Publisher: Simon & Schuster Australia

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
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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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Five Films to Watch After Reading Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

Posted April 2, 2017 by Hannah in Reviews, Young Adult / 1 Comment

Five Films to Watch After Reading Alex, Approximately by Jenn BennettAlex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett
Published by Simon & Schuster Australia on 1st April 2017
Pages: 368
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
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Bailey “Mink” Rydell has met the boy of her dreams. They share a love of films and talk all day – Alex is perfect. Well, apart from the fact that they’ve never actually met . . . and neither of them knows the other’s real name.

When Bailey moves to sunny California to live with her dad, who happens to live in the same town as Alex, she decides to track him down. But finding someone based on online conversations alone proves harder than Bailey thought, and with her irritating but charismatic (and potentially attractive?) colleague Porter Roth distracting her at every turn, will she ever get to meet the mysterious Alex?

From the author of Night Owls comes a story of summer, first love and hidden identities . . .

If you haven’t added the adorableness that is Alex, Approximately to your immediate TBR list, I say: WHAT ARE YOU DOING???? ADD IT NOW!

Alex, Approximately is, in my book, the perfect type of contemporary, one that blends humour, romance and real life issues seamlessly together that will have you laughing, crying and smiling the entire way through. And if you don’t, then I think you’re a monster and will force you to re-read it until you do.

Bailey “Mink” Rydell (I totally see what you did there, Ms. Bennett!) is our heroine, one film loving buff who has decided to move cross country to sunny California, leaving behind her mother who is going through what seems to be an icky second divorce. Bailey has ulterior motives for moving to Cali though – one ‘Alex’, the guy she talks to on a movie lover’s app, who just happens to live in the same town as her Dad. From the start of the book, ‘Alex’ tries to convince Bailey to come out and join him for the film festival happening at the end of the summer, but Bailey, who has self-nicknamed herself ‘The Artful Dodger’ (my kind of girl) is reluctant to let ‘Alex’ know that she’s actually moved across. As Bailey tries to suss out (very unsuccessfully, might I add), who the mysterious ‘Alex’ is, she navigates a world of new and old relationships and thus our story is born, and we get the cutest contemporary ever to grace your hands.

I haven’t read any of Jenn’s other books (Night Owls is sitting on my shelf, so I’m going to have to crack into that ASAP, I think!), but if they are the same quality that Alex is, then I cannot wait. Bailey’s voice is sharp and witty, and she’s also a highly relatable character – even at my ripe old age. Her insecurities and fears touch at your heart, and seeing her relationships grow with her father, Grace, and Porter were so beautiful. Especially her Dad – I adored their easy repertoire. You could see that Bailey was so much more comfortable around her Dad (even though I would have loved a little more resolution with her mother), and he pushed her to be the best person she could possibly be without being overbearing or pushy. It was so great to see a beautiful female friendship that was Bailey and Grace, Grailey and Braice. There wasn’t any cattiness or shaming between either of them, and not to other people as well. Then there’s Porter Roth, man who stole my heart. Banterous, brave, brilliant. I loved how much he challenged Bailey and how much Bailey challenged him. Like any romantic comedy, they were naturally drawn together, and, well…you’ll just have to read the book!

Of course, one of my other favourite aspects of Alex, Approximately was the nod to all the rom-coms and movies out there. Each chapter had a wonderfully accurate quote from movies I adore to pieces, and I was overjoyed that Bailey was a Cary Grant fan (who isn’t?!). In that spirit, I thought I’d choose five films you should watch after reading this amazing gem!

You’ve Got Mail

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Obviously, this insta-classic is one you must watch. In fact, I’m dying for a re-watch myself! This beautiful, quoteable film is one of my all time favourites and is also a comp title for the book. Which I find highly accurate! Definitely the best Meg/Tom rom-com out there, You’ve Got Mail tells the story of Kathleen Kelly as she navigates her way through an online friendship, while at the same time coming to blows with the big bad chain bookstore threatening her sales. It’s adorably nineties to watch now (AOL? What’s that?), but also a timeless classic.

While You Were Sleeping

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Another one of my favourite films of all time, set in Chicago over Christmas has Sandra Bullock mooning over Peter Gallagher (who doesn’t see her) – until one day, she saves him from almost death by train. At the hospital, Sandra tells a little white lie – that she’s Peter’s fiancee – so she can stay and make sure he’s okay. Of course, the family soon finds out, and even though they welcome Sandra with welcome arms, not everyone is convinced – especially the brother. It’s quirky, it’s cute and full of charm.

Roman Holiday

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Another film mentioned in Alex, Approximately, it’s definitely my favourite Audrey Hepburn film, and full of cute moments that any romantic will love. Basically, Audrey plays a European princess who bunks off duty for the day with Gregory Peck, not knowing he’s actually a journo wanting a scoop. It’s hilarious, it’s fun, it’s Rome, and it’s a feel good film. Plus Audrey Hepburn is a goddess and Gregory Peck isn’t bad on the eyes either!

