There are three things you need to know about Jasper.
1. He sees the world completely differently. 2. He can’t recognise faces – not even his own. 3. He is the only witness to the murder of his neighbour, Bee Larkham.
But uncovering the truth about that night will change his world forever…
An extraordinary and compelling debut which will make you see the world in a way you’ve never seen it before.
I think it is virtually impossible to read this amazing book and not fall utterly, totally and overwhelmingly in love with Jasper!
He is as far as I am concerned he is an iconic character, who defines all that is wonderful about The Colour Of Bee Larkham’s Murder by Sarah J Harris.
Jasper has Prosopagnosia (face blindness) and Synesthesia, which means he sees sounds and hears colours, making him the most original character in a murder mystery novel for me at least, in all of my years of reading. It seems too simplistic to say that Jasper is easy to love, though he is, because he is a clever and complex creation, who see’s the world around him in ways we can only imagine. Therefore the story itself, being born of his singular personality, a one of a kind narrator, is moving, memorable and always extraordinary!
The only witness to the murder of his neighbour Bee Larkin, Jasper is the only chance the police have of finding who is responsible. His unique outlook on the world though, makes him an unreliable witness. The result being a series of events that left me as the reader alternately flabbergasted and deeply troubled, because you are never sure, if what Jasper is relating to us, can be relied on. It gives the story an edge of deception, as the writer uses Jasper’s complex view of people and actions, to fool and cajole us into misjudging the events that are being portrayed. Habit sees me the reader, interpreting events from the point of view of someone that can recognise faces and doesn’t see noises in colours and Sarah J Harris uses that trip us up and it really is glorious.
This novel shows us that the world can be viewed in so many ways, that we as individuals are complex and varied. It doesn’t use Jasper’s differences in a negative way, it celebrates them. Jasper is dazzling, heart warming and unique in every imaginable way and only by opening our eyes to his world of colour and the fact he can’t recognise faces, do we solve the case of Bee Larkin’s murder. His world is different, his innocence endearing, but his isolation is heart breaking and reminds us I hope, to celebrate our children in all their amazing variety and adapt the world we live in to embrace them!
But better still why not purchase it from an independent bookshop?
About the author
Harris. Sarah.J.Harris is the author of The Color of Bee Larkham’s Murder, her first adult novel. She also writes Young Adult books under the pen name, Sarah Sky, and has three books published by Scholastic. Sarah is a freelance education journalist who lives in London with her husband and two young children.
Leena is too young to feel stuck. Eileen is too old to start over. Maybe it’s time for The Switch…
Ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, Leena escapes to her grandmother Eileen’s house for some overdue rest. Newly single and about to turn eighty, Eileen would like a second chance at love. But her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible gentlemen… So Leena proposes a solution: a two-month swap. Eileen can live in London and look for love, and L Leena will look after everything in rural Yorkshire.
But with a rabble of unruly OAPs to contend with, as well as the annoyingly perfect – and distractingly handsome – local schoolteacher, Leena learns that switching lives isn’t straightforward. Back in London, Eileen is a huge hit with her new neighbours, and with the online dating scene. But is her perfect match nearer to home than she first thought?
I made the decision to tackle my ever expanding to be read pile of books a while ago, because despite what many feel, book bloggers do buy books!
I first read a book by Beth O’Leary when I was one of the shadow judging panel of book bloggers on The Women’s Comedy Prize for Fiction this year. I loved TheFlatshare and immediately bought The Switch as a result. It is as equally charming, delightful and joyful! Remarkable when it is dealing with such a difficult subject, grief!
Before reading The Flatshare, I admit, I would probably have bi passed this type of book, just because I didn’t perceive it as a book I would enjoy. Which is silly, because I genuinely have quite wide reading tastes! Yet from the first few pages, I knew that I loved it and wanted to read more books by this author and so I did.
The Switch is one of my favourite reads this year, light enough that the subject matter doesn’t feel overwhelming, full of humour and moments of intense emotion. Yet never, not once, do you feel as if the story is going to overwhelm you and the writer manages to open you up to difficult feelings, while holding you safely until the story ends. It is as the Welsh would say, a Cwtch in book form! Beth O’Leary’s writing is remarkable, in that she brings a lightness of touch to emotions and stories, that could in the hands of another writer, leave you an emotional mess, yet she never compromises on story or characterisation.
