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Ren Miller has died at age 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 untimely end.


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Ren Miller has died at age 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 untimely end.

30 review for My Life as a Bench

  1. 5 out of 5

    Debra

    This book was one of the most unique books I have read in a long long time. Ren (Lauren) Miller has died tragically at the age of Seventeen. Her soul/consciousness lives on in a memorial park bench, by the river Thames, that her father bought in her Memory. Ren thinks mainly of her boyfriend Gabe who she misses. She spends her days wondering why he does not visit her as her family does. She also soon learns that the park bench next to her is inhabited by an older man named Lionel. Her conversatio This book was one of the most unique books I have read in a long long time. Ren (Lauren) Miller has died tragically at the age of Seventeen. Her soul/consciousness lives on in a memorial park bench, by the river Thames, that her father bought in her Memory. Ren thinks mainly of her boyfriend Gabe who she misses. She spends her days wondering why he does not visit her as her family does. She also soon learns that the park bench next to her is inhabited by an older man named Lionel. Her conversations with Lionel really shine for me. I loved how they talked about her life and he helped her cope with her situation and slowly begins to share more about his life with her. These conversations were my favorite parts of the book. I like how he helps her accept her situation and gently encourages her to remember what happened the night she died. Through Lionel's encouragement, Ren attempts to make contact with people stopping by or visiting her bench. She speaks to everyone and there are some that do hear her. Naturally they are freaked out by this. Hearing a voice speaking to you and not seeing anyone can be spooky and make one question their mental state. Eventually Ren learns why Gabe has not visited and this motivates her more than anything to reach out and get a message about what really happened the night she died. There have been many YA books where the female protagonist has died and she is trying to figure out what happened to her: how she died, who killed her, etc. This book is similar in that Ren cannot remember right away everything that happened leading up to her death. She remembers slowly over time, until the final "reveal" occurs. What worked for me was that, while reading this book, it never seemed absurd that she would inhabit/inhibit the bench. The idea was so unique but it worked!!!!! Since the beginning of time, there has been talk about what really happens after we die. In this book, Ren and Lionel live on in memorial park benches. I really enjoyed the Author's unique approach of the after life or what happens to us after we die. Her relationship with Gabe could have been flushed out more. She seemed to be much more into him than he was into her. He seemed unavailable and distant for most of their relationship . I realize this is YA and teens do tend to fall head over heels very fast. I've said it before and I will say it again - this book is unique and that is a good thing(OMG did I just channel Martha Stewart in my review?) But seriously the uniqueness of this book worked for me. I received a copy of this book from the Publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. ***I had the pleasure of interviewing this book's Author Jaq Hazell. Please check out the Author interview on my blog http://openbookpost.com/jaq-hazell/ See more of my reviews at www.openbookpost.com

  2. 4 out of 5

    Eve beinguniquebooks

    The title of the book made me wonder just how this book was going to be. It was amazing in my opinion! A totally different and wild out there title that viewing now I realise combines life and death in one. When someone passes away often a bench is left dedicated to them in a certain place, people living will still us the bench. That happens in the book certainly, just with our main character Lauren or best referred to as Ren being a soul like presence at her bench dedicated to her from her famil The title of the book made me wonder just how this book was going to be. It was amazing in my opinion! A totally different and wild out there title that viewing now I realise combines life and death in one. When someone passes away often a bench is left dedicated to them in a certain place, people living will still us the bench. That happens in the book certainly, just with our main character Lauren or best referred to as Ren being a soul like presence at her bench dedicated to her from her family after she has died. Ren moves from Devon to find her dad in London after her boyfriend has moved on from her and Ren sees a video of him together with another girl. Upon finding her dad, she enters his life and is eventually accepted into his family now with a young daughter and step-mum for Ren to get to know. Ren settles into school well with a group of friends and catches the eye of a boy called Gabe, she and Gabe become close but watch out when you read for her friends reactions to the drama that ensues. I don't want to spoil the book, but a terrible incident occurs and a wrongly placed blame means Ren must break through to someone living to get the wrongly accused set free again. This book is a stunner in my opinion and is definitely one that will always remain in my top ten easily! Enjoy!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Churin

