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Bone Street Rumba #1

Half-Resurrection Blues

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“Because I’m an inbetweener—and the only one anyone knows of at that—the dead turn to me when something is askew between them and the living. Usually, it’s something mundane like a suicide gone wrong or someone revived that shouldn’ta been.”

Carlos Delacruz is one of the New York Council of the Dead’s most unusual agents—an inbetweener, partially resurrected from a death he barely recalls suffering, after a life that’s missing from his memory. He thinks he is one of a kind—until he encounters other entities walking the fine line between life and death.

One inbetweener is a sorcerer. He’s summoned a horde of implike ngks capable of eliminating spirits, and they’re spreading through the city like a plague. They’ve already taken out some of NYCOD’s finest, leaving Carlos desperate to stop their master before he opens up the entrada to the Underworld—which would destroy the balance between the living and the dead.

But in uncovering this man’s identity, Carlos confronts the truth of his own life—and death…

326 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published January 6, 2015

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About the author

Daniel José Older

100 books1,836 followers
Daniel José Older is the New York Times bestselling author of the Young Adult series the Shadowshaper Cypher (Scholastic), the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series (Penguin), and the upcoming Middle Grade sci-fi adventure Flood City (Scholastic). He won the International Latino Book Award and has been nominated for the Kirkus Prize, the Mythopoeic Award, the Locus Award, the Andre Norton Award, and yes, the World Fantasy Award. Shadowshaper was named one of Esquire’s 80 Books Every Person Should Read. You can find his thoughts on writing, read dispatches from his decade-long career as an NYC paramedic and hear his music at http://danieljoseolder.net/, on youtube and @djolder on twitter.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 571 reviews
Profile Image for Rick Riordan.
Author 302 books397k followers
December 31, 2015
Adult urban fantasy -- With a series named Bone Street Rumba, how could this not intrigue me? Older's hero is Carlos Delacruz, a half-dead, half-alive agent and hit man for the New York Council of the Dead. (You knew the dead of NYC had a bureaucracy, right? Of course they do.) Delacruz has no idea who he was when he was alive. He doesn't know how he became an in-betweener -- not exactly mortal nor a ghost -- but his special status makes him valuable to the Council since he is able to move freely among humans while hunting rogue ghosts that the Council wants eliminated. One night, Carlos is sent to stop another 'halfie' like himself who is about the take some unwitting mortal sightseers through an entrada (gateway) into the Underworld. The assignment becomes much larger and more complicated than anyone anticipated, leading Agent Delacruz into a dangerous gauntlet of unkillable spirits, crazy sorcerers, and apocalyptic plots, perhaps leading to the truth about Carlos' own identity.

I loved Carlos' hardboiled, profanity-laced, wonderfully fresh narrative voice. Told first person, this series is perfect if you like urban fantasy / noir mystery hybrids like Jim Butcher's Dresden Files or Richard Kadrey's Sandman Slim books. The supporting cast is great -- from the Santeria healer Baba Eddie to the neighborhood's surrogate ghost mom Esther who runs a library/sanctuary for spirits. Older lovingly captures the vibrant energy of multiethnic blue collar Brooklyn which is hanging on in the face of hipster gentrification. Delacruz, who straddles the border between life and death, is a wonderful guide through both mortal New York and the Underworld. Best of all, I finished the first book just in time for the release of the second: Midnight Taxi Tango. Excuse me while I get back to reading!
Profile Image for carol..
1,502 reviews7,548 followers
January 4, 2016

Broken finger review #6:

In a fit of compulsive organization, I'm cleaning off my TBR. Perhaps because of Shadowshaper, Older popped up. Intrigued by the premise, a half-dead, half-alive main character--because if there's ever a metaphor for modern life, that's it--and thought it might be the perfect gym read. I still have the broken finger, so I can't hold heavy hardcovers, and hey--paperback! And urban fantasy--fast moving, right?

Well, sort of. The first 140 pages blipped by on the exercise bike, but I suspect that's more me than Older. I'm pretty sure I read every other word or some such weird shit, because I've learned thinking books while I'm exercising don't work (a few years back, I went through the entire Spenser and Child series this way. Just sayin'). At any rate, it was kind of fun at first, despite a particularly awkward moment when he falls in lust with a photograph. Then, when I picked it up again, at home, I had trouble staying awake while reading.

I'm pretty sure it's Older, but there's a chance it could be me.

Carlos is half-dead, and works for New York's all-dead ghost council killing beings. Apparently, he mostly sends ghosts into the next life (or lack thereof). He gets an assignment and discovers the target is a halfer, like him, the first half-alive he's ever heard of. It's pretty clear this guy is doing some wildly unsafe stuff like showing frat boys the door to the Underworld, so Carlos kills him quickly. However, the death lingers in his mind, as well as the picture of the very hawt woman Carlos finds in the man's pocket. At the same time, Carlos' nominal superior and friend Riley the full ghost is growing concerned about the atmosphere of dread and decay on a particular block. Some unkillable imps called ngsks have moved in and signal terrible things coming. Investigation ensues.

With the exception of Carlos, many of the characters are reasonably interesting. There's a ghost named Mama Ester who has a wealth of knowledge, and Riley is interesting as superior and friend. I laughed a bit at the beginning when Carlos described the frat boys as "Brads." The evil is well characterized, even if the end goal is unclear. The love interest is one-sided and underdeveloped, mostly consisting of Carlos pining for her. Support from the voodoo and medical teams made me laugh.

Unfortunately, Older gave himself two very large challenges: one, Carlos lost his memory at death, so he really doesn't have much personal history and little sense of identity. Two, Carlos lacks curiosity. I'm not quite sure how he fell into assassin role, but he did, and only now, when people "like him" are supposed to be killed, does he find himself wondering. Not enough to do anything, though. But that strategy hampers both individual character-building and general world-building, because Carlos is a half-hearted tour guide who can't really answer any questions.

