High on RebellionTitle: High On Rebellion – Inside the Underground at Max’s Kansas City

Pages: 287 Pages

Publisher: Open Road Media

The Blurb

With a foreword by Lou Reed: The definitive oral history of Max’s Kansas City, favorite hangout of the most outrageous and notorious characters of New York’s 1960s and ’70s underground cultural scene

From its opening in December 1965 on Park Avenue South, Max’s Kansas City, a hybrid restaurant, bar, nightclub, and art gallery, was the boisterous meeting spot for famous—or soon-to-be-famous—figures in New York’s underground art, music, literary, film, and fashion scenes. Max’s regulars included Andy Warhol (and his superstars such as Viva, Ultra Violet, Edie Sedgwick, Gerard Malanga, Holly Woodlawn, and Candy Darling), Mick Jagger, Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Bob Dylan, Jane Fonda, and dozens more. A hotbed of drugs, sex, and creative collaboration, Max’s was the place to see and be seen among the city’s cultural elite for nearly two decades.

With reminiscences from the likes of Alice Cooper, Bebe Buell, Betsey Johnson, Leee Black Childers, Holly Woodlawn, and John Chamberlain, along with Max’s owner Mickey Ruskin and several waitresses and bartenders, this vivid oral history evokes an unforgettable place where a spontaneous striptease, a brawl over the meaning of art, and an early performance by the Velvet Underground were all possibilities on any given night. High on Rebellion dazzles with rare photos and other Max’s memorabilia, and firsthand accounts of legendary nights, chance encounters, romances sparked and extinguished, and stars being born.

The Review

Music scenes are usually synonymous with places – in particular, clubs. Mersey Beat with the Cavern in Liverpool, Indie pop with Leeds during the noughties and Punk with New York – in particular clubs like CBGBs. One club that I didn’t know a lot about was Max’s Kansas City. I had heard about it, sure, any self respecting fan of music will have come across it in the annals of history but I didn’t know its diverse and fascinating history.

When I came across High on Rebellion on NetGalley I knew I had to jump at the chance to read it. Wow. Part biography of owner Mickey Ruskin and part biography of the club, High on Rebellion makes me so sad that I wasn’t part of that music scene. That I was born 30 years after it took place. If the walls of Max’s Kansas City could talk then they probably would have written this book. The book gives you insights from the people who frequented the club, people who grew up, who loved and who lived there. It has a level of truth because it isn’t written from a third party perspective.

High on Rebellion is a fascinating read and is a staple text for anyone with a love of music and the scenes in which they encapsulate.

High On Rebellion by Yvonne Sewall-Ruskin is available now.

For more information regarding Open Road Media (@OpenRoadMedia) please visit www.openroadmedia.com.

35 Stars

A Gift to RememberTitle: A Gift to Remember

Author: Melissa Hill

Pages: 309 Pages

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

The Blurb

This summer, discover the magic of Melissa Hill…

Darcy Archer works in a small bookstore in Manhattan. A daydream believer, she refuses to settle for anything less than being swept off her feet by the perfect man…literally.

One day, when cycling to work, Darcy accidentally crashes into a sharply dressed gentleman walking his dog. He is knocked out cold, rushed to hospital and the poor pup gets left behind.

Wracked with guilt, Darcy takes the dog and makes plans to reunite him with owner, Aidan. As she discovers the mysterious stranger’s world of books, travel, adventure and all the wonderful things she’s ever dreamt about, Darcy builds a picture of this man and wonders if he could be THE ONE…

But does fantasy match reality? What happens when Prince Charming wakes up? Will Aidan be the happy ever after she’s always imagined?

The Review

Oh to fall in love with a book. That is what has happened to me. The story in A Gift to Remember by Melissa Hill is one of classic mistaken identity. It is man meets woman in unusual circumstances and one or both fall in love. We, as romance readers, have read it a thousand times over but it never gets boring. For me, what makes A Gift to Remember so special is its setting.

It is set in an independent bookstore in New York….and it’s Christmas time. I mean, come on. Melissa Hill knows what she is doing to us readers. Who among us has not wanted to work in or own a musty old bookstore with oak shelves and that gorgeous aroma of books? Throw in a handsome male and you have got yourself the ultimate fantasy.

A Gift to Remember is a sweet story that does tug at the old heartstrings. It is a feel good tale that actually makes you want to be the main character. I loved it!

