Title: Dear Evan Hansen

Author: Val Emmich

Pages: 368 Pages

Publisher: Little Brown for Young Readers

The Blurb

From the show’s creators comes the groundbreaking novel inspired by the hit Broadway show Dear Evan Hansen

Dear Evan Hansen, 

Today’s going to be an amazing day and here’s why…

When a letter that was never meant to be seen by anyone draws high school senior Evan Hansen into a family’s grief over the loss of their son, he is given the chance of a lifetime: to belong. He just has to stick to a lie he never meant to tell, that the notoriously troubled Connor Murphy was his secret best friend.

Suddenly, Evan isn’t invisible anymore–even to the girl of his dreams. And Connor Murphy’s parents, with their beautiful home on the other side of town, have taken him in like he was their own, desperate to know more about their enigmatic son from his closest friend. As Evan gets pulled deeper into their swirl of anger, regret, and confusion, he knows that what he’s doing can’t be right, but if he’s helping people, how wrong can it be?

No longer tangled in his once-incapacitating anxiety, this new Evan has a purpose. And a website. He’s confident. He’s a viral phenomenon. Every day is amazing. Until everything is in danger of unraveling and he comes face to face with his greatest obstacle: himself.

A simple lie leads to complicated truths in this big-hearted coming-of-age story of grief, authenticity and the struggle to belong in an age of instant connectivity and profound isolation.

The Review

Some books are difficult to read. Not because the words are too hard – I’m a prolific reader and a graduate of English Literature, don’t you know. They are difficult because – as with all books – you have no control over the characters and as much as you would like to subtly whisper in their ears the right choices and the right paths to take, you just can’t.

This was true of Dear Evan Hansen. Oh Evan, what are we going to do with you? Evan finds himself in a completely horrible situation. As the saying goes, he is stuck between a rock and a hard place. On the day that Evan’s classmate Connor Murphy dies he and Evan have had an altercation which leads Connor’s parents to believe that Connor and Evan were friends. More than that, they believe that Connor’s suicide note was left to Evan. Much to Evan’s dismay, the note is actually a letter he wrote to himself on the advice of his therapist. How can he explain himself without ruining the last remnants of hope from Connor’s family and without making himself look crazy in the meantime?

Dear Evan Hansen is cringeworthy in all the right places and you feel yourself spiral deeper into the abyss alongside Evan. You feel the oppressive air become closer and tighter the more and more lies that Evan has to tell. It is a book that you cannot read passively. And the frustrating thing is that you know the story can only end one way but like Evan you keep looking for escape routes. It is that sort of novel.

Dear Evan Hansen has to have been one of the most immersive YA novels that I have read in a long time…and I bloody loved it.

Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich is available now.

For more information regarding Val Emmich (@ValEmmich) please visit www.valemmich.com.

For more information regarding Little Brown for Young Readers (@LittleBrownYR) please visit www.LBYR.com.

Title: Roots of the Revival – American and British Folk Music in the 1950s

Author: Ronald D Cohen and Rachel Clare Donaldson

Pages: 216 Pages

Publisher: University of Illinois Press

The Blurb

In Roots of the Revival: American and British Folk Music in the 1950s, Ronald D. Cohen and Rachel Clare Donaldson present a transatlantic history of folk’s midcentury resurgence that juxtaposes the related but distinct revivals that took place in the United States and Great Britain.

After setting the stage with the work of music collectors in the nineteenth century, the authors explore the so-called recovery of folk music practices and performers by Alan Lomax and others, including journeys to and within the British Isles that allowed artists and folk music advocates to absorb native forms and facilitate the music’s transatlantic exchange. Cohen and Donaldson place the musical and cultural connections of the twin revivals within the decade’s social and musical milieu and grapple with the performers’ leftist political agendas and artistic challenges, including the fierce debates over “authenticity” in practice and repertoire that erupted when artists like Harry Belafonte and the Kingston Trio carried folk into the popular music mainstream.

From work songs to skiffle, from the Weavers in Greenwich Village to Burl Ives on the BBC, Roots of the Revival offers a frank and wide-ranging consideration of a time, a movement, and a transformative period in American and British pop culture.