Narrative wanders all over the place. Often literally, as Carlos prefers to walk the streets to get to his destination. Investigation is casual and one aspect is frequently abandoned to work on another or until something nasty propels it forward. Progress on investigating the Growing Evil is interrupted to search for the attractive woman. Though he's apparently spent little time investigating his history, until this case brings it up. Likewise, it doesn't sound like he's questioned The Council though he's flagrantly disrespectful to them (which doesn't really square--) and, you know, kills for them. Time period also wanders. Despite a sense of urgency and subsequent deaths, there's periods where Carlos takes off from the investigation, whether to mope, heal or whatever. Thankfully, Evil must also take breaks, because despite the nsgks being connected to The Black Death and the like, nothing happens. There's an amazing double wth moment near the end--and I don't mean that in a good way. .

Germs of some good ideas here, and ghosts of humor and character building, but could use improvement with plotting, because Carlos and his lust interest certainly don't carry the story.

I don't know, maybe I should have finished the second half at the gym.
Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
1,985 reviews2,584 followers
January 5, 2015
4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum http://bibliosanctum.com/2015/01/05/b...

UPDATED: US GIVEAWAY FOR HALF-RESURRECTION BLUES details at http://bibliosanctum.com/2015/01/05/b...

It feels like just the other day I was expressing my desire for more ghosts in urban fantasy, and then onto my lap drops Half-Resurrection Blues. There’s a twist to it, though. Protagonist Carlos Delacruz isn’t exactly a ghost. Instead, he’s an “inbetweener”, which is exactly what it sounds like – someone not quite alive and also not quite dead. As such, he is one of the New York Council of the Dead’s most special and valuable agents, someone who can interact with the living in the corporeal world as well as the ghosts in the realm of the dead.

Carlos has no idea how he came to be the way he is, nor does he remember his past or how he died. Until recently though, he thought he was alone. But since New Year’s Eve, he has encountered three other inbetweeners, one of whom is a particularly nasty sorcerer. Meanwhile, NYCOD is freaking out because the city is being overrun with “ngks”, imp-like creatures that pose a dire threat to spirits and undead. Somehow all of this has to be connected. It’s up to Carlos to maintain the delicate balance between the mortal world and the Underworld, and put a stop to a nefarious plot to breach the Entrada that protects us all.

I only learned after I finished reading the book that this wasn’t Carlos Delacruz’s first appearance. A bit of research led me to discover Daniel José Older’s anthology called Salsa Nocturna which features the NYCOD and also our main guy Carlos in a lot of the short stories. Reading this collection isn’t a prerequisite by any means, but knowing that Half-Resurrection Blues is part of a greater world that existed before this made a lot of sense. The story drops you right into the thick of things; few words are wasted when it comes to the rich portrayal of this fully-formed version of New York City, inhabited by a diverse population made up of both the living and dead alike. Nevertheless, the book is written in a way that makes it easy for the average reader to pick up the overall premise and atmosphere, allowing one to jump straight into the plot.

I love the story and I love the characters, but it is Older’s writing that takes the cake. This is my first experience with his work, and his style is definitely not something I would have expected to find in an urban fantasy novel. He makes an art of the genre, infusing his prose with so much beauty and intensity. The voice of main character Carlos Delacruz is rooted in the urban fantasy tradition, suiting the story perfectly, but every once in a while you will come across some sections in the narrative that are just…damn. Some sections are just downright poetic, so fine and elegant that it will take your breath away, leaving you at a loss for words.

Likewise there is nothing simple or superficial about the story. There’s a bit of everything thrown into this mix – some mystery with a tinge of classic noir especially when we delve deep into Carlos’ mind; a dash of humor when we learn that even ghosts and creatures of the otherworld have their little quirks and eccentricities; a strong undercurrent of horror because at its heart this is a novel about living and dying; and last but not least, we have love and passion handled in a way that is at once candid but also full of soul and quite insightful.

Half-Resurrection Blues is the first book of a series called Bone Street Rumba, and it’s probably safe to say I’ve never encountered an urban fantasy quite like this. Infused with the fierce and primal rhythm of a party while bringing together a combination of traditions, I believed the series is rather aptly named. All this makes the book a fun and entertaining read, but it’s also very thought-provoking when you peel back the layers.
Profile Image for Skye Kilaen.
Author 14 books291 followers
September 4, 2019
LOVE this ghost-y urban fantasy, multicultural, noir, magical war type series with a large, distinct, and very diverse cast across the trilogy and so much amazing worldbuilding that I don't even know what to do with myself. Carlos Delacruz, the most central main character, is a half-alive half-dead agent of New York's Council of the Dead, doing the dirty work of their bureaucracy, until he discovers he's not the only partially resurrected dude around - and the other ones may be up to Very No Good. OF COURSE.

I adored the first book so much that when the second book heavily featured insects that I am legit terrified of, I convinced myself to think of them as plastic toys so I could read it anyway. Seriously good stuff.
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 58 books7,643 followers
February 20, 2019
I really enjoyed the linked short story collection Salsa Nocturna: Stories so I picked this up. NY-set urban fantasy where the inbetweener Carols (was dead, got resurrected, is now somewhere in between) worked for the Council of the Dead, dealing with rogue ghosts and keeping things tidy. Obviously it all gets complicated, with a significant building threat and some fantastic evil vowel-free demons who operate on timy exercise bikes. As you do. Urban fantasy fun with terrific spirit of place and some quality swearing.
Profile Image for TheBookSmugglers.
669 reviews1,969 followers
January 15, 2015
Originally posted on The Book Smugglers

Carlos Delacruz is an agent with the New York Council of the Dead who can be often found working alongside his ghostly partner trying to maintain peace between the dead and the living and protecting the entrada to the underworld. Brooklyn is his domain, where he goes hunting when he is told and where he has found a measure of peace and companionship amongst those who know what he is if not who he is.

For Carlos is an inbetweener, someone not entirely dead but also not entirely alive either, his skin an unhealthy shade of grey, his body as cold as a corpse, his heart barely beating. Half-resurrected from a death he doesn’t completely recall suffering, he also has no recollection of his actual life: his name has been given to him by his now friends, his mission in life a gift that keeps him going.

Up until now Carlos has never truly questioned his job or how he has become what he is. But then one mission leads him to meet someone like him, another inbetweener with a dangerous plan, someone he ends up killing on the job. That death comes back to haunt him just as his loneliness becomes a sharp knife that constantly pierces his soul: what would they have said to each other had they had a chance?