Here we have Leena a young women in desperate need to a break from her career and life in London, then there is her grandmother Eileen, newly single and looking for adventure after years of repressing her own needs. They are both looking for change and seeking a way to move forward, after their lives are derailed by loss and overwhelmed by waves of grief. The journey we take with them is full of bumps along the way, characters full of warmth and others misunderstood, both in good and bad ways.
The overwhelming feeling you have when reading The Switch is of utter contentment. I loved the drama, especially Leena’s attempts to win over the unruly OAP’s of her former home, which had me in stitches of giggles. Then there was her grandmother’s building of a community in a corner of London, that had me feeling warm and happy. This novel is full of a myriad of moments, that taken together, form a story that charmed me so much, I not only looked forward to curling up with it, I immediately started thinking of people I know would love reading it. So it is on my list for birthday and Christmas present buying, or just to say thank you.
I am looking forward to reading the writers next book, with a smile and a renewed commitment, to try all books, not matter if I think they are my cup of coffee or not!
Or why not order from a local independent bookshop?
About the author
Beth O’Leary is a Sunday Times bestselling author whose novels have been translated into more than thirty languages. Her debut, THE FLATSHARE, sold over half a million copies and changed her life completely. Her second novel, THE SWITCH, has been optioned for film by Amblin Partners, Steven Spielberg’s production company. Beth writes her books in the Hampshire countryside with a very badly behaved golden retriever for company. If she’s not at her desk, you’ll usually find her curled up somewhere with a book, a cup of tea and several woolly jumpers (whatever the weather).
Born in 1905, Daisy Goodwill drifts through the chapters of childhood, marriage, widowhood, remarriage, motherhood and old age. Bewildered by her inability to understand her own role, Daisy attempts to find a way to tell her own story within a novel that is itself about the limitations of autobiography.
I have to admit to having mixed feelings about The Stone Diaries and have been thinking about how to word this review for weeks. It is without a doubt a work of brilliance. The story and writing detailing a life lived through two wars, a century of change and yet it’s not about the big events, its about an ordinary life. Daisy Goodwill’s story glides through these events taking us on a journey as she struggles to understand her place in the world and the connections to others that float in and out of her orbit. The seasons come and go, the cycle of life forming the backdrop of her story.
Carol Sheild writes the story as if Daisy is trying to write her life in the form of an autobiography and it gives the story an almost detached feeling, less emotional, than the drama that comes from your typical fictional narrative. There is a wealth of intricate details and observations as she observes not just her own birth, but as age and fragility overtake her, she becomes a witness to her own death and the emotional impact that has on her family. It’s almost as if Carol Shield when writing The Stone Diaries is sat not at a typewriter, but her table, fitting together the pieces of a puzzle! Each person, each moment and event is slotted together into an intricate patchwork, that becomes the ordinary and yet quite amazing life of Daisy. Lived in a century of unapparelled conflict and social change, yet the big events sit on the periphery of the story, while we get to know Daisy’s day to day struggles.
It is a work of immense talent, of in intrinsic understanding of human nature and the infinite variety of human emotions. I revelled in and loved the way Carol Shields celebrated the minutiae of life and the emotional repression that seemed to dog Daisy, of her subjection of all that she could have been in favour of life as a housewife and mother. My only thought was, though I enjoyed the story immensely and recognised the writing was stunning, yet I felt no emotional connection with Daisy as a person. I’m not sure if that was the intent and it didn’t effect my enjoyment of the book. Oddly for me, it mirrored that aspect of Daisy’s I found most striking, her lack of expression of her own needs and wonts. Her life, born from a moment of trauma, seems to have left her suppressing those aspects of her character that would have given her life more meaning.
It is a stunning read, slow paced and full of the ordinary made extraordinary. I just wish that Daisy’s inner most feelings and wants were given more expression.
It is regardless of my own slight reservations, a novel worthy of the title of a modern classic.
