The Queen of the NightTitle: The Queen of the Night

Author: Alexander Chee

Pages: 561

Publisher: Penguin

The Blurb

From a writer praised by Junot Díaz as ‘the fire, in my opinion, and the light’, a mesmerizing novel that follows one woman’s rise from circus rider to courtesan to world-renowned star Paris, 1882.

Lilliet Berne is a sensation, a legendary soprano with every accolade except an original role. When one is finally offered to her, she realizes with alarm that the libretto is based on a hidden piece of her past. Only four could have betrayed her: one is dead, one loves her still, one wants only to own her. And one, she hopes, never thinks of her at all. As Lilliet mines her memories for clues, she recalls her life as an orphan who left the American frontier for Europe and was swept up into the glitzy, gritty world of Second Empire Paris.

In order to survive, she transformed herself from circus rider to courtesan, from empress’s maid to stage ingénue,all the while weaving a web of passion and intrigue. Will the truth secure Lillet’s fate – or destroy her with the secrets it reveals?

The Review

I was really looking forward to reading The Queen of the Night. I love epic historical fiction. However, for me, The Queen of the Night was just too epic.

I know that sounds completely contrary but I found the minutia of Lilliet, our protagonist’s, life altogether tedious. I feel like you were guided every which way and were unable to form your own opinions as you were led to where the writer wanted you.

For me, The Queen of the Night was the literary equivalent of a work meeting that could have been an email. Far too long.

The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee is available now.

For more information regarding Alexander Chee (@alexanderchee.net) please visit www.alexanderchee.net.

For more information regarding Penguin (@PenguinUKBooks) please visit www.penguin.co.uk.

1 star

My Life As A BenchTitle: My Life as a Bench

Author: Jaq Hazell

Pages: 234 Pages

Publisher: Nowness Books

The Blurb

There are so many benches lining the riverside, each and every one tragic in its own way.’

Unique and haunting, this is a story about love, friendship, a passion for music and what, if anything, remains after we’ve gone.

Ren Miller has died aged seventeen and yet her consciousness lives on, inhabiting her memorial bench by the River Thames in London. Ren longs to be reunited with her boyfriend Gabe, but soon discovers why he has failed to visit. Devastated, she must learn to break through and talk to the living so she can reveal the truth about her tragic end.

The Review

Sometimes a book will stay with you for all the right reasons long after you have turned the final page. I think that My Life is a Bench by Jaq Hazell will be such a book. Not because I overly loved it. It was good but I have read books that captured my heart more but because the story is just so cleverly thought out and so unusual.

It is the story of Ren Miller whose life has been tragically cut short. Her soul however lingers on in a memorial bench that has been bought in honour of her. She’s not alone. She strikes up a friendship with the bench next to her and sometimes she has visitors. However, the person she longs to see the most hasn’t been to see her…yet.

My Life as a Bench really is an inspired story. I giggled all the way through at Ren’s frustration and boredom in death. It was heart-warming in places and it made me hope against hope that I never turn into a bench.

My Life as a Bench by Jaq Hazell is available now.

For more information regarding Jaq Hazell (@jaqhazell) please visit www.jaqhazell.com.

3 Stars

The Best Minds of My GenerationTitle: The Best Minds of My Generation – A Literary History of the Beats

Author: Allen Ginsberg

Pages: 496 Pages

Publisher: Grove Atlantic/Grove Press

The Blurb

In 1977, twenty years after the publication of his landmark poem “Howl,” and Jack Kerouac’s seminal book On the Road, Allen Ginsberg decided it was time to teach a course on the literary history of the Beat Generation. Through the creation of this course, which he ended up teaching five times, first at the Naropa Institute and later at Brooklyn College, Ginsberg saw an opportunity to present the history of Beat Literature in his own inimitable way. Compiled and edited by renowned Beat scholar Bill Morgan, and with an introduction by Anne Waldman, The Best Minds of My Generation presents the lectures in edited form, complete with notes, and paints a portrait of the Beats as Ginsberg knew them: friends, confidantes, literary mentors, and fellow revolutionaries.

Ginsberg was seminal to the creation of a public perception of Beat writers and knew all of the major figures personally, making him uniquely qualified to be the historian of the movement. In The Best Minds of My Generation, Ginsberg shares anecdotes of meeting Kerouac, Burroughs, and other writers for the first time, explains his own poetics, elucidates the importance of music to Beat writing, discusses visual influences and the cut-up method, and paints a portrait of a group who were leading a literary revolution. For Beat aficionados and neophytes alike, The Best Minds of My Generation is a personal yet critical look at one of the most important literary movements of the twentieth century.