But then he comes to know others like him. One of them is Sasha, the sister of the man he just killed and the woman he becomes desperately attracted to. The other is a sorcerer with a plan that could bring down the invisible walls between the living and the dead. An infestation of ngks threatening to destroy Mama Esther, one of Carlos’ best friends is only the cherry on top of a mountain of problems Carlos is about to face.

Half-Resurrection Blues is Daniel José Older’s first novel and the start of the Bone Street Rumba series. The writing, the humour, the main character’s deeply felt sense of loneliness and the diversity of the world are praiseworthy. When it comes to the writing, Half-Resurrection Blues somehow manages to be both poetic and completely down-to-earth – Carlos is a fan of poetry and often finds himself waxing (incredibly cheesy) poetic:

I want to take that face in my hands and put my own face against it and let our connecting faces be the fulcrum that swings our two bodies together and let the winter night guide our combined life forces into an intimate tangle that obliterates all our fears and regrets, but instead I just smile and offer her my arm.

…at the same time that he does not hold back on the fucks and shits and every inbetween (ha) thing.

It’s a heady combination that works really well because Carlos’ speaking patterns are also very much inbetween: at times it sounds out-of-place and outdated and at times contemporary. I often wondered when did Carlos first die, a mystery yet to be solved and I would not be surprised if he wasn’t alive in the sixties or seventies. He is also, in the vein of much of UF’s main heroes and heroines, a smart-ass, snarky and ultimately funny narrator. I loved his voice.

With regards to the plot and the world-building, Half-Resurrection Blues has a supernatural procedural mystery at its centre which unfolds slowly and gives chance to a myriad of characters to be brought into the fold. Most of them are not-white, might I add, and complicated elements of racism appear here and there, never taking centre stage but never out of sight either.

I think my favourite scene in the entire novel is when most of the secondary cast surrounds an injured Carlos (the circumstances of said injury is a moment that literally made me cheer out loud. It was, shall we say, a result of a deserved grievance): a paramedic, a surgeon, a santero and a snarky teenager working together to save his ass.

In the midst of all the positive aspects – and I did really enjoy, nay, I loved this novel – there is one not so positive thing that I must remark on: the portrayal of Carlos’ love interest, Sasha. Half-Resurrection Blues feels like a very male world ( a lot more male characters in comparison) but there are well-written women present and accounted for like Mother Esther and Kya.

Sasha however is woefully under-developed even though she occupies Carlos’ mind through most of the novel. From the moment he sees her (in a photograph), she becomes nothing more than a vessel for his gaze: a vessel for his lust to start with, then a vessel for his love, his guilt, his shame, eventually his seed and toward the ending she even becomes the villain’s vessel. Sasha has little agency and even the key moments shared between Carlos and her are mostly off-page – there is a scene where they sit down to have a conversation that could have helped in creating a better idea of who Sasha is but the scene is literally Carlos telling us “we talked all night.” At the end of it, he is in love and I don’t know why.

This is all the more lamentable because there were glimpses into what I can only describe as a fucking amazing woman but they only came through Carlos’ gaze.

In spite of that, Half-Resurrection Blues is a solid, fun debut that I thoroughly enjoyed and absolutely recommend. Can’t wait for the sequel: here’s hoping for more, better Sasha.
Profile Image for Whitney.
324 reviews35 followers
August 13, 2015
This book was received through a goodreads.com giveaway

I was really excited to read Half-Resurrection Blues, but my excitement rapidly turned to disappointment upon reading. As an avid fan of urban fantasy, I’m always looking for a new series with a different twist, and had high expectations for this book’s ghostly premise. However, the book had several glaring shortcomings that ruined my experience.

The Main Character: Carlos Delacruz is one of the most boring generic characters I’ve ever had the misfortune to read about - seeing as he’s the main character of the book, that’s hugely unfortunate. Carlos has zero personality. Part of this might stem from the fact that he has no memory of who he was before his half-resurrection left him skirting the world of the living and the dead. Despite the author’s attempt at giving him some sort of depth by slapping him with a limp and a (potentially as he has no memory and there is no way of telling) Puerto Rican heritage, neither of these things actually added anything to the character.

At first I was hopeful, particularly for the limp as that isn’t something you see terribly often, but there was absolutely no story as to why he limped. He just did. Even if Carlos had no memory of the actual incident leading to having such a limp, he should have had some natural curiosity about it, after all I certainly was burning with curiosity! Was it a birth defect? Was one leg shorter than the other? Did it stem from the hip, knee, or ankle? Was it an injury of some sort (most severe trauma leading to a limping injury would leave a scar either from the trauma itself or the surgery required to fix it)? Unfortunately Daniel Older didn’t ever bother to expound upon the limp, dropping a huge opportunity to help develop the character.

Carlos had no depth, no personality, and no curiosity. Near the end of the book you learn that he’s been half-dead for over 3 years, and apparently never cared about how he came to be in such a state until the story demanded he learn. For three years he was a yes-man and only a hot girl stirred anything other than apathy. BORING.

The Cast: The rest of the cast was as equally 2D and boring as poor Carlos. The author apparently tried to flesh out his characters by giving them a name, and an ethnicity before moving on to the next. While I appreciate a book that has a cast filled with more than just white dudes and ladies, this was the opposite extreme of ridiculous. For example, one of the characters (whose name I never learned) was an Indian who could pass as White. This lead to a serious head-scratching moment where I tried to mentally figure out what that looked like. Then during the really awful exposition between Carlos and this character the guy said something to the effect of growing up on the rez, whereupon I immediately yelled “NATIVE AMERICAN! ” The author’s use of the classification of Indian had me thinking of a completely different ethnicity. Whoops?

As a whole the characters left so little impression on me that when they showed up later on I kept having moments of “Wait, is this a new character or did we already meet this person?” To be quite honest I didn’t care enough to bother flipping back and finding out. You know that the author failed at his job when there is a character death (or more than one in this case) and you just don’t care. It was impossible for me to feel any emotional attachment when the main protagonist didn’t seem to feel anything himself.