Carol Shields (1935–2003) was born in the United States, and emigrated to Canada when she was 22. She is acclaimed for her empathetic and witty, yet penetrating insights into human nature. Her most famous novel The Stone Diaries was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, along with the Governor General’s Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Happenstance was praised as her tour de force, masterly combining two novels in one. The international bestseller Mary Swann was awarded with the Arthur Ellis Award for best Canadian mystery, while The Republic of Love was chosen as the first runner-up for the Guardian Fiction Prize. In 2020, the Carol Shields Prize for Fiction, a North American literary award dedicated to writing by women, was set up in her honor. Her work has been published in over 30 languages.
My name is Nat Davy. Perhaps you’ve heard of me? There was a time when people up and down the land knew my name, though they only ever knew half the story.
The year of 1625, it was, when a single shilling changed my life. That shilling got me taken off to London, where they hid me in a pie, of all things, so I could be given as a gift to the new queen of England.
They called me the queen’s dwarf, but I was more than that. I was her friend, when she had no one else, and later on, when the people of England turned against their king, it was me who saved her life. When they turned the world upside down, I was there, right at the heart of it, and this is my story.
Inspired by a true story, and spanning two decades that changed England for ever, The Smallest Man is a heartwarming tale about being different, but not letting it hold you back. About being brave enough to take a chance, even if the odds aren’t good. And about how, when everything else is falling apart, true friendship holds people together.
I was amazed to discover that The Smallest Man is Frances Quinn’s first novel! It is simply put, a accomplished debut.
What I needed when I picked up this novel, was a story and character, I could loose myself in, that I would love and be inspired to buy for everyone. The Smallest Man is, I am delighted to say, all those things and when it’s published on the 7th of January 2021, I will be buying it for friends and family!
Why? Because it is historical writing at it’s best!
Here we have a story about how anything is possible and that love knows no boundaries. Nat Davy might be small, but his story, his character, his life at court and the battles he faces are anything but. He is so easy to love and inspiring. So much so that I just couldn’t help myself, I cheered him on. Wanting him to find his place in a world, set up to exclude him because of his size and it was Frances Quinn’s extraordinary story telling that brought this all this to life.
She was inspired by real life when writing The Smallest Man, but rather than this being a tale championing the life of a King and Queen, it is something far more unique. Not only is it the story of Nat Davy’s life, it is told from his unique perspective. We are in the court of Charles I and his French born wife Henrietta Maria, yet what we see it is infinitely more fascinating and emotionally more astute, because Nat is used to show the humanity behind the rulers, often missed from grander historical narratives.
Frances Quinn wraps this all up in a story peppered with wonderfully wrought characters, from Nat himself, who is determined to not be defined by his size. Then there is the Queen, who blossoms within his life story, from an unhappy child bride, to his monarch and his friend. Not everyone is on Nat’s side, there are bully’s and dangerous enemies that he is pitted against, meaning this novel doesn’t just have emotional depth, it has that one thing all historical tales need, excitement and drama! Told over two decades, it takes Nat himself from child to manhood and along the way, we are treated to a fascinating and enchanting tale of a remarkable character and a story of life infinite possibilities.
You can purchase this novel from Amazon, Waterstones and from your local independent bookshop.
About the author
Frances Quinn read English at King’s College, Cambridge, and is a journalist and copywriter. She has written for magazines including Prima, Good Housekeeping, She, Woman’s Weekly and Ideal Home. She lives in Brighton with her husband and who Tonkinese cats. The Smallest Man is her first novel. Follow her on Twitter @franquinn.
Chris knows he will never get over his anxiety. He didn’t want a ‘How to get better’ book. He wanted to understand his condition. So he wrote this book.
An honest heart-breaking account of how generalized anxiety disorder affected Chris, his family and everyone around him, yet went undiagnosed.
Having suffered from anxiety myself, as so many have, I was glad to be offered this book to review! Especially as I have a young family member who is going through the same levels of anxiety, that Chris Westoby describes in this deeply moving and utterly fascinating account. I wanted to be able to understand the crushing levels of anxiety that have left her unable to attend a mainstream school. Because although as I said above, we all at one time of another suffer from this depilating condition, most of us can not perceive of the ways it impacts of everyday life and relationships. How it can cut of suffers from normal interaction with society, leaving them isolated, often wrongly perceived as insolent and aloof.