    I received this an e-arc of this book via netgalley and provided by the publishers in exchange for an honest review. Guys guys guys! This book! Let me tell you that this book is not perfect. But, somehow it works its way to my heart. If you asked me to explain this book in one word: weird! But it was so weirdly interesting that you just want to read it till the end. The goods: -Very interesting and intriguing concept. I have never read anything like this before. I mean, live on after death as a b I received this an e-arc of this book via netgalley and provided by the publishers in exchange for an honest review. Guys guys guys! This book! Let me tell you that this book is not perfect. But, somehow it works its way to my heart. If you asked me to explain this book in one word: weird! But it was so weirdly interesting that you just want to read it till the end. The goods: -Very interesting and intriguing concept. I have never read anything like this before. I mean, live on after death as a bench? Ahahahaha xD -Realistic setting -Characters with different personalities than what we usually stumbled upon in ya books. -Again, very different plot. Not exactly my kind of plot but interesting nevertheless! -Best point of this book is the twist. I thank God I didn't read any reviews before read this because hell, why does every arc reviews of this are full of spoilers?? They don't even effing mark it. The bad: -The language. Duh, it was so.. princessy teen type of pov? Also, there are some parts that sounds off to be in the book. -Ren. She just sounds so.. unbelievably naive with a tinge of stupidity. Well, she developed later at least. But still, not exactly your most relatable teen. All in all this is a good book. I recommend it to new readers and anyone who loves light reads.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Drew

    Via my blog: http://www.lookingforalife.com/2017/0... I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for a review of this book... Via my blog: http://www.lookingforalife.com/2017/0... I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for a review of this book...

  5. 4 out of 5

    Diana

    Thought it was gonna be fun and original. Its neither.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Karen • The Book Return

    Read this review and more on my blog.The Book Return BlogI received this book for free from Publisher (via YA Books Central) in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Seventeen year old Lauren 'Ren' Miller has just died. She finds that her spirit lives on inside her own memorial bench. Although the story is called, 'My Life as a Bench,' it is really the story of Lauren contemplating her life after her death. Ren can't eat or sleep. S Read this review and more on my blog.The Book Return BlogI received this book for free from Publisher (via YA Books Central) in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Seventeen year old Lauren 'Ren' Miller has just died. She finds that her spirit lives on inside her own memorial bench. Although the story is called, 'My Life as a Bench,' it is really the story of Lauren contemplating her life after her death. Ren can't eat or sleep. She can only observe people as they pass by.  Every night Ren must mentally relive her life over and over. Her only companion is the old bench next to her. Ren learns that the other bench is named Lionel. Lionel was elderly baker before he died. Lionel has his own life story to tell. The undercurrent of the story is that Ren has unfinished business that must be resolved before she can be at peace. Ren's boyfriend is in jail on charges of killing her. She knows that he didn't do it. She pleads with people who walk by to help her exonerate her boyfriend but no one is able to hear her. When I first heard about 'My Life As a Bench', I was really unsure how the author was going to pull of this premise without the story being super cheesy. Hazell did a remarkable job making this both an entertaining and thought-provoking read. Ren's story  is told in alternating points of view.  The POV alternates between  present day and the past events leading up to Ren's death. This format really made the story move along quickly. Throughout the book we are slowly given clues about what was going on in Ren's life before she was killed. I loved the way Hazell introduced characters.  Lauren's family and friends are introduced  to the story as they come to visit Ren's memorial bench. This allows us to conclude, for ourselves, the details of Ren's relationship with the other characters. I partially loved the descriptions of the setting around the benches. It is so heart wrenching for Ren to see the beauty surrounding her but not be able to really experience them. The only issue that I have with the story is that the dialog was very heavy on British teen  slang.  I often was confused about what the characters where saying. A few of the words are listed and the end of the book. It would have been nice to have them listed in the beginning so they could  be referred to.  'My Life As a Bench' didn't tie up all the loose . For me, this was ok because it leaves the reader to decide if Lauren finally found her peace. 'My Life As a Bench', is amazingly refreshing. This book offers an entirely unique spin on a young life tragically lost. I loved this 'My Life As A Bench'. I'm definitely recommending it. This novel gives us a strong message about how none of us know how long we have left. This review was originally posted on The Book return...