Setting: Despite the word “Brooklyn” thrown out multiple times in the first chapter - and throughout the entire book - my brain kept trying to place this story in New Orleans. Now, this is most likely entirely my fault. I’ve never been to Brooklyn, so the author very well may have done an excellent job describing the place. However, for me the setting was so strongly reminiscent of New Orleans that my brain repeatedly ignored the name of city.

World Building: The world building in this book was horribly shoddy. If there were rules to why things happened the way they did they weren’t explained until the bumbling protagonist needed to know. Very little was even implied through the story itself, which is often the way things of this nature are handled. Carlos had a sword that killed ghosts permanently, and never wondered why they gave it to him, or why it worked. Despite being in this weird half state for three years Carlos had apparently never been given training as to the workings of the world of the dead, and instead he (and myself as the reader) was given a really abrupt crash courses every few minutes from the apparently eternally patient Riley (?). Ugh.

Plot: The plot of Half-Resurrection Blues took forever to get going. To be honest, due to the above mentioned plethora of problems things didn’t really start getting interesting until the last 60 pages of the book. The characters were still 2D and I still couldn’t bring myself to really care about their plight, but the concept of what could occur if they failed was intriguing enough to up my enjoyment factor slightly.

Overall, I would not recommend this book to any of my friends. I realize there are certainly some merits to the book. For example, some people have commented on the nearly lyrical nature of some passages in the books. I agree that there were on occasion passages that almost “sounded” like music due to their rhythmic quality. However, I was so pissed off and irritated by the multitude of previously mentioned issues that I paid very little attention to these passages. I really wish I had enjoyed the book, as there are so few paranormal themed books that deal strictly with ghosts. Unfortunately, Half-Resurrection Blues didn’t do it for me and I’ll be staying far away from any further installments in this series.
Profile Image for Mir.
4,778 reviews4,983 followers
March 13, 2018
I gave it 100 pages.

Sorry, DJO! I still like you!

Friends who haven't tried this author:
I recommended starting with Anyway: Angie if you like harder, more horror-leaning urban fantasy, or one of his other Tor shorts.
If you prefer YA, Shadowshaper is excellent. Especially recommended for Brooklyn residents.
Profile Image for Erica.
1,292 reviews424 followers
March 13, 2018
I am quite pleased to say I enjoyed this. Is it the best-written book ever? Nah, it's not. But it was entertaining and a new (mostly) genre for me. I don't read a lot of paranormal noir. Paranoirmal? My last few forays into Paranormal were an urban fantasy romance which gave me eye strain from constant rolling and the Moore books about the little girl who was the Big Death, which were just too much for me in too short a time period.
I can't remember why I'd put this book on hold at the library. I know Older was recommended but now I don't remember if it was someone here who was all, "Oh, here's a guy you need to read" or if it was an article about people who aren't white writing fantasy about people who aren't white. If it was one of you guys telling me to read this guy, thanks! If it was an article*, yay, I'm glad I listened. This was a fun story.

So we've got this dead guy who has been resurrected. Not Jesus, not even close, but similar circumstances. Kind of. Ok, not at all. Only in name. Kind of. At any rate, Carlos Delacruz died and was brought back to life but isn't actually alive, really. He's more like re-animated with only the barest of vital signs to keep him going. He works for the New York Council of the Dead, a group of ghosts who make sure there's a death-to-life balance going on and who keep death things, like wily spirits who being all interfere-y and such, where they belong. He thinks he's the only deadalive in town but then he finds another which leads to more and he falls in love with a hot chick who doesn't have much personality but that's only because this story isn't about her, it's about him and his insta-love with a girl who is hot and that's all we need to know. Ok, that part made me roll my eyes because ugh. Always with the insta-love because she's gorgeous. Whatever. Then a nefarious plot is brought to light and life is going to become more deathy if Carlos doesn't do something about it.

Here's what I really, really liked about this tale:
--Carlos is not an alpha male. Can I just tell you how much I dislike alpha males? Not in person (ok, I kinda don't like them in person, either) but in stories. I hate them. And Carlos, he's not one. He's also not the conniving, delusional beta male who is funny and charming except for when he's irritating and creepy. Our guy is just a regular dead-back-to-life dude who is doing his job in the Big Apple. SO refreshing.
--He's got a best friend. Riley, a spirit, and also Carlos' supervisor at work is his pal off the clock. They talk and hang out and stuff. Friendship is not often something highlighted to this degree in...well anything other than beach reads about women who are friends, really. I liked that these two guys were BFFs.
--The romance was not stupid. Ok, ok, all romance is stupid to me but, aside from the insta-love thing, I didn't gag at all. There's some sex and it was nice. I'm not one for Penthouse Forum (is that even still a thing)-style reenactments because I don't care whose throbbing organ is being drooled on by which wet, hot pussy or what back door is being plowed by whom. Graphic details aren't my thing and I, therefore, was all, "Oooh, that's so nice" (meaning short and relatively painless) at the kissing parts in this story.
--It's wry. I like wry. It makes me happy.
--Mama Esther. Specifically, Mama Esther's backstory. And her library! I want a whole book about that. A whole series, even. SO much love.

I finished this up in a couple of days while housesitting and I found I was sad it was done. I look forward to the next in the series and will be watching this author.

*Update, 5/3/15: Oh, that fucker! Daniel Older recommended himself to me (not really and not intentionally) via this article which I read for librarian reasons and really enjoyed and that's what made me want to check him out. Literally. Like, I checked this book out from the library. Also, I went and stalked his GoodReads author page. Such a manipulator! Curse you, Older. I'm going to get a crush on you and I'll be clueless as to how it happened.
Profile Image for Andrea.
Author 25 books781 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
November 5, 2015
A lot of urban fantasy covers some pretty similar beats. Dangerous person working for/against/around a powerful paranormal organisation, wandering around fixing this week's intra-dimensional threat. And Half-Resurrection Blues doesn't go anywhere particularly new on this point. Carlos is a man without memory or a pulse, not quite dead and not quite alive, working for an organisation that sends not-alive people (mostly ghosts) to fix paranormal/supernatural issues. The current problem is imp-things called ngks infesting New York - which are quite deadly to the spiritual agents of the Council of the Dead.

