came out.

While there were things I enjoyed about the book, there were some things I wasn’t so keen on.  Jasper’s observations were repetitive at times, and often long-winded: there were times when we not only got a colour description (which might be five or six words on it’s own) but also an auditory description for one sound. I felt the book had a slightly weird feel to it, because there are some quite dark elements involved in the mystery, but at the same time Jasper’s voice felt very young, similar in tone to most 9-12 novels I’ve read.  That’s not necessarily a problem, and I can see why Jasper’s voice was portrayed that way but it did feel a little jarring at times.  Another thing I found frustrating was the time jumps – the book frequently jumps back in time without any real warning, and because of Jasper’s face blindness, it’s hard to get any context for when or where the next scene takes place.  The book picks up pace fantastically towards the end but I just think it could have been a bit shorter, which would have stopped it feeling so repetitive.

One StarOne StarOne Star

The Island (M. A. Bennett)

The Island by M.A. Bennett
on January 1st 1970
Pages: 304
Goodreads

Link is a fish out of water. Newly arrived from America, he is finding it hard to settle into the venerable and prestigious Osney School. Who knew there could be so many strange traditions to understand? And what kind of school ranks its students by how fast they can run round the school quad - however ancient that quad may be? When Link runs the slowest time in years, he immediately becomes the butt of every school joke. And some students are determined to make his life more miserable than others . . .

When a school summer trip is offered, Link can think of nothing worse than spending voluntary time with his worst tormentors. But when his parents say he can only leave Osney School - forever - if he goes on the trip, Link decides to endure it for the ultimate prize. But this particular trip will require a very special sort of endurance. The saying goes 'No man is an island' - but what if on that island is a group of teenagers, none of whom particularly like each other? When oppressive heat, hunger and thirst start to bite, everyone's true colours will be revealed. Let the battle commence . . .

From the acclaimed author of S.T.A.G.S.

Plot: ★★★
Characters: ★★
Readability: ★★

I thought I would really enjoy The Island; a group of teens, stranded on a desert island, the bullied and the bullies forced together, no one knows where they are… The concept was great, and having enjoyed Bennett’s previous book (S.T.A.G.S.) I had expectations of a fast-paced, twisting YA thriller.  At only 304 pages, I figured it’d be a quick read, especially given that S.T.A.G.S. was so gripping. Ultimately though, I found The Island disappointing; it felt like a real slog to get into and it took me more than 2 weeks to finish.  I remember reading Lord of the Flies at about 16 and really enjoying it, and I figured this would be a bit like a modernised version of that.  While that was true in some respects, it just never hooked me the way I expected it to and it never got as tense as I expected.

Link has been bullied ever since moving to a posh British school, from having previously been homeschooled in the States.  He reluctantly agrees to go on a school trip over the summer but everything goes wrong and he finds himself stranded on a deserted island with the worst of his tormenters.  Link is quite an unlikable character: he has no real empathy or sympathy and he’s quite self-righteous.  He thinks he’s smarter than everyone else – there are some actions in the book which I’d say prove he isn’t half as smart as he thinks he is, but I can’t explain that without spoilers!  The other characters on the island are stereotypical to a fault and while Bennett tries to give them back-stories, have characters grow etc, it’s all just a bit too predictable.  In terms of plot, while there are twists, I thought they were so obviously foreshadowed that none of them were a surprise.

While the pop culture references seem like they could make the book date quickly, I really liked that the Desert Island Discs element was something a bit new and different so I couldn’t resist trying to come up with my own.

My Desert Island Discs: Honestly, I could spend weeks picking these, so I just went on gut instinct. They’re not in any particular order.

  • Linkin Park: One More Light & In the End
  • Moana: How Far I’ll Go
  • The Greatest Showman: The Other Side
  • Nashville: When the Right One Comes Along
  • Mulan: I’ll Make a Man Out of You
  • Blink-182: I Miss You
  • Ed Sheeran: Perfect

My book:

  • Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince.
    • This was the hardest decision and I’m still not sure it’s right: should I pick something longer that’ll take ages to read? But this is my go-to re-read. In a slump? HP6. Sad and want something comforting? HP6. Plus, it’d be good for fanfic ideas which might help keep me entertained and ties into my luxury item…

My luxury item:

  • Pen & paper – I’m hoping it’s an endless supply of paper. I could write letters to people I loved and missed (obviously I couldn’t send them but I think it’d make me less crazy to remember there are other people in the world!), I could write fiction/fanfiction/poetry/journal entries, I could doodle, I could make observations on plants/wildlife etc.
One StarOne Star

A Thousand Perfect Notes (C. G. Drews)

A Thousand Perfect Notes (C. G. Drews)A Thousand Perfect Notes by C.G. Drews
Published by Orchard Books on June 7th 2018
Pages: 300
Goodreads

An emotionally charged story of music, abuse and, ultimately, hope.

Beck hates his life. He hates his violent mother. He hates his home. Most of all, he hates the piano that his mother forces him to play hour after hour, day after day. He will never play as she did before illness ended her career and left her bitter and broken. But Beck is too scared to stand up to his mother, and tell her his true passion, which is composing his own music - because the least suggestion of rebellion on his part ends in violence.

