DNF ARC REVIEW: Graffiti Palace by A.G. Lombardo

Title: Graffiti Palace
Author: A.G. Lombardo
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction
First published: March 13th 2018
Publisher: MCD
Finished reading: March 9th 2018 
Pages: 336
DNF at 49% (165 pages)

“At the mystic interstice where the mind and the beating heart held the brush or the spray can and the paint touched the inanimate skin of the city, who could really say where one began and the other ended?”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and MCD in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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It’s August 1965 in Los Angeles and Americo Monk is trying to return home to his girlfriend Karmann. He is known throughout the neighborhood as the man who keeps track of the graffiti decorating the community… And relatively safe among the different gangs and police. But this might mean nothing during the Watts Riots, because his status won’t take away the fact that there is nothing but chaos all around. Chaos that will lead him on different and surprising paths that won’t directly lead home…

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I admit I was intrigued by Graffiti Palace as soon as I saw the cover and read the blurb. I have an interest in stories involving race problematics and I have to admit I don’t know much about the era this story is set in other than just the bare details. I was looking forward to exploring this setting as well as learning more about this particular situation and find out how the graffiti element fits in. Sadly, it didn’t turn out to be the reading experience I thought it would be. I’ve tried several times over the last two weeks to start reading Graffiti Palace, but unfortunately I have been struggling with it right from the very first page. The main thing that stood out for me was the writing style, which simply wasn’t for me. It felt confusing, chaotic, haltering… And it simply made it hard to make sense of it all. Some might call it literary fiction, colorful and exuberant prose, but the sad hard facts are that I personally found it a constant struggle to reach the end of each page. The endless descriptions of just about every little tiny detail didn’t help warming up to the story either… Don’t get me wrong, I love a good detailed description in a story, but this was just way too much unrelevant details and too little focus on a possible plot itself. The parts where Monk wandered around the city were slightly better in the sense there were less descriptions and more ‘action’, but whenever Karmann’s POV popped up the pace slowed down to an almost full stop. Monk’s character has a lot of potential, I stil like the idea of the graffiti and what the art stands for and the potential of the riots and the race problematics being represented by the different groups that form part of the community. Graffiti Palace had all the potential to blow me away, but instead I was left struggling and feeling confused about it all. I really tried to continue reading to see if things would improve, but I had to give up when I reached the halfway mark and couldn’t see things getting better. I just felt this story was trying to hard to stand out and the writing style and descriptions too unlikeable and hard to read to be called lush and wonderful. I’m guessing the right person will most likely enjoy this story significantly better than I did, but I do believe this Graffiti Palace is not for everyone. I’m still sad I had to make the decision to DNF though.


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BOOK REVIEW: Homegoing – by Yaa Gyasi

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Title: Homegoing
Author: Yaa Gyasi

Genre: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction
First published: June 7th 2016
Publisher: Knopf
Finished reading: November 21st 2016 
Pages: 305
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“You want to know what weakness is? Weakness is treating someone as though they belong to you. Strength is knowing that everyone belongs to themselves.”

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As soon as I came across this story a few months ago, I just knew I had to read it at some point. I always have a weak spot for a solid historical fiction novel, and Homegoing had all the signs it was going to be just that. I somehow ended up posponing this read longer than I had initially planned, but the Goodreads Choice Awards were the perfect excuse to finally pick up this novel by Yaa Gyasi. And there is no doubt that Homegoing deserves its nomination. It’s a truly interesting historical fiction novel set in both Africa and the US, starting in the 18th century with two characters and following their future generations during centuries. I actually kind of had One Hundred Years Of Solitude flashbacks every time I considered this aspect of Homegoing, and that is definitely a compliment. Sure, the story is a bit confusing in the beginning, mostly due to the sheer amount of characters that are introduced over time. The pace was also a tad slow at times, but that is all forgotten if you look at just how brilliantly written this story actually is. The author is able to include so many important moments in the history of both slavery and race problematics in general, and manages to do so without it feeling like a dull history book. Each character adds a little something to the story, and even though it was hard to keep track of them at times, the fact that there are so many of them adds to the charm. Homegoing is without doubt a very powerful and well researched historical fiction novel that I can recommend to any fan of the genre with my eyes closed.

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Two half-sisters are separated by forces beyond their control: Esi is sold into slavery, while Effia was married to a British slaver. Their future and and those of their future generations of family have been changed forever by this fate, and their destinies will eventually lead them through two continents and three hundred years of history. The true legacy of slavery will be revealed with its many many aspects, all with the help of these two generations of families.

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While not perfect, Homegoing is without doubt well researched and is one of the most interesting books on slavery I’ve read to this date. Thanks to the three hundred years and different generations of those families, Yaa Gyasi is able to talk about so many important fact relating to both slavery and race problematics in general. And even though the pace is a bit slow and the sheer amount of characters can get confusing, there is no doubt that this is an excellent historical fiction novel with a powerful message.