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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: Succubus Revealed by Richelle Mead (Series, #6) (Audiobook narrated by Elisabeth Rodgers)

January 8, 2014 1 comment

Woman in white and wearing a cross standing in front of a foggy sky.Summary:
Seattle’s succubus, Georgina Kincaid, is incredibly happy to be back together with her previously ex boyfriend, Seth Mortensen.  But getting back together with him came at the price of hurting his once-fiancee and having to leave her previously loved position managing the bookstore.  It’s all worth it to be with Seth, though.  But then a transfer notice comes in, sending her to her dream job in Las Vegas.  It’d be a dream come true, except Seth can’t come with her because his sister-in-law has cancer.  Georgina starts to wonder just why so many elements seem to keep coming together to try to drive her and Seth apart.

Review:
A breathtaking conclusion to the series that reveals not just Georgina’s entire life story but also that the series itself is more than originally meets the eye.

It was obvious in the prior book that a much larger overarching plot was going to be revealed in the final entry in the series.  Mead reveals this plot through an artful combination of the characters investigating, flashbacks, and a court case.  Normally, I’m not a fan of courtroom drama, but Mead pulls it off beautifully, really playing up the supernatural elements and keeping it moving along at a rapid pace.  While I had pretty much already figured out what the big reveal would be, how it was revealed and how the characters reacted was unexpected and complex.

A running theme in the series has been that the characters are not perfect and life doesn’t hand out easy answers or resolutions.  The resolutions to the various problems and questions in the plot and in Georgina’s life follow these guidelines as well.  It is not a simple reveal that places perfection into Georgina’s life.  She has to address her issues, how she has dealt with herself and other people, and she must face the supernatural community as well.  It was refreshing to see characters in an urban fantasy have to work toward resolution instead of having it handed to them by virtue of just being lucky or having the right powers.

The romance is in full-swing in this book.  Georgina is much more focused on her love life than on being on a succubus.  Thus, most of the sex scenes we get are hot in an entirely romantic way.  Once again, though, I was more focused on the quality of the plot and characters than on the quality of the sex scenes.  The story of Georgina overpowered the juicy bits, and that’s a sign of a great urban fantasy.

The book brings to light the questions of good versus evil, love and what it takes to make a relationship work, soul mates, and the qualities of humanity.  And it does it with humor, brightly written characters, sexy sex scenes, and creative settings.  An ending to the series as satisfying as a rich dessert that will leave the reader wanting to re-read the series as soon as possible.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Audible

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Previous Books in Series:
Succubus Blues, review
Succubus On Top, review
Succubus Dreams, review
Succubus Heat, review
Succubus Shadows, review

Book Review: Alien in the Family by Gini Koch (Series, #3)

October 3, 2013 1 comment

A blonde woman in a wedding dress holding a gun is surrounded by aliens in three-piece suits. Summary:
Kitty loves being engaged to Martini, her super-sexy alien fiancee from Alpha Centaurion. But she’s not super into the whole wedding planning thing.  The issue gets pushed to the forefront, though, when Martini’s estranged extended family on AC announces their intent to visit and determine the worthiness of the marriage.  It seems Martini is actually royalty.  Meanwhile, some new aliens crop up, and they just so happen to be Amazonian terrorists.  It’s an awful lot for the Super-Being Exterminator team to handle.

Review:
This is a hard review to write, because I *loved* the first two books in the series but this one left such a sour taste in my mouth, I won’t be continuing on.

The overarching plot is good.  Yes, it’s a bit ridiculous that Martini is royalty, but anyone who’s read the first two books in the series should expect and embrace the ridiculousness at this point.  The added twists from the AC homeworld make the wedding plot more interesting and unique.  Every wedding is unique in its own way, but this gives Kitty and Martini’s wedding a decidedly paranormal romance flair.  I didn’t find the Amazonian terrorist plot particularly necessary but it was well-done and kept the action moving.

The writing continues to be tongue-in-cheek dirty wit.

I hated having to be someplace on time, it took away so many potential orgasms. (page 40)

But the relationship between Martini and Kitty gave me reason to pause this time around.  They continue to have excellent chemistry, which is fun to see.  But there are two glaring issues in the relationship.  Martini is overly jealous, in a cartoonish, immature way.  He doesn’t get jealous in a way that is sexy. For instance, he doesn’t see men looking at Kitty and hold her hand to show they’re together.  He actually growls. And yells. And clearly doesn’t trust Kitty.  Of course, that lack of trust could be justified since Kitty repeatedly wonders if she’s choosing to marry the right man.  Not just that, she thinks about whether she should marry any myriad of her guy friends and ex-lovers.  Plus, she continues to flirt with just about anyone, in spite of Martini telling her it makes him uncomfortable.  These are issues that should have been worked out prior to an engagement, and they don’t bode well for a future marriage.  I wouldn’t mind the issues, but the couple are presented as the ideal couple.  They aren’t presented as a couple who has some issues to add some realistic drama to the story.  This is paranormal romance.  The main romantic couple *should* be a bit idealized, but they aren’t.