My Best Friend’s Wedding

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I challenge any one to not love this film! Julia Roberts, Dermot Mulroney, Rupert Everett, Cameron Diaz. It’s the perfect cast. Full of hilarious moments, a musical number that will leave you clapping along and an ending so sweet. Basically Julia Roberts plays a woman who discovers that her best friend is marrying someone else…only problem is, she’s in love with him. So of course she’s going to go and break them up. Hijinks ensue, and you’ll finish thinking how glorious it was that perms went out of fashion because Julia, honey, that hair.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

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NOT the badly done 80s version, but we are talking musical here guys. The best thing you’ll ever see. I adored this MGM classic as a kid – and still do! Small town girl Milly accepts a marriage proposal from a farm boy, only to realise that he wants a housekeeper for him and his six brothers more than he does a wife. The musical numbers are glorious, the boys are cute af, and you can’t help but be impressed with the way Milly whips the boys into shape.

Have you seen any of these movies? Or do you have any other recommendations? Feel free to let me know in the comments below!

 

 

 

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Book Chat: Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway

Posted March 4, 2016 by Hannah in Reviews / 2 Comments

Book Chat: Emmy & Oliver by Robin BenwayEmmy & Oliver by Robin Benway
Published by Simon & Schuster Australia, HarperTeen on 16th July 2016
Pages: 320
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
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"Oliver's absence split us wide open, dividing our neighborhood along a fault line strong enough to cause an earthquake. An earthquake would have been better. At least during an earthquake, you understand why you're shaking. "

Emmy and Oliver were going to be best friends forever, or maybe even more, before their futures were ripped apart. But now Oliver is back, and he's not the skinny boy-next-door that used to be Emmy's best friend. Now he's the boy who got kidnapped. A stranger - a totally hot stranger! - with a whole history that Emmy knows nothing about.
But is their story still meant to be? Or are they like the pieces of two different puzzles - impossible to fit together?

Can I just say, I have a keen interest in stories like Oliver’s. I find the psychological behind cases like Oliver’s fascinating. The why especially. Maybe there’s a certain aura of mystery that shrouds missing persons cases, especially when they stay missing (which is sad) that projects that fascination. Which is why I was really keen to read this cute contemporary novel.

One of the great, readable aspects about Emmy & Oliver s is that it is a novel that is centred around Emmy’s relationships not just with Oliver, but with her best friends as well as her parents. I find that sometimes in contemporaries the romance takes over the story to a point where the secondary characters feel like they are just there, without any purpose other than just to pop up every now and again. That was definitely not the case in this book. The witty banter she had going on with her friends was so refreshing. It didn’t feel forced, but rather natural. My only issue was how many times dude was used. Is that really a thing, Californians?

Even though the novel is solely from Emmy’s point of view, Benway gives us more than a glimpse of how Oliver’s disappearance and subsequent return affected Caro and Drew as well, and how those bonds of friendship were repaired. One of the reoccurring themes throughout the story was the notion that it wasn’t the past that made you who you were today, but how you are in the now, and that was something that resonated with me a lot. There’s a huge difference from being a child and a teenager, and to hold on to a idealistic view of someone from years ago rather than the person they are now just seems wasteful.

Another great thing was Emmy’s relationship with her parents. It was there. It wasn’t just a plot device. Emmy had an actual human relationship with her folks, and I loved it. Though it was infuriating at times that Emmy was quite stubborn in talking to her parents about certain things, like the surfing, you could understand her need to please them and how much she did respect them – even if she wanted to break away from the stifling clutches of being a single child who has been witness to the fallout of Oliver’s abduction, she still manages to have a genuine repartee with them. You can feel the love on the pages.

Sadly, for all the good, there was the bad. Not that it was necessarily bad, but more disappointing. I didn’t feel invested in the romance between Oliver and Emmy for one. I felt it was a bit contrived, and slightly over done. The friendship between the two felt forced just to make way for a romance later on when they were teenagers. And it wasn’t just believable to me that Emmy had been hanging out for a guy all these years that she had thought she’d never see again, and when she did see him again, it was more on a romantic level rather than platonic. Which was why the end of the novel was a bit of a let down, as the romance took over and the tests of friendships and family between Emmy and her peers seemed to be hastily set aside and resolved without much fanfare.

The same went for the darker tone of the novel – Oliver’s abduction. I felt like it went around in circles a bit with the repetitiveness when Oliver was describing his emotions and feelings, especially in the case of his mum. I guess it was hard, because the novel was from Emmy’s POV, which meant we only saw things from her side, but that fascinating aspect of missing persons that I thought was going to be great wasn’t really there – and even the resolution at the end between Oliver and his father was skimmed across, making the rest of the novel a bit lacklustre.

Overall, while I can see how Emmy and Oliver has become a favourite between many readers, certain aspects of the novel fell flat, taking away from the great parts of the book. Yet at the same time I found myself enjoying the witty banter and the friendships Emmy had with her family, Caro & Drew (and Oliver). Definitely a good book for a lazy afternoon read!

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