Friday, May 27, 2016

Jazz Moon by Joe Okonkwo : ARC Book Review

 Jazz Moon

Title: Jazz Moon
Author: Joe Okonkwo
Publisher: Kensington
Published Date: May 31st 2016
Genre: Historical Fiction, LGBT
Page Count: 352
Format:  Kindle

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Goodreads Summary: 
In a lyrical, captivating debut set against the backdrop of the Harlem Renaissance and glittering Jazz Age Paris, Joe Okonkwo creates an evocative story of emotional and artistic awakening.

On a sweltering summer night in 1925, beauties in beaded dresses mingle with hepcats in dapper suits on the streets of Harlem. The air is thick with reefer smoke, and jazz pours out of speakeasy doorways. Ben Charles and his devoted wife, Angeline, are among the locals crammed into a basement club to hear jazz and drink bootleg liquor. For aspiring poet Ben, the swirling, heady rhythms are a revelation. So is Baby Back Johnston, an ambitious trumpet player who flashes a devilish grin and blasts jazz dynamite from his horn. Ben finds himself drawn to the trumpeter—and to Paris where Baby Back says everything is happening.

In Paris, jazz and champagne flow eternally, and blacks are welcomed as exotic celebrities, especially those from Harlem. It’s an easy life that quickly leaves Ben adrift and alone, craving solace through anonymous dalliances in the city’s decadent underground scene. From chic Parisian caf├ęs to seedy opium dens, his odyssey will bring new love, trials, and heartache, even as echoes from the past urge him to decide where true fulfillment and inspiration lie.


 My Review:

"Perhaps it wasn't that people changed, but that they revealed themselves; that fertile ambitions bloomed and clamored to be harvested." 

In this story we follow Ben from 1925 to 1928. We see his marriage take shape, and what made them get married in the first place. We see him try to figure out how to deal with “this thing” as he calls it, and how it affects every part of his life, and how he tries to do the right thing but ends up not doing so well at. We also get to see him explore different relationships and trying new things. We get to learn about his childhood which was rather depressing because of how his parents ended up treating him due to how much they had lost before and they were afraid to show love to him because of it.
This story really started to get interesting to me as his relationship with the trumpeter started to really become a relationship and not just flirting, and how Baby Back showed him the world that he was a part of and that he didn’t have to hide what he really was. But I’m not going to lie, I never fully trusted Baby Back, I didn’t figure out why till much later in the book when his true colors started showing. And boy did he become unlikable at that point.  But he wasn’t the only one at fault in the relationship, Ben made many mistakes as well. They weren’t good together, but that relationship helped, Ben embrace who he truly was and to accept it.

“While a romantic may have embraced the expedience, he distrusted such effortlessness. It was too easy. He had parachuted into every relationship he’d had, without looking, without seeing, without bother to. Like shooting yourself from a cannon without considering what thorns you might land in. He distrusted love; its sugar promises; the way it commenced with a swelter, but then dissipated, far too quickly, to a lukewarm muddle."

The only part of this whole book that I didn’t like was when Ben went and started sleeping with anyone willing it seemed. It just made me feel so bad for him, because he was worth more than that, and the fact that he felt like that was the way to go broke my heart a little.
The cast of characters in this book were perfect as well, it made it feel more real and my favorite one was Glo who was a singer in Paris and told Ben exactly how it was and how he was worth more than how he was being treated.  I also like Sebastian and how he helped Ben get back a little bit of who he was before Baby Back. I liked how they worked as a team and were happy together.

"Falling in love. As if love was some awful pit and the inevitable direction was down. Why not rise in love instead of fall? And even that was inaccurate because love didn't do either. It unfolded, like a story. It had plot lines and plot points and points of view; was populated with supporting roles like Glo and colorful auxiliary characters like Cafe Valentin's patrons and band. Their story unfolded with drama.."

I also enjoyed the poetry and some of the songs that were in each chapter.
I went into this book, not knowing much at all, besides the fact that it was about Jazz and set in the 1920’s which I have been wanting to read more of recently.  I’m glad I didn’t know much about this book, because I might not have picked it up and read it.
This book took me on a journey of seeing things from a different point of view, and seeing love in a different way as well. I couldn’t wait to find out what happened to ben next and if he would be happy.  

Overall I would highly recommend this book if you want to see how a man struggling to figure out who he is and see his journey through that exploration.  

I received this ARC via Netgalley and Kensignton Books in exchange for my honest review. Thank you

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