A Gift to Remember by Melissa Hill is available now.

For more information regarding Melissa Hill (@melissahillbks) please visit www.melissahill.ie.

For more information regarding Simon and Schuster (@simonschusteruk) please visit www.simonandschuster.co.uk.

35-stars

Behold 1Title: Behold the Dreamers

Author: Imbolo Mbue

Pages: 400 Pages

Publisher: Random House/Harper Collins

The Blurb

In the vein of Amy Tan and Khaled Hosseini comes a compulsively readable debut novel about marriage, immigration, class, race, and the trapdoors in the American Dream—the unforgettable story of a young Cameroonian couple making a new life in New York just as the Great Recession upends the economy.

Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son. In the fall of 2007, Jende can hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Clark demands punctuality, discretion, and loyalty—and Jende is eager to please. Clark’s wife, Cindy, even offers Neni temporary work at the Edwardses’ summer home in the Hamptons. With these opportunities, Jende and Neni can at last gain a foothold in America and imagine a brighter future.

However, the world of great power and privilege conceals troubling secrets, and soon Jende and Neni notice cracks in their employers’ façades.

When the financial world is rocked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Jongas are desperate to keep Jende’s job—even as their marriage threatens to fall apart. As all four lives are dramatically upended, Jende and Neni are forced to make an impossible choice.

The Review

To say that Behold the Dreamers is not the usual type of fiction that I read would be an understatement. I usually read books to harbour a level of escapism. It is rare that I choose to read a book with such gritty realism but that is exactly what I got from Imbolo Mbue’s debut novel.

The story follows Jende and Neni, immigrants from Cameroon who are awaiting their legal papers and green card. They have come to New York, eyes full of glitter and heads full of the American dream. However, they soon realise that life in America is not that easy.

What was truly wonderful about Behold the Dreamers was the juxtaposition of African and American values alongside the beliefs and reality about each existence. Jende and Neni believe that life in America is full of hope and that they will live the best life there, whereas the American contingent knows the flaws of these views. We see as the story develops that the people who seem to have everything have not much at all and those with little seem to haveBehold 2 the world.

Behold the Dreamers is a really interesting, well written and compelling novel the likes of which I can honestly say I have never read before. It was an ambitious debut by Imbolo Mbue and one that she has executed with finesse.

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue is available now.

For more information regarding Imbolo Mbue please visit www.imbolombue.com.

For more information regarding Random House (@randomhouse) please visit www.randomhousebooks.com.

For more information regarding Harper Collins (@HarperCollins) please visit www.harpercollins.com.

4 Stars

Trying to FloatTitle: Trying to Float

Author: Nicolaia Rips

Pages: 256 Pages

Publisher: Scribner

The Blurb

“Hysterically droll, touching, elegant, and wise—a coming-of-age story from someone who possibly came of age before her parents” (Patricia Marx,New Yorker writer and bestselling author), Trying to Float is a seventeen-year-old’s darkly funny, big-hearted memoir about growing up in New York City’s legendary Chelsea Hotel.

New York’s Chelsea Hotel may no longer be home to its most famous denizens—Andy Warhol, Leonard Cohen, Patti Smith, to name a few—but the eccentric spirit of the Chelsea is alive and well. Meet the family Rips: father Michael, a lawyer turned journalist with a penchant for fine tailoring; mother Sheila, a former model and world-renowned artist who matches her welding outfits with couture; and daughter Nicolaia, a precocious high school junior at work on a record of her peculiar “youth.”

Nicolaia is a perpetual outsider who has struggled to find her place in public schools populated by cliquish girls and loudmouthed boys. But at the Chelsea, Nicolaia need not look far to find her tribe. There’s her neighbor Stormy, a tall albino woman who keeps a pink handgun strapped to her ankle; her babysitter, Paris, who may or may not have a second career as an escort; her friend Artie, former proprietor of Studio 54. The kids at school might never understand her, but as Nicolaia endeavors to fit in she begins to understand that the Chelsea’s motley crew could hold the key to surviving the perils of a Manhattan childhood.

With a voice as fabulously compelling as Holden Caulfield’s, Nicolaia Rips’s debut is a disarming, humble, heartfelt, and wise tale of coming of age amid the contradictions, complexities, and shifting identities of life in New York City. A bohemian Eloise for our times, Trying to Float is a triumphant parable for the power of embracing difference in all its forms.