  7. 4 out of 5

    Tonstant Weader

    Jaq Hazell’s My Life as a Bench is a clever little book about a seventeen year old girl named Ren who died before we even open the cover. We met her on the day her memorial bench is placed for friends and family to visit and for strangers to rest as they jog along the river. To her eternal irritation, her father had her full name Lauren inscribed rather than the name she went by, Ren. Luckily she is not alone, the next bench along the path is occupied by Lionel whose been there for twenty-two yea Jaq Hazell’s My Life as a Bench is a clever little book about a seventeen year old girl named Ren who died before we even open the cover. We met her on the day her memorial bench is placed for friends and family to visit and for strangers to rest as they jog along the river. To her eternal irritation, her father had her full name Lauren inscribed rather than the name she went by, Ren. Luckily she is not alone, the next bench along the path is occupied by Lionel whose been there for twenty-two years, making him either seventy-six or ninety-eight years old, depending on if you keep counting after death. Through the course of the story we come to learn how Ren came to benched, if you’ll pardon the pun. We also discover that the boy she loved is wrongly accused of killing her, so she is desperately trying to connect with people to tell them he is innocent, but most people are not receptive to her and those who can hear her are frightened or unsuitable. I give Hazell credit for coming up with an original concept and running with it. I admire her for following through with the thought experiment, the dogs peeing on the bench, the frightened children, the destruction of vandalism, the lonely nights of benchdom….this is genius. So it disappoints me that they plot is so mundane and that the person responsible for her death is such a tired trope. If Hazell had applied half as much imagination to the romance and death arc as she did exploring life as a bench, this could have been a great book. Instead, it is a fun concept paired with an irritating, stereotypical trope. It’s doubly irritating that Hazell waffles on the motive, alternatively implying the Lunatic (as Ren called her killer) was in love with Ren and with someone who loved Ren. It doesn’t really matter, both tropes are tired. My Life as a Bench will be released May 2nd. I was provided an e-galley by the publisher through NetGalley. ★★★ http://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpres...

  8. 4 out of 5

    Zoe Obstkuchen

    Seventeen year old Ren had so much to live for - friends, family, her singing ambitions and her boyfriend Gabe. But now she’s gone her spirit resides in her memorial bench by the Thames with only her memories and another bench spirit called Lionel for company. Why doesn’t Gabe visit, and why can’t she quite remember what happened? I read this in one day, wanting to see what happened.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Janet Storar

    First novel by this author that I've read. Hooked me so much that I read it in one sitting. Moving, funny and an amazing take on the afterlife. I shall certainly read more by this author and can highly recommend. First novel by this author that I've read. Hooked me so much that I read it in one sitting. Moving, funny and an amazing take on the afterlife. I shall certainly read more by this author and can highly recommend.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Fran

    An unusual tale of a young life, cut short. Told with flashbacks from the afterlife, this story was sad, romantic and touching.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Bex

    Lauren "Ren" Miller died aged 17. And it's only natural for us to wonder what happens next, right? Well wonder no longer - you become a park bench, next to lots of other park benches with a plaque for someone else's loved one. Who may or may not be somehow still present in another bench, so you can talk to them. It's a bit of a weird concept, but it somehow works, and if you can just get past that part the rest of the book is good, with a sweet message and some interesting ideas. But there is mo Lauren "Ren" Miller died aged 17. And it's only natural for us to wonder what happens next, right? Well wonder no longer - you become a park bench, next to lots of other park benches with a plaque for someone else's loved one. Who may or may not be somehow still present in another bench, so you can talk to them. It's a bit of a weird concept, but it somehow works, and if you can just get past that part the rest of the book is good, with a sweet message and some interesting ideas. But there is more to this story than meets the eye. Because Ren didn't just die, Ren was killed, and she's about to learn via people sitting on her bench that her beloved boyfriend Gabriel might be the one who killed her. And she just isn't prepared to accept this. The story swiftly unravels the nature of Ren and Gabriel's relationship and all of the events leading up to her death, as Ren shares some of her memories with her neighbour Bench Lionel, enabling her to hopefully remember what happened to her. All whilst trying to get in touch with someone alive to get Gabriel's name cleared. I like a lot of the ideas throughout. Everyone must wonder what happens next after we're gone, if the mind still exists in some other form, if we know that we are dead. And this book gives the reader plenty of time to explore all of these concepts which I really like. Equally, the idea that there can be some level of communication between the living and the dead is another concept that I enjoyed exploring and I think the author handled it really nicely. However, I struggled to really connect with Ren. The fact that she was still alive somehow in a bench really didn't bother me at all, in fact I quite like the idea. It was that her personality was sometimes a little frustrating and I couldn't seem to like her - her complete and utter adoration of Gabriel wasn't convincing, or romantic, it was too dramatic. Particularly for such a short term relationship. I know she is young, and perhaps this can be attributed to that, but it just didn't hit me in the same way that a more fleshed out romance might have done following the death of a loved one. Nevertheless, an interesting story with some nice ideas; I just wasn't always convinced by Ren's heartache. ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Stansel

