The Anatomy of Perception, A.J. Rose
Publisher: The Grim Writer Press
Genre: Gay Romance
Tags: Contemporary, Psychological Issues – Breakdown
Length: 378 Pages
Reviewer: Kazza K
Purchase At: amazon.com
**TOTAL SPOILER REVIEW**
In the beginning, there was wreckage. Dane Perry’s mother was dead, and the father who always said he’d amount to nothing blamed him. Dane swore he’d become something. He would be someone.
In the middle, there was escape. Rebuilding his life from the ashes of his mother’s memory, Dane found success as a respected surgeon, and love in the form of Craig Dahl, a talented artist who became his everything. But there was also darkness, lies, and a crumbling foundation just waiting for the ground to shift.
In the end, there was a spectacular fall, illusions shattered, and for Dane, nothing more to lose. He was broken, damaged, and left with fierce demons. But from the bottom, the only way left is up. Dane renewed friendships and salvaged his career. The only thing he cannot replace is Craig. But Dane has a plan. Brick by brick, his foundation is rebuilt, and all he needs is for Craig to listen one last time.
In the beginning again, there’s hope and tatters of love. Can Dane repair the damage with Craig? Can he rescue the only thing he amounted to that ever truly mattered?
This book contains vivid descriptions of symptoms of PTSD and events that can cause anxiety. Reader discretion advised.
This books starts out with Dane Perry leaving a note on his ex boyfriend Craig’s door and waiting for a reaction. Anything to see how Craig feels after two years of separation. It gives you a snapshot of how Dane is feeling, this book is through his eyes, but you get a glimpse of Craig’s mood in the present as well. The book then takes you back through alternating timeframes – present/past from 2005 to 2012. It doesn’t take long to work things out as more details are released. By around the halfway mark you have a pretty clear picture of what transpired and led to the breakdown of the relationship between these two men, as well as Dane’s past.
Dane is a doctor, although he’s no longer licensed and is now a physical therapist. He still works at the hospital he was serving his internship at when everything in his life unravelled. In the past he was closeted and paranoid about his father finding him. He’s worked hard and he and his best friend, Holly, moved from West Virginia to university in Maryland, and later on to university in New York together.
When they are in New York, Dane meets a street artist who he obviously leaves a lasting impression on, it’s Dane’s eyes. The artist draws his face over buildings in the City which freaks the hell out of the closeted Dane. Dane, his housemates, and Holly clean the buildings off of a night time. Eventually Dane and the street artist, Craig, meet up again, date each other, and then move in together. Craig thinks he knows Dane but he knows very little as Dane is not only closeted, he’s secretive about his family and his life before New York.
We each thought we’d known the other inside and out, but I was wrong that he was always sunshine and light, and he was wrong about me being well adjusted and unflappable.
I have to say that the blurb on this book spoke to me. The cover is gorgeous. On the surface it is a “Kazza” book if there every was one. Anything that seems psychological I am immediately drawn to and my blog partner, Cindi, loved Power Exchange. Sadly, this book did not work for me as an overall read. The way it is told left me disconnected more than connected to the story and characters. Of the characters, I liked Craig better, but I didn’t love him. I also didn’t have any issues with him forgiving Dane’s previous behaviour relatively quickly as I felt that fit his personality and nature.
There were some flashes of emotive and interesting writing in the book and I thought this was going to be a winner.
His faith in me was the rock to which I clung while my personal hurricane slammed into the shores of Dane.
That’s me. Dane Perry. Undeserving of one iota of Craig Dahl’s attention, but I crouched in a corner, hoping for it anyway. I watched him. What would he do?
Please open it. Please read it. Please call the number at the bottom
I don’t mind alternating timelines provided they build momentum, but what happened here was that the past and the current just rehashed each other. Then it hit around the 54% point and I knew the outcome so it became laboured and I wasn’t invested enough in either of the main characters. By then the momentum and flow of the book and the characterisations lost intensity. It also made their relationship fizzle for me, and I didn’t care a great deal about it. In all honesty I see what A.J Rose was tying to accomplish. She obviously loved the protagonists a great deal but I felt like it suddenly became overwhelming, and everything – plus the kitchen sink – was thrown into the melodrama of Dane’s life.
What I liked…. Well, I liked the beginning, it had promise. I liked writing like this –
Craig was my world, my wide-eyed, optimistic artist, the man who’d flirted with me for six months by chalking my face all over the city before we had a single date. He gave me his passion, his openness. His eager and hopeful disposition burst from him, obliterated my cynicism, and lit the dark of my past.
