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Book Review: Polly’s Wild Dance: A Life Serialized in Sporadic Spurts by Sydnee Elliot

Book Review: Polly's Wild Dance: A Life Serialized in Sporadic Spurts by Sydnee ElliotSummary:
Now that Polly’s daughter has left home, she finally decides to follow her long-time dream of living on the Greek islands and moves there. But she finds even moving to another country can’t help her escape the memories of her ex-lovers (or, in the case of her daughter’s father, their actual presence). As she ruminates on her life and deals with the difficulties of aging, she wonders if her life has brought her the fulfillment she was after.

Review:
I picked this up during one of Smashwords’ annual summer/winter sales because the premise vaguely reminded me of Under the Tuscan Sun, a movie I’ve always enjoyed. What I got was an older heroine with a more honest mouth and a dirtier past. It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting and I wouldn’t choose to live my life the way the main character lived hers, but I certainly enjoyed it.

The author clearly has either lived in Boston or has done a lot of research. Polly grows up in New England and then lives in either Cambridge or Boston for the early parts of her life. Everything written about Cambridge/Boston is quite accurate, although definitely not always flattering. Since this is the case for the setting of Cambridge/Boston, I came to trust the narrator regarding her experiences in California, Las Vegas, and finally the Greek islands.

Polly is unapologetically crass. Given that this is a fiction book written in the style of an older person’s memoir, I can see how this may be jarring to some readers anticipating a more…grandmotherly style story.  Personally, I enjoy the brutal honesty Polly brings to everything. She paints neither herself nor her family nor her lovers in a positive light. She verges on the side of pessimism. But there’s something I like about that level of honesty.

The edge of his tallis, the prayer shawl worn by Jewish men [Polly is Jewish and raised in a religious home], was folded back over his shoulder, so it wouldn’t touch me. Women aren’t allowed to touch this sacred garment because we’re considered unclean. The folded eight inches of fabric reminded me of one of the reasons why I couldn’t believe in this religion, or any religion. I wanted to crush the tallis with my hands, rub it over my face, arms, along my naked body and against my genitals. (loc 970)

If that passage offends you, the book will most likely offend you. If you enjoy the visceral passion Polly shows in rejecting the religion of her childhood, you will most likely enjoy the book.

The plot mainly revolves around Polly adapting to life in Greece and being haunted by visions of her ex-lovers. Basically, she will think she sees one of her ex-lovers and then tell the story of her time with him. The overarching plot is she is wondering if seeing these hauntings means her life is almost over. Also scattered throughout this plot is Polly coming to terms with being older, her body failing her, the fact that she doesn’t have a constant true love, and accepting that she is nearing the end of her life. Polly has many lovers throughout her life, and it’s clear that sometimes she was seeking one out to use him. Similarly, she is the other woman at least once and not in an accidental way. In a I hope you’ll leave your wife for me way. Polly admits she was bad at love but is also unapologetic about it. She seems lost as to how she could have done better, even right up to choosing her most recent lover.

I wanted to love Andreas. I needed to love him; I needed to love someone, anyone, and he happened to be available. (loc 5985)

While I appreciated Polly’s voice and passion, I also felt extremely sad for her. She never seems to have figured out how to be both passionate about her beliefs and also willing to listen to others. She never seems to have grown beyond the first rebellion stage into self-actualization. In a way, then, while the book has amusing scenes, overall, I found it to be a sad, cautionary tale about how failing to work on yourself, simply letting yourself muddle along, can lead to a wasted life.

Overall, this is an interesting book that features a plot I haven’t seen before. Readers interested in reading something featuring an older person  who failed to actualize or even really realize their mistakes late in life should definitely pick this up. It is well-done.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Smashwords

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Book Review: Late Eclipses by Seanan McGuire (Series, #4)

August 8, 2015 2 comments

Book Review: Late Eclipses by Seanan McGuire (Series, #4)Summary:
One of Toby’s oldest friends is in dire trouble.  Lily of the Tea Gardens is slowly fading away, and no one knows what’s causing it.  On top of that, one of Toby’s worst nemeses whose name is feared throughout Fae, Oleander, is back.  Are the two related or is something else going on? And can Toby save the day without losing herself?