    A short unique book. 17 yr old Ren finds her spirit stuck at a memorial bench after her death. Each night she relives the last few months of her life as well as her death. With the help of her bench neighbor Lionel, she uncovers the cause of her death and tries to come to terms with it. I found the story touching and suspenseful. A good read for a rainy day. Full disclosure - I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sue Wallace

    My life as a bench by Jaq Hazell. Ren though her name is Lauren is dead. She has come back as a bench. She keeps going back to when she first came to London to see her dad. This was a really good read with good characters. It was a little slow but it soon picked up. I loved the ending perfect. I really felt for Gabriel. 5*. A very moving and emotional read. Tbc on fb.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lolly K Dandeneau

    via my blog https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/ This is for teens and reviewed with that genre in mind. Why dump me here? It’s where the old people sit. Seventeen year old Ren Miller is dead, stuck haunting a park bench memorial by the River Thames, London. Nothing haunts her more than her longing to see Gabe, her boyfriend while she was alive. Surprisingly while it may annoy some readers, thinking of teenagers and the obsessive all consuming love, I think some have forgotten what it early love via my blog https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/ This is for teens and reviewed with that genre in mind. Why dump me here? It’s where the old people sit. Seventeen year old Ren Miller is dead, stuck haunting a park bench memorial by the River Thames, London. Nothing haunts her more than her longing to see Gabe, her boyfriend while she was alive. Surprisingly while it may annoy some readers, thinking of teenagers and the obsessive all consuming love, I think some have forgotten what it early love is like. Ren and Gabe forever, right? What could be worse than being stuck riverside with so much life left to live? Being 17, and barely having lived any life at all. Ren meets a fellow spirit Lionel that has been riverside for much longer. It is through him that she is able to slowly dissect the life she no longer has. People come and go, but not Gabe. All she wants is Gabe to visit her bench. She dismisses most of her loved ones, wanting no one but him. Self-centered, her longings clouded by hungry love. But when she catches in conversation between her mother and younger brother Jay that Gabriel is certainly the reason she is dead, she is obsessed with proving he isn’t. How do you prove anything when you’re dead and no one can hear you? Or can they? Can she haunt someone, isn’t she haunting this bench, in a sense? Could she be wrong about her beloved? Did he kill her? She doesn’t want to believe it. She can’t believe it. All she wants is to connect with one of the living, to get to the truth, to keep her beloved from being blamed. But is she blinded by love or was someone else involved? That she only met her father recently having fled her home after a different relationship soured, it’s tragic how little time she had with him too. We journey back and forth through her life, seeing the end of her dreams for becoming a singer with her death. Life is short and it’s brutal letting go, more so at Seventeen. That Lionel is older is a lovely idea, because much like speaking different languages, time in itself is similar. Inventions, pop culture, slang… is like a foreign country. It was a clever to remember that Lionel wouldn’t know slang nor all the devices we use. Ren came off like most young people do to their elders. Most people are self-centered, it’s our only real experience, and certainly so much more when we’re in our formative years. I was waiting for something to hit me in the gut at the end but it didn’t happen. Then again, maybe the intention of the author wasn’t meant to be shocking and dark. I’d expect more anger from a seventeen year old who just lost her life, is anything more horrifying to imagine, well aside from being dead and stuck riverside? It’s a good story, there were times I felt we didn’t need to hear her go on about Gabe but if I am honest I have to remember when someone is in love, and especially young people before bitterness and experience poisons their soul, it’s all they can annoy the rest of us with. This is one a much younger crowd may enjoy. Publication Date: May 2, 2o17 Nowness Books