The Fear Talking by Chris Westoby is a brutally honest account of the crippling anxiety that he started to suffer from as a young man. How it affected every aspect of his life, relationships and education. He did not go through this in isolation though, his family were affected as well, when he was unable to face trips away, or watching while his hands were left cracked and bleeding from excessive washing.
I recognised such behaviour, the almost unbearable pressure it puts not just the sufferer under, but their parents. I wish I had been able to read this book earlier! I feel I could then have been better able to understand and recognise why a child I loved and believed to be capable of anything, suddenly became terrified of the world around them.
By taking to us about how this condition affected him, Chris Westoby, peels away those layers of isolation and enables us to recognise and support suffers. Understanding is key and his writing gives a voice to those often locked away and misunderstood. He lets us know what it is really like, how he and so many others become caught up in a form of social paralysis, often made so much worse by the inability to explain how they feel. Watching as the world constricts around them, at a time when it should open and reveal a myriad of possibilities, While their peers are taking strides into the wider world and independence, Chris and others face the very real fear that anxiety will cripple every aspect of their lives.
This book is a very important read and I think one that should be read by all of us. Ignorance and misunderstanding create barriers and leave suffers feeling judged and misunderstood. It took bravery to put this out into the world and although The Fear Talking is not always an easy to read , it is critical reading if we to understand that our mental health is as important as our physical health.
The Fear Talking is not a work of fiction, it is a true story. Chris Westoby is not alone in going through this and his words should be recognised, as an opportunity to better understand ourselves and those whose lives are controlled by this debilitating condition. Read it and the next generation hopefully won’t feel unable to seek help.
About the author
Chris Westoby has a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Hull, where he is now Programme Director of the Hull Online Creative Writing MA. He guest lectures in subjects of mental health, teaches reflective writing to Mental Health Nursing Students, and runs cross-faculty writing workshops. Chris was born and raised in Barton, on the Lincolnshire side of the Humber, where he still lives.
Today I’m welcoming a young author and her debut to booksaremycwtches.
There is a chance to win a copy of this children’s Christmas tale!
About the book
When ten-year-old Bella Matthews and her mum, Isabel, visit Granny Sylta in the snowy village of Lakersfield for Christmas, it turns out there is more in store than just Christmas cake and a ton of presents.
When she arrives, she meets her cousin Rita and a boy called Tommy for the first time, and catches up with her friend Iris again too. Together they discover an exciting attraction is in town: A giant Christmas Wonderland Theme Park. They are dazzled by hundreds of decorated Christmas trees, a Musical Nativity, a Santa Parade, an Upside Down House, and many more attractions.
But Bella ends up having an unexpected adventure of her own as she dances with pot-bellied Santas, discovers a palace made entirely out of glass, wanders into an intriguing puzzle room, and treks for miles to find shelter on a snowy night.
Can Bella find her way back to Granny Sylta’s house in time for Christmas dinner?
Lost in Christmas Wonderland is a story about courage, kindness, friendship, the importance of family, and the magic of Christmas.
Why not enter the giveaway?
LOST IN CHRISTMAS WONDERLAND PUBLICATION DAY GIVEAWAY! To celebrate the release of Lost in Christmas Wonderland, Annabelle is giving away a marshmallow cake. In her book, the family makes a huge fuss over granny’s Christmas marshmallow cake that she makes every year. In one chapter, granny Sylta asks Rita to buy a bag of marshmallows at the Christmas Wonderland theme park, and throughout the book there’s always a mention of this delightful cake. Annabelle has decided to give one person the chance to win a marshmallow cake to enjoy! There’s also a second prize, you can win a box of candy canes.
Here’s what you need to do to enter. 1) Follow Annabelle on her Instagram page at @annabellepresents 2) Find this picture of the marshmallow cake and leave a comment. Tell her what your favourite theme park ride is, or used to be, or just anything you enjoy about visiting a theme park, and that’s it.
The giveaway closes on the 8th of December at midnight. Winners announced at random on Annabelle’s Instagram page @annabellepresents This competition is open to UK residents only.