The Review

I was really eager to read The Best Minds of My Generation but had been put off by an experience of reading On The Road by Jack Kerouac. This will probably shock a lot of people but I just didn’t rate it. I read it because I felt like I was supposed to have read it. But, to be perfectly honest, I just wasn’t that impressed.

Anyway, I decided to bite the bullet and go for it and just immerse myself in the world of the Beat Writers.

I kind of wish I had chosen another book to read. That probably sounds really harsh but it is because this book, The Best Minds of My Generation, is clearly for hardcore Beat enthusiasts. It is not for someone who is tentatively dipping their toes into this genre.

My recommendation would be that anyone wanting to learn about the history of this period then look elsewhere. If you already love this genre of writing then knock yourself out.

The Best Minds of My Generation – A Literary History of the Beats by Allen Ginsberg is available now.

For more information regarding Grove Atlantic (@groveatlantic) please visit www.groveatlantic.com.

2 Stars

The FrontmanTitle: The Frontman

Author: Ron Bahar

Pages: 264 Pages

Publisher: SparkPress

The Blurb

Ron Bahar is an insecure, self-deprecating, seventeen-year-old Nebraskan striving to please his Israeli immigrant parents, Ophira and Ezekiel, while remaining true to his own dreams. During his senior year of high school, he begins to date longtime crush and non-Jewish girl Amy Andrews—a forbidden relationship he hides from his parents. But that’s not the only complicated part of Ron’s life: he’s also struggling to choose between his two passions, medicine and music. As time goes on, he becomes entangled in a compelling world of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Will he do the right thing?

A fictionalized memoir of the author’s life as a young man in Lincoln, Nebraska, The Frontman is a coming-of-age tale of love and fidelity.

The Review

I was surprised how much I enjoyed The Frontman by Ron Bahar.

To begin with I was feeling a bit put out, maybe that I wasn’t the target audience. Without meaning to offend anyone, it felt that the target audience was leaning towards men but the more and more I read the more I actually started to enjoy the teenage exploits of Ron. I started to feel sorry for some of the more hapless aspects of his personality.

The Frontman really is a good, entertaining and easy read with a kick ass soundtrack to accompany it.

The Frontman by Ron Bahar is available now.

For more information regarding Ron Bahar (@RonJonBahar) please visit www.ronbahar.com.

For more information regarding SparkPress (@GoSparkPress) please visit www.gosparkpress.com.

3 Stars

The Last Act of LoveTitle: The Last Act of Love – The Story of My Brother and His Sister

Author: Cathy Rentzenbrink

Pages: 256 Pages

Publisher: Pan Macmillan/Picador

The Blurb

In the summer of 1990, Cathy’s brother Matty was knocked down by a car on the way home from a night out. It was two weeks before his GCSE results, which turned out to be the best in his school. Sitting by his unconscious body in hospital, holding his hand and watching his heartbeat on the monitors, Cathy and her parents willed him to survive. They did not know then that there are many and various fates worse than death.

This is the story of what happened to Cathy and her brother, and the unimaginable decision that she and her parents had to make eight years after the night that changed everything. It’s a story for anyone who has ever watched someone suffer or lost someone they loved or lived through a painful time that left them forever changed.

Told with boundless warmth and affection, The Last Act of Love by Cathy Rentzenbrink is a heartbreaking yet uplifting testament to a family’s survival and the price we pay for love.

The Review

The Last Act of Love by Cathy Rentzenbrink is a beautifully heartbreaking story of a life cut short and how to deal with death, and indeed, life and how to carry on.

Cathy Rentzenbrink was 17 when her younger brother was knocked down by a dangerous driver. Her brother, Matty, spent eight years in a permanent vegetative state. The Last Act of Love her story of how she and her family dealt with Matty’s condition and how eventually it became clear that it was crueller to keep him alive when he wasn’t living.

I have enormous respect for Cathy Rentzenbrink. Not only for the horrible decision that she had to make along with her family but that she had the courage to do it and then write about it. She has bled her feelings onto the page and she has done so with such dignity and grace.

The Last Act of Love is so cathartic and a deeply elegant story that is a beautiful read. I must for anyone who is dealing with loss.

The Last Act of Love by Cathy Rentzenbrink is available now.

For more information regarding Pan Macmillan (@panmacmillan) please visit www.panmacmillan.com.

For more information regarding Picador (@picadorbooks) please visit www.panmacmillan.com/picador.

35 Stars