When Beck meets August, a girl full of life, energy and laughter, love begins to awaken within him and he glimpses a way to escape his painful existence. But dare he reach for it?

Plot: ★★★
Characters: ★★★★
Readability: ★★★★

Okay, you’re probably sick by now of me saying “I don’t really read contemporary but…”, but honestly, the stats back this up, only 10% of my reading last year was contemporaries.  (Does this mean I’m more likely to write a review for a contemporary because I don’t expect to like it? I mean maybe, but that’s a whole other post). Anyway, the reason I’m starting with this is because yet again I’ve read a contemporary and been pleasantly surprised!

A Thousand Perfect Notes is written by C.G. Drews, who in case you don’t know, is Cait of paperfury.com (who I am regularly astounded by), so I had a few expectations about the book when I picked it up – largely that it wouldn’t be a fluffy, light read, that it would try and stomp on my emotions and that it would almost certainly contain cake.  Safe to say, A Thousand Perfect Notes lived up to all of those expectations.  Beck’s story is dark, and twisted, and full of scenes that will tug on your heart-strings or infuriate you on his behalf (or, frequently, both).  Beck is miserable – he hates playing the same musical parts over and over again, and he hates the way his mother treats him.  This could easily become a depressing story, but it somehow never does.

Cheerfulness is irritating, but it suits some people. Some people are born for sunlight and orange peel smiles and running on the beach and wild flowers in their hair.

The characters are interesting: from Beck himself, to August, who’s so cheerful, and kind but also opinionated, impulsive and generally super enthusiastic about life, the universe and everything.  I think one of the main reasons Beck’s story doesn’t get depressing is because he has a little sister called Joey who’s like a little ball of adorable, insane, darkly twisted child, and is definitely my favourite character.

August did feel a little bit manic pixie dreamgirl to me at times, and she fell into stereotypes at times which irritated me a bit.  The romance side was predictable, which didn’t bother me, but Beck’s interest in August picked up just a little quicker than I would have liked.

 Chocolate is a substance worth existing for.

The story is quite dark and twisted, and if you like authors like Christina Henry or A.G. Howard but wish their stories were a little more based in the real world, this would be a perfect fit for you. your stories more real-world, I imagine you’ll like this.  If I’m totally honest, my primary interest in A Thousand Perfect Notes came from being curious about the author, more than the premise, and if this were a book by an author I’d heard nothing about and stumbled across by accident, it’d be 50/50 as to whether I’d pick it up.  For me to then fly through in a few days says a lot about Drews’ writing style and skill.  The snarky, funny writing voice we see from paperfury shines through really well without ever being overpowering or too much.  She somehow blends that down-to-earth tone with some beautiful writing, and similies and metaphors that remind me a little of Laini Taylor’s beautiful writing style.  While there were a couple of occasions when it got a bit too flowery for me, generally Drews’ writing is definitely a style I could see myself reading more of, and I’ll be waiting anxiously for some of her fantasy-based books, which will be more up my alley!

One StarOne StarOne Star

Every Heart a Doorway (Seanan McGuire)

Every Heart a Doorway (Seanan McGuire)Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children, #1) by Seanan McGuire
Published by Tor.com on April 5th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 173
Format: audio
Source: Scribd
Goodreads

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward ChildrenNo SolicitationsNo VisitorsNo Quests

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere... else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced... they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.

No matter the cost.

Plot: ★★★★
Characters: ★★★★
Readability: ★★★★★

 

It’s no secret by now that I’m a big fan of Mira Grant’s books, but having pretty much exhausted all of her works recently, I decided to start on the series she’s written under the name Seanan McGuire instead.  One of the first I’ve picked up is Every Heart a Doorway, which I chose for a couple of reasons – I saw Ellie’s review of Down Among the Sticks & Bones (another book in the series), I loved the sound of the premise, and it happened to be available as an audiobook on Scribd at the moment I went looking.  Seemed a bit like fate really!  Every Heart a Doorway tells the story of Nancy, who travelled to another world but has ended up stuck back in ours, desperately wishing she could go back.  Driven to desperation, her parents send her to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, where she meets other kids just like her, who’ve been to other places but now find themselves stuck where they started.  All of the students at Miss Eleanor West’s home want to travel back through their doors more than anything, but when a student is killed they get drawn into the mystery and wondering if they might be next.

“Her parents loved her, there was no question of that, but their love was the sort that filled her suitcase with colors and kept trying to set her up in dates with local boys. Their love wanted to fix her, and refused to see that she wasn’t broken.”

Students have travelled to worlds that are so unlike our own, but also so unlike each other’s, and each of them is changed by the experience.  They’ve also been affected by OUR world too though – for whatever reason, most of them felt they just didn’t fit until they found their door and what lay on the other side.  The cast of characters is great; each feels unique, and well-developed, and as is often the case with Grant/McGuire books, they’re wonderfully diverse.  For some characters, their diversity is crucial to their plot and story, and for others it’s just an incidental background fact, which is great.  I liked the characters, and I especially loved Jack and Jill, so I knew I’d definitely want to follow this up with Down Among the Sticks and Bones, which explores their backstory.

