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

Mini review: Geek Girl (Holly Smale)

Mini review: Geek Girl (Holly Smale)Geek Girl by Holly Smale
Published by HarperCollins on 28-02-2013
Genres: Love & Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Amazon
Goodreads

Harriet Manners knows a lot of things.

She knows that a cat has 32 muscles in each ear, a "jiffy" lasts 1/100th of a second, and the average person laughs 15 times per day. What she isn't quite so sure about is why nobody at school seems to like her very much. So when she's spotted by a top model agent, Harriet grabs the chance to reinvent herself. Even if it means stealing her Best Friend's dream, incurring the wrath of her arch enemy Alexa, and repeatedly humiliating herself in front of the impossibly handsome supermodel Nick. Even if it means lying to the people she loves.

As Harriet veers from one couture disaster to the next with the help of her overly enthusiastic father and her uber-geeky stalker, Toby, she begins to realise that the world of fashion doesn't seem to like her any more than the real world did.

And as her old life starts to fall apart, the question is: will Harriet be able to transform herself before she ruins everything?

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

Harriet Manners, the geek girl of the title, never wanted to be a model.  In fact, she doesn’t exactly get fashion, and she’s only at the fashion show because her best friend Nat dragged her.  Since she’s not exactly popular at school, she goes along with it when she’s spotted by a model scout, hoping to re-invent herself…but of course, there are costs, not least that she’s stolen her best friend’s dream.

I really liked Holly’s quirkiness, and her awkwardness (we can all relate sometimes!), but I wouldn’t call her a geek.  She’s clumsy, and full of random facts, but definitely not a fangirl.  Having said that, I really loved her voice as a narrator, and she’s genuinely funny.

It was cute, and funny, and the lack of angst was definitely a welcome change.  My biggest issue with Geek Girl though, was that it felt like it was aimed at a younger audience.  It definitely felt more like a young teen read than a young adult one, partially because I thought it was quite predictable.

All in all, I found Geek Girl a quick, light read, but I wasn’t wowed by it, and it didn’t leave me particularly fussed either way about continuing on with the series.  Having said that, it was a definitely a fun and speedy read, and it’d make a great readathon choice.

Buy it? This is a borrow for me.
In a nutshell: An enjoyable enough read, but it didn’t wow me.

Other Reviews of Geek Girl: Adventures with words  | Mab is Mab | There’s more to life than reading, but it’s a good place to start

One StarOne Star

Panic (Lauren Oliver)

Panic (Lauren Oliver)Panic by Lauren Oliver
Published by HarperCollins on 04-03-2014
Genres: Friendship, Girls & Women, Love & Romance, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon
Goodreads

Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.

Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.

Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But what he doesn't know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.

For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.

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

Panic is one of those books that seems to have confused people’s expectations. I’m not sure whether it’s because people had preconceptions of Lauren Oliver, or whether the blurb was too vague, or whether it was a bit like a game of chinese whispers, but I saw so many people who tagged/referred to Panic as dystopian.

Panic is most definitely not dystopian. It’s a contemporary story of a group of teenagers who push themselves to their limits (and beyond) to try and win a jackpot that would change their lives forever.

For Dodge, Panic has always been on the cards. He has a secret, and Panic is a key part of that secret, and coping with it. For Heather, Panic is a spur of the moment decision, fuelled by anger, unhappiness, and a desire to prove herself. For Nat, Panic is about the money. For Bishop, Panic is a risk, one he wishes his friends wouldn’t get themselves into. The teenagers each have their own motivations, but all four are drawn into a world of secrets, drama, and danger.

Panic is of course, about the game, and once the game began, I was hooked. I wanted to know what the next challenge would be, who would go through, who would drop out, and above all, who would win. The game keeps you hooked: it’s the dramatic, high intensity plot-line that has you flicking through pages feverishly, up until 2am dying to know what happens next. Despite that, it’s definitely not all the book is about, and Panic is a truly multi-layered story.

As well as the game itself, there’s also romance, which I enjoyed. Perhaps most brilliant is the way Lauren Oliver has written the characters, the insight into their personalities as they cope with the psychological toll of the game, and the way they grow throughout the story. Whether you like the characters or hate them, I found all four to be three-dimensional, and completely realistic.

I found I had to suspend my disbelief a few times in the story, because in a tiny dead-end town like Carp, where everyone knows everyone’s business, there were an awful lot of secrets. The banned game of Panic is not particularly discreetly played, there are relationships and associations people know nothing about, and a fair amount of law-breaking. In that sense, Panic felt a bit unbelievable, but once I suspended my disbelief, I enjoyed it.

My only real issue with Panic was the ending, which I was slightly disappointed by. Obviously I can’t say much about that without spoilers, so all I’ll say is that I felt it was a little too neat for me. If you’re curious, there’s a spoiler-laden paragraph further down the page!

Buy it? This is one that’s worth buying for me (but probably on a deal).
In a nutshell: Great characters, and a quick, gripping read, but this didn’t live up to Delirium.

Other Reviews of Panic: Miss Page-Turner’s City of Books | Little Birdie Books | It was Lovely Reading You

SPOILER ALERT

I have a few thoughts on the ending that I wanted to share, so don’t read on if you haven’t read the book yet!