The Review

As a fan of music history I was eager to read this book. Ok it had been on my shelf for a long time but I was waiting for the right time to dip into it. I kind of wish I hadn’t now. It is not that the writers don’t know their stuff – they clearly do but Roots of the Revival which should have been a fascinating read about the history of folk music was just plain boring. I will tell you why – there seemed to be an over-emphasis on getting everything right. It felt like the writers were determined to make sure that every person who was at every event or moment in folk history was named. I felt like I was cycling through hummus trying to get through the tiresome lists that seemed to appear every chapter. A lot of these could have been added as footnotes. It made the reading experience boring.

Roots of the Revival by Rachel Donaldson and Ronald Cohen is available now.

Title: I Was Saved by the Bell – Stories of Life, Love, and Dreams That Do Come True

Author: Peter Engel

Pages: 272 Pages

Publisher: Top Hat Words

The Blurb

Peter Engel, one of the most prolific producers in television with more than 1,000 episodes produced under his banner, single handedly created the teen sitcom with Saved By The Bell, which he executive produced through all of its many incarnations, and which led to his many other teen series, including California DreamsHang TimeCity Guys, and USA High. As if defining and conquering the teen arena wasn’t enough, Peter produced the iconic Last Comic Standing, enabling the discovery of an entirely new, fresh generation of comedians.

All of this would be more of a career than any producer could ever dream of having, and with more than 50 years in the television industry, Peter has forgotten more than most will ever know. But Peter’s story isn’t just his professional success; his life and work touched and inspired an entire “Bell” generation, whose values and views of a diverse world were shaped by the stories and plain old fun of Peter’s shows.

There is also another side of Peter that most don’t know—his personal journey that began in New York City’s Upper West Side; his discovery of television the night his family’s brand new TV lit up the living room; his first taste of creative success; the injustices of the 1950s; working for JFK’s election in 1960, with the catastrophic letdown that followed; his dream in the 1970s of making “important” television; his loves, marriages, family, and faith; and, in the 1990s and 2000s, finding his greatest success where he least expected it. Along the way, Peter encountered some of the most iconic personalities of his times—John Lennon, Orson Welles, Bette Davis, Jacques Cousteau, John DeLorean, and, of course, John F. Kennedy, among them—and great stories always followed.

I Was Saved by the Bell is the chronicle of Peter’s amazing journey. His stories will make you laugh, cry, and want them never to end. Together, they are a master class on life from the perspective of a man who grew up during a time of great uncertainty and came of age in an era of hope and promise. With the ups and downs of the decades as a backdrop, Peter opens his heart and shares the experiences of his own good times, bad times, reflection, redemption, and, ultimately, joy and satisfaction of a life lived the only way he could—with passion.

The Review

Like most children of the 90s – if I can be so bold and presumptuous – my weekends were spent watching Saved by the Bell, California Dreams, Hang Time among many many others. The man behind these programs was Peter Engel.

Peter Engel, to me, was just a name. A production company that managed to keep me entertained of a weekend. After reading his autobiography I now know that he was so much more. Engel has led a very colourful life that has saw highs and lows – love, marriage, family, divorce, drug abuse and failure. Throughout it all, we have to nod to his success story and that is making some of the most memorable teenage television of the 90s. Whilst looking back on some of the programs now as an adult they may seem hokey in our media drenched unshockable society but some the earliest life lessons I had came from his television factory.

I Was Saved by the Bell is a really interesting read and gives a backstage pass to the – at times – cruel world – of television.

I Was Saved by the Bell by Peter Engel is available now.

For more information regarding Peter Engel (@RealPeterEngel) please visit www.iwassavedbythebell.com.