 “Nobody gets to tell me how my story ends but me.”

The story is quite dark and twisted, and if you’re a fan of Christina Henry, I imagine you’ll like this.  The premise is great, the cast are great, and the murder mystery is intriguing, but I didn’t love it quite as much as I wanted to, or as I felt like I should.  There’s a lot crammed in, and the reflection on our world gives you plenty to think about and dwell on all on it’s own – but it’s a very short story.  I would have happily spent a lot longer with these characters and their world, so I do wish this was a full-length novel.  It’s definitely worth a read though, and you can bet I’ll be picking up every additional story McGuire gives us in this world.

“Real’ is a four-letter word, and I’ll thank you to use it as little as possible while you live under my roof.”

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

[Series Snapshot] The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan

by Rick Riordan
Published by Disney-Hyperion, Hyperion Books, Hyperion Books for Children Genres: Action & Adventure, Fantasy, Middle Grade
Format: audio
Source: Scribd

[Series Snapshot] The Kane Chronicles by Rick RiordanThe Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan
Published by Disney-Hyperion on May 4th 2010
Pages: 516
Goodreads

Since their mother's death, Carter and Sadie have become near strangers. While Sadie has lived with her grandparents in London, her brother has traveled the world with their father, the brilliant Egyptologist, Dr. Julius Kane.

One night, Dr. Kane brings the siblings together for a "research experiment" at the British Museum, where he hopes to set things right for his family. Instead, he unleashes the Egyptian god Set, who banishes him to oblivion and forces the children to flee for their lives.

Soon, Sadie and Carter discover that the gods of Egypt are waking, and the worst of them —Set— has his sights on the Kanes. To stop him, the siblings embark on a dangerous journey across the globe - a quest that brings them ever closer to the truth about their family and their links to a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs.



Series stats

Author: Rick Riordan
Number of books: 3
Total number of pages: 1404


Opening line:

We only have a few hours, so listen carefully.


Status on my shelves:

I borrowed all three from Scribd as audiobooks.


Why I picked this series up:

I’ve been catching up with Rick Riordan’s books, because I have several friends who are fans.  Having finished Percy Jackson & The Olympians and The Heroes of Olympus series, the Kane Chronicles seemed like the next logical step! I was nervous about new characters and new mythology, but I decided to give it a go anyway.


Overall thoughts:

The first thing to say is that these work excellently as audiobooks.  The books are written as if they’re typed transcripts of an audio recording which has been left by Sadie and Carter, so they’re the ideal format for audio.  I listened to the unabridged BrillianceAudio editions, narrated by Katherine Kellgren (for Sadie’s chapters) and Kevin R. Free (for Carter’s chapters) and I thought both did a great job!  The story begins when Sadie and Carter watch their Egyptologist father summon something in the British Museum before disappearing.  Sadie and Carter have been raised separately – Carter by his father, travelling the world and homeschooling, and Sadie by her grandparents in London.  These two relative strangers are forced to work together as they get caught up in a world they never knew existed.

One of Riordan’s strengths is his character cast, and while I didn’t find anyone to top Leo (my favourite character so far!) or Nico, Riordan’s characters are as always well-rounded and relatable.  As I’ve come to expect from Riordan now, we also get characters who are diverse but who’s diversity isn’t a driving plot point: it’s just a reflection of the world, and I love that.  Sadie and Carter are both likeable, relatable characters.  Sadie is witty, and sarcastic and generally made me laugh the whole way through. She’s also very believable: she has both friends and people she doesn’t get along with, she isn’t a character who’s astoundingly smart and perfect and does no wrong, or sounds like she’s much more mature than she truly is.  While I didn’t love Carter as much, he too has a convincing, authentic voice throughout the series; older, feeling burdened with responsibility for his younger sister, but still ultimately a teen at heart.  The supporting characters – Anubis, Walt, Bes, Bast and the others – are also interesting and likeable.

The first book picks up quickly, and this series doesn’t suffer from middle-book-syndrome: it keeps up the pace from book 1 right through to the end of book 3.   I won’t say too much for fear of spoilers, but I really enjoyed the way Riordan worked the Gods into this series – it feels fresh and interesting, and it makes for some really interesting twists and the occasional ethical dilemma.  Having said that, the mythology feels shallower in this series than the Greek mythology in the Olympians/Heroes of Olympus.  That’s obviously to be expected when there are only three books to play with here, compared to 10 for the Greeks, but this series does somehow feel a little less in-depth generally, a little less mature, certainly in comparison to the Heroes of Olympus series.  The series is quick and enjoyable though – I finished all three books within about two weeks, which doesn’t sound fast but is pretty much unprecedented pace for me and audiobooks.  All in all, I didn’t love it as much as his other series so far, but if you’re a fan of the other series, you’ll almost certainly enjoy this one too.

One StarOne StarOne Star