Annabelle is nine years old and lives in London. The inspiration for her book came after she visited Winter Wonderland in London’s Hyde Park in November 2019 with her mum, dad, little brother Andre, and Granny Sylta. It was here she first saw an Upside Down House and had heaps of fun filming and visiting all of the rooms. Annabelle was so fascinated that she decided to vlog about it on her Youtube channel. Click here to watch the video. Shortly after her visit, she thought how fun it would be to write a story about a girl who visits a Christmas theme park with some friends and goes on a little adventure. Outside of school, Annabelle enjoys playing with her brother, vlogging about books she’s read, and places she’s visited. She also likes making up dance routines to songs that are trending on Tiktok. When she wants to have a giggle, she plays Guess Who with her mum. Her favourite authors are Alesha Dixon, Trish Cooke, David Walliams, and Ben Miller. She also likes reading magazines like First News For Kids and Cocoa Girl. This is Annabelle’s first book, and she hopes you like it.
When the body of a nineteen-year-old girl is found on the main street of Siglufjörður, Police Inspector Ari Thór battles a violent Icelandic storm in an increasingly dangerous hunt for her killer … The chilling, claustrophobic finale to the international bestselling Dark Iceland series.
Easter weekend is approaching, and snow is gently falling in Siglufjörður, the northernmost town in Iceland, as crowds of tourists arrive to visit the majestic ski slopes.
Ari Thór Arason is now a police inspector, but he’s separated from his girlfriend, who lives in Sweden with their three-year-old son. A family reunion is planned for the holiday, but a violent blizzard is threatening and there is an unsettling chill in the air.
Three days before Easter, a nineteen-year-old local girl falls to her death from the balcony of a house on the main street. A perplexing entry in her diary suggests that this may not be an accident, and when an old man in a local nursing home writes ‘She was murdered’ again and again on the wall of his room, there is every suggestion that something more sinister lies at the heart of her death…
As the extreme weather closes in, cutting the power and access to Siglufjörður, Ari Thór must piece together the puzzle to reveal a horrible truth … one that will leave no one unscathed.
Chilling, claustrophobic and disturbing, Winterkill marks the startling conclusion to the million-copy bestselling Dark Iceland series and cements Ragnar Jónasson as one of the most exciting authors in crime fiction.
Am I allowed to simply write as my review, that this book, this novel, this story comes from the hands of a master storyteller? I think so.
Could I just describe it as an artful telling of the events around the death of a young girl and end it there? Definitely, because that is how I feel!
That Winterkill by Ragnar Jonasson brings the best selling Dark Iceland Series to a close and it is an utter triumph! Oh it is.
I can, because it’s my blog and my rules, but I feel the need to explain and so here we go!
Inside the cover the author writes that he bought Ari Thór Arason back because fans wanted one more story. A risk for any author, given that the previous book was utterly brilliant! Do you give readers what they want and risk the impact of the series being lessoned, by stretching it beyond your original vision? We have all loved TV series, that should of ended on a high, milking a idea dry and leaving viewers disappointed. But don’t worry, you won’t be disappointed by Winterkill, because it is dazzling and the only thing I was devastated about, was that this is the end of a series of iconic stories.
From the opening moments, an intricate web of events is created around the death of a girl. We are drawn into the lives of the inhabitants of Siglufjörður as Ari seeks the truth behind her death. Was she killed or was it suicide? We feel at this moment, that the investigation is an open and closed, that Ari is working in an essentially quiet town, but this is a façade and death and heartbreak lurk just below the surface.
The atmosphere within Winterkill feeds into this and is achieved by harnessing mother nature, the power of a storm to ramp up the tension and create a chilling claustrophobia in both reader and the narrative. As Ari seeks answers, a gentle storm turns into what feels like a tempest brewing around them all. The world and Ari’s investigation is being confined to this small isolated village, trapping the inhabitants and leaving no room for secrets to remain hidden. It’s incredible how Ragnar Jonasson creates a set piece which traps all the main characters where time and Ari’s analytical mind will leave them with nowhere to run. It all felt so real, so utterly possible, that I was minded to check outside my own windows for clouds which promised snow and isolation.
I thought more than once I had guessed the final outcome, but that smug attitude was soon wiped off my face. A vivid cast of characters were presented to me, all seemingly normal, law abiding citizens, yet in truth the fake facades Ragnar Jonasson taunted me with, hid darker personalities and hidden evil. Ari seeming to be the only one I felt I could trust, but here to, the writer laid false trails for me to follow and then ripping the veneer of respectability away, revealed our beloved hero was surrounded by both good and sinfulness, I just had to trust him to reveal at the the truth at the right time.