Review:
I picked this book up expecting it to be another mystery of the week entry in the series, but what I found was a surprising development in the overarching plot that kept my heart in my throat but also left me dubious about the possible directions the next book could take.

The plot starts out similarly to the previous entry in the series.  Someone close to Toby is in danger.  In this case, it’s Lily, and she’s sick, slowly fading out of existence.  Over the course of the book, others close to Toby end up sick as well, as it soon becomes clear (this is really not a spoiler, it’s revealed early on) that someone is poisoning them.  When Oleander showed up, I nearly groaned at how obvious it felt that she is the one to blame for all of this.  But it’s not quite that straight-forward, and there’s also a sub-plot of Toby possibly going crazy….which changelings are known to do in this world.  The book then isn’t just about Toby trying to solve the mystery, it’s also about her trying to determine if her blood has doomed her to sink into insanity.  This gives the plot enough depth to keep it interesting.

Long-standing characters receive more depth of character development and new ones are added.  Toby cotinues to have the wit that keeps the book upbeat even when things are grim.  One quote in particular I think would work pretty well as a fitspo positive argument:

I promised myself that if I lived, I’d start working out. Better cranky and alive than cheerful and dead. (loc 1815)

As for the plot twist, I can’t talk about it much without spoilers.  The spoiler free review would be that I am concerned the big overarching plot twist moves things a bit too far into one hero to save us land, which isn’t a fantasy plot I personally usually enjoy.  For the spoiler version of this, see the next paragraph.

*spoilers*
It is revealed that Toby is not the type of Fae she thought, she is rather a very rare type of Fae.  This type of Fae is capable of changing the make-up of their own blood.  She can thus morph into more Fae, changeling, or human as she desires.  It also turns out her mother is from the first born, which makes her kind of Fae royalty.  My issue with this is one of the things I like so much about the series is that Toby lacks the magical powers to the extent the Fae have.  She also doesn’t fit into the human world.  But she fights for her right to be in the world she chooses to live in, and her value in the Fae world is due to how hard she tries and her brains, not her blood.  This plot development feels like it’s making it all about her blood.  Her power is due to whose daughter she is, not who she herself is.  That’s just not a message I’m as fond of.
*end spoilers*

Overall, this is an action-packed entry in the series that visits another mystery with enough different sub-plots and twists to keep it interesting.  Fans of the series will be surprised by the big overarching plot development toward the end of the book and will be eager to pick up the next one to see where this plot development goes.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Library

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Previous Books in Series:
Rosemary and Rue, review
A Local Habitation, review
An Artificial Night, review

Book Review: Y: The Last Man: Safeword by Brian K. Vaughan (Series, #4) (Graphic Novel)

Man floating in blue water.Summary:
Agent 355 and Dr. Mann drop Yorick off at another agent’s house while they bring the monkey, Ampersand, to an animal hospital to see after his cut.  The agent forces Yorick to confront his own inner demons.  Then the band continues on toward California, having to take a side-trip through Arizona where they run into a band of militant, anti-federal women.

Review:
The two plots contained in this entry in the series don’t flow together as well as other entries do.  Although the two plots are equally interesting, they feel odd being packaged together.

The first half features an…unconventional therapy method to get Yorick to confront his inner demons.  This section is excellently done and necessary to better understanding him.  So far, we’ve only seen him within the situations, but really have no idea what’s going on in his head.  That’s one of the interesting virtues of this particular graphic novel.  We see Yorick interacting and hear him speak, but we only rarely glimpse inside his mind.  Better understanding what is up with the, surprisingly abstinent, last man is key to continuing the plot.