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I would give this somewhere between a 2 and a 3 if I could. I read it all in one pretty short sitting, so it's a page turner. Some of the stylistic choices are odd, as others have said the way Hazell chooses to lay out dialogue is confusing. Some sentences feel clunky as if they should be broken up, and the over use of slang can be a bit difficult. I enjoyed the simplicity of the prose and the occasional more poetic reflection of Ren in the afterlife. I think the premise is brilliant, and its 100 I would give this somewhere between a 2 and a 3 if I could. I read it all in one pretty short sitting, so it's a page turner. Some of the stylistic choices are odd, as others have said the way Hazell chooses to lay out dialogue is confusing. Some sentences feel clunky as if they should be broken up, and the over use of slang can be a bit difficult. I enjoyed the simplicity of the prose and the occasional more poetic reflection of Ren in the afterlife. I think the premise is brilliant, and its 100% something different to read, even if it feels a bit light. I liked the bits of Gabe we were given, the romance was sweet and fun to read. Loved Lionel and thought he brought a much needed change of tone to the prose. Wish Ren was a bit more interested in friendships, as reading constantly about how much she loved Gabe on loop became a bit boring. *****MAJOR PLOT SPOILERS AHEAD***** As stated by another user, I feel like the book is trying to reflect on social issues regarding a racially biased justice system, but Gabe's character isn't very well fleshed out and I would have liked to see the book deal with this more, rather than tagging it onto the end. The true killers reval, which felt very rushed at the end of this short book, felt hard to believe. The idea that Maddy was in love with Ren seemed to stem from nowhere, and I didn't really get any sign that that was the case throughout the story- which made the whole retelling of the balcony a bit jarring. It was unexpected, but also felt unbelievable. Maybe this would have been more believable had the book had been more evenly spilt up between Ren gushing about Gabe and actually moving with the plot. Overall, I did enjoy this read, but wished for a more thought out ending, hard to belive that a psychic man would somehow free Gabe on trial. Considering the rest of the book is hinting at how noone would believe or listen to Ren as a bench. A fun and interesting read that needs a bit of work on making its characters more fleshed out.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Shruti Ramanujam

    I received an e-ARC of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. Thanks so much, Jaq! Ren Miller, our protagonist, died a tragic death at seventeen. Her consciousness remains attached to a bench by River Thames. She makes friends with the adjacent bench, inhabited by the consciousness of an old man (Lionel). Throughout the book, we see Ren reminiscing about the months leading to her death and trying to contact the people who come to visit, with occasional conversations with Lion I received an e-ARC of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. Thanks so much, Jaq! Ren Miller, our protagonist, died a tragic death at seventeen. Her consciousness remains attached to a bench by River Thames. She makes friends with the adjacent bench, inhabited by the consciousness of an old man (Lionel). Throughout the book, we see Ren reminiscing about the months leading to her death and trying to contact the people who come to visit, with occasional conversations with Lionel (which I loved!). Let’s take a moment to appreciate this AMAZING premise, shall we? I wouldn’t say I was able to connect with Ren all that much but I was able to appreciate the beauty of this story and that made me keep going. I wanted to know what happened to Ren. How did she die? Why won’t her boyfriend visit this shrine to her? Ren-the-bench spends each day talking to Lionel and the nights going through an endless loop of memories from the time she first came to London. Through her memories, we see how she forms relationships with the people around her. She makes a lot of friends in London, with whom she hangs out often, too. At the same time, she also has a good relationship with her family. As for her relationship with Gabe, I felt that it was a little hurried. It would’ve been better if we’d seen more of their relationship, of it involving deeper conversations. But, this is also YA and we’re talking about seventeen-year-olds so I’m willing to overlook that. The writing is perfect, the story is fast paced, and everything flows smoothly to tie up with a beautiful finish. This is a light-hearted read that will also make you tear up just a smidge on occasions. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes their YA contemporary with a touch of suspense.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Natalia Jefferson

