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.

Book Review – Y is for Yesterday

Note:  I was very saddened just after Christmas to find out that Sue Grafton had passed on.  (Eff Cancer).  I, along with a lot of readers, learned my alphabet on her covers.  I think I’m more upset with the world that there was just one book left than I would have been had it ended part way through.  I had finished this just before the news was released.  At the publishing of this post, it will have been about a month.  I’m still shocked and saddened by the loss of Sue. 

 

TITLE: Y is for Yesterday
AUTHOR: Sue Grafton
FORMAT: Hardback and EBook (I had both)
PUBLISHED: 2017

Y is for Yesterday is the 25th installment in the alphabet series of cozy-ish mysteries starring Kinsey Millhone (rhymes with Bone) and her cast of characters (ie her friends).

In this book, we flip between two story lines.  Several years in the past, there’s some extraordinary teenage angst happening at the school, somebody steals a test and then somebody else dies.  Oh, and somebody makes a sex tape.  In the current time line, there are two story lines – the same cast of characters as the past, and Kinsey’s.  Because the guy who went to jail for Sloan’s murder has just been released from juvie, and, well, he’s being blackmailed.  They have the tape, he has the money, and maybe just maybe they could swap.

Oh, and while all this is going on, a jackass from *kinsey’s* past is around.  And he’s trying to kill her.  Ned is a total piece of crap, and nobody’s safe while he’s on the lam.

 

So, as soon as I got the book, I immediately texted my mother to tell her I had it already and did she.  Then several updates as I read the book.  We’ve both read the series together for years.  It’s one of the things I liked so much about the series – it’s not one demographic.  It appeals to so many.   At Christmas, I stopped in to visit my Mom’s aunt, and she had it sitting in her coffee table.

Which is why what I’m about to say pissed me off so much.  When you read a series like this, you expect something.  I mean, we’ve done TWENTY FOUR other books with Sue, and when you do that, your readers gravitate towards your books because you expect them to work a certain way.  Longtime readers to the blog will remember that I’m the one that did the review of 50 Shades of Grey.  I say that because I want you to really appreciate me saying this:  *I AM SO FRIGGIN PISSED* that in the first third of the book she *graphically described the sex tape*.  I mean we know what got stuck where and I don’t always mean body parts.    It probably wouldn’t have upset me to find that in another book by somebody else.  But again, Sue’s been writing a certain way most of my life, and I’ve been reading her for over 20 years.  I expect a certain something and that isn’t it.

And for Sue’s *readers* that isn’t it.  I remember way back when her message board was a thing somebody complaining because Kinsey said bad words.  Now you’re going to tell us where to stick something?

In Kinsey’s normal cast of characters, we of course have Henry, her wonderful elderly landlord (I always thought the series would end with his death, not Sue’s…), and a couple transients that he’s picked up.  Homeless people who pitched a tent in the dirt patch that was his back yard.  One of them is fat.  Really fat.  Apparently so fat that I have forgotten her name but remember her plumptness because she was friggin’ fat shamed for most of the begining of the book.  I can’t tell you anything else whatsoever about her.  Not her eye color or hair color or anything.  Just her fatness.  Because Sue talked about how we had to shoehorn her into her clothes, etc.  She hardly talks about any other character’s body type, so this was a bit over-the-top ridiculous, too.

With that said, once you get through about a third of the book, it’s a huge sudden shift.  I know that the family has said that Sue was adamant that she wouldn’t have co-writers or ghost writers or anything else, but I’m serious when I say that the first third of the book sounds and feels like a totally different person wrote it.  I don’t know if there was a different editor or she set it down and came back to it months later or what happened, but it was definitely a very different book from that point on.

Oh, and at some point (I don’t remember where) there’s some unfortunateness involving Ned and Henry’s cat.  That I legitimately wanted to punch Sue for.  The cat comes through okay, but there’s not a lot I don’t ever want to read in a book, and animal abuse – even potential animal abuse – is way high on the list of shit you just don’t.

The last two-thirds of the book are something that I would expect from picking up a Sue Grafton book.  There’s a fantastic scene with Pearl and Ned, some really classically Sue stuff happens involving Fitz (the one getting blackmailed), and it was balanced nicely with Kinsey’s family stuff.

 

So rating this book is hard.  The first third as a Sue book gets about a 1/5, but a much higher rating if I had just stumbled upon it elsewhere.  The second and third third (that sounds funny, lol!) get at least a 4/5.  But combining them together…?  I’ll give the book a solid 3/5 overall.  If you can overlook the first third of the book, you can bump it up to a 4/5, but if you’re expecting a typical Kinsey Millhone read all the way through, you’ll be disappointed.

Readers Wanted

Did you know that Book In The Bag has been read on almost every continent?  (I don’t think Penguins read books?  We should work on Antarctica…)

We’re in need of more readers who want to write reviews.  There’s no need to be discouraged, and it’s not that hard – really, I don’t ask that much of my bloggers.

  1. Reviews must be written in English.  You’re welcome to read books written in any language, of course.
  2. The reviews need to be PG-13 or better, even if the book isn’t.  Let’s face it, there are lots of books out there full of swearing and sex and violence, but a book review should let potential readers know if they want – or don’t want – to read a book, and with a group of diverse bloggers, we’re going to get a group of diverse blog readers, too.
  3. Have fun.

 

Before you ask, this is a non-paying gig.  We do it because we like to and really, it’s hard to stay objective when you’re getting cold hard cash for the review.  You’re welcome to get books in any legal means you’d like, and you’ can review just about anything.

Think you’ve got what it takes?  Leave a comment telling us why you should be a part of the book in the bag team.

