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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Mindfully Unraveling: Body Awareness as I Slip Away--a review

Rhonda Patzia

Sadly, Rhonda Patzia, author of Mindfully Unraveling: Body Awareness as I Slip Away, died the day her books became available. 

This fact makes the reading of the book more poignant, but does not take away from the brave, surreal, frank, open, sexual, aware narrative that she weaves as she tells her story. 

Born in February,1969, she speaks of growing up expecting equality with boys, ignoring the words, "Girls don't do that." She identified with the men in her family, knowing that somehow women were considered "the weaker sex." That understanding carried into her womanhood an alienation from her own body.

When she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS)  in 1996 Rhonda became more aware of her own body that was failing her in an unpredictable manner.  A photographer, she was legally blind for two years.  When her sight partially recovered, she returned to her photography, earning a master's degree at Goddard College in Vermont. The central part of her book is photographs she took of over twenty women who were in her graduate cohort. The photographic exhibit was her master's thesis, and the frank and revealing pictures were also a major reason that she wrote this book.

Told in journal snippets, dream reports, free-writing and reflections, Rhonda's story is frank and open. I recommend that you buy and read this book.

Her book is available from The Write Place  and also from Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Proceeds will go to a college fund for her son, Marco.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Writer’s Digest Self-Published e-Book Awards

Yesterday I received an email from the Writer's Digest Self-Published e-book Award contest which I entered last summer. Too Much Left Unsaid was not chosen as a winner, but I was very encouraged by the commentary and ratings I received.  I am quoting the full report here and will comment on parts of it in future blogs and on Facebook. 
"Books are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “needs improvement” and 5 meaning “outstanding”. “0” indicates not applicable. This scale is strictly to provide a point of reference, it is not a cumulative score and does not reflect ranking. 
Structure and Organization: 5
Grammar: 5
Production Quality and Cover Design: 5
Plot (if applicable): 5

Character Development (if applicable): 5
Judges Commentary*:
The cover is lovely. Great details, and the colors are soft and feminine, pretty shades. Nicely-designed.
Mattie opens with a warm and comforting voice, personable, good use of addressing the reader directly with kindly expressions. We like her instantly. Excellent characterization right from the start. Well done.
The author has a great talent with voices, from the young children’s dropping off of consonants to the gruff father. Perfect differentiations of characters’ voices that reveal their traits.
The contrast between the warm opening and the intensely cold scenes of Kathy’s younger years is jarring, but in a good way. We feel the iciness, the emptiness, the pain. In this section, though, we get a little too much telling, not showing which leaves out some sensory details that would have enlivened this part more. And the dialogue is not just harsh, but seems a bit too formal at times, a bit unnatural.
Would have liked more detail on Mattie’s simple wedding and Ruth’s more traditional wedding as a way to color up the novel’s wonderful experience, as sensory contrast and more insight into Ruth particularly.
Interesting to see that in the war era, love developed so intensely and so quickly between couples, which we know from stories of that era’s generations. The author does an excellent job of conveying this very real pace of connection that happened then, very authentic, very engaging. Well done. The letter proposal was done extremely well. That’s how the men of that era expressed themselves, with such unabashed romance. Loved that.
Kathy is so unlikeable, which creates a complex character we follow from initially disliking terribly to understanding later. When she doesn't bring the baby to see her husband, denying him the chance to see his child after so many years away, that’s just soul-crunching. A slight improvement here would have been for Josh to have far more disappointment at the baby not being there, not just glide into “oh, well, I get romance now.” At this point, reader has a hard time caring about her, and then:
When she co-creates the inappropriate relationship with Ron, we dislike her even more, almost the point of no going back. We dislike Ron almost as much, via his saying that his relationship with Kathy is innocent and not hurting Mattie. How he wants to comfort both women. His self-delusion is palpable. We also see him as very real, a testament to the author’s talent at showing us the dark side of human selfishness, and then guiding the reader to forgiveness and empathy for Ron. Well done.
Great scene with the boys accepting the football team’s forfeit when the other team won’t let Dar play, nor suit up. The author painted that scene extremely well, especially when the one boy says he feels a case of rage coming on. That was wonderful.
The characters’ goals are good, and we follow along eagerly in this sprawling family tale that weaves so many realistic characters together. Other novels could have gotten bogged down in the historic goings-on and politics, but the author does a great job of using the political tension in society as creating a world for the characters to inhabit. Well done.
Satisfying ending, and reader is left happy that Mattie finds her sister. At first, reader may want a scene with the sisters reconnecting, but the author wisely leaves that open. Excellent read. 

*When quoting the judges commentary, please quote as: “Judge, Writer’s Digest Self-Published e-Book Awards”

Friday, January 3, 2014

Fall of Giants- a Review of Ken Follett's Novel

I have just finished reading the nearly thousand page novel Ken Follett wrote about the period one hundred years ago when the world fell into the conflict known as "The Great War."

In my debut novel, Too Much Left Unsaid, my characters begin in that same period of history. They are ordinary Midwesterners who are changed by events over which they have no control

But in Follett's book, Fall of Giants, his fictional characters, from England, Wales, Germany, Austria, Russia, and the United States, are written so believably that the reader sees them influencing the decisions and events that unfold as history. We see the forces of the rich and powerful pushing toward war and its glory. We see the slaughter on the battlefield where battalions of foot soldiers are mowed down by machine gun fire while being urged to advance. We see the unfolding of the Russian Revolution and the fear of the upper class that the sentiment might spread. We see the gradual, reluctant, extension of suffrage to women and laborers. We see lives of love, betrayal, strength.

Follett is an exceptional writer, able to bring the reader into the lives of coal miners, foundry workers, aristocrats and their servants, earls and princesses, unwed mothers and the charitable women who seek to help them, military leaders and common soldiers.

By the end of his book, I wanted to read more about these people. I am in luck for Fall of Giants is the first book of a trilogy that continues to tell the stories of these families in the twentieth century. I can hardly wait to read the next volume.