Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Critique of a Critique

As writers we strive to do the best work possible. What we produce seems like our "children" since we've labored for months before we see the results.  When our work is praised, we're thrilled. When it gets only lukewarm comments, we're disappointed. Regardless, and speaking only for myself now, I always welcome feedback. Constructive criticism is part of that package, and is welcomed, as long as it's constructive. But what if the criticism happens to be one person's personal opinion of how characters are presented, even though this person said she enjoyed the book.

A lady from Montreal read my second novel, NO GOOD DEED. She had read the first book in the series and said she liked it. However, she took issue in NO GOOD DEED, that my protagonist Linda, now engaged to her college love, David, did not live with him. Anyone who has read either book knows that David's life is a bit unsettled now, and that he travels quite a bit. When he finally was able to stabilize his life, he found a small apartment. My reader couldn't believe that he just would't move in with Linda. To her, the norm is unmarried couples living together, even though I explained that wasn't the value system of Linda and her fiance. The reader also took issue with Linda's relationship with her mother, who comes to visit Linda for two weeks. Their relationship has always been strained, and Linda's mother, a bit naive and old-fashioned, manages to get Linda in trouble through comments she makes to a journalist, at a time when Linda is handling a sensitive and highly publicized criminal case. According to my reader, women today, no matter how old, are very "with it", on facebook, computer savvy, etc. etc. so Linda's mother should have been portrayed in a more modern way, the way the "real world" is. Since she wanted to re-write my book, it makes me wonder how she ended up enjoying it.

I thanked her for her opinion and reminded her that the beauty of fiction is that it's fiction. There are a variety of value systems in the world and I chose to write about one that I think is still common, while recognizing that many others live as she describes.

If any of you have had similar experiences, how have you handled it?  Did it change your writing style, and if so, in what way?  Looking forward to your comments.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Book Review

State of WonderState of Wonder by Ann Patchett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Although "Bel Canto" seems to be the author's most well-received book, I liked "State of Wonder" more. The premise revolves around a drug company's desire to develop a fertility drug that will revolutionize the industry. An obscure tribe in the Amazon is discovered to be able to have babies well into their seventies! Dr. Annick Swenson has been sent there to obtain the secret of their fertility, only she's been there for years and rarely communicates. A researcher is sent to find her and after some months a cryptic note comes from Swenson saying that he died. Thus begins the heart of the story, when Dr. Marina Singh is now sent to find out what happened to the researcher and also locate Dr. Swenson. Her search is extremely difficult, aided, and sometimes hindered, by a young couple named the Bovenders. Once in the Amazon jungle, accompanied only by a deaf boy and her wits, Marina must contend with the danger of the jungle and shocking information she uncovers. To say more would spoil the book. The author's description of the Amazon had me feeling I was there with her and could almost feel the bug bites. The ending had a twist that was satisfying. It's a book you won't be able to put down.

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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Book Review

Mitigating Circumstances (Lily Forrester, #1)Mitigating Circumstances by Nancy Taylor Rosenberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Judge Lara Sanderstone has complete control of her courtroom, and hardly any control of her personal life. Divorced and living alone, she has a contentious relationship with her beautiful younger sister,Ivory, a widow, and now married to a scheming low life. Ivory has a 16 year-old son Josh, who is mistreated by his step-dad, yet not allowed to see his Aunt Lara, who misses him terribly. When Ivory and her husband are murdered, their steamy secret life is uncovered. Josh, resentful of the fact his aunt has not been in his life, now must live with her. While Lara must deal with the angry Josh, she is engulfed in the murder investigation and the life her sister was leading. Before the murders are solved, Lara's house is ransacked, forcing her to move to a safer location. Defendants who have appeared in her courtroom are found murdered, and appear to be tied to the murders of Lara's sister and brother-in-law. Lara's courtroom actions in releasing certain indivuals are called into question and her reputation must be defended. With the help of a police detective and a disabled computer genius, the truth is uncovered. Does Lara fall in love with the detective? Does her relationship with Josh improve? You'll just have to read this book to find out.

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