Itty Bitty Book Review: A Good Man by Ani Katz (spoilers ahead)

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Image from Goodreads.com

I bought this book because my library is still closed. Don’t get me wrong, I want it to be closed because of a tiny virus making a big impact on the world, but I do prefer to borrow a book rather than buy it. I rarely read a book twice and just about never read it more than twice, so buying them seems a bit wasteful. Except they fill shelves and it’s nice to have a physical reminder of the words I’ve consumed, I suppose.

Anyway, I was glad I bought this one because I might like to read it again, now that I know how it ends. I suspect this book will reveal things to me that I didn’t see during the first read, and that I’d understand better now that I know the ending.

Forewarning to readers: this book was a bit disturbing.

The Gloss: This is a little book. Smaller than a trade paperback, larger than a pocketbook, and only 213 pages. The pages are soft, the typeface (thankfully) sharp and clear. Pleasant to hold and easy to read.

The cover is made of that nice, slightly rubberized stuff that’s popular right now. It makes the book feel like my fingers can grip it easily and without sending my fingertips into sensory overload.

There’s a fracture in the title. Nice and subtle, but there nonetheless. This is an excellent representation of the main character’s fractured personality. Not too broken, just slightly, uncomfortably, off. Well done.

I also like the image of the kinked hose. From my perspective, that image reminds me of one of the minor annoyances of life. I mean, has anyone else felt that grumbling irritation of having to unkink a hose? In addition, the kink indicates a pressure buildup, but one that’s contained. There will be no explosion, no debris scattered everywhere, just a rush of water the instant that the line is free.

The Characters: Thomas is the main character and the book is entirely from his perspective. He’s detailing his past to the reader, explaining why he did what he did, how he arrived at one particular decision.

Miriam is Thomas’ wife, Ava his daughter. Both are presented entirely as Thomas remembers them. The author maintains this perspective throughout, enough so that it’s a bit frustrating as the reader. I wanted to know things from Miriam’s pov, or even Ava’s, but I also know that additional perspective would’ve tainted the story.

There are other, tertiary characters, like his mom and sisters. The mention of his dad, but not too much. Instead, the author demonstrated the impact the father had on Thomas without Thomas saying too much about him. Enough to know that the father was abusive to the children, and that Thomas had a few of the more unpleasant traits like controlling behaviour and narcissism.

Readers do get a glimpse of Thomas in how other characters react to him. Or, more accurately, how he remembers people reacting to him. One scene describes Miriam talking to a group of people, how easy and relaxed she looked, until she saw him. Then she flinched hard as if struck. Thomas waves this away, makes excuses for what someone else might think is a hint of abusive tendencies.

The Plot: Simple and elegant. No extraneous plot lines, no plot points left without explanation.

Thomas has everything: prestigious job at an advertising firm in Manhattan, wife and daughter, and is a devoted family man. His ego is rocked and he does something horrible that he can never undo. The book details his introspection leading up to the pivotal event.

The Story: Beautifully told with rich language. Tidbits of foreshadowing are doled out just often enough to add a sense of foreboding. As a reader I was never rushed to learn something, nor ever left wondering where the tidbit led.

Thomas goes back and forth in time during his introspection but the reader is never left wondering when he’s talking about, nor are the transitions sudden or difficult.

Nitpicks: I didn’t have any. Nothing stood out as annoying or out of place. The only thing would be the near constant opera references, but those serve to highlight how Thomas views himself, so they have a solid purpose. They were abundant though, and for someone like me who knows absolutely nothing about opera, the author gave enough information that I wasn’t frustrated by the references.

Quick edit: The book has no quotation marks for dialogue. While this can be confusing, it fit well with the formatting of the story. Also, quotes weren’t required as Thomas was relating the dialogue to the reader, rather than have the characters speak for themselves, which also reflected the story well.

Overall: This book is excellent. Early on I had the sense that Thomas was an unreliable narrator, that perhaps the image he was presenting was false, but it was subtly done. Enough so that I could identify with him on several occasions, and felt bad for him.

I loved the language used, the way the author describes everything. Ani Katz is an author I’d read again regardless of content.

Itty Bitty Book Review: Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Thomas Sweterlitsch

Tomorrow and Tomorrow
Image from Goodreads.com

It took me a while to finish this book. Actually, if I’m honest, it took me a while to even start this book. There’s a lot going on in the world right now, plus I managed to get a job, so my time’s been limited.

I borrowed this one from the library because I really liked the author’s other book The Gone World. I will read any genre if I like the author, so I figured this was a sure bet.

I was wrong.

The Gloss: I like the cover art here, but I thought the book might contain elements of inter-dimensional travel or alternate worlds. It did, sort of, but not in the way expected.

Otherwise, I have nothing really to say. The typeface wasn’t remarkable, nor were the pages.

The Plot: was so confusing. The book started with a murder mystery, kind of a hard-boiled detective drama, and ended with a conspiracy….I think? I admit that I read this book in fits and starts so maybe I couldn’t hold on to the details of the plot like I would’ve if I’d read it in larger chunks. But there were several things going on and somewhere just after the middle I got lost.

What I do remember is that the plot of the person who died took a back seat to the plot of covering up other deaths. Maybe. I really need to talk about the world before continuing.

