Charm City Rocks by Matthew Norman (Fiction)

Writing: 4.5/5 Characters: 5/5 Plot: 4.5/5
Norman’s books always make me happy. I love his characters — each one individually. They all live in imperfect worlds but make things work for them. They each think about what they want and can offer. They all have interesting personalities. I would be happy to spend time with every single character in the book.

Billy Perkins — cardigan wearing piano teacher with a prodigious knowledge of all music and an old time crush on the wild drummer from a briefly successful girl rock band who disappeared from sight nine years ago after a flame out on MTV. Margot Hammer — aforementioned drummer. And a bizarre, wonderful, somehow completely believable love story between them. Featuring a sprinkling of strong male and female characters, self knowledge, and relationships not focused on damage or drama, but on just figuring out what you want and can offer. And lots of music. All set down in Norman’s straightforward prose and great dialog.

I loved every minute of this book. No weak points. No filler. And a lovely ode to nice guys.

Thank you to Ballantine, Dell and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on June 6th, 2023

A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (Literary Fiction)

Fantastic book! Jennifer Egan’s writing is extraordinary. This was an audio book — not my preferred reading mechanism, and it just about killed me not to be able to write down the many, many, (many!), amazing lines.

This story is a whole set of interlocking vignettes that rocket backwards (and sometimes forwards) in time from two main characters: Bennie and Sasha — a record executive (and former punk rocker) and his (somewhat kleptomaniac) assistant. Real in-depth characters with surprising cameos in each other’s stories, the later impact of chance meetings, and plenty of odd “where did they end ups.” The stories pan across time and space — from New York City to the high desert to unlabeled countries with genocidal generals — with music and / or the music industry playing a major or minor role.

All the tales have one thing in common — the impact of time. Every one of the characters is trying to figure out — how did I end up here? How did this happen? One thing they all agree on — “Time’s a goon.”

Jennifer Egan is the best — I have to go back and find out what else I have missed.