Author: Hannah

Jazz & Friendship: Wonderful Feels Like This by Sara Lovestam

Posted May 15, 2017 by Hannah in Reviews, Young Adult / 0 Comments

Jazz & Friendship: Wonderful Feels Like This by Sara LovestamWonderful Feels Like This by Sara Lovestam
Published by Allen & Unwin on 29th March 2017
Pages: 318
Format: Paperback, Finished Review Copy
Source: Publisher
BoffinsDymocksBooktopiaPublisher
Goodreads

A celebration of being a little bit odd, finding your people and the power of music to connect us.

For Steffi, going to school everyday is an exercise in survival. She's never fit in with any of the groups at school, and she's viciously teased by the other girls in her class. The only way she escapes is through her music--especially jazz music.

When Steffi hears her favourite jazz song playing through an open window of a retirement home on her walk home from school, she decides to go in and introduce herself. The old man playing her favorite song is Alvar. When Alvar was a teenager in World War II Sweden, he dreamed of being in a real jazz band. Then and now, Alvar's escape is music--especially jazz music.

Through their unconventional friendship, Steffi comes to realise that she won't always feel alone. She can go to music school in Stockholm. She can be a real musician. She can be a jitterbug, just like Alvar.

But how can Steffi convince her parents to let her go to Stockholm to audition? And how is it that Steffi's school, the retirement home, the music and even Steffi's worst bully are somehow all connected to Alvar? Can it be that the people least like us are the ones we need to help us tell our own stories?

Wonderful Feels Like This was a beautiful coming of age story, and something completely different from what I’ve been reading recently, and turned out to be a refreshing contemporary about an unlikely friendship between retiree Alvar and schoolgirl Steffi after they discover their mutual love for all things jazz.

Steffi Herrera is a fifteen year old who loves jazz – especially Pavel Romel and wants to be a great musician one day too. Her quiet demeanour doesn’t fit in with the other kids at school, who torment her relentlessly with name calling, slut shaming and more. It’s in her music that she finds solace, and the power of words and lyrics that gives her strength day in and day out. On the way home from school one day, she hears her favourite piece of jazz, and meets Alvar, a resident in a retirement home in her small town of Bjorke. The pair quickly bond over their shared love for Pavel Romel, and Alvar delights Steffi with tales of his adventures growing up in neutral Sweden during World War Two.

The dual narration in this story was one of my favourite parts. Learning about a country I know little about – both historically and in general, was completely refreshing in a spate of generic reads over the past couple of weeks. It was interesting to see and recognise the parallels between both Steffi’s and Alvar’s life growing up – albeit at two very different periods of time. Alvar’s story of a young, nervous country boy moving to the big city of Stockholm at the age of seventeen at the height of World War Two was adorable and heartwarming all the way through, and really touching.  From Alvar’s stories, we get to see Steffi shine as she comes into herself. His stories give her the hope she needs to continue with her music, and to stand up against her bullies. Despite the doubts that every teenager gets, Steffi was able to persevere, knowing that there was something more for her than small town life and that knowledge she carried with her throughout the whole novel.

A surprising (but completely commendable and lovely aspect) was the understated message of diversity throughout the novel. I love reading about different cultures, and don’t do it nearly enough. Steffi might be a Swede, but her father – or Pappita – is Spanish, and it was interesting to see his cultural influence on his family and in Steffi’s life, especially from a non-English speaking perspective. I need to read more novels like this!! Another theme of the novel was identity. Steffi’s bullies often used lesbian as a slur, and this was something Steffi struggled with throughout the book. Because she didn’t find any of her classmates attractive, does this make her a lesbian? And what’s so wrong about that? The way Steffi draws her own conclusions was empowering to say the least.

As much as enjoyed this novel, I found aspects of it lacking at times. I felt like was on the outside looking in – never really connecting with the story. I wish there’d been a bit more depth and exploration between the characters – most of it seemed surface level, never really getting any deeper. I just liked it – I didn’t love it. I wanted so much more – more from the relationship between Alvar and Steffi. I felt that the ending was a little bit too quick, and then it was over. But in saying that, Wonderful Feels Like This was a heartwarming story that all ages will be able to enjoy.