    A novel about young love that transcends the genre and had this, ahem, 'mature' woman reaching for the Kleenex with Amy Winehouse on repeat. Before we move on, can I just say how much I enjoyed Ren and Lionel's relationship which was just delightful. But there's the gamut of relationships and emotions going on in this gem of a novel which I pretty much loved from the moment I saw the title. At the heart of the story is the inextinguishable and authentic flame that burns between Ren and Gabriel, A novel about young love that transcends the genre and had this, ahem, 'mature' woman reaching for the Kleenex with Amy Winehouse on repeat. Before we move on, can I just say how much I enjoyed Ren and Lionel's relationship which was just delightful. But there's the gamut of relationships and emotions going on in this gem of a novel which I pretty much loved from the moment I saw the title. At the heart of the story is the inextinguishable and authentic flame that burns between Ren and Gabriel, but there's so much more going on with Ren struggling to find her place in London with her new family when she runs away from a broken heart - leaving her mother and brother behind. Teenage emotions run high and love and other, more sinister, feelings intermingle and explode. I was lucky to get an advance copy of this book (because I've read it three times already). In summary, funny and poignant writing; with real (and sometimes quite properly frustrating) characters; lyrical touches which demanded rereading immediately and a sound track to die for (pun intended?!). It's just a lovely book which I hope my teenagers will enjoy as much as I did.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Bentley

    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 n 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.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ursula

    ‘Piff’ means ‘superior to the average, or attractive’. I’m not a YA reader so some of the vocabulary was a little tricky for me but I mostly could make sense from the context. And then, hidden at the end, is a short glossary of slang definitions. Who knew ‘butters’ means ‘ugly’? Apart from that this was a pretty satisfying short read and will be enjoyed by middle to late teenage readers, I think. There’s more than a touch of the paranormal and an unusual way of introducing characters and developi ‘Piff’ means ‘superior to the average, or attractive’. I’m not a YA reader so some of the vocabulary was a little tricky for me but I mostly could make sense from the context. And then, hidden at the end, is a short glossary of slang definitions. Who knew ‘butters’ means ‘ugly’? Apart from that this was a pretty satisfying short read and will be enjoyed by middle to late teenage readers, I think. There’s more than a touch of the paranormal and an unusual way of introducing characters and developing them by means of a very restricted perspective limited to their visits to the wooden riverside bench holding the consciousness of Ren and her own gradually stabilising memories. Ren achieves a degree of self-knowledge as her story emerges and she confronts her past.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Julie Jones

    This is the first one of Jaq Hazell's books that I have read, but it will not be the last. A charming, bitter sweet tale that had me hooked in. I am sure to look at benches dedicated to souls in a completely different light now. This is the first one of Jaq Hazell's books that I have read, but it will not be the last. A charming, bitter sweet tale that had me hooked in. I am sure to look at benches dedicated to souls in a completely different light now.

  21. 5 out of 5

    January Gray

    Totally in love with this book! I will certainly read again. Unique and well written!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Gina Adams

    The concept of this book was super cool but there wasn’t much wrap up with the plot and the romance was really annoying and difficult to connect with. I think if I’d read it when I was a bit younger I’d have enjoyed it more.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mariam Kaker

    An emotional roller coaster with a unique twist that had me hooked from the start. A great holiday read that you won't want to put down. I loved it! An emotional roller coaster with a unique twist that had me hooked from the start. A great holiday read that you won't want to put down. I loved it!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Laurie

    I thought this was a quirky book and I truly enjoyed it. It's a combination of a love story and a mystery, as the plot. Have you ever wonder whether you do "Rest In Peace" after you leave this earth? An interesting concept from a 17 year old girl, Ren, whose life ends abruptly. Each and every day, she relives the events leading up to her death, her feelings as a teenager. Through her friend, Lionel, she begins to understand that if those that remain on earth, would take a moment and listen, we wil I thought this was a quirky book and I truly enjoyed it. It's a combination of a love story and a mystery, as the plot. Have you ever wonder whether you do "Rest In Peace" after you leave this earth? An interesting concept from a 17 year old girl, Ren, whose life ends abruptly. Each and every day, she relives the events leading up to her death, her feelings as a teenager. Through her friend, Lionel, she begins to understand that if those that remain on earth, would take a moment and listen, we will hear the message from those who have passed on. I thought this was a wonderful read!

