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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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Announcement: Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale

Hello my lovely readers!

I just wanted to take a moment to let you know that I’ve signed both my novella and my novel up for Smashwords’s annual summer/winter sale (so entitled to cover both hemispheres).

BOTH of my books are 100% off aka FREE through the end of July!! Just use the coupon code SW100 when checking out to get my books for free!! Smashwords books are compatible with all ereaders, computers, and tablets, and you can also give Smashwords books as gifts.  Click through to Smashwords by clicking on the titles.

Ecstatic Evil
paranormal romance
Tova Gallagher isn’t just your average Bostonian. She also just so happens to be half-demon, and the demons and fairies have just issued a deadline for her to choose sides. But it’s hard to worry about the battle of good versus rebel when she’s just met a sexy stranger on the edge of the Charles River

Waiting For Daybreak
post-apocalyptic science fiction
What is normal?
Frieda has never felt normal. She feels every emotion too strongly and lashes out at herself in punishment. But one day when she stays home from work too depressed to get out of bed, a virus breaks out turning her neighbors into flesh-eating, brain-hungry zombies. As her survival instinct kicks in keeping her safe from the zombies, Frieda can’t help but wonder if she now counts as healthy and normal, or is she still abnormal compared to every other human being who is craving brains?

Happy reading!

Announcement: Smashwords Sale for Read an Ebook Week

Hello my lovely readers!

Just wanted to take a moment to let you know that I’ve signed both my novella and my novel up for Smashword’s sale for Read an Ebook Week.

Ecstatic Evil is is 100% off aka free until March 8th.

Waiting For Daybreak is 50% off until March 8th.

The coupon codes to partake in the sale are listed on the books’ respective pages on Smashwords.

Check out all the indie books taking part in the sale!

Happy reading!

Book Review: Gone by Bryan Alaspa

November 9, 2013 Leave a comment

Image of a yellow tent in blackness.Summary:
A newly formed company’s owners decide that what the small group of employees need is a bonding camping trip.  Bear isn’t a fan of camping, but he agrees to go along anyway.  When the site is more rural than he was anticipating, he starts to question his decision.  When they wake up the first morning and find one member of the party missing, he’s sure he made a mistake coming camping.  On each successive morning, another camper is gone.  Who is taking them and why?

Review:
I picked this up, along with seven other books, during Smashwords’ 2012 Summer/Winter Sale.  I’ve always enjoyed the classic horror trope of we-all-go-to-the-woods-and-shit-gets-real, so I was intrigued to see what Alaspa did with it.  There’s enough different in the plot to keep you reading, in spite of some awkward sentence-level writing.

People disappearing from their tents and leaving their clothes behind, one per night, is a nice subtle change to what one generally sees in the everyone in the woods story.  Usually people get eaten by zombies or axe murdered or something obvious.  A simple disappearance was different enough that I was genuinely curious as to what was causing these odd disappearances.  Added into this are the methods used by whoever is doing the abducting to keep the campers in their campsite.  They try to paddle away but the currents mysteriously change.  They try to walk away through the woods but the trees attack them, etc…  These methods worked within the context of the supernatural seeming disappearances.  I also liked that their supernatural experimenters make it impossible for them to get hurt, so they are forced to wait their turn.  It all felt a bit like a subtly done allegory for animals in a slaughterhouse, and it kept me reading and engaged.

The only element of the plot that didn’t work for me is that the first person to disappear from the group is also the only person of color in the group.  Having the Latino guy be the first one to disappear is so stereotypical and B-movie that I actually cringed.  Let poor Carlos be at least the second one to disappear. Or, heck, make him be one of the last ones standing.  Getting to play with the regular tropes of whatever genre you write in is one of the benefits of indie writing, so use that to your advantage.

Unfortunately, some of the writing style on the sentence level isn’t up to the same level as the intricate plot.  There is quite a bit of telling instead of showing.  Not enough trusting the reader to get it.  There are some awkward and puzzling sentences in the book as well:

The ground was wet and my hands were damp when I put my hands on it. (loc 616)
The hand turned into fingers and slammed the lids of my eyes closed. (loc 2809)

Additionally, I started counting the number of errors that were clearly not typos, and I got over 30.  I fully expect some errors to get through, they tend to even in traditionally published works, but I find anything over 5 to 10 to be excessive and feel more like a first draft than a fully done, ready to publish work.

On the other hand, there are portions of the sentence-level writing that are eloquent and beautiful to read.  Particularly, any instance where characters are having sex is quite well-written, and I would be interested to read work from Alaspa focused more on romance or erotica.

When she touched the part of me that was hard and eager I nearly exploded. (loc 1828)

Overall, this book contains a strong horror/thriller plot that will keep the reader engaged in spite of some awkward sentence-level writing and a few too many textual errors.  I recommend it to horror readers who are intrigued by the plot and don’t mind these short-comings.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Smashwords

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600 Follower Freebie Celebration!!

March 6, 2013 5 comments

Silhouette of woman and cat.Hello my lovely readers!

To celebrate my blog reaching 600 followers, I’m offering up ebook copies of my novel, Waiting for Daybreak, for FREE for three days!  And that’s an unlimited number to everyone who wants one!!

What is normal?
Frieda has never felt normal. She feels every emotion too strongly and lashes out at herself in punishment. But one day when she stays home from work too depressed to get out of bed, a virus breaks out turning her neighbors into flesh-eating, brain-hungry zombies. As her survival instinct kicks in keeping her safe from the zombies, Frieda can’t help but wonder if she now counts as healthy and normal, or is she still abnormal compared to every other human being who is craving brains?