The second half is far more humorous.  There’s something eloquent and smart about the Arizona state militia of women who even go so far as to call themselves “The Sons of Arizona.”  The strong reaction in the southwest to the plague with the idea that it was all arranged by the federal government is a very astute observation of the mentality of that area of the country.

So, although the two individual storylines were good, the plot just didn’t flow as smoothly this time around.  It feels like that classic in-between book syndrome.  It’s there to set things up for the next one.  We’ll see with the next entry if I’m right.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Public Library

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Previous Books in Series
Y: The Last Man: Unmanned (review)
Y: The Last Man: Cycles (review)
Y: The Last Man: One Small Step (review)

Book Review: Y: The Last Man: Cycles by Brian K. Vaughan (Series, #2) (Graphic Novel)

November 30, 2011 1 comment

Giant Y with man in front of helicopterSummary:
Yorick and his monkey, Ampersand, (the last males on Earth) continue their reluctant quest to help the government find a way to fix the disease that killed all the other men or at least to clone new men.  Their train trip from Boston to California is caught up in Ohio, though, where they stumble upon an oddly utopian town of women.  Meanwhile, Yorick’s sister, Hero, and the Amazons continue their quest to rid the Earth of the last man.  Plus there’s a mysterious Russian woman who keeps insisting a spaceship with men on it is going to land.

Review:
Now that the premise of the post-apocalyptic world is set up, Vaughan’s story really picks up speed.  There is much less explaining and far more action this time around.  There are now multiple plot lines and mysteries beyond Yorick’s main one going as well, which helped, because let’s be honest, Yorick isn’t that likeable.

About 1/3 of this entry is set in Boston, primarily around Fenway and the train station.  I think having the Amazons duke it out in front of Fenway Park was a pretty nice touch too.

I don’t recall laughing with the first entry, but this one had me laughing out loud on the bus then having to explain to my companions around me what was so funny.  The line?

Killing’s easy. Like….like doing laundry!

It is a random, quirky sense of humor that I really enjoy, although I do expect that it might not strike some people as humorous.

The artwork continues to be bright and easy to follow.  I really appreciated the preliminary sketches featured in the back of the book.  It was most surprising to see that agent 355 originally was white and gradually was changed to black.  I’m glad Vaughan made the move, but I do wonder what brought it on!

Overall, if you like a post-apocalyptic graphic world with biting wit and gender commentary, you’re going to enjoy this book.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Public Library

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Previous Books in Series:
Y: The Last Man: Unmanned (review)

Friday Fun! (Merry Christmas!)

December 25, 2009 Leave a comment

Ayla playing in wrapping paper. You can just see her ear sticking out.

I know, I know.  I’m posting on Christmas!  The thing is, I have time, so I may as well, eh?

I really did have a lovely week.  I was home sick Monday, and I spent the day destressing and recentering myself.

Tuesday night I went out for dinner with my friend and her boyfriend.  My friend is moving to California on Sunday, so this was our goodbye dinner.  It was sad, but also lots of fun.  My friend chose the restaurant, so I had Peruvian food for the first time ever.  It wasn’t bad, but it was a bit bland for my taste.

On the 23rd, my sister-in-law went into labor and gave birth to my niece via a C-section.  Welcome to the world, Clara!  She’s just over 5 pounds, and I’m excited to get to meet her next month.

Yesterday I was the only librarian in my library, something I actually enjoy.  This may be a sign that I’m suited to small hospital libraries, hehe.

Today I’m actually just chilling at home.  I’ve already been to see my family, since we knew my sister-in-law was due right around Christmas, and we thought it’d be best to visit prior to the baby being born and after sometime in January.  Since everyone else is obviously with their families, as they should be, I’m enjoying a day of watching Lost, snuggling my kitty, baking cookies to mail to my librarian friends, and reading obviously!  Tomorrow one of my best friends is coming over to hang out for the day, which will be our last chance before she goes to Israel for two months.  I should go get some of that reading and baking done.  Merry Christmas to those who celebrate, and happy day off to those who don’t!