The book steps away from the standard grizzled white guy, for Carlos is Puerto Rican and politically aware, and so the world has layers - but at the start the plot held no particular surprises. Not fantastic with the female characters since none of them seemed to be power players in the story, and ranged through mother figure/healer, lust object, sassy daughter figure, and failed drunken hookup.

Then I hit a plot development that noped me right out of reading any further.

Other readers might have different reactions to this development, but it's a deal-breaker for me. Usually, when I stop reading a book, I flip to the end to find out how the plot resolved, but for this story, my nope was strong enough to create myself a DNF shelf.
Profile Image for sraxe.
394 reviews379 followers
May 15, 2016
I honestly think this is a "it's not you, it's me" situation, so don't take my rating as a knock at the book because it's really just for how I felt about it. I tried for more than a quarter before having to DNF because I wasn't feeling it at all. And the thing is, I wanted to like it so bad! I did like certain parts of it, like how relatable the world felt. And ain't that some shit when it's an Urban Fantasy, huh? I haven't felt this at home when I read contemporary! I found Older's world to be highly reflective of real life, with tons of POC and other different groups. Unlike a lot of works (I'm talking like...95% of publishing here, I bet), I could actually legitimately see myself in Older's world.

I also loved that Older didn't italicize words and phrases his characters in other languages. His video about why he doesn't do this is so real. It's something I'd never thought about before when seeing non-English languages being italicized, but this really made me stop and thing. Code-switching between three languages is a part of my everyday life, which I don't even think about 95% of the time, so why should it be made different?

The other thing I liked about this book was the dialogue. There are so many books with dialogue that just sounds incredibly unnatural. (Oh, and I'm talking contemporary here, not historical.) I think some authors forget to try and see if these sentences that sound great when you write them out actually work when they come to being used as dialogue. So I liked the natural flow of their conversations and the grittiness of the language. I felt it was the right blend, not too stiff and formal and like you actually are writing lines-sounding, but not littered with f-bombs in order to try and give it authenticity, either.

But anyway. Despite that, I still couldn't get into the book. The way the book was written (first person, present) was something that that threw me right off the bat because that tense and person combination is the one I dislike the most. However, the more I read it, the more I understood how well it worked for the book. Next, I had an issue with Carlos. I just don't find him to be that compelling of a character and never got around to liking him. And his instalove for Sasha was massively annoying. (And that's besides the circumstances which led to their meeting...ya know, .)

But like I said in the beginning, I think it's a case of "it's not you, it's me," so don't let my review of a quarter of the book stop you from checking it out.
Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,003 followers
February 1, 2015
This book is made awesome by the setting and cast — it’s full of detail that places it exactly in time and space, in Brooklyn and in the ghost/s of Brooklyn; it’s full of characters with all kinds of origins and all kinds of stories, all of which is supplemented by the kind of details that make them feel real. Mannerisms, foibles, culture-specific ways of speaking or thinking… and it’s never some kind of monolithic culture, but all sorts of cultures in a melting pot, a dialogue. The background of the story was interesting, too: the halfies, the Council of the Dead, the ngks, house spirits… it comes together into a pretty interesting mythology in general.

In terms of the plot, I was less enthused, though it’s certainly not a chore to read. It’s just a little bit predictable; I was constantly reminded of other books while I was reading it, constantly a couple of steps ahead of the plot. Like, come on, who wouldn’t guess that with the ability to kind of read thoughts, a woman would figure out you killed her brother? And that wouldn’t go down well with her? I’m hesitant to even call that a spoiler, that’s just human.

I’m planning to read Salsa Nocturna anyway, and to read more of Daniel José Older’s work, but I wasn’t blown away. It’s more solid fun than something that swept me off my feet.
Profile Image for Ashley Marie .
1,197 reviews374 followers
January 9, 2018
3.5 stars

I adored Carlos' narrative voice; he really sounded like he was telling the story and I was right there next to him. Somewhere in the middle things got a little muddled and I remember wondering if anything was even happening or if it was all just words, but the action kicked in again in the end. I never grew attached to Sasha; their romance felt way too rushed to me. I loved Riley and Dro and Mama Esther and Baba Eddie and Dr Tijou. The ngks were bizarrely scary, especially once you saw them take someone out. I really appreciated the portrait of Brooklyn and the diversity in just that borough, because it reminds you that NYC is utterly huge. I was a bit disappointed because a book like this should've only taken me four or five days at most to read, and thanks to the middle it seemed to drag. However, I'm definitely still sufficiently interested in this world, and I love DJO's writing, so I'll check out the next one.
Profile Image for Ami.
5,749 reviews501 followers
January 20, 2015
2.5 stars

I immediately bought this book (Kobo had 50% discount code I could use) without reading any early reviews because I am a sucker for urban fantasy with male protagonist. I always try to find a new series I can follow. So I was intrigued -- and the a couple of friends gave this 4-stars rating.

Unfortunately, this book didn't work for me...

Maybe I am a lazy reader; I don't like the sensation that I've been dropped in the middle of an urban fantasy world without so much of an introduction. And that was what I felt when I was reading this. Like the story started off page, way before I opened the first page. I got confused a lot. I ended up skimming (as my eyes glazed over the words or I distracted myself with whatever I could do with my computer).

Older also introduced characters after characters that interacted with Carlos without explanation. I kept thinking, wait, who was this guy again? Or who was this woman? Wait, how did Carlos know these people? Not a reading experience I enjoy when choosing an urban fantasy book :(

There were times some scenes captured my attention, that I spent time to read them carefully (one that I could remember was when Carlos was visited by a message delivery-ghost. That was cute). But in overall, the whole world-built of inbetweeners, ghosts, ngks (yes, WEIRD term isn't it? at first I thought it was a typo *lol*), the Underworld, and other paranormal characters just didn't reel me in.