The World: People have implants in their brains called adware. This is a spiderweb-type interface that allows the user to overlay virtual reality with actual reality. This was awesome and well constructed. Pop-up ads invaded the character’s life, which absolutely would happen and would be targeted to the user.

This adware also comes in the gleaming, fantastic, expensive version and the low-end version, also very accurate to what I’d expect. Well done.

A huge part of the world is a city, Pittsburgh, that had been blown up ten years prior. The main character’s spouse and unborn child died in that explosion. With adware, the characters can visit the city any time they want. All footage is provided by an archive project to preserve what was once there. I can definitely see this happening, even at the loss of privacy to the residents.

The Characters: The story followed one, John Blaxton, as he tried to solve a murder. Everyone else was secondary with every woman being beautiful.

The Story: The cybernetics kept me reading through the confusing plot. I enjoyed the way the main character wanted to stay in the virtual world and how it affected his daily operation. I didn’t enjoy the number of times I read about how beautiful a woman was. That got pretty old.

Nitpicks: Apparently the book was written in journal style, which I didn’t know until I read a review on it. I didn’t like it. No I did not.

The author used more emdashes than I personally like to see. Every conversation was fragmented, every idea cut off. This broke the flow up for me and made it really difficult for me to follow along. Now that I know the book is supposed to be a journal it makes more sense, but the story ended up feeling discordant to me.

Overall: I was disappointed. I couldn’t follow the plot, the story kept referring back to Pittsburgh and that bugged me. Yes, the city blew up, but it didn’t need to be mentioned as much as it was. I felt like the author couldn’t trust me to remember the bombing of the city.

As for the discordant feeling, well, if I pretend like I have adware attached to my brain then I feel like I’d be interrupted often also, so there’s that. Maybe the author wanted to portray a disconnection feeling or constant interruption feeling through the body of the story. If so, then success! If not, then frustration mounted early.

Itty Bitty Book Review: The Most Fun We’ve Ever Had by Claire Lombardo (spoilers ahead)

The Most Fun We Ever Had
Image from Goodreads.com

After attempting to read four other books, I made it through this one. Why? Mostly because of the author’s voice.

I know a lot of people will chose books by genre or subject matter, but I will often chose by the author’s writing style. Well, that and character development over plot development. This book is a good example of that. Let’s get started.

The Gloss: The cover art fit the story quite well. I wasn’t sure about it but the more I read the more I understood the artist’s choices.

Four leaves could represent the four daughters nicely, but could also represent how the book is quartered into seasons. Note the leaves are in varying stages of decay.

Genres seem to have specific art formats and this one fit the general fiction category.

The rest was disappointing. Nothing special about the font, or the texture of the pages/cover. I borrowed the book from the library and the cover had the standard plastic over the dust jacket. The glue to bind the pages was strong and the book heavy.

The Characters: are many. There’s the main couple and they’re four girls, plus the tertiary characters. This is a lot to keep track of but the author did a good job. Multiple points of view were presented in each chapter but it flowed surprisingly well.

Thinking of pov, what stood out was how well the author managed to view everyone through different eyes. Each character had a different view of each other, just like real life. I mean, you know your own life and your own choices, but how someone else views you could be remarkably different than you would believe. The author represented this beautifully.

Each character is wonderfully well rounded, something I appreciate in a book. I could understand each character’s motivations and behaviours with ease. Delightful .

The Plot: Um, I’m not sure of the main plot line. This isn’t a bad thing, I don’t mind a meandering story.

I’d say it was about a woman who got married, had four children, and experienced life with a man she loves.

Another plot line: one daughter gives a child up for adoption and that child re-enters the family’s life. How each character deals with that child is demonstrated. I was wrong about who the father of that child was though. The author hinted that the child’s mother had sex with someone another sister would find upsetting. I guessed the father was the sister’s new husband and I guessed wrong. But I didn’t mind being wrong. By that point in the book I was in it for the character development and not the Big Reveal.

The Story: was about the characters, and I really enjoyed that. I felt as if each character was presented softly, gently. Even at their roughest points I felt as if I was viewing them through the hazy lenses of memory.

The author gave a huge amount of information about each character, but did it in a way that I found easy to track and understand. At no point did I wonder who was talking or which head I was in.

I’d also classify this book as gentle erotica. There were a lot of references to sex. Having sex, talking about sex, and enjoying sex, all without explicitly describing sex.

Nitpicks: If I saw one more emdash I was going to throw the book at a wall. This drove me absolutely bonkers. I felt like the majority of dialogue was interrupted, jarring, and hesitant and it irritated me to no end. I get it, people talk like that in the real world, in incomplete sentences and repetitious phrases, but I read a book to escape my real life. I wanted to yell at the author to just let the damn characters speak.

The two main characters, Marilyn and David, were in lurve. I got that early on. Cool. No problem. But I was so sick and tired of reading about their sexual life that my eye sockets hurt from the orbs rolling around in there. This couple had sex like they were new-ish lovers throughout the book. Always ready for each other, making out like teenagers, semi-public sex, all good things but seriously pulled me out of the story after a while. I was expecting their sex life to change much more than it did.

Overall: Very enjoyable. The book was like a slow, epic saga without being an actual epic novel. I was in it for the character development and wasn’t disappointed. Each person grew and changed throughout and interacted with each other in a realistic manner.

But dammit older couples just don’t make out like teenagers at every opportunity. I had a hard time accepting that tiny bit.