Some Books I Have Been Reading Lately

Half-Blood Blues

Esi Edugyan
Half-Blood Blues
336pp. Picador.9781250012708
This book is made out of a new language, I'm not kidding. There are sentences in here that are doing things with English I have never in my life seen anybody do; which is fitting, since Half Blood-Blues is a book about jazz. Also: love, sex, betrayal, Nazis, art, music, genius, friendship, and cats. Set in Berlin and Paris, the novel jumps between 1939--when the career of a brilliant young trumpet player is cut short when he's arrested by the Nazis and disappears--and 1992, when Sidney Griffiths, the only witness to what happened, is forced to come to terms with the past he'd rather not remember. This book is plotted so perfectly I read it in two huge gulps, desperate to find out what happened next--but even more than that, it's a gorgeous, insightful meditation on why people make art and what happens when they love art more than they love other people.

Half-Blood Blues

Elizabeth Hand
Radiant Days
272pp. Viking Juvenile.9780670011353
Well, y'all know how I feel about Liz Hand, and Radiant Days is no exception. I read this back-to-back with Half-Blood Blues , an oddly perfect fit--both books take place in split times and both are about genius and art, madness and love. The things that drive us to keep making. I would be rabidly envious of a writer who is incapable of writing anything that isn't beautiful and channeled straight from the ether, but it's hard to be mad when you keep getting to read books this good.

Half-Blood Blues

Cara Hoffman
So Much Pretty
320pp. Simon & Schuster.9781451617283
Like basically this is the book TGWTDT was trying and failing miserably to be. So Much Pretty is written out of a place of straight fury and lord is that a place I know well, or what; it is dark, for sure, but it is also transcendent, and its violence is real and never gratuitous, and its message is clear. Cara Hoffman is a tremendously smart, tremendously angry writer, and happily for all of us she is also tremendously good.

Half-Blood Blues

Ellis Avery
The Last Nude
320pp. Riverhead.9781594488139
Shit, y'all, this thing is steamy! STEAMY! Let us not be shy, there. It is also a meticulously researched and totally fabulous portrait of Jazz Age Paris, with lots of delicious cameos from people you will recognize, based loosely on the life of real-life painter and walking scandal Tamara de Lempicka. Oh, that Tamara! What a piece of work! Seducing her nice young model who has come all starry-eyed to Paris, anxious to make a better life for herself. Mmm-hmmm. This book is totally smart but I am not going to lie, it hits the Sarah Waters sweet spot pretty hard. See also: Jean Rhys with less pathos. I DO NOT LIKE Amazon and I shall be VERY cross with you if you buy this book off Amazon instead of from your friendly local bookstore, or online at MY friendly local bookstore WORD Brooklyn if you haven't got one, but there is a great interview between Emma Donoghue and Ellis Avery here

Half-Blood Blues

Lisa Brackmann
Getaway
320pp. Soho.9781616950712
You remember how Rock Paper Tiger was like the best book ever? Then it will come as no surprise to hear that Getaway is like the best fun book ever. Like RPT's Ellie, Getaway 's Michelle is a lady prone to Bad Decisions; unlike Ellie, she hasn't got a lick of sense in her head, which, when you throw in drug runners, gangsters, a Dashing Mysterious Gentleman, and many hijinks, leads to lots of delightful shenanigans. Getaway is way less serious but still replete with Lisa Brackmann's prodigious smarts and astute political commentary: a thriller you can feel good about, let us say, and a tremendous lot of fun.

Half-Blood Blues

Anonymous
A Woman In Berlin
288pp. Picador.9780312426118
For eight weeks in 1945 an anonymous German woman in Berlin kept a journal as her city fell to the Russian army. This daily record of her life in a gutted city, and the mass rapes perpetrated by the Russian army, is as extraordinarily written as it is devastating. Bleak, beautifully observed, and written without a shred of self-pity, this is far and away one of the most stunning memoirs I've ever come across. And despite the harrowing content, it's also wildly funny: this is a woman who can pen some next-level gallows humor even as she's starving to death. Unforgettable and unputdownable.