I didn't have anything to complain about the writing though ... mainly the way the story told made me lack connection to the story, to the world, and alas, to the characters. I guess I must chalk this up as a series that most people else like but me *sigh*. Not planning to check up any sequels (if any) either.
Profile Image for Linda ~ they got the mustard out! ~.
1,519 reviews97 followers
June 10, 2020
3.5 stars

This one didn't grab me quite as much as the Shadowshaper books did. It lacked the humor and camradie of the ensemble cast of characters that the Shadowshaper books used to great effect, hence why I'm giving it 3.5 instead of 4 stars, but otherwise, everything else I've come to expect from this author holds true. Great world building, an imaginative and detailed world of spirits and how they navigate the world of the living, cultural and racial sensitivity, and just a really intriguing story. I think this is supposed to be part of the same world as the Shadowshaper books - there was a brief mention of the Whispers - but other than that, this can be read independently of those.

This story centers around mostly-dead Carlos, who straddles the world of the living and the dead and thinks he's the only one like him. Until he sees another. Soon, he's being overrun by gnks and is on the path of a conspiracy that can bring the worlds of the living and the dead down upon each other.

I'm not quite sure what to make of the love story that gets set up here.

Older himself narrates this, and while he could have a bit more range with the character voices, I did really enjoy his performance. Some authors really should not narrate their own books, but Older is not one of them. He's got a rich, deep voice and knows how to bring out Carlos's personality and those of the other characters as well.
Profile Image for Montzalee Wittmann.
4,449 reviews2,319 followers
May 22, 2017
Half-Resurrection Blues (Bone Street Rumba #1) by Daniel José Older is a different kind of urban fantasy. The main character is an agent for the dead because he is in-between the living and the dead. He takes cases for the dead. He sees the dead, knows them like we know live people but at the same time, he has live friends. The mystery is good, suspense filled, great fresh fantasy, and great characters. The only fault I found is too much sex. I am not a prude, I don't mind sex in books but there could have been less. I am still giving it 5 stars for originality and plot, characters, and so on. Great book. I bought the next book and hope to start it soon. I heard that either the movies production or tv is looking into this book. It would be good.
Profile Image for Kristin  (MyBookishWays Reviews).
601 reviews202 followers
December 2, 2014
You can also read my review here: http://www.mybookishways.com/2014/12/...

I’ve been waiting so very long for a full length novel featuring Carlos Delacruz, who works for the New York Council for the Dead. I first met Carlos in Older’s magnificent story collection Salsa Nocturna and so, of course, I couldn’t wait to dig into this. A bit of history: Carlos is an inbetweener, both alive and dead, and he has very little memory of who he was before he “died” and went to work for the Council. It makes for a bit of a lonely life, although he does value his friends and coworkers. When the book opens, Carlos gets orders to take out a man named Trevor that is threatening the stability of an entrada (an entrance into the underworld), and he does, not knowing that this will lead him into some rather startling revelations about his past, not to mention a very powerful sorcerer, Sarco, that seeks to destroy the barrier between the living and the dead.

If you know Daniel José Older’s work, then you know how he writes. I imagine he writes like he plays music, with a lyrical quality that is nearly impossible to tear yourself away from. Carlos is the narrator, and he wears his pain on his sleeve, his loneliness always palpable. And yet, he’s not afraid to fight the good fight, and his sarcasm is as sharp as a freshly stropped razor, as is his sense of humor. I don’t want to give too much away, but suffice it to say that Carlos does find clues about his past, and meets a woman that may have the key to his future. First though, he’s got to take care of a pretty nasty imp infestation that seems to be directly associated with Sarco. Those imps are nasty business, and the first time we meet one is, well, you’ll see. I’ve never quite read anything like it. The imagery is so twisted. So very, very twisted.

New York has long been considered a colorful, richly diverse city, but Older’s magical rendering makes it something very special indeed, full of ghosts, soul catchers, and many other otherworldly delights and monstrosities. It makes for a very creepy and exciting mix, daubed with shades of melancholy, and even some very clever horror elements, and the ending will leave you reeling. I can’t recommend this book, or this author, highly enough. This is what urban fantasy is all about, and when you start this, allow some time to finish, because you won’t want to come up for air until you do.
Profile Image for Leonicka.
150 reviews43 followers
January 8, 2015
Truly fantastic. So many layers to explore and discuss. The character development was great and Daniel's Brooklyn is alive--not in the cliché "practically another character" sense. More like it was the fabric, the sinews, the magic that tied everyone together.

Anyway. I listened to the audio version which I HIGHLY recommend. Daniel narrates it himself so the inflection and rhythm and emotion in the words comes across perfectly. It's an added bonus to hear him give each character a different voice. Well done on crying!Amanda and ranting!Russell. Nice try on Dr. TiJou. :P

I also giggled at reading quirks you notice after 6+ hours of listening to an audiobook. Like Daniel's staccato pausing. after. every. motherfucking. word. when. he. wants. to. sound. extra. dramatic. It worked though :)

I'm eager to get a print copy--mostly for the map and the gorgeous typesetting. But I'm also curious of how I'll engage with the texture of the words when reading them myself.
Profile Image for Zombieslayer⚡Alienhunter.
389 reviews67 followers
May 31, 2018
Whatever it is that's been causing all this static is out where tonight. I'm sure of it.
The more I can disappear, the more chance I have of catching it.

Carlos Delacruz is an inbetweener, a partially resurrected dead man who was nursed back to half-life after being found in a Brooklyn park years ago.
As a being neither dead nor truly alive, Carlos has proven himself a worthy asset to the Council Of The Dead, the spectral court of laws in the land of the deceased, as a Soulcatcher. A Soulcatcher finds lost souls and dispatches them to the Deeper Dead, wherever that may be.

Usually, it’s something mundane like a suicide gone wrong or someone revived that shouldn’ta been.

When an infestation of lifeforce-sucking creatures pops up and starts stalking his friends- the only family he has, lacking a memory of his life before resurrection- Carlos himself, as the only known inbetweener living, is the only one who can hope to stop them and whoever's controlling them.

Things get dim. Those stupid Cheerio-shaped bubbles float across my view of the open door in front of me.
For a second, I think I'm gonna make a comeback. The ngk's screech still shreds from the inside, but I'm strong. I'm trained for this. I'm-

Alongside the infestation of powerful, deadly ngks, (or..?) reports surface of a mysterious man with supernatural ability hanging around the usual 'haunts' for the supernatural population in New York. He could just be a showy practitioner, sure. But one thing about his sudden appearance is unsettling to Carlos and his colleagues.
Anyone found in connection with this gentleman, known only as Sarco, turns up dead.