Craig showed me to look a little farther up the stem, because above the thorns was the bloom, breathtaking and absolutely attainable if one just opened their eyes and reached higher. Before Craig, I’d been existing. He’d shown me how to live.
The therapist, Dr Rodriguez, was well written. The advice and assistance was clearly given a lot of thought and research – I can’t fault the therapeutic aspects of the book. But it also took up valuable space. Nevertheless, the technical merits were sound. The details of the competitive nature of becoming a doctor and the situations they faced were also very well written, but once again too much focus was placed on this and it detracted from the redemption and relationship deconstruct and reconstruct.
Then we get to my niggles, and there are a few.
The present/past format. It started well in the present with Dane prepping himself to win Craig back, taping notes to his door, waiting for Craig to read the note and maybe seem happy… or show something. You knew Craig was upset. You knew some drama had occurred. So it started with promise, I settled in and literally thought, “Great!” But it started to fall apart as there was info dump after repetitive info dump – this happened to me, that happened to me, but I didn’t experience any of it, and anything I did see felt so clinically detached. What would have worked better than the past and present being repeated in different chapters, would have been the present then a linear line from the past to current where it not only met up, but it went past the beginning to atonement and a HEA…or not, depending on the author. That could have made the relationship and the characters seem three dimensional. Instead, this is nearly four hundred pages and quite a bit is repetition. In my reading I want to experience the occurrences, not be told. I need the author and their characters to make me want to turn that Kindle page. Feel their pain, feel the burn, feel their love.
The ASD children – first of all it was unnecessary and cumbersome in the book. Second, can we please not have stereotypical ASD kids in a book? I volunteer to give any author extra information if they want it. Spare me from – they are all logical, they can all paint/draw brilliantly (savants), they analyse the crap out of everything, and can’t handle change as they get all bejiggity (yes, I made that last word up.) I know these are common (except painting, my ASD child can’t paint or draw, just like his non-ASD mother.) But there are vast variations within the Spectrum. Please use the variations and don’t just throw them in to make one of the MCs seem like he’s nice and caring. Hmm…so… this might be hitting a raw nerve with me. It might just be my thing, if so, it’s not going to be a problem for another reader.
The women –
I did not like the (secondary) females in this book. Sabrina. What an unnecessary bitch. I avoid (like the plague) books with bitchy female characters like this. When these horrible creatures add to a laundry list of issues already going on? It is definitely not for me. I am all for primary antagonists who make me feel something strongly, but I don’t like annoying and nasty secondary characters like Sabrina. I don’t like or enjoy reading about vapid, shallow, narcissistic bitches like Sabrina. Also, not all women want to know who the bottom is and who the top is, collect gay men, and want to fuck them. Give me a break. So we have Sabrina the gay-man-collector, three-way-desirer, and seducer, who uses her sexuality – not her smarts – to get ahead. There are pretty, intelligent women who use their intelligence. There are plenty of powerful women who only use their smarts to get ahead. Sabrina insulted me.
His eyes flashed. “She has a thing for you, Dane. You told her you’re gay, introduced her to your boyfriend, and suddenly her eyes lit up. You’re not her friend; you’re her plaything. Am I mistaken that she grabbed your ass when I took that photo?”
Then we have Holly. Holly is the ever-so-supportive bestie who even gives up her virginity to Dane so his dad knows all about it and will (hopefully) be off her best friend’s back about being a cock-sucking faggot. That is never going to be uncomfortable, is it? Anyway, Dane is, you know, gay. I know it was not fabulous for either of them but I cringed on several levels. She also moved around with him when he needed to move. Holly was out of line when Craig was back in Dane’s life. Telling him not to hurt her best friend. Telling Dane it was unfair that Craig was moving for a job offer. Excuse me, Dane went after Craig after Dane caused him a lot of hurt, leading him to believe things he never should have. That, on top of other things, just aggravated me about Holly.
The Father – TOO much around him. But he was never believable or any more than one dimensional. He was like fifty soul-suckingly sad country and western songs in one person…or five Radiohead songs in a row. It was all rather like a soap opera and didn’t seem real to me. Sure, there are terrible parent’s out in the world. Horrible. But for him to have killed his wife in a car accident when drunk – the blood work got lost so he was never charged – be an alcoholic, along with other substance abuse, a psychological abuser, one of the worst father’s ever, killed Dane’s brother, stalked Dane – whom he hated for looking like his mother, and for being a “faggot.” He also paid private detectives with inheritance money (from his dead wife who he killed) to find him. When you’re are an alcoholic/substance abuser you tend to use the money on your addiction. But apart from that, it never made any sense to me why he tracked Dane down. It was all so OTT. Add this to bitchface-Sabrina, who flirted with a boundary-less Dane. And Dane who didn’t listen despite Craig calling Dane’s attention to the fact. Then Craig shared his own similar “Sabrina” experience. Too. Much.