Wonderful Like This by Sara Lovestam is published by Allen & Unwin and is now available from all good bookstores (support your local!) for RRP$29.99

 

 

 

 

 

 

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May 2017 New Releases Giveaway Hop!

Posted May 14, 2017 by Hannah in Giveaways / 18 Comments

Hello fellow book lovers! It’s that time of month again, the best time of the month – the New Releases Giveaway Hop!

It’s May, which means we’ve been in 2017 for five months now, and it’s going to be a super month of books. Of course. Every month is a super month in book land, but May is particularly awesome. It’s going to be a hard choice, that’s for sure. In series wrapping up, Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han will give you all the feels, and then there’s that book, A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J Maas, but we won’t go there. There are some amazing diverse contemporaries releasing this month, and I’m super excited to read When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon and I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo. On the fantasy side of things, Sara B Larson gives us her new book, Dark Breaks the Dawn and Renee Adhieh’s new series, Flame in the Mist is also released.

Who needs reality when you have books, right?

Anyway! Let’s get down to business!

So let’s without further ado head on to the best part of this post – the giveaway! Normal rules apply, but for those who are new (or don’t remember), here is the gist of it:

ONE (1) winner will win ONE (1) May 2017 New Release to the value of AUD$30. And as long as The Book Depository  ships to you, anyone can enter! Not sure if that’s you? The winners will have 48 hours from me contacting them to say hello, or another winner/s will be chosen. Side note: I am more than happy if the winner wants to choose two books up to the value of AUD$30, but both books MUST be released in May, or else it does not count.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And as always…

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Life, Amongst Other Things: Girl in Between by Anna Daniels

Posted May 13, 2017 by Hannah in Adult, Reviews / 2 Comments

Life, Amongst Other Things: Girl in Between by Anna DanielsGirl in Between by Anna Daniels
Published by Allen & Unwin on 1st May 2017
Pages: 320
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher, Finished Review Copy
DymocksBooktopiaiBooksPublisher
Goodreads

Lucy Crighton has just moved in with some gregarious housemates called Brian and Denise . . . who are her parents. She's also the proud mother of Glenda, her beloved 10-year-old . . . kelpie. And she has absolutely no interest in the dashing son of her parents' new next-door neighbour . . . well, maybe just a little.

When you're the girl in between relationships, careers and cities, you sometimes have to face some uncomfortable truths . . . like your Mum's obsession with Cher, your father's unsolicited advice, and the fact there's probably more cash on the floor of your parents' car than in your own bank account.

Thank goodness Lucy's crazy but wonderful best friend, Rosie, is around to cushion reality, with wild nights at the local Whipcrack hotel, escapades in Japanese mud baths, and double dating under the Christmas lights in London.

But will Lucy work out what she really wants to do in life and who she wants to share it with?

Girl in Between is a warm, upbeat and often hilarious story about life at the crossroads. Featuring an endearing and irrepressible cast of characters, it will have you chuckling from start to finish.

There’s something wonderful about connecting with a character and her story, and for me, that’s what Girl in Between was –  a novel of my own heart.

Lucy has just moved back home to her parent’s house in Rockhampton, one failed relationship and a career in journalism behind her. She’s at a crossroads in her life, and figuring out the next step is proving a lot harder than it looks. Throw in romance, friendships and family, Lucy is caught, almost quite literally, as new chapters of her life begin and end – she is the ‘girl in between.’

The Girl in Between was filled with great Aussie humour and witty charm. Lucy’s a country girl at heart, though having spent years in the big city developing her career in TV journalism. A failed attempted at following her ex boyfriend back to Queensland lands her at home with her Mum & Dad, two hilarious characters in their own right. Lucy’s unsure about her next move, or where her path is leading – something that resonates with any twenty or thirty something yet to find their place in the world. With that uncertainty brings a lot of different choices and highlight’s Lucy’s indecisive nature, as well as that worry about whether or not she’s choosing the right path. connected really well with Lucy; she’s the type of person I’d be friends with in real life. We also share the same fears and worries and a lot of her story resonated with me on a personal level.

