Tag Archives: Esi Edugyan

[Book Review] Half-Blood Blues

Unlike my father, I’m not a huge listener of jazz music. So, I only know a few artists from that genre, and mainly just guitarists. Weirdly enough, I’m much more interested in jazz’s history than the music itself. Jazz had a dark past, one that was tied to racism, and that has always fascinated me. So, when I learned about Half-Blood Blues, a novel about Nazis and Jazz, I just have to read it.

Half-Blood Blues tells that story of three black musicians. Two of the men, the bassist and the drummer, are African-Americans who fled the US to try and make it in Berlin. Together with “Hiero”, a half German, half Senegalese, who is a virtuoso trumpet player, they try to record a song, a jazz parody of a popular Nazi anthem, while eluding capture in Nazi-occupied Berlin and, later, Paris.

One of the things I love about this book is that music flows from it. The characters’ speakeasy slang gave this book life and color that I’ve not seen in other books. The way they talk, you could almost hear jazz music on the background as well. Its setting, which I was really after, also didn’t disappoint. It really showed the hardships of being an outcast playing “degenerate” music under a totalitarian rule.

I really enjoyed reading Half-Blood Blues. I’ve never read a novel such as this before, which is about history, music, race, love, betrayal and brotherhood. It’s a great, great book. One that I’d recommend to all, especially to lovers of music.

Score: A-

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Paperbacks and Jewel Cases

Just because I carry a Kindle and an iPod Touch with me everywhere I go doesn’t mean I’ve eschewed physical copies of books and music. Quite the opposite, in fact. I love paper books and CD’s, and I’m even thinking of starting a vinyl collection. Unfortunately, renting a cramped room, I don’t have the luxury of space to store books and CD’s.

But, from time to time, I’d still allow myself to buy hardbound books, paperbacks and jewel cases. Especially when money allows and/or if the physical version is much cheaper than its digitized form. This time I got myself Esi Edugyan’s Half-Blood Blues and Port of Morrow, a new album from The Shins.

These days, it’s pretty rare to find a book or a CD that is cheaper than its digitized version. But Half-Blood Blues and Port of Morrow are cheaper than their Kindle or mp3 copies. It’s only a dollar cheaper. But, hey, I’m a frugalist. A dollar saved is a dollar saved.

Half-Blood Blues is the first book I’ve bought this year. I just finished re-reading A Storm of Swords, by George R.R. Martin, and is about to proceed to the next book of the Song of Ice and Fire when I saw this book on Amazon as one of their best books of March. Its synopsis –Nazis, racism, jazz music, World War II– hooked me right away.

I’m not really a big fan of The Shins. But I like them nonetheless. I’m pretty much excited that James Mercer is back with his crew. I like his voice and song writing. But his team-up with Danger Mouse in Broken Bells was just…broken. Port of Morrow is a decent album. It didn’t disappoint. Although it doesn’t seem as good as Wincing the Night Away or Chutes Too Narrow…more on this on my upcoming review.

Paperbacks are cool, and so are CDs. But I’m a practical and a frugal person. I go for cheap things that can easily be stored. That’s why I go for e-books, mp3s and digital games. Unless, of course, the physical copies are cheaper.

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