  25. 5 out of 5

    La Coccinelle

    I really didn't like this one. Here's the thing: I made a sort of reading resolution this year that I was going to stick to books from big publishers in 2018. I've become exhausted from reading self-pubbed and indie crap. Picking this book up was my own fault... but, to be fair, I assumed an award-winning novel would be written and edited well. I didn't realize that the awards this book won were for self-published and independent-press books. I don't really have a problem with the premise. In fac I really didn't like this one. Here's the thing: I made a sort of reading resolution this year that I was going to stick to books from big publishers in 2018. I've become exhausted from reading self-pubbed and indie crap. Picking this book up was my own fault... but, to be fair, I assumed an award-winning novel would be written and edited well. I didn't realize that the awards this book won were for self-published and independent-press books. I don't really have a problem with the premise. In fact, it's kind of interesting. But the way it was executed was not. Ren's spirit is basically trapped in a memorial bench on the banks of the river. She has no one to talk to, other than another bench spirit named Lionel, who conveniently goes silent every night so we can listen to Ren narrate her life for us. There are a couple of problems with this setup. One is the repetition. For much of the book, Ren repeats herself, and we have to listen to variations on her first days in London over and over again. So much of that could've been skimmed over even more (but that would've decreased the page count on what is already a short book... even if it doesn't feel like it when you're reading it). By the time Ren finally tells us the whole story, we're into about the last quarter of the book. Almost all of the action happens after that point, making it really uneven. The second problem with Lionel may be something that's just a limitation of the Kindle edition, but I'm not sure. See, when Ren and Lionel talk to each other, Ren's dialogue is in italics. Lionel's isn't. There are no quotation marks. The problem comes in because Lionel's dialogue is formatted the exact same way as the regular narration, so sometimes I couldn't tell for a moment whether Lionel was speaking or if we'd reverted back to the narration. I have to wonder if perhaps the paperback edition uses different fonts for Lionel and Ren, but this issue, combined with a few others, makes me suspect that it was just the author being artsy. There were other stylistic choices that I wasn't fond of. In fact, by the end of the book, I was getting really pissed off. And I'm going to assume they're stylistic choices, because someone with an MA in Creative Writing should know better than to pull all the crap this author did. Between the silent actions that passed for dialogue tags (probably my biggest pet peeve) to this weird dialogue thing she did where two sentences would be tacked together with a tag, but the second sentence always started with a lowercase letter, I was about ready to DNF the whole thing out of frustration. The story takes place in London, for the most part, so there's a lot of British slang. I was wishing for a glossary as I was reading, and I discovered one at the end. But most of the words I'd had trouble with weren't even in it! (I have a feeling the glossary was written more for British folks who might not've understood teenage slang. As a Canadian, I encountered lots of other words I wasn't sure about... but that most Brits would probably know.) The story itself is ham-fisted and looks like it was trying to take advantage of the current discussions about race and discrimination. The problem is that it was done so badly that I didn't buy it. (view spoiler)[On the one hand, we've got Gabe, a mixed-race kid (he's half black, which we don't even find out until way into the story, even though it's important to the plot), who's accused of murdering Ren. Despite the fact that he's pretty much squeaky clean, everybody assumes he killed her, even though it goes completely against his character. When we finally find out what really happened, it comes so far out of left field that I still have a hard time believing that that's how it unfolded. Besides the fact that the real killer's motives weren't foreshadowed enough, Gabe basically got out of jail because of a psychic. That's... would that really happen? If the police were so racist as to assume Gabe was guilty simply because he was black and in the vicinity, would he really get off because a psychic said he didn't do it? (hide spoiler)] The ending was left full of questions. (view spoiler)[Where did Lionel go? Why is Ren's spirit still there? Is she really going to stay there for decades, just so she can visit with Gabe? And does she expect Gabe to stay loyal to her and never move on with his own life? (hide spoiler)] Overall, this was an interesting premise that could've been worked into a really cool story, but the way it was handled was boring, repetitive, unrealistic, and kind of annoying. This isn't a book I'd recommend... even if it has won some awards.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kalliste