The supporting cast as well are fantastic – as mentioned, Lucy’s parents are a barrel of laughs as they navigate retirement. I love how supportive of Lucy they are as well, but still encouraging her to find her feet. Lucy’s best friend, Rosie, was a character and bounded off Lucy beautifully. Then there’s the romance – it wasn’t over done, but rather subtle, and I loved that it didn’t eclipse Lucy’s self discovery. Oscar of course, was a dish, and I also enjoyed that the romance wasn’t straight forward, but they were still able to find their way back to each other.

From country Queensland to the bustle of London, Girl in Between was a charmingly funny novel about finding your place in the world – no matter how long it takes you to get there.

Girl in Between is published by Allen & Unwin and is now available from all good bookstores (support your local!) for RRP$29.99

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Girl in Between Blog Tour: An Ode To My Publisher:

Posted May 12, 2017 by Hannah in Blog Tours / 0 Comments

I’m so excited to have Anna Daniels, author of the funny and charming debut Girl in Between, as part of her blog tour! Keep scrolling as Anna talks about her relationship with her publisher, Louise Thurtell, and what it means to have someone just as passionate as you are in your dreams. And keep an eye out tomorrow for my review of Girl in Between, which is in bookstores now!

Hello! I’m typing this to you on Friday 5th May, having just heard the news that my publisher of Girl in Between, Louise Thurtell, is leaving Allen & Unwin after ten years.

Before I start sobbing into the keyboard, there’s a funny story behind Louise and I meeting, so I think I’ll begin with that.

In 2015, my manuscript was shortlisted for the Vogel Award, but at 38,000 words, it was very short, so whilst I knew deep down that Girl in Between would not win the prize, my dearest hope was that a publisher would recognise the potential in my writing, and wish to develop it with me. That person turned out to be Louise Thurtell!

I arrived at the Vogel’s party, held atop the Allen & Unwin terrace in Sydney in April 2016, knowing in the back of my mind that I’d like to meet Louise. I’d done a bit of stalking on the Allen & Unwin website and saw that Louise had started the Friday Pitch submission for A&U because she wanted to encourage more unpublished writers to send her their material. I also read in an interview where Louise particularly loved championing authors from rural and regional Australia, who might feel daunted by the publishing process.

I asked to be introduced to Louise at the party, and when we met, I immediately felt at ease. Louise grew up in Orange and I grew up in Rockhampton, so we got each other as ‘country girls’ from the very first. I told Louise that I’d brought my Mum and Dad along to the awards night, and she said she’d love to meet them. Well, that sparked off a very funny chain of events!

My parents are characters! They’re not as ridiculous as Brian and Denise in Girl in Between, but they’re very funny and lovable and have an uncanny ability to charm and disarm! I introduced Louise to them and walked away to retrieve drinks, and when I turned back I saw that Mum and Dad had Louise wedged between them on a couch! She could not escape!

They all got along like a house on fire, with Louise talking cattle and sheep with my Dad until apparently he at one point said to her, ‘So, are you going to be able to help this daughter of mine out or not?’ Louise then replied, ‘Well, you know her manuscript’s too short…she’d have to write another 40,000 words,’ to which Dad immediately said, ‘Oh Louise! She’d do that in her sleep!’  Too funny. To this day Dad still takes credit for sweet-talking Louise into giving me a publishing deal! He’s dreaming!

From that initial meeting at the Vogel’s party, Louise then requested my manuscript, and wrote back within the week saying she really enjoyed it and hoped we could turn it into an amazing novel. She said she thought I had the talent to do so. I almost fell off my chair when I read her email, and after I jumped up and down and patted myself on the back, I got down to business, workshopping ideas with Louise for how I could develop Girl in Between.

When you’re in the creative industries, you use your talents and pursue your passions, but sometimes you need just one person to believe in and champion you to help you achieve your dreams.

Louise instilled such blazing confidence in me and my writing that I never had a chance to doubt my ability to transform Girl in Between from a novella of 38,000 words to a novel of over 80,000 words…something I never thought I could do.

Girl in Between will be one of the final books which Louise publishes at Allen & Unwin, and I consider myself so lucky and fortunate to have worked with her.