Still not sure if you want this bad-ass free book?  Check out the reviews from the blog tour, on Amazon, and on GoodReads.

In order to get your FREE ebook, go to this page, add it to your cart, then put in the coupon code at checkout for 100% off.  You may choose a version compatible with any ereader, computer, and many phones.  That’s right, read it for free on your kindle, iPhone, Kobo, and more!

I’m so excited to have so many followers, and you all definitely deserve some special access to my work.  So are you ready to grab the coupon code and check it out?

Your coupon code is……

LC57W

Again, just go to this site, add the book to your cart, then enter the coupon code at checkout for 100% off!

Feel free to share the coupon code with your friends.  It will expire on Sunday.  And thank you to one and all for being my followers!

Book Review: The Preying Mantis by Andreas Louw

October 27, 2012 Leave a comment

MS Paint drawing of a bloody praying mantis.Summary:
FBI agent Betty Roy has been pursuing one serial killer for years.  He murders one young female teacher who plays a musical instrument per season.  Suddenly, though, he contacts Betty herself and starts ratcheting up the rate of the killings. He seems to have some sort of personal interest in her.

Review:
I picked this up during the Smashwords Summer/Winter sale for two reasons.  The plot sounded intriguing, and honestly the cover amused me.  What I found inside was a plot that was mostly strong (although it fell apart at the end) that was unfortunately supported by some truly bad writing.

Let’s start with the good. The plot is genuinely creepy.  Although the Preying Mantis (as he calls himself) is fairly typical for a serial killer thriller, he’s got enough unique qualities that the reader is left intrigued and guessing.  The murder scenes are brutal and frightening.  I was engaged enough that I kept reading in spite of the bad writing quality, purely because I wanted to know what happened at the end.

Unfortunately, the plot at the end takes a bit of a nonsensical nose-dive.  I have an incredibly difficult time believing that the FBI would let an agent recently removed from a serial killer case who they know is currently being pursued by him run off into the middle of the woods without backup. Or some sort of catch the criminal plan she is in on.  Similarly, I have major issues believing this same FBI agent would be stupid enough to go to the woods at this point in time, let alone go there without her big guard dog that she instead leaves at a friend’s house. It’s a lot of characters acting stupid just to get them to where the author needs them to be.  Thankfully, that only shows up at the end.

As for the writing itself, there are three separate issues at hand.

First up, we have an omniscient third person narrator telling a story that takes place almost entirely in New York City with American characters, and yet the narrator repeatedly speaks British English. This is bizarre, confusing, and jolts the reader out of the story. I actually had to check a couple of times and make sure the story was indeed happening in NYC.  Here are a few examples:

She had met the old man before and knew his heart was a bit dodgy. (location 1095)

He thought it best not to point out at this stage that if he had been shagging Wells’ wife, he might not have been gay. (location 2306)

Betty came out of the shower, refreshed, and took out a pack of crisps and a soft drink. (location 3553)

In case it’s unclear, Americans don’t say dodgy, shagging, or crisps. We say sketchy, banging, and chips.  I suppose it’s possible that Louw could want the narrator of this event taking place in America to be British, but if so, it should be for a reason. For instance, it would make sense if the story was being told by a British person researching the killer at a later date.  That is not the case, though. As previously pointed out, this is an omniscient third person narrator telling a story set in America. They should speak American English.  The British English also drifts into the American characters’ dialogue, but there are far larger problems with the dialogue, so I won’t bother citing those.  Suffice to say though that if it’s a problem for the narrator to speak British English it’s an even larger one for the American characters to do so.

Speaking of dialogue (see what I did there), let’s get to that.  The main problem with the dialogue is that it doesn’t sound realistic.  At all.  Also every single character sounds exactly the same.  The Latino-American cop sounds exactly like the white American FBI Agent who sounds exactly like the serial killer who sounds exactly like the head of the FBI’s investigation.  And none of them sound realistic.  Rather than try to explain it, let me show you.

I shall go mad if I don’t have anything to do for the next two weeks. (location 310)

Would you like to order out? I am quite hungry and can do with some sustenance. (location 1213)

After about fifteen minutes he emerged form his office and said, “Let us go.” (location 2868)

How come you being here all by yourself in the middle of nowhere, dear? (location 3617)

The only way dialogue like this would work would be if, say, one character was OCD about never saying a contraction or had Asperger’s Syndrome or something.  But none of the characters are like that and also they all speak exactly the same way.  It’s a real problem for dialogue to sound so incredibly unrealistic. It drags the reader out of the story, plus it’s bad characterization. Each character should have an individual sound.

Finally, there are the general grammar/spelling issues.  The most annoying being the author’s tendency to switch back and forth between present and past tense, frequently within the same sentence.  For example:

She had been hunting him for the last two years and it reached the point where he has invaded every aspect of her life. (location 123)

Lemke had played this kind of game before and he is definitely not going to let someone like Newmark get under his skin. (location 669)

Shudders up and down my spine, y’all. And not the kind you’re supposed to get from reading about a serial killer.

Overall, the book has a relatively unique plot that is overshadowed by a first draft quality level of writing.  I encourage Louw to get either a co-author or an editor for future endeavors, as well as a wider variety of beta readers.  Sound editing and checks by beta readers could have cleared up many of these issues.

2 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.