Dane Perry – The lack of connection with someone who has had a breakdown, who is supposedly going through a redemptive process, bothered me. I should have felt pain for Dane Perry. I should have cried for him. I should have related to him. But I couldn’t. Not only could I not relate to him, I didn’t like him. That was a huge issue as it’s his narrative throughout the book. I couldn’t feel for him in the present and I really didn’t like him in the past. He’s what you call an habitual blame-layer. He liked to put things back on other people – Holly, his best friend and biggest cheerleader, was upset with Dane when she asked could he think about coming out as he was stressed and she knew it was unhealthy and illogical. She had also fallen for someone and wanted them to know about Dane, so there were no secrets, not hide him in the closet and lie about him. That’s fair enough. But no, Dane was going to move on from their friendship because she was being so pushy. What?! I know it was the “past Dane” but I had trouble separating past and present Dane. It’s part of why I just could not get into the guy. When he was taping notes to Craig’s door he left one that basically said unless Craig did or said something, told him to stop, he’d keep at it, even though Dane knew Craig looked upset and distressed. I understand wanting to apologise, hoping to get someone back that you loved, still love, but to me that was emotionally manipulative. When Craig’s mum was sick he handled it badly when Craig was upset. Craig’s mum had cancer, Craig had just caught his boyfriend (Dane) in a compromising position with Sabrina and was understandably hurt about both things, but Dane was selfish and put it all back on Craig, again. Yes, I know he was heading closer to a breakdown but as the book progressed, and I saw that Dane was historically selfish, it added fuel to my dislike of his character that I couldn’t shake.
Add the break down of Dane and the subsequent broken relationship and my head was spinning. It was spinning because it was all told to the reader. Nothing was ever unfurled or suspenseful, painful or emotive. I had no empathy and I am by nature an empathetic person. How can this man who had been through so much not elicit my (reader’s) need to comfort him, cheer for him and care about him? It should have had me riveted.
Had this book been cut down, had the primary relationship and reasons behind its loss been exposed, raw and not so convoluted it would have worked. Had Sabrina not existed. Had the father not been so over the top. Had the redemption been concentrated on, had the author dragged the emotions out of the reader and fuelled chemistry between the MCs, this could have been a knock-out book. I wanted to love it, I truly did. The blurb and cover were so appetising. But, you know, reading is a subjective thing. The well named Anatomy of Perception did not work for me, however the beauty of reading is that while it may not be my cup of tea, it may well be yours. Things that I took exception to may not bother another reader, but they may… and this is why I have taken the time to be as comprehensive as I can be in my review. Were there moments where I could see that the author has a good command of the English language? Yes. Were there times I liked what I was reading? Definitely. But overall it didn’t work for me this time with this book. 2 Stars!
This book was provided to me by the author in return for my honest review.
While the premise of the story looks great, I would’ve had the same issues you did. I can tell I’d despise Sabrina (and the father) and I’d have a difficult time with the rest of the story as well. You know my thoughts on the ASD children, so I won’t go into detail here.
Great, honest review.
I would have to say that Sabrina is one of the most… irritating characters I have read in a book. The ASD thing is touchy for me, and while it was not at any time insensitive, it was stereotypical. I was really hopeful this would be a fantastic book for me, and for some people it may well be. Just one of those situations where the book and I didn’t mesh.
Wow. I take my hat off to you Kazza for investing the time to write that review. The father paragraph gave me a snicker. I’m a person who needs to be transported, taken into the characters and even when the storyline isn’t to my liking I find myself continuing the search for some redemptive quality, so I get where you are coming from. I would be disappointed too.
What I like about reading these kinds of books is the learning experience for me as a writer, or at least someone who aspires to write, something of substance anyway.
Thanks, Judy. I much prefer loving a book than not, but I have to be honest about my feelings.
I hear you, I kept looking and hoping throughout and there were some good moments. Anyway, you can’t please all of the people all of the time and for me it mostly didn’t work 🙂
I am never going to be a writer, I’ve never wanted to be, but I know it’s not easy and I take my hat off to you and to other creative people. Good luck to you with your writing pursuits.
I’m torn on the book now. The quotes do seem good but Sabrina and the dad don’t. It has a hea doesn’t it? Thanks for your review kazza.
I believe people have enjoyed this book, Jana. Maybe the quotes I used help, and see what others think on Goodreads/Amazon. Let me know how you go 🙂
Sorry, Jana, I didn’t answer your question. Yes, it does have a HEA.