Title: Diary of a Beatlemaniac – A Fab Insider’s Look at the Beatles Era

Author: Patricia Gallo Stenman

Pages: 202 Pages

Publisher: Cynren Press

The Blurb

Driven by the frenzy of fan clubs, Beatles concerts, and endless dreams and meeting schemes, Diary of a Beatlemaniac: A Fab Insider’s Look at the Beatles Era romps through the heady, roller-coaster days of Beatlemania as seen through the eyes of one Philadelphia schoolgirl and her band of “Beatle Buddies.” Compiled from the author’s own diary and extensive scrap-booking, and featuring a wealth of original photographs and exclusive interviews with Victor Spinetti and Hy Lit, this extraordinary slice of life peeks into the heart of an inner-city teen at the forefront of Beatlemania. For Beatlemaniacs of any age, this memoir offers a unique glimpse into the groovy days of the Swingin’ Sixties and the chance to relive the magic of the pop-culture phenomenon called the Beatles.

The Review

As those of you who have read my reviews before may know, I am always drawn to books about The Beatles. Call it a bit o home town glory but being from Liverpool it is hard to escape what The Beatles did for Liverpool and what their legacy still does. So bank holiday weekend in August – also known as The Beatles Festival in Liverpool – I sat and read Diary of a Beatlemaniac by Patricia Gallo Stenman.

Now, I have read a lot about The Beatle but I can honestly say that I have never read anything from an actual fan of the band. This was really refreshing. Patricia Gallo Stenman has kept memorabilia from her days as a fan of the Fab Four. More than that, she kept her teenage diaries where in her naivety she expressed her love for the band.

Naive and innocent. That is the best way to describe this book. It is the teenage dreams of a young girl who is desperate to meet and marry her favourite Beatle. We have all been there. Whilst Gallo Stenman’s story takes place in the 60s, my mum went through the same thing in the 70s, my older sister in the 90s and myself in the early 00s. And thank god we do. It is a rite of passage that all teenagers must go through at some point and I wish I had diaries reminding me of those feelings that I felt.

With a sense of nostalgia, I finished reading Diary of a Beatlemaniac and it made me thankful that the world has given us such great music.

Diary of a Beatlemaniac – A Fab Insider’s Look at the Beatles Era by Patricia Gallo Stenman is available now.

For more information regarding Patricia Gallo Stenman (@PTGalloStenman) please visit her Twitter page.

For more information regarding Cynren Press (@CynrenPress) please visit www.cynren.com.

Title: Love Literary Style

Author: Karen Gillespie

Pages: 280 Pages

Publisher: Henery Press

The Blurb

They say opposites attract, and what could be more opposite than a stuffy literary writer falling for a self-published romance writer?

Novelist Aaron Mite meets Laurie Lee at a writers’ colony and mistakenly believes her to be a renowned writer of important fiction. When he discovers she’s a self-published romance author, he’s already fallen in love with her.

Aaron thinks genre fiction is an affront to the fiction-writing craft. He often quotes the essayist, Arthur Krystal who says literary fiction “melts the frozen sea inside of us.” Ironically Aaron doesn’t seem to realize that he’s emotionally frozen. The vivacious Laurie, lover of flamingo-patterned attire and all things hot pink, is the one person who might be capable of melting him.

In the tradition of The Rosie ProjectLove Literary Style is a sparkling romantic comedy which pokes fun at the divide between low and high brow fiction.

The Review

Sometimes you just need a good light-hearted love story. I know I do. Recently, having read a few heavier tomes I needed a bit of escapism and I got that in the romantic comedy Love Literary Style by Karen Gillespie.

The story focuses on the chance encounter between Aaron and Laurie – in a classic case of mistaken identity both of our protagonists have started to fall in love. They say opposites attract but where do people draw the line? And how long can the other person’s flaws keep being adorable before the rose tinted spectacles are removed to reveal the truth.

I really enjoyed Love Literary Style. Not just for its cute story but also because Gillespie made a conscious effort to poke fun at the publishing industry and how there is a culture of snobbery in the publishing world over what makes a text worthwhile – the whole argument of literary fiction versus romantic fiction.

Told with a dual narrative we get to hear both sides of the argument but I must say that I sided with Laurie and believed she was far too good for the rigidity of Aaron who was in fact a jolly big snob.

If you want escapism then look no further.

Love Literary Style by Karen Gillespie is available now.

For more information regarding Henery Press (@HeneryPress) please visit www.henerypress.com.