Thanks very much for everything you’ve done for me and all the other debut authors in Australia, Louise. Best wishes for your next chapter!

Anna x

When you’re the girl in between relationships, careers and cities, you sometimes have to face some uncomfortable truths . . . like your Mum’s obsession with Cher, your father’s unsolicited advice, and the fact there’s probably more cash on the floor of your parents’ car than in your own bank account.

Thank goodness Lucy’s crazy but wonderful best friend, Rosie, is around to cushion reality, with wild nights at the local Whipcrack hotel, escapades in Japanese mud baths, and double dating under the Christmas lights in London.

But will Lucy work out what she really wants to do in life and who she wants to share it with?

Girl in Between is a warm, upbeat and often hilarious story about life at the crossroads. Featuring an endearing and irrepressible cast of characters, it will have you chuckling from start to finish.

Goodreads | Dymocks | Amazon AU | iBooks | Booktopia

Girl in Between by Anna Daniels is published by Allen & Unwin, RRP $29.99, available now.

 

Anna Daniels has enjoyed great success as a comedic storyteller since kicking off her career by winning the ABC’s ‘Comedy Segment of the Year Award’ for an interview with Russell Crowe. She then went on to co-create the ABC’s first online sketch comedy series ‘Tough at the Top’ with Melbourne comedian, Anne Edmonds.

For several years Anna wrote and presented funny upbeat stories for The Project, winning over viewers with her warm, silly, endearing style. Having grown up in Rockhampton, she particularly championed the stories and characters of rural and regional Australia with affection and humour. As well as The Project, Anna has written, presented and/or produced radio, TV and online content for Queensland Weekender, Red Symons’ Breakfast Show, and the BBC One series,  ‘John Bishop’s Australia.’ Anna continues to report for The Project and often presents on ABC Radio Brisbane.

Website | Twitter | Instagram

 

Follow the Blog Tour! Click on the interactive banner below for more great content about Girl in Between!

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Full of Hidden Potential – But Not Quite: The Hidden Hours by Sara Foster

Posted April 2, 2017 by Hannah in Adult, Reviews / 0 Comments

Full of Hidden Potential – But Not Quite: The Hidden Hours by Sara FosterThe Hidden Hours by Sara Foster
Published by Simon & Schuster Australia on 1st April 2017
Format: E-ARC
Source: Netgalley, Publisher
DymocksBooktopia
Goodreads

Keeping her secret may save her family.

But telling it may save her life.

Arabella Lane, senior executive at a children’s publisher, is found dead in the Thames on a frosty winter’s morning after the office Christmas party. No one is sure whether she jumped or was pushed. The one person who may know the truth is the newest employee at Parker & Lane – the office temp, Eleanor.

Eleanor has travelled to London to escape the repercussions of her traumatic childhood in outback Australia, but now tragedy seems to follow her wherever she goes. To her horror, she has no memory of the crucial hours leading up to Arabella’s death – memory that will either incriminate or absolve her.

As Eleanor desperately tries to remember her missing hours and uncover the events of that fateful night, her own extended family is dragged further into the dark, terrifying terrain of blame, suspicion and guilt.

Caught in a crossfire of accusations, Eleanor fears she can’t even trust herself, let alone the people around her. And soon, she’ll find herself in a race against time to find out just what happened that night – and discover just how deadly some secrets can be.

When I first saw the blurb for The Hidden Hours, I was extremely intrigued. Murder in a publishing house? I didn’t know I needed that! However instead of a thrilling cutthroat read that would put me off wanting to enter the industry, what I got instead was a bland, frustrating story that left me feeling unfulfilled.

In theory, The Hidden Hours was a great novel – however its execution was the biggest let down. The story follows Eleanor, who has moved to London to escape her traumatic childhood. There, she lives with her freelance architect uncle and his publishing industry bigwig wife, who is able to get Eleanor a PA position to one of the directors. Only a couple of weeks after Eleanor starts at Park & Lane, the marketing director, Arabella, is found dead in the Thames. And with the night of Arabella’s death a blank in Eleanor’s mind, it puts her directly in the crossfire as the mystery unravels, and accusations fly.

