Blog Book Tour | A listener’s spin on #podcast review of Xela Culletto’s “Understanding the Stars” (#SFF)

Posted Saturday, 10 June, 2017 by jorielov , , 2 Comments

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Hallo, Hallo dear hearts!

A unique kettle of fish erupted into my audiobook listening adventures – wherein, I could not listen to ‘Understanding the Stars’ – mind you, I tried every which way to Sunday to get the book to play except to say, I was left with a lot of dead air. The lovely narrator I had heard via the sampler was remiss and I was left wondering what the book would reveal to me, as this was one book I was looking forward to listening to see how the author would shape the story around the aliens.

I was short on time to resolve this – as I’ve tweeted recently, this Spring has been ‘a beast!’ for allergies this Season. I haven’t been able to shake the reactions since wayy back in March or end of February; honestly, I don’t even remember when it all began; each week blends into a new one and I still have extreme allergies assaulting me! I dream of RAIN. I pray for a DOWNPOUR. Summer could not start soon enough for me this year in other words! I sort of lost track of where I was with my blog’s schedule as when your feeling more blue than sunshiny, who keeps up with their calendar? Ergo, I caught sight of one blunder a bit too late to make amends – my copy of ‘Understanding the Stars’ is unplayable – and before you say “ask for Help”, been there & done that. Apparently it’s a quirk or a tech issue that has no textbook solution. Aye.

Oy vie. Never one to give up without a bit of ingenuity – my rabbit out of the hat idea was to merge my love of listening to @AudioShelfMe with my second stop on the ‘Understanding the Stars’ tour seemed to be the best route to go! I had discovered this lovely podcast duo (Brad & Britney) courtesy of Jess @ the Audiobookworm who was tagging a heap of us to introduce us to the Audiobook Month (JUNE) Listening Challenge – where we can all play #AudioBingo, meet new bookish friends who love audiobooks as much as we do and get a bit of fun out of our listening endeavours whilst we try to score ‘points’ for securing titles on the board!

I will be revealling which audiobooks I am thinking of listening to for the challenges when I start to reveal the #20BooksOfSummer I have chosen to focus on for another Summer Reading Challenge! Those two posts will run next week – as I am getting a bit of a late start but look forward to seeing where my mad dash of listening and reading shall take me!

Now then, without further adieu, here are my notes whilst listening to Brad and Britney hash out their recap of ‘Understanding the Stars’.

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Understanding the Stars by Xela Culletto

Alexandra Blackwood is minding her own troubled life when she unknowingly gets caught up in an extraterrestrial conflict. Ronan, a human with his own alien-entangled past, has been keeping an eye on her and sets out to help her escape looming abduction, and maybe win her heart.

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The podcast started off with Brad impersonating alien-speech with a few seconds of alien music before the overlay of their theme and the introduction of how they hosted their first book tour. I agreed about the synopsis being a smidge short but enough to serve as a taste of what might be included in the story’s arc.

As Britney was talking about Lori Prince’s narration on behalf of Alex, I sided with her impression as when I heard the sampler – the first thing which drew me to want to listen to this title was the narrator’s voice. You could tell she was matched well with the character she was portraying.

Brad’s laughing was infectious – especially when he and Britney were talking about Ronan’s name and how Ms Prince narrated the different genders in the story. Apparently, each alien had their own distinctive voice and Ronan had his own voice separate from the aliens but he is a hybrid character (both alien and human) which sounds interesting. I look forward to narrators who can make definitive distinctions between different characters – if they are from ‘elsewhere’ where your native language isn’t spoken it’s clever if they can change how to articulate those changes in voice and vernacular.

I think I would have enjoyed listening to the different aliens as this is something I had to imagine for myself when I was reading my beloved The Clan Chronicles; as there are so many wicked lovely species in Ms Czerneda’s series – there was a part of me which had wished I could have ‘heard’ them or seen illustrations of their likeness as they were fascinatingly diverse! The only downside is because I was so enthralled and addicted to the series as a whole – would the narrated version feel outside my own experience or an enhanced version?

The dynamics of the aliens seemed to shift from the uneasiness of an agenda being carried out to the peacekeepers who wanted to forestall fear and bring a peaceful union. I am unsure why the detectives in the story were vexations of annoyance – unless of course, they were so rudimentary inept to sleuth or if they were more filler than functional secondary characters. Sometimes I find detectives can be ‘placed’ in a story-line but not fully utilised to be of critical importance. They sometimes can become redundant, if you will.

I liked listening to Brad and Britney talking about how the mother in the story was partially convincing of her role but it was Ms Prince who added more to her character’s depth by instilling her emotional side to the performance of her scenes. I instantly thought of Buffy’s mother from the tv series – as there were moments throughout the series where I thought Buffy’s Mom was not a fully realised character as she seemed to be several steps behind her daughter’s real identity and because of that, she seemed to be a step outside that world. I was wondering if it was strictly circumstantial in this instance where the mother felt ‘out of sequence’ with her daughter or if it was more about how the mother’s position in her daughter’s life wasn’t fully developed.

Interestingly I sided with Britney about the book’s cover – although Brad’s reasons for not liking the cover from his perspective made sense, too. Except when he mentioned stories of the Fey, it reminded me I’m still itching for the release of the 3rd Tipsy Fairy Tale! lol And, I did understand why he hesitated to watch “The X-Files” as even my love of that series waned when the ‘main plot’ was severed and re-aligned off of Mulder pursuing his sister, etc. As far as Alien Fiction – I’m more of an ‘Avatar’ kind of gal than I am ‘Alien’ (the film) kind of gal. I hear you Brad about aliens not ‘seeking’ Jorie out to hear their stories! lol

Side note: Brad doesn’t read a lot of Science Fiction. lol Since I am over the moon in love with Science Fiction (and a writer of it): Good to note! Except I recommended a title to him which is Steampunk and that’s a segue of Science Fiction in focus and intent of story-line.Whoopsie! Hmm. I wonder if my blog might inspire him to step into more Sci-Fi?

Qualms! Yes, that is a better word, Brad! Laughs. That s/o reminded me of when you think of the word or memory you’ve forgotten about and all of sudden it’s SAID ALOUD. Laughs. Good one!

Refreshing to hear how there weren’t any obstacles limiting the process of Alex and Ronan’s relationship in regards to having it become a long and drawn out Romance. One key issue I think I would have had myself is why would Alex second guess her own intentions to do something or to reconsider her actions once she had already walked down a certain path? In other words – why say goodbye to your mother and explain why you’re not going to go to college if something more imperative is more important to accomplish only to have yourself backslide on that intent and return back home without any explanation towards that end? That seems a bit questionable to me; almost as if Alex isn’t mature enough to stand by her word and to carry through on her decisions.

I am also thinking the yo-yo rhythm of Alex being boomeranged back home would have stalled a bit of my own interest to get to the ending where I would hope her union with Ronan would have been the culmination of the climax. Some of this seemed a lack of direction or purposeful fleshing out of how to tie together the two halves of the novel. It could have been a pacing issue – as I’ve noticed recently in my own readings / listenings, pacing difficulties are enough to throw you out of a story.

The fact there is a cliffhanger tells me there is more to be known about these characters; where perhaps this was only meant to be a precursor and perhaps the fuller breadth of the series will follow in the sequel(s). Sometimes writers make this choice to only give out a partial back-story or root the series on the fringe of understanding the fuller scope of what the series is actually anchoured against in regards to the wider world of it’s purpose. I, personally, love more initially than less as I