 

 

2017 YITB Review

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This is the smallest update/year in review I have ever done, and I want to take a minute to apologise to loyal readers of the blog.  It would seem that my bloggers have been in a pretty constant state of flux over the past year with lots of changes (some good, some not so good) and we’ve just let reviewing books slide by the wayside.

I am actually ashamed to say that I only managed to read about half a dozen books last year.  But this year seems better.  Things are leveling out.  I’ve made a list of the things that really matter in my life and I’m going to be doing a big push at the blog.

 

Thus, this year’s list is small but mighty.

The top Book in the Bag Books of 2017:

  • Go To Sleep, Little Farm – Mary Lyn Ray
  • Mix It Up – Herve Tullet
  • Owls Don’t Blink – A.A. Fair (Erle Stanley Gardner)
  • Desert Solitare – Edward Abbey
  • Lexicon – Max Barry
  • Idolators of Cthulhu – H David Blalock

Book Review – Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon

With her TITLE: Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon
AUTHOR: Patty Lovell
ILLUSTRATOR: David Catrow
FORMAT: Children’s
PUBLISHED: 2001
MY VERSION: 2017 for Imagination Library

 

As you may remember, my boss is 3 1/2, and he brought this to me the other day to read to him.

Molly Lou Melon is ridiculously tiny (the illustration reminded me of Cindy Lou Who), has huge buck teeth, and a terrible voice, which the author describes as “a bullfrog being squeezed by a boa constrictor” in the book (and which every review on the internet quotes – lol).  Her grandmother is The Most Amazing Influence, of course, and has always told her to be proud of herself and carry herself accordingly.
She moves away from her friends and her grandmother (ANYTHING BUT THAT!), and goes to a new school, complete with bully.  Ronald Durkin is every bit the turd we expect a bully to be, and she shows him up by simply being better/smarter/faster/whatever than he is at everything they have to do.  With her grandmother in heart, she stands tall and everything’s right in the end.

So, we know I have a soft spot for grandmothers, so of course this book got me because she had to leave her grandmother behind.  (My grandmother died in 2009, so anything that has a strong connection between fmc and Gramma gets me in the feels hard…)  So the book seriously resonated with me, which I’m sure added to my enjoyment.  But I loved that there was a character that happened to be a girl, but who wasn’t judged for being one.  It was kind of nice/refreshing, you know?  She’s a great strong character (regardless of gender) because her entire existence was ‘you know what?  this is me, and I’m totally okay with that.’  And that’s a lesson that we all need to keep close to heart, you know?   Be okay with you.  Everyone else is already taken.

I didn’t like the illustrations at all.  I guess they’d be much better as a stand alone piece of artwork, but I found them distracting, so they detracted from the story, and certainly from my enjoyment of them.  So there’s that.

The toddler’s reaction means more than mine, so I’ll tell you that he liked it, although he cared more about the illustration than the story sometimes, which is a little sad.  This book had a great message and he was too busy pointing out frogs to hear it sometimes.

But, I’ll give the book a 4/5 and the illustrations a 2/5.  I really wish the artist had a less-is-more approach, but it’s definite a story with reading, and I’ll certainly read it again if the boss wants to hear it.

Book Review – Mates, Dates, and Inflatable Bras

TITLE: Mates, Dates, and Inflatable Bras
AUTHOR: Cathy Hopkins
FORMAT: Paperback
PUBLISHED: 2011

Mates, Dates, and Inflatable Bras is a coming of age book about Lucy, her friend Izzie, and new girl Nesta.

Lucy is short.  So short that they call her a midget (under 5 foot at 14).  Blonde but flat chested.  And doesn’t really have a clue where her life is going.  One day, on her way to Izzie’s house, she sees a guy come out of a store and realizes that her life would totally make sense if she had a guy like him.

Cue a bunch of problems on a bunch of fronts.  There’s the identity of the mystery guy of course, and there’s Nesta, who is fairly new to the school and monopolizing Izzie’s attention with her seemingly lavish life.

Everything comes to a head when she forces herself to hang out with Nesta and Lizzie together.  Turns out the mystery guy is Nesta’s brother.  NO! Gasp!  She hates Nesta!  How can THE MOST AMAZING BOY INTHE UNIVERSE(tm) turn out to be related to the Horrible, Terrible, Awful person trying to take her best friend from her?

Of course that’s not how it goes down.  She’s forced to examine a lot of things – how she looks at Nesta, who she is as a person, etc.

 

So, I found this book at my local thrift store while on a quest for the most bizarre book I could find.  No, this isn’t it, but the title made me giggle and I bought it (probably for about 50 cents) for me.  I thought by the title it was going to be chick lit, and it is, but I didn’t realize it was YA until I got it home and actually read the back cover (Note: I don’t care, just putting that out there.).

The book is very British, which I love.  I think it could have had a little bit more substance, but it’s geared towards the younger end of YA, so it fits the genre just fine.  Just a personal thing.

The only thing that reallllllly annoyed me about this book was that he planted a huge kiss on her just because he thought she should get a kiss from a boy.  Nevermind that he wasn’t at all interested (not as much my problem) and had a girlfriend (very much my problem).  And I guess it was a minor issue, but still.

In all, it was a decent book.  I don’t know that I’ll rush out to find the rest of the series, but if I come across them, there’s a good chance I’d read them.  It was a light, fast read, I liked how the characters went down, and it’s a nice deviation from books that weigh heavy long after I’m done with them.

In all, I’ll give this a 4/5 page rating.  It’s a great short read when you just want something fun.

 

 

 

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