It’s hard to enjoy a book with a narrator like Eleanor. From the beginning, she’s a character that doesn’t do an awful lot but mope and whine. Which became old, fast. With this big chunk of her memory missing, rather than buckle up and take an active stance in trying to figure out her movements, she essentially just sat on her bum and complained about it. She blindly follows other peoples questions and manipulations. Basically, she doesn’t think for herself and that was what got me. The rest of the character set were about as uninteresting as each other. I never felt connected to any of them, and in the end I couldn’t really care who had done the crime. Even the little splash of romance felt mundane.

The Hidden Hours is essentially two stories. There’s what’s happening in the present, with Arabella’s death, and the past, which explains the traumatic childhood that has Eleanor fleeing Australia for the comforts of a new city. This seems to be a trend, I’ve noticed, in psychological thrillers. Dual narratives, one of which gives an insight into the main character’s past – and sadly, this doesn’t work for me. The chapters of Eleanor’s childhood were long and drawn out, too much information overload that was unnecessary at times, where you’re just screaming to yourself, Get to the point already! It made me less sympathetic by the end as well.

One thing I did love, however, was at the start of each chapter, you got to read a a snippet of all the different people connected to Arabella’s death – from hotel receptionists, strangers on a bridge, the police…it provided a unique insight into just how many different people were somehow a part of Arabella’s death.

Sadly though, I don’t think I’d be back for more. I’m craving edge of your seat, don’t trust anything, don’t read in the middle of the night psychological thrillers and this one missed the mark more than once.

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Life Updates + A Mini Break

Posted April 2, 2017 by Hannah in uncategorized / 1 Comment

It’s April!

How is it April? Once again, another year, shooting right by us. Time is marching on so quickly, I swear it’s giving me whiplash.

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Which brings me to this post. I don’t tend to do monthly updates – my life is boring enough without needing to share it with all of you! Pretty much the same on repeat month in month out. And as you can imagine…that gets pretty repetitive. In case you didn’t know, I’m currently midway in my Bachelor of Arts degree in Sydney…but I also work full time as well. So you can imagine – full time study + full time work makes for an awfully dull, stressful Hannah.

March was an incredibly stressful and busy month. Early March, I went home to WA for a few days for a friend’s birthday and surprised my parents while I was at it. That was fun. Being able to breathe and not think (well, more like ignoring) about university for a few days and just be around people I love filled my tank back up from empty. However that little sojourn quickly caught up with me, and I’ve been battling to catch up ever since. If I’m not at work, I’m at uni, and if I’m not at uni, I’m at work, or trying to catch up on sleep. But it never feels enough, and I can slowly feel the claws of anxiety sinking in, threatening to put me back in a place I don’t want to be in again.

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So on that note, in order to, well, get a little bit of order back in my life, I’m taking a mini break from the blog. It’s been just over a year now since I started blogging again, and none of the grand things I envisaged myself doing for the blog have really taken off. I’ve started questioning my place a little in the community, and where I fit in, and while I know that I love blogging, in order to maintain some calm in my life, I need to take a step back and re-prioritise. Everything will be left up, but there may be some days where the blog is down for maintenance as I fix some things up and retweak my theme and look. A break will also allow to catch up on my reading (outside of uni!) and reviews, as well as brainstorm new ideas without that looming panic of deadlines.

It’ll also give me time to work on my own personal health, both mentally and physically. As I said, I can feel those tendrils of anxiety weaving their way in, and for me right now, self doubt is a really big thing that I need to kick to the curb. I feel it in so many aspects of my life, and I know that it’s going to be a little while until I can next take a small break away from everything.

I’ll always be around on Twitter, albeit a little quietly, and my postings on #bookstagram will probably be sporadic to say the least. Until then, you probably won’t see any updates on the blog until the end of April/early May…and hopefully by then, uni stress impending, I’ll have some balance restored to my life! Because always remember, you need to take care of yourself first and foremost. And do know as well – if you are ever looking for someone to talk to – whether it’s about mental health, books, uni life, or life just in general – I’m always here!

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