A corpuscule's like an empty body with an angry-ass spirit shoved in it. Rude as fuck thing to do to someone if you ask me.

Or at least most of the way there.

Forces of dark death magic gather in a rush to meet a night of supernatural celebration in the city, quite literally a feeding ground for hungry spirits, and as Carlos and his friends hunt day and night for anything that could lead them to Sarco and who he really is, those forces are working against them in terrible, deadly ways.
Keeping the faith in this situation is easier said then done.

“Prayer puts the world to work. The action you take is your expression of intent. The world listens. And then works."

Carlos may be an inbetweener, but he's still one man. To defeat a foe as big as this, you need people on your side. But that comes at a price. Putting his loved ones at risk is not something Carlos takes lightly. And as the survival rate for this ghostbusting caper gets lower and lower, Carlos can only hope he pulls his comrades- the living, the dead, the other- back out of the fire with him in as many pieces as they were in before.

"Class dismotherfuckingmissed."

You know those books that are scattered and not exactly high high quality, but you rate them higher anyway because you had fun and they made you laugh?
Yeah, this cast and their collective "Motherfucker" verbal tic is that in a nutshell.

I love Daniel José Older's writing. I'm aware the description I gave it up there makes it sound like it's complete gloom o' doom, but there really is a lot of humor and weirdness to his work. Think Christopher Moore on Ritalin. A low dosage, at that.

This first novel in the Bone Street Rumba series (and it's one of those books that really does deserve to be part of a series, a big world with lots to explore and interesting characters to learn more about) is a healthy blend of snort-inducing sarcasm, colorful world-building, and a dark, unsettling story with a truly scary villain and outcome.

My only complaints on the writing are that the action is a bit stilted, coming off stiff, and Carlos got way carried away with the descriptions sometimes. We've all heard sex described like it was poetry by a pubescent Shakespeare, and that's what Carlos made it sound like.
But my complaints are small. The wonderful cast of characters from all walks and possessing all kinds of funky backgrounds of their own more than made up for an action-movie punch out here and there.
I liked Shadowshaper a smidge better, but evidently the Daniel José Older Shared Universe is a thing, according to TV Tropes?

Daniel José Older is truly talented, and has only shown to be getting better as he matures as an author. His weakest offering is still hugely fun and a great read for magic and paranormal fans.
Half-Ressurection Blues will satisfy anyone's craving for an adventure with a big heart.

Inside, I'm just a ghost like the rest of them. Don't be fooled.

Okay. Yeah, I finished this book over a month ago. No, I have no excuse. I just let my RTCs get way out of hand and now I'm trying to do at least passable reviews because the majority of these books I've metaphorically left hanging were awesome, like this one. Bear with me, guys.
Profile Image for Suz.
2,220 reviews67 followers
February 21, 2015
I thought it was a decent first effort but I have to admit that I had a difficult time connecting with the protagonist, Carlos Delacruz. It took me much longer to read the book than usual and I found it easy to set it aside and read other things. The entire time I was reading the story I kept waiting for something to open up and grant me more insight into the character, something that would make me give a damn about him. Rather than getting a lightening bolt moment it sort of trickled in but it always felt like whatever it was that I needed to really empathize with him was throttled back. The twist toward the end should have been heart wrenching but for it me was just a bit of a bummer.

Still, I was reminded of the first Dresden book as I was reading this. Not in that the stories or even the characters were the same, because they certainly aren't, but in that it was hard for me to connect to Dresden for a while. Like Dresden the book was competently written and the mystery aspects were divulged with slightly slow but overall tolerable timing. Also like Dresden I didn't really care about the protagonist by the end of the book, but I had the feeling that I could if given enough time and a bit more emotion from the character.

I realized towards the end that I never understood how or when Carlos fell in love. It seemed to go from obsessive infatuation to love at some unknown point and then I was asked to believe it just because he said so. There were hints that there might have been a preexisting reason for this, but nothing solid ever came of it. As I'm typing this I'm thinking "it's a guy thing about emotions" which is just so much drivel but it enables me to put a "why" to it. If that description makes sense to you then I've accomplished my goal of explaining it.

I liked the world and the Latin flavor that the author sprinkles into the story perspective. It's light but present and lends a unique aura to both the story and the world, and I'm hopeful that over time and more books it will be one of the things through which I may better connect to Carlos.

There is a lot of potential here. I feel like it wasn't quite actualized in this book, but it's pregnant with possibility. I'll read the next.
Profile Image for Karen  ⚜Mess⚜.
700 reviews42 followers
June 5, 2020
MacHalo Buddy Read

Pretty good story. Daniel Jose Older had a good story to tell, but it felt lacking in grit. Needed a little bit more meat and potatoes. It got good when the action got real. Unfortunately, that only happened in the middle and the end. Ah! And the humor was really good!

Profile Image for Wheeler.
134 reviews12 followers
June 1, 2015
Half-Resurrection Blues is a pseudo-enjoyable romp through an ultra-contemporary paranormal New York mired in way, way too much profanity.

Don’t get me wrong. I work at a newspaper as a reporter. I swear way too much and, because of this, we even set up a swear jar in the newsroom. Twice.

I have no problem with profanity, especially in everyday usage.

I do have a problem with the overuse of profanity in novels, where the profanity serves no actual purpose. That’s the most detracting thing about Older’s novel: the complete and total overuse of profanity.

I do not need to read the F-word in every sentence of the main character’s thoughts and, considering the book is narrated by the main character, that means a profanity is laid at every turn, or, in this case, every line. It breaks the flow. It’s superfluous, just like my next biggest problem: way too much padding.

At 326 pages, much of Blues could have been cut away in favor of a more succinct narrative. Too many tangents bring the narrative down.

It’s good enough for what it is, a quick romp, but not worth remembering.

Also, not being from New York, or the east coast for that matter, I would care less about the rants and raves about the hipsters and this and that in New York.