He did and this the last in Dark Iceland Series is a masterpiece of understated, stark and terrifying storytelling, by the master of Icelandic crime writing. A true classic and as I said at the start of this review an utter triumph.
But why not consider ordering it from your local independent bookshop? If you don’t have one, most will post to you!
About the author
Icelandic crime writer Ragnar Jónasson was born in Reykjavík, and currently works as a lawyer, while teacher copyright law at the Reykjavík University Law School. In the past, he’s worked in TV and radio, including as a news reporter for the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service. Before embarking on a writing career, Ragnar translated fourteen Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic, and has had several short stories published in German, English and Icelandic literary magazines. Ragnar set up the first overseas chapter of the CWA (Crime Writers’ Association) in Reykjavík, and is co-founder of the International crime-writing festival Iceland Noir. Ragnar’s debut thriller, Snowblind became an almost instant bestseller when it was published in June 2015 with Nightblind (winner of the Dead Good Reads Most Captivating Crime in Translation Award) and then Blackout and Rupture following soon after. To date, Ragnar Jónasson has written five novels in the Dark Iceland series, which has been optioned for TV by On the Corner. He lives in Reykjavík with his wife and two daughters.
Visit him on Twitter @ragnarjo or at ragnarjonasson.com
About the translator
David Warriner translates from French and nurtures a healthy passion for Franco, Nordic and British crime fiction. Growing up in deepest Yorkshire, he developed incurable Francophilia at an early age. Emerging from Oxford with a modern languages degree, he narrowly escaped the graduate rat race by hopping on a plane to Canada – and never looked back. More than a decade into a high-powered commercial translation career, he listened to his heart and turned his hand again to the delicate art of literary translation. David has lived in France and Quebec, and now calls beautiful British Columbia home.
Welcome to a series of posts that chart my wonderful reading year, 2020. I don’t have the time to review all the books I read and wanted I way to celebrate each one. So I’m going to do a monthly post of all the wonderful books I’ve been reading that month. Short snappy reviews, simple comments about why I enjoyed them so much.
It is a scary world out there at the moment and my reading is suffering, but I am keeping it up and hoping my reading mojo doesn’t disappear totally.
Sending Cwtches to all those that need one.
So welcome to my celebration of my reading in November 2020.
The first book I finished this month was the stunning When I Come Home by Caroline Scott. Deeply moving and beautiful written this novel is without doubt a contender for my book of the year!
Following this came two fabulous and very different non fictions books.
Boy Erased – A Memoir of Identity, Faith and Family Garrard Conley. This is the story of a young man journey to acceptance and his deeply damaging time undergoing church supported conversation therapy to cure him of his homosexuality. It is a complex and moving tale, heartbreaking and yet also a powerful story of survival.
And the The Greatest Beer Run Ever – A Crazy Adventure In A Crazy War by John “Chick” Donohue and JT Molloy. On the first looking at this book I was expecting a very macho feeling adventure story, but it is much more nuanced than that. It is a story about friendship and coming to terms with a war that was both pointless and tragic.
My next fiction read was Fallen Angels by Gunnar Staalesen. Dark and troubling this is another stunning offering from the author who never allows his character to become static, also ensuring he evolves within the narrative.
Dead Already by Tim Adler turned out to be much more than your run of the mill thriller. Full of ghostly atmosphere and the tale of a man tortured by sins from his past.
Following this, WinterKill by Ragnar Jonasson was a cleverly constructed, atmospheric triumph. The last in the series, I was sad that the journey was over, but glad it ended on with such a magnificent story.
My next non-fiction read was the moving and compassionate story of a young life lived with extreme anxiety. In The Fear Talking -The True Story of A Young Man And Anxiety by Chris Westoby, the author bravely tells how his life came to be controlled by a condition every bit as devastating as physical illness. Powerful reading.
Then came the wonderful The Smallest Man by Francis Quinn. Historical drama at it’s best.
Well that is another reading month that has sped past, excited to reading some fabulous books in December!