Continue reading

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Early Review: Cruel Beauty (Rosamund Hodge)

Early Review: Cruel Beauty (Rosamund Hodge)Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Published by HarperCollins on 28-01-2014
Genres: Family, Fantasy & Magic, General, Love & Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon
Goodreads

Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast in this sweeping fantasy about one girl's journey to fulfill her destiny and the monster who gets in her way-by stealing her heart.

Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she's ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex's secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.

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

I was cautiously optimistic about Cruel Beauty.  Optimistic because it sounded wonderful and I’ve heard great things about it, but cautious because I wasn’t sure whether it would live up to all the hype.  While I hoped I’d enjoy it, I never dreamed it would be a new favourite, and I certainly didn’t expect to absolutely love it the way I did.

Nyx has spent her whole life preparing for marriage to a monster.  She’s known for years that she has to marry the Gentle Lord as payment for a trade her father made before her birth.  She’s been trained in the Hermetic arts in the hopes of one day killing him, knowing it’ll likely take her life as well.  She’s an absolutely fantastic character, and one you can’t help but love.  She’s feisty, determined, sarcastic and witty.  She’s a dutiful daughter and a willing sacrifice.  Despite all that, she’s by no means perfect.  She gets angry, and bitter, and sometimes she hates everyone for expecting so much of her.  She’s impulsive and sometimes she wants to defy her duty and do her own thing.  She’s completely believable and three-dimensional which is what makes it so easy to like her.

Ignifex, as he’s known to Nyx, is the Gentle Lord.  Ruler of the kingdom, commander of the demons and master of evil bargains, Nyx doesn’t know what to expect, but it certainly isn’t a suave (but arrogant), handsome gentleman.  Ignifex has a sharp tongue and a sharper wit, and above all he’s entertaining to read.

There is a love triangle in Cruel Beauty, but it didn’t particularly bother me, perhaps because I thought it was obvious where it was going!  The third member of the triangle is Shade, a mysterious prisoner in Ignifex’s house, who seems to want to ally himself with Nyx but is incapable of betraying Ignifex.

I really enjoyed the romance in Cruel Beauty.  Whilst some of it was a little rushed, I enjoyed Nyx’s developing relationships with both Ignifex and Shade.  Ignifex is her husband, but he’s also an evil demon responsible for countless deaths, including that of Nyx’s mother.  Despite knowing that logically, Nyx can’t seem to help her attraction to him.  She can have fun with him, and show the darkest parts of her soul to him – but she also knows she has to kill him.  Shade is the innocent, gentle prisoner, but whilst Nyx is attracted to him, she feels guilty for desiring someone other than (or at times as well as) her husband.  At times distracted from her mission and her morals, the romance is a large part of the story, but in a good way.  It’s clear from the synopsis and the fact that it’s a fairy tale retelling that the romance will be key, so it doesn’t feel like it takes over the story, just that it was always supposed to take a central role.  It’s refreshing to read about a YA heroine who admits to her feelings for both men, and who doesn’t justify hand-wringing and indecisiveness by instantly announcing that she’s in love with both and can’t help it.

As well as the romance, we see a lot of Nyx’s familial relationships which were really well done.  Nyx has a twin sister, Astraia, and while it’s clear she loves her twin dearly, Nyx can’t help but also resent her for the fact Astraia will get to live a free life while Nyx goes to her doom.  Nyx sometimes hates Astraia, and more than that she hates herself for feeling that way, after all, it isn’t Astraia’s fault.  Nyx’s horribly confused mixture of love, protectiveness and resentment towards Astraia are wonderfully described.  The relationship between the twins is completely believable, and I found myself feeling exactly the same way towards Astraia that Nyx did!

The world-building in Cruel Beauty was the weakest part of the story for me.  While I really enjoyed the story, I didn’t ever feel like I could get completely lost in the world.  Elements of it such as rooms in Ignifex’s house and the graveyard were easy to picture but whilst the descriptive writing of concrete settings was fine, I struggled with the more abstract setting of the world itself.  I felt like the mixing of Greek mythology and other rituals took over a little in terms of world-building, so while I learnt a lot about the history of the world I couldn’t (for example) picture the architecture of the buildings or the town layout.

Despite my issues with the world-building, I absolutely loved Cruel Beauty.  The characters, the storyline, and the way Rosamund Hodge has managed to delicately weave the mythologies kept me captivated.  Cruel Beauty takes the story of Beauty and the Beast and adds wonderful elements such as Greek gods and ancient myths to produce something beautiful.  Despite the recognisable elements, Cruel Beauty feels fresh and exciting, rather than like a true retelling.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, and would happily re-read it.  In fact, I fully anticipate that the next time I read it, I’ll pick up on more details I hadn’t noticed this time!

Buy it? This is a new favourite, and one that’s definitely worth buying for me.
In a nutshell: A beautifully written, lush debut with a fantastic feisty heroine.  One to savour.

Other Reviews of Cruel Beauty: Readers in Wonderland | Good Books and Good Wine  | Happy Indulgence

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