The Review

As far as memoirs about relatively unknown people go, Trying to Float by Nicolaia Rips is pretty damn funny.

Those of you who have read my reviews before will have no trouble believing that I chose yet another book based on the interesting cover. But, you see, if I didn’t have this method of choosing books then I would never have come across this little gem – much like author Nicolaia Rips – Trying to Float is a bit of a diamond in the rough.

Nicolaia is, unbeknownst to her younger self, a little bit odd. This isn’t that unusual; most children are a little bit quirky. For Rips, this has meant that she has been pretty much an outcast and socially stunted by her peers. Again, in real life, this is not something so unusual. As someone who experienced the uncomfortable awkwardness of childhood and teenager-dom I completely empathise – there isn’t anything crueller than school children and no amount of money in the world would make me go back and experience it again. However, I do wish that I had written down my experiences much like Rips has done.

Through all of this, Nicolaia Rips holds on tightly to her unconventional upbringing in the infamous Chelsea Hotel. The cast of characters that she has daily dealings with colour and shape her formative years in the best, most avant-garde way; the hotel and its inhabitants becoming as much a part of Rips colourful tapestry as her experiences outside of her awkward school days.

In Trying to Float, Rips shares her tales of woe, not with sadness or shame but with resignation way beyond her years. A resignation that, to be honest, fills you with hope. This sounds incredibly cheesy but you do get the sense that Rips has a beautiful and creative future ahead of her.

Trying to Float by Nicolaia Rips is available now.

For more information about Nicolaia Rips (@nicolaiarips) please visit her official website www.nicolaiarips.com.

For more information about titles from Scribiner (@ScribnerBooks) please visit the official website www.scribnerbooks.com.

35 Stars

One Wish in ManhattanThe Blurb

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…to fall in love

The temperature is dropping, snow is on its way and Hayley Walker is heading for New York with one wish on her mind…to start over.

With her nine year-old daughter Angel, Hayley is ready for an adventure. From hot chocolates and horse-drawn carriage rides in Central Park, to ice-skating at the Rockefeller Centre, and Christmas shopping on 5th Avenue – they soon fall in love with the city that never sleeps.

But there’s more to New York than the bright twinkly lights and breathtaking skyscrapers. Angel has a Christmas wish of her own – to find her real dad.

While Hayley tries to fulfil her daughter’s wish, she crosses paths with billionaire Oliver Drummond. Restless and bored with fast living, there’s something intriguing about him that has Hayley hooked.

Determined to make her daughter’s dream come true, can Hayley dare to think her own dreams might turn into reality – could A New York Christmas turn into a New York Forever?

Travel to the Big Apple this Christmas and join Hayley and Oliver as they both realise that life isn’t just about filling the minutes…it’s about making every moment count.

The Review

Oh how I love a good contemporary Christmas romance. And, my friends, that is exactly what you get with the latest Mandy Baggot Novel.

Having read many Mandy Baggot novels, I knew that I would enjoy One Wish in Manhattan. What I wasn’t expecting was to enjoy it so much that it just made me feel happy. Even in its moments of high drama or sad scenes, the writing is just so warm that you feel your heart expanding with happiness.

Essentially, the book is about relationships. Not just the loving kind though they do feature in it but also familial relationships. Central to the storyline is Hayley’s relationship with her daughter Angel. You read about how these characters are not only mother and daughter but best friends too. For me, this was one of the best things about the novel. Some stories will focus on the romantic relationship – it is a modern romance after all – however, the mother daughter bond is never put on the back burner. The story is essentially about Hayley trying to be the best mum that she can be.

We watch them go through the trials and tribulations of trying to find Angel’s dad; Hayley owning up to how she acted when she acted as an irresponsible teenager and how both Angel and Hayley deal with burgeoning relationships.

Hayley’s romantic dalliance with Oliver almost seems like a secondary story. The two plot threads are evenly balanced and you do really get some book bang for your buck with One Wish in Manhattan.

The one thing you can say about Mandy Baggot is that she always delivers the good…like Santa.

Everyone needs to put One Wish in Manhattan on their Christmas wish list.

One Wish in Manhattan by Mandy Baggot is available now.

Follow Mandy Baggot (@mandybaggot) on Twitter.