A much, MUCH bigger issue to me though is how rape is handled in the book.  This comes up in two different scenes.  There is a scene where Kitty is fighting some bad guys and accidentally ends up in a room with a football team visiting Vegas.  Half of the team makes a very overt attempt to gang rape her, but the other half of the team (plus an alien pet Kitty picks up early in the book) puts a stop to it.  Then later the leader of the rapey half of the team comes to help fight the bad guys and apologizes, and Kitty recommends that they be added to the secret forces.  She shrugs off the rape attempt as everyone makes mistakes and they apologized and essentially recommends they get hired to her company.  I’m ok with a heroine narrowly escaping a rape attempt, as that could happen.  I’m not ok with the heroine then shrugging it off, accepting an apology, basically saying that a rape attempt is just a mistake, and trying to help the career of the attempted rapist. What. The. Hell?!

In the second scene, Kitty is hanging out with her friend, Chuckie.  Chuckie is, at this point in time, her boss. He’s also her almost life-long friend, she’s had sex with him in the past, he’s asked her to marry him before, and she’s periodically wondered throughout this book if maybe she should be marrying him instead of Martini.  At the end of their conversation, they’re getting ready to go, and this happens:

He [Chuckie] took my [Kitty’s] shoulders and turned me around. “God, it’s as bad from the back. Really, go put on some clothes.”
“I don’t have a wrap, okay?”
“Find one. Before I rape you.” He gave me a gentle push toward the bedroom.
“Fine, fine.” (page 434)

So, Kitty’s friend: A) judges her clothing and deems it immodest B) orders her to change her outfit C) casually jokes about raping her D) victim blames rape victims with his comment implying clothing causes rape.  And of course Kitty just takes this all in stride and doesn’t see anything at all inappropriate about what Chuckie says.

There is just far too much casual boys-will-be-boys acceptance of rape and rape culture in this book that supposedly features a strong female lead and *romance*.  And a wedding! Paranormal romance fans deserve better.  Men deserve to be treated as not mindless animals who will tackle anything in a sexy dress.  Women deserve better than to be blamed for rapists’ behavior.  Toss in the relationship issues between Martini and Kitty, while the relationship is treated by the book an ideal one, and no amount of sexy humor, wedding dresses, and aliens could save it for me.  I’m very disappointed in the turn this series took.  If you’re interested in the series, I would recommend reading the first two and stopping there.

2 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

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Previous Books in Series:
Touched by an Alien, review
Alien Tango, review

Book Review: A Tale of Two Demon Slayers by Angie Fox (Series, #3)

December 6, 2010 4 comments

Summary:
Lizzie is ready for a vacation what with having spent the last month first saving her grandmother from the second level of hell and then saving Las Vegas from a hoard of succubi.  Plus lying around on the beach in Greece with her hunky Griffin boyfriend, Dimitri, sounds like quite the treat.  Of course, nothing in Lizzie’s new life ever goes as smoothly as planned. Their arrival in Greece leads to the discovery that someone has stolen something from Dimitri.  Something intertwined with Lizzie and that has put the whole Helios Griffin clan in danger.

Review:
Due to the title and the various repercussions so far to Lizzie sharing her demon slayer nature with Dimitri, I expected this book to deal with that.  Actually, the story it told was far more engaging and interesting.  Can Dimitri with his classical European family of tradition work in a relationship with Lizzie and her globe-trotting work and crazy motorcycle gang witch family?

Although the situations surrounding this romance are highly paranormal, the relationship itself is very normal.  Lizzie struggles to trust in Dimitri’s love for her, let alone allow him to love her.  Dimitri struggles to find balance between his life and family and Lizzie.  It gives a heart to the overall action and story that was missing in the other volumes.

The paranormal aspects are stronger this time around too.  The paranormal world seems to mesh together in a better way.  The addition of more animals besides Pirate make for a more entertaining menagerie.  Dimitri in particular is more fleshed out now that we see his family and where he comes from.  New characters too are well-drawn, particularly Lizzie’s new teacher.

Fox manages to avoid common paranormal romance cliches this time around, although at first the reader thinks she is falling into them.  This combined with drastically improved sex scenes, the better characterization, and the addition of a real world heart to the story makes for a far better tale overall.  I’m glad the humor in the previous two books kept me around for this one.

Overall, this is an excellent example of everything paranormal romance should be–colorful characters, believable paranormal circumstances, the heart of the story relatable to real world circumstances, good sex scenes, and plot twists that manage to avoid cliches.  It is thoroughly entertaining, and I highly recommend it to all paranormal romance lovers.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

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Previous Books in Series:
The Accidental Demon Slayer, review
The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers, review