Tag: music

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

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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Ten Pieces of Music That’ll Make You Think You’re In A Fantasy Novel

Posted September 20, 2016 by Hannah in Features, Top Ten Tuesdays / 4 Comments



Today’s Top Ten Tuesdays prompt was all about audio, and at first I was at a loss because I don’t listen to audiobooks, so the deliberation of what to post hit hard. It’s not that I don’t like audiobooks, it’s just that I can’t concentrate listening to them – I prefer reading by sight, basically. Then the lightbulb went off. Why don’t I share some of my favourite music – music that I’m currently writing a fantasy novel to?

If you’ve ever fallen in love with fantasy novels and wished that there was an epic soundtrack to go with it, chances are the author has already got a playlist, but here’s my favourite tracks that have such a fantasy vibe you’ll be wanting to pick up a sword in no time. And if you want more than the ten (or so, because there were some I couldn’t leave out!) I’ve listed here, I’ve put my Spotify playlist down the bottom for your entertainment.

So pop in your headphones for optimum listening please and enjoy!

The Twelve Towers (Unchartered 4: A Thief’s End) – Henry Jackman

I adore this soundtrack so much! This particular track has that real jungle, caught in the middle of a forest vibe. It’s also the inspiration for the start of my own fantasy novel, especially from the 2:00 mark, where my main character free falls off the back of a dragon. Fun stuff.

For Blood, For Glory, For Honour (Elder Scrolls Original Online Game Soundtrack)  – Jeremy Soule

If this piece doesn’t leave you ready to defend your kingdom from the evil sorcerer who has vowed to destroy everything you hold dear, then I don’t know what you’re doing with your life.

Flying With Mother (How To Train Your Dragon 2) – John Powell

How To Train Your Dragon is full of awesome music, but I love this piece the most. It’s so uplifting, it makes me feel like flying. In my own novel, it’s the music I listen to when writing the scene where my MC takes the King’s Seven, an elite task force of the King’s Guard, out riding their dragons for the first time. 

An Toll Dubh – Runrig

Fun fact: I discovered this track because of Maggie Stiefvater. If that doesn’t give you premise to listen and love it, I don’t know what else to do. She quoted it as a track from The Scorpio Races, which is really the only Stiefvater novel I’ve really enjoyed. This is just…I don’t know how to describe it. It’s utterly beautiful and will leave you with chills. 

Norwegian Pirate (Archangel) – Two Steps From Hell

This is one of my absolute favourite pieces of music from Two Steps From Hell. It’s full of pure heart racing adrenalin. The music is constantly going from crescendo to crescendo, it’s not hard to imagine that you’re battling foes on the water, fighting of pirates (or maybe you are the pirate!). It really conjures up the image of swinging from masts, Pirates of the Caribbean style.

Nero (Archangel) – Two Steps From Hell

If I haven’t convinced you about living the fantasy novel life yet, this one is sure to do it. Nero is pure magic. After reading Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch, I felt like this piece really encompassed Meira and her determination to save her Winter Kingdom. It’s just beautiful.

Heart of Courage (Invincible) – Two Steps From Hell

You’re probably sitting here going, “I’ve heard this!” That’s probably correct, there’s a 99% chance you’ve heard this piece of music, because it’s used in absolutely everything, from ABC News to The Bachelor, Heart of Courage is probably TSFH’s most recognisable piece of music. And why not? It’s insanely amazing.

El Dorado (SkyWorld) – Two Steps From Hell

Fun fact: This was the first Two Steps From Hell song I discovered (and subsequently fell in love with), and I owe it all to Susan Dennard, author of the Something Strange and Deadly series. This is the track that sprung my obsession with orchestral instrumental music and video game soundtracks, and I hope you love it just as much as I do. Definitely a great sword fighting or training scene, for sure.

Dragon Age Inquisition Theme (Dragon Age Inquisition) – Trevor Morris & Lindsey Stirling

I’ve posted two versions here, because I love the Lindsey Stirling video clip, but nothing beats the Trevor Morris original. This score is the whole theme song of my fantasy WIP, it’s just so inspirational. 

Cannon in D Minor (Battlecry) – Two Steps From Hell

If you aren’t listening with two earphones in then stop what you are doing, put them both in and turn your volume up as loud as your ears will allow (just be careful, okay). This score is as badass as they come. If you want to prepare yourself for battle, listen to this. If you can’t imagine yourself fighting your way through the battlefield Jon Snow style, I don’t know if I can help you. I’ll listen to this scene when I’m writing the fight scenes (of which there are many at this stage). 

Flight of the Silverbird (Battlecry) – Two Steps From Hell

If I had to choose a favourite piece of music by TSFH, it would be this. The inspiration behind my fantasy WIP. I don’t really know how to describe this piece of music, except that it is epic af. Just listening to it, my gosh. There is one particular scene in my WIP (that I can’t talk about bc spoilers), but the entire scene is based around this. 

Tarzan in Camp (Tarzan) – David Newman

Last but not least, one of my new favourite tracks is from the 2014 Tarzan. It’s only a short track, but it’s full of energy. My MC is tasked with training an untrainable dragon, and this is the score I listen to when I’m writing that particular scene.

For the full list of my playlist for Fire and Ash, see below!

So there it is – my list of great tracks should you want to pretend you’re in your favourite fantasy novel! Do you have any soundtrack or music score inspiration for me? Let me know in the comments!

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