    I picked this up because it sounded so different and interesting as the book opens to Ren, a 17 year old girl who has died and is now stuck, as a ghost of sorts, at a bench that has been dedicated to her. It started quite well (if anything this would be a 2.5 if Goodreads allowed it) but as time progressed Ren because super dependent on Gabe and their relationship just didn't seem very healthy. Yes, it is a teenaged romance so maybe it could be forgiven but it just didn't seem very real. Overall, I picked this up because it sounded so different and interesting as the book opens to Ren, a 17 year old girl who has died and is now stuck, as a ghost of sorts, at a bench that has been dedicated to her. It started quite well (if anything this would be a 2.5 if Goodreads allowed it) but as time progressed Ren because super dependent on Gabe and their relationship just didn't seem very healthy. Yes, it is a teenaged romance so maybe it could be forgiven but it just didn't seem very real. Overall, the whole reveal of the story just didn't feel real and I didn't feel like it was something that would have happened.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rubery Book Award

    Rubery Book Award - Book of the Year 2017 A memorial bench to seventeen year old Ren still contains her spirit. An aching sense of loss is wonderfully conveyed in this contemporary novel, as Ren tries to come to terms with her new situation, her own untimely death and the loss of her first real love, Gabe, who is blamed for her murder. Ren is visited in succession by her friends and family and touchingly struggles to communicate with them. She relives the events of her short life. There are no st Rubery Book Award - Book of the Year 2017 A memorial bench to seventeen year old Ren still contains her spirit. An aching sense of loss is wonderfully conveyed in this contemporary novel, as Ren tries to come to terms with her new situation, her own untimely death and the loss of her first real love, Gabe, who is blamed for her murder. Ren is visited in succession by her friends and family and touchingly struggles to communicate with them. She relives the events of her short life. There are no stereotypes here. Ren finds herself next to the crusty Lionel (another, much older bench-presence) yet their relationship becomes powerful and moving; the step mother, Susannah, is supportive, her half-sister is sensitive to Ren’s voice. The teenage language and humour, the rivalries, obsession with boys, music (Amy Winehouse) and parties are completely persuasive. Moving and unforgettable. ruberybookaward.com

  28. 4 out of 5

    Cam

    I really, really enjoyed this book! It's such an original idea but it didn't feel weird or out of place at all, and Ren's character felt real to me. The story was really interesting and I liked the way that we learn her story bit by bit as she recalls it every night, getting a little bit further each time. You can read my full review here: https://inkdropsbooks.wordpress.com/2... I really, really enjoyed this book! It's such an original idea but it didn't feel weird or out of place at all, and Ren's character felt real to me. The story was really interesting and I liked the way that we learn her story bit by bit as she recalls it every night, getting a little bit further each time. You can read my full review here: https://inkdropsbooks.wordpress.com/2...

  29. 5 out of 5

    Daryl G

    Absolutely loved this highly original book. This book is full of wonderful ideas and really emotional, a thoroughly enjoyable read that I would strongly recommend, an author with a big future ahead of her.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sas

    I have to admit that I wasn't sure what to expect from "My Life as a Bench" but the synopsis sounded so intriguing that I just had to request it. I think I hoped for a mystery novel with a paranormal touch. Yeah, that's not what I got. What I got was a love story. Every night Ren has to relive her relationship with her boyfriend Gabe – how they first met, how they fell in love, how they became a couple. Every night her memories are replaying in her mind and every time the reader has to go through I have to admit that I wasn't sure what to expect from "My Life as a Bench" but the synopsis sounded so intriguing that I just had to request it. I think I hoped for a mystery novel with a paranormal touch. Yeah, that's not what I got. What I got was a love story. Every night Ren has to relive her relationship with her boyfriend Gabe – how they first met, how they fell in love, how they became a couple. Every night her memories are replaying in her mind and every time the reader has to go through it again. And again. And again. Yeah, that got boring quite quickly. At least for me. I just couldn’t bring myself to care for Ren or any other character for that matter. And if I wouldn’t have wanted to know what happened to Ren the night she died I would have dropped "My Life as a Bench" quite early. I think I expected a little more mystery and suspense, especially because of the part of the synopsis where it says: "she must learn to break through and talk to the living". Yes, she tries to do that but it's only a small part of the story. And it doesn’t really contribute to the whole plot. Sure, in the end it helps Ren to meet Gabe again… so he can promise a bench to always love it. I am sorry to say this but this book actually did nothing for me. I didn't enjoy the story, I didn’t care for the characters and it all seemed kind of… pointless. If you like love stories with a twist "My Life as a Bench" could be for you, if you want to read a suspenseful novel you should skip this one.

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