Saturday, May 25, 2013

Anthology - Seven Dress Sizes

Seven Dress Sizes 

What is the worth of a woman? What is beauty? Depending on culture, commercialism, family, or our peers, men and woman have allowed society to dictate the worth of a woman based on nothing more than the outer shell of her existence.

There is no perfect number. No measurement or shape is safe under the judgmental eyes of the world.

No eyes can judge a woman as harshly as her own.

Seven Dress Sizes takes you into the lives of seven different struggles of modern females in a full scope of shapes and sizes, struggling to find the key unlocking self worth, acceptance of beauty and natural confidence.

The tricky part about anthologies is just because you enjoy some of the stories, you won't necessarily love, or even like all of them. That's the problem with this one. It has a few gems, and the rest are not so sparkly, which brings down the book's overall rating for me. Still, I feel each story needs to be taken on its own merits.

Onward, from best to worst:

"Found Rhythm" by LaTessa Montgomery - Hands down, this was my favorite. The main character, Isa, was inspiring. She was capable and accomplished, but never in a way that felt forced. Through Montgomery's talented writing, I knew Isa had worked for all she'd achieved, and for the talent she had. She develops her new found confidence in a believable way, leading to a very satisfying end. I will definitely keep an eye out for more of La-Tessa's writing. Given the kindle version is only $3.77, I would be very willing to spend my money just for La-Tessa's story and the next one on this list.

"I've Never Been to Me" by Michelle Anne Horst - This came in a very close second to Found Rhythm. I loved the voice of Laney, the main character. She had angst to be sure, but it was believable angst. She also accepted the blame for her own problems, and resolved to fix them. By the end of the story, she earned her HEA. I actually felt proud of her, and found myself wishing her good luck. Again, I would buy the book just for these two stories, and I will also keep my eye on Michelle Anne Horst.

"A Lovely Mess" by Dawn Kirby - I'm not sure how the title fits, but this was another strong story in the collection. The main character, Katy, faces her internal demons with a little help from several other equally strong characters. She has the strength of her convictions, which compels her to maintain a poisoness friendship until she finally realizes her worth and that she deserves better. That realization comes through a bit of pep-talk ex machina (from a character who had not been mentioned previously at all) so that places the story third. Still, well written and satisfying.

"The Well-Rounded Woman" by Jude Johnson - Despite this being one of the better stories, I felt it suffered quite a bit from Cinderella syndrome. The heroine is raised by cold, uncaring parents, mercilessly tormented by three older sisters, but turns out to be a wonderful person. Presumably this is due to the influence of her older sister, who also managed to be a wonderful human being, again, despite being raised by parents who were emotionally DOA. There's also the fact that despite professing no interest in clothes at the beginning of the story, the heroine suddenly turns out to have a great eye for style, which leads to her deliriously happy ending. The writing is good, and if Cinderella stories are your thing, you'll enjoy it.

"Bones" by Jennifer Welborn - While I appreciated the twist this story gave to the romantic sub-plot, it suffered strongly in conflict. Despite being an art teacher talented enough that her school asked her to paint a mural on its wall, the main character refuses to display her art work. Presumably because she has been told all her life that skinny girls lack creativity and artistic skill. Perhaps the fact that I've never heard such a thing is what killed by ability to enjoy this story. I never felt that Indigo had any real barriers to face, not even internal ones. She never supplied a good reason for refusing to display her art, just stamped her foot and said "I don't wanna." Until the end, when she changes her mind. Just changes her mind. The end.

"Skin Deep" by Tina Carreiro - This is Well-Rounded Woman with a bit less substance and character development. The main character is an outrageously talented photographer, but neither her employer nor co-workers notice or care. It isn't until the love interest swoops in and recognizes her talent that main character Angelina finally realizes that she deserves to be recognized for her skill.

"Eddie's Ring" by A. T. Russell- No. Just no. This one was a mess. The writing was poorly edited, with the narration jumping from one scene to the next with little or no transition. The story starts off in one direction, takes a hard left turn and I had no idea where I was at the end. Narrator Eddie goes on about being passionately in love with his wife, and her hot body, even when said hard, athletic body is softened by pregnancy. The hard left turn comes when the reader discovers that everything they just read was the result of unreliable narration. Not foreshadowed, or even hinted at. Suddenly it turns out Eddie is a huge jerk, and everything is his fault. I mean everything. I think the end is supposed to be some sort of triumphant salute to womanhood, but it left me feeling cold.

I might get flayed alive for not giving all of these stories a big sloppy word kiss, but those are my opinions. I expected to read good quality, inspiring stories about woman who didn't match the contemporary body ideal, but I only got a few of those. The rest was a morass of self-pity, convenient plot twists and lackluster endings.

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