Book Review – Tales of Arilland

TITLE: Tales of Arilland
AUTHOR: Alethea Kontis
FORMAT: Audio Book
READ BY: Gabrielle Baker
PUBLISHED: 2017?

This review is, unfortunately, going to be as much about my feelings on audio books as it will be on Alethea’s words.

I liked the idea of an audio book.  I’ve been spending a lot of time in the car, taking my fiancee to work, and if I can listen to a book instead of the same music over and over and over again, then that’s a good thing, right?  I mean, it counts towards the books I read and it counts towards the books that I get to share with you guys, and you can still pick it up in print or ebook even though I’ve reviewed the audio.

I’ve heard good things about this series from a friend of mine (search our blog for Alethea Kontis, and you’ll find reviews of most of her books on this site), and I figured that a group of short stories was totally a good way to jump into the world.  The series is all fairy tale retellings, so I thought I’d have enough of  a familiarity with them that I could jump in easy peasy.

Yeah.  Notsomuch.

Right off the bat, I had a few issues with the audio book.  I’d heard amazing things about Gabrielle Baker, and I was really looking forward to this, but her reading for the first story was a little flatter than I would have liked – not enough (if any) difference in dialog to necessarily know that you’re switching people or dealing with dialog.

The other issue that I had was that I couldn’t always tell when a story ended and another one started.  I wish there had been something really obvious for it.  When you’re in the car, driving, you don’t always have 100% attention on the audio.  So something would have been helpful – maybe a chime when the story was over or her making it clear that she was reading story titles.  Because they kinda blended in.

The other problem that I had was that it was hard to keep enough attention on the book to not miss something here and there, you know?  Driving in a town you’re not that familiar with and trying to find your turn?  Oops, haven’t heard what’s being said for the last five minutes.  Sleeping toddler wakes up and starts talking?  Nope, no idea what that paragraph was.  And if I’m going to stay hands free, I don’t have the luxury to rewind it or whatever.  Lose focus in a print book, and you just read the page again.

Oh, and I don’t know why, but all I get for titles in my audible thing is “Chapter 1” instead of a story name, so I couldn’t even go and look it up later.  Boo.

That said, the point of listening to this was so that I could get more book in my limited amount of time.  So as for the actual stories:

I’m not going to break down each story because, well, I can’t even if I wanted to (and I actually did want to).  I searched the internet ad nauseum for a table of contents for this book and I just couldn’t find one no matter how hard I tried.  I have never in my life seen a book so inaccessible to the online masses.  Like, seriously, the online links bring me to Amazon in every country ever, but no reviews or anything that I could glean that information from.  And again, Gabrielle’s reading didn’t always make it clear – although credit to her, after the first couple stories, the readings got So. Much. Better.

Let’s just say there are some stories that I’ve already forgotten and I’m okay with that.  Others, though, were fabulous.

The mermaid story was beautiful.  It was dark and gritty and omg, and I loved it and was so sad when it was over.  I also loved the siren story.  I don’t know that much about siren lore, but I just loved how it was presented.  The characters were beautifully done and the siren herself was heartwrenching.  Ironically, the most human character in the whole story.

The bulk – okay, probably half – of the 6ish hours is taken up by her Woodcutter series and a story about Sunday and Rumboldt.  (Or maybe it’s two stories?  Again, I’m really unsure here…) I really like how her characters are developed and there are some beautiful lines that I wish I could have written down.  Unfortunately, common sense decided against trying to do that at 70 miles per hour while operating the car.  Alethea really does have a good way with words.

 

In all, it was a pleasant experience.  I know that there’s going to be some give and take with the audio format – especially when you’re listening in the car in a big city – but the stories themselves were beautiful and Gabrielle really did read the story well – especially as this progressed.

 

I’ll give the format itself a 3.  It doesn’t even come close to being as amazing as a print book could be, but it was nice to be able to listen to a book on the go

The book itself, though, is better.  There were a few that I didn’t care for, but the ones that were good were really good.  In all, I’ll give this a 4/5.

 

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Book Review – The Anti-Bride

TITLE: Anti-Bride Etiquette Guide: The rules and how to bend them
AUthoR: Carolyn Guerin
Format: Paperback
Published; 2004

I got engaged on January 1, so of course the first thing I did when I made the next trip to the library was to find the wedding section and get a couple books.  I started reading this one right away and was done in a  very short amount of time.
The purpose of the book is pretty much to make brides relax a bit.  Just because your mother talks lovingly about wearing her mother’s wedding dress or your sister shared her special day with 18 attendants in matching head to toe ensembles doesn’t mean that you have to continue those traditions.

The initial format of the book is pretty nice.  She’s arranged chapters by thing, and they’re pretty much chronological.  There’s definitely nothing complicated about this.  Each chapter starts by telling you the history of whatever it is, and then expands in to a Q&A/FAQ type format where it talks about ‘do you have to’ or what ifs or whatever.  [note: the wedding cake history isn’t entirely right]

It’s not bad.  It’s nice to know why we do the things we do, and the author wants you to understand things before you decide to do them differently. There are charts to show expectations of things like what to wear and when.  It’s also nice to know that there are silly fuddy-duddy things that don’t need done anymore.  (And have people say it’s okay – there are so many details a bride has to think of that I’m sure there are plenty that are afraid to go off script.)

That said, I had some issues.  For starters, the author likes ridiculous examples of things and doesn’t offer real world solutions nearly as often as she could.  Also a lot of the things she brings up are a little clichee – like dyeable shoes – but that could also be a product of the fact that the book is 10 years old.

Unfortunately, the bottom line is that I didn’t learn hardly anything from this book (I did learn that “honor of your presence” should only be used if the wedding is in a church), and a lot of the scenario/answer things were pretty common sense or out there. “My mother’s been telling her yoga class.  Help!”  Well, so what?  Is your wedding a government secret??  And some of it wasn’t even thorough.  “I didn’t get a present, I feel slighted!” should have had the “hello, they have a year!” reminder in addition to her actual advice of don’t keep score.
I didn’t gain anything whatsoever from this book and I think it fell very short where it could have been fabulous.  Also, updating things would make a lot of these answers so much better.  I mean, the book is over a decade old, so it barely mentions the internet’s existence.  (And really, if it were done today, there’d be a total ETSY RULES!! chapter.) I think the book had potential, but I think it fell completely short of where it should have been.  If you’re new at this and don’t have a clue, it may be helpful.  But I can sum the book up as “it’s okay to relax tradition” and you can skip it, too.

Also, the book is in two font colors – black and pink.  Which maybe would be okay with the right font, but the font is a skinny little thing and it made reading really difficult at times.  So there’s that.  I want to be generous and all and give it a better rating, but in my heart, I know this needs to be a 2/5.

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