This book was received, free of charge, from the Goodreads First Reads program.
221 reviews17 followers
January 13, 2015
This is a hard book to review. When deciding whether to buy it, I checked Goodreads and saw a number of 5 star ratings. Everywhere I looked, this novel was obtaining great reviews. So I bought it.

Let me say that the author is an amazing writer. I have nothing but great things to say about his sense of style and craftsmanship. If I was going to rate it solely on that, I would agree.... 5 stars. Unfortunately, the story and the characters just didn't do it for me. While I enjoyed the Brooklyn setting and thought he had developed some very interesting characters, the overall plot of ghosts and half-ghosts trying just didn't do anything for me. I will try and read subsequent novel(s) and hope that my enjoyment of the series improves. Thus, my three star rating.

Profile Image for Mimi.
690 reviews187 followers
October 17, 2019
Not quite abandoning this book as of October 2019, but can't quite continue reading it either.

I picked it up as an autumn-themed read and as a break from two huge rereads (The Godfather and The Golem and the Jinni), and I was fully ready to be immersed in a new urban fantasy tale and setting. Also, I had never read anything by Daniel Jose Older before and had heard only good things about his fiction, so I was ready to like this book.

Unfortunately, that didn't happen. Couldn't connect with any of the characters or even the prose. At around 30% I just had to give up (for now) instead of forcing my way through a story I wasn't feeling.

So 2 stars because: it wasn't bad, it just wasn't good either.
Profile Image for Jessica {Litnoob}.
1,154 reviews84 followers
September 18, 2019
3.5 stars

I can’t remember the last time I came across an urban fantasy written by a man? But I was into it because I had a little faith that Daniel Jose Older would do right by us. And it was good. Engaging and funny it read very easily, any slang or cursing purely organic. I liked Carlos as a narrator because of his ease with breaking down a situation and his sometimes lack of filter. It works for me. My only gripe is I wish some things had been given more depth or page time to develop. Both with the magic systems and the relationship. But I liked it and I will continue on in the series.
Profile Image for Beverly.
1,612 reviews337 followers
February 19, 2015
This was a 3.5 read for me.

My thoughts:
• I was excited to read this book and was not disappointed.
• This is a first book in a series and the worldbuilding was expertly done without dragging down the plot yet allowing the reader to feel the actions matched the world. The author also left enough room so that the world complexities could be further flushed out in future stories.
• So love that Older gives us the “real” Brooklyn with all of the diversity, pageantry, grittiness, conflicts of old timers v newcomers.
• So glad to see an Urban Fantasy series with a diverse group of intriguing characters and the food mentions are delish.
• This storyline had a freshness for me – as too often Urban Fantasies start to read the same. It has a nice blend of mystery, supernatural issues, romance and characters who feel “real”.
• Carlos Delacruz is a likable character who thinks he is one of a kind – an inbetweener ( a person not fully dead or alive and can move around the human world) who works for the New York Council of the Dead to help ensure that the two worlds do not meet. While Carlos relishes in being unique it is also the source of his loneliness – he has no idea how he did and who he was while living. So when an assignment puts him in contact with someone like him – Carlos not only has an assignment to complete but a personal mission to help understand himself.
• The dialogue is on-point, being witty, contemplative, wary or sympathetic as the situation requires.
• My nitpick for this first book is that I wanted one of the female characters – Mama Esther, Kia, or Sasha to have a bigger role. All are interesting strong independent minded women so hopefully we will see more of them in future books.
• Based on my enjoyment with this book I look forward to reading more books in the series and also look forward to Older’s upcoming book Shadowshaper which stars a Afro-Latina character.
• I recommend this book Urban Fantasy readers looking for diversity with an edge of noir and realistic urbanism.
Profile Image for dogunderwater.
131 reviews4 followers
January 16, 2015
This is a book that I wanted to love with my whole heart, but that fell a little short.

The Good: Older's characters are interesting and all have their own voice, distinct and new. He promised a diverse urban fantasy novel and delivered on that -- the NYC of Bone Street Rumba is populated with people and ghosts who would be right at home in the real city. It's nice reading a fantasy where the protagonist could be someone like you.

The world-building, too, is fascinating, but Older doesn't give it enough to do in the background.

Which leads us to the not-so-good: the plot is predictable, poorly paced, and not very engaging. There's a cataclysmic scheme to thwart, but we really never understand anyone's motivations regarding it. A whole ghostly government is set up, but our protagonist is too incurious to wonder about their motivations too closely. He is very reactive, but while the city moves and breathes around him, he himself is going through the rote motions of most urban fantasy.

It's a shame, because the action is written quite well -- the magic, the ghostly underworld, the fight sequences are all rendered with a great deal more care and skill then the underdeveloped plot.

All in all, I think it's a promising first effort that could have used a harsher editor (I read the New York Comic Con edition, so I'm going to assume a couple errors I found won't be appearing in the final print, hopefully?). It runs a little long, and the last 1/4 is crammed too tight when the plot could have been better entwined with the lovely world Older created.
Profile Image for Kaleb.
230 reviews4 followers
December 24, 2015
Half Resurrection Blues is a beautifully written ghost noir by Daniel Jose Older that paints a realistic and vivid picture of New York that I’ve never witnessed before. There’s so much to love about this book whether it be the world he’s created, the humor, or the diverse cast of character, but one aspect I must praise is its writing. When it comes to writing, one thing that irks me is lengthy descriptions. I find it ridiculous when some authors will gladly spend ten pages describing a sunset or the façade of a building when they could use those pages to progress the story. Older skips the minor details and focuses more on the narrative and the characters, giving them voice and making them likable to the reader.
Older’s writing is easy to settle into; it reads like music, entrancing the reader into the story and forces them to think twice about stopping. With all that said, I must address one quibble in particular I had about the book and that would be the romance as well as the love interest. In my opinion, the romance seemed unrealistic and the love interest, Sasha, was not as fleshed out enough to make her into a believable character. I will take into account that this is the first book in, what I hope, is a long series and that will get another chance to become better acquainted with her. Other than that, I was very pleased with HRB. Older has crafted a lovely world along with a fine cast of characters and I am very excited for the sequel.

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