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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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Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale Finds

Smashwords is a website that lets indie authors sell their ebooks in multiple formats, including: kindle, epub, pdf, rtf, sony, palm doc, html, and javascript.  It’s an interesting community with some pretty unique stories.

Since I’m an author with a presence on Smashwords, I became aware of their annual Summer/Winter Sale (so entitled to cover both northern and southern hemispheres).  After agreeing to have Ecstatic Evil participate in the sale, I thought I’d check out the listing of all participating books to see if there were any that caught my eye.  Here, then, is a listing of the ones that I found and downloaded for 100% off with the sitewide coupon code SSWIN.

Nail partway into wood.Clear Heart by Joe Cottonwood
A love story for men about nail guns, wet concrete, and strong women. When carpenters work for bigshots – and fall for beautiful women – who gets nailed? “It’s funny, very tender, and enormously, tremendously human. In fact, Clear Heart just might be one of the most human books I’ve read in a long time.” —Colleen Mondor, Bookslut

 

 

 

Woman in blue gazing at sky.The Veiled Mirror: The Story of Prince Vlad Dracula’s Lost Love by Christine Frost
Legend has it that the love of Prince Dracula’s life committed suicide during a siege in 1462. Author Christine Frost tells the story of Ecaterina, consort to Vlad the Impaler, the Romanian prince who served as the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The richly detailed story of Ecaterina is a romantic, supernatural, and adventurous view into one of history’s most notorious figures.

 

 

Red silhouette of woman walking.Callisto: Adrift by Erica Conroy
Stealing damning evidence from a certain covert ops section of Space Corps makes Jasmine a target. So what does she do? She runs. Hops the first civilian transport ship out of there, but of course the bad guys still find her. Luckily for her the dark and brooding half-human man on board, is a deft hand with a sword. Unluckily for him, helping her could be hazardous to his life!

 

 

 

Image of black woman in period clothing.Portrait of the Past by Kate Halleron
The year is 1880. Marguerite is an artist and former slave who is hired to paint a wedding portrait for a wealthy family. She soon finds that the family has close ties to her past from which she has constantly fled. Instead of fleeing again, she stays to paint a portrait of her former family, and in so doing she begins to understand the difficult choices her loved ones were driven to make.

 

 

Elderly man holding picture of himself when he was young.The Silence of a Soldier: The Memoirs of a Bataan Death March Survivor by William J. Duggan
It was 1942. The fight for the Philippines was over. Japan was the victor. American POW’s sat beneath the burning April sun in the fields of Mariveles. At the point of a bayonet, 75,000 U.S. and Filipino POW’s carried sacks of rice, dried fish and ammunition for the Japanese move across the Philippines. Thousands died. Bub survived. This is his story.

 

 

 

Yellow tent surrounded by darkness.Gone by Brian Alaspa
A group of employees trying to have a weekend of bonding in the woods. What they get, however, is a weekend of unrelenting terror. What is making them disappear one at a time? Why can’t they leave? Will any of them make it back or will all of them end up “Gone?”

 

 

 

Cartoon of woman dancing in purple dress.Polly’s Wild Dance by Sidnee Elliot
After twenty-five years of dealing blackjack in Las Vegas, Polly Brilliant throws the cards in the air, sells everything she owns and makes a beeline to the Greek island of Kythira to paint, write, and forget about men. Or so she thinks.

 

 

 

Red-eyed bug.The Preying Mantis by Andreas Louw
Since investigating the murders of young, female teachers by a serial killer, FBI Special Agent Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Roy has been having nightmares. When he contacts her, latent memories from her childhood starts resurfacing. Who is this man they call The Preying Mantis?

 

 

 

I’m excited by the finds for my personal TBR pile, although lord only knows when I’ll be able to get to them. *eyes size of TBR pile*.

In any case, if you love free books as much as I do, I encourage you to check out not only these titles but the page dedicated to the sale!  As you can see from the titles I chose, the genres are incredibly varied, and I bet you will be able to find something that strikes your fancy.