Jazz Time in “Half Blood Blues”

This week’s book was Esi Edugyan’s “Half Blood Blues.” I remember buying this book months ago, drawn to the cover like a fly to honey. Yes, I’ll admit it loud and proud, I choose all my books based on the cover. There’s something about good cover art that makes you want to stick your nose right into those pages, don’t you think? This cover features a close up of the label on a vinyl record and just looking at it made be feel nostalgic, so of course, I added it to my to-be-purchased pile. 

The story drops us into the life of Sid Griffiths, jumping between his young 1940s and his aged 1990s self. Griffiths and his friends, all jazz musicians seeking to make a living and lay low during the onset of WWII, face racial hatred in Nazi Germany and although they flee to Paris, they cannot escape the condemnation. Sid struggles with jealousy of his biracial friend Hieronymus (who doesn’t love that name?) whom he perceives is a better musician. Sid’s jealousy leads to his betrayal of Hiero, leaving him to the mercy of the Nazi’s during the German invasion of France. 

The Sid we meet in 1990 is a tired, angry man who continues to struggle with his actions of his younger self. He must re-examine his past in order to find peace within himself. He feels anger towards Chip, another of his friends from childhood, who accuses Sid of being intertwined in Hiero’s arrest back in the 40s. He resents Chip for seeing the truth of his actions and proclaiming it to the world. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, loving every bit of the jazzy tones, and especially the introduction of Louis Armstrong (sigh). It was a slow read. You know you sometimes can’t fully immerse yourself in a book, no matter how much you love it. I found that this book, though set in a terrifying and exhilarating time, was slow moving at times, but that may just be my preoccupied self half-heartedly attempting to fall into this story. 

It’s a read that I’d recommend to anyone. Just love it and enjoy it. This book is paired well with a blanket and a large, hot cup of tea. 

Delectable Daytripper

I’ve fallen in love. It happens occasionally where you stumble upon a book you never expected to find and you read it because you have a slight interest in the topic, but you never expect to love it. And then you do. This was my experience for the graphic novel “Daytripper” by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon. I’d never heard of this book. It came up in my Amazon search as a recommended book. Of course, like everyone, I was drawn to a cover. Yes I do judge by the cover. An excellent cover generally indicates an excellent book, don’t you think (and keep in mind that I said GENERALLY)?

This book has captivated me. The story is of Bras de Olivia Dominguez and what fascinated me was that he, the protagonist, perishes at the end of every chapter. “How,” you might ask, “can a plot effectively continue with the death of the protagonist?” In “Daytripper,” we jump to various ages in Bras’ life and in each chapter he experiences death. For me this process of death and rebirth in the subsequent chapter has a very existential quality as we (and I’d argue Bras himself) question the significance of his existence. His death occurs every time a significant, life-altering moment occurs in his life: a birth, a death, a marriage, a promotion, etc. His deaths, to me, were metaphorical rather than literal. Each death is a death of his “old self” and he walks away from each scenario a different person. Each “rebirth” in the new chapter is a new beginning. 

This book altered my perception of events in my own life. Am I always the same person after a monumental event in my life? Does every life-altering experience mean that I lose my old self in a figurative death?

I loved this book. It’s form and content were beautiful. It has officially been added to my forever growing list of books to buy.

And one of these days, I’ll read a book whose title begins with a letter other than “D.”  

Feeling Divided on “Divergent”

I began this book as a part of a little book club I’ve formed with a friend. We’re challenging ourselves to read anything and everything. This month we decided to go mainstream, YA fiction. It’s been a long while since I’ve buried my nose in a YA novel and I’m glad I did.

As a woman in my early 20s and a lover of all things literature, I often consider myself to be somewhat of a book snob. Novels like “Divergent” are certainly not my usual picks. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the dystopian society that Veronica Roth has created. I was fascinated by the cities of Dauntless, Abnegation, Amity, Candor, and Erudite. The flaw that I discovered was the lack of coverage about cities beyond Dauntless and Abnegation, but perhaps this is something that Roth addresses in the remaining two novels. Like any good dystopian novel, the world is falling apart at the seams and of course, the cities (in this case factions) become pitted against one another in mortal combat. Roth’s twist of a technologically controlled, robot-like army of faction citizens was an exciting way to employ futuristic ideas and SPOILER ALERT the death of the mindless killing machine Will definitely was a bit of a downer. 

I’m all for a super fantastic heroine who can kick butt with the best of them, and Tris was no different. I found her longing for Abnegation more than I was hoping. She constantly returned to the thoughts of her home faction, despite her desire to leave. Roth delivered Tris’s status as “divergent” in an intriguing way, leaving the reader to wonder what it really meant to be divergent all the way along. Few YA novels can boast such subtlety when revealing major plot elements.

My greatest criticism has to be the use of typical YA jargon: not challenging whatsoever. Yes I am a few years older than the intended audience, however Roth could have employed a few larger words. And to be honest, the book could have done with a final edit. My favourite instance was the phrase that went something like, “She got a new outfit at the clothes place.” I mean, couldn’t Roth have used “store,” “closet,” or something a little more inventive than “clothes place?” Just my opinion though. 

Overall, it was a nice, easy read. I finished it in a few hours. And I’m curious to read the next few books. I may not be purchasing the rest of the series. Perhaps I’ll add my name to the long list of teens waiting to check it out from the library. For now, I have that pile of books beside my bedside to tackle. 

“There is nothi…

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
Ernest Hemingway

I’m challenging myself. I want to write as much as I can. I have failed in the recent past to write openly and to write frequently, but I want to use this space to tell you what I think, and what I feel. I’ll be looking into every and any book I can get my hands on, from graphic novels, to the next best seller, to YA fiction, to biographies. This is a space for me to share and hopefully for you to share as well. I’m setting myself the goal to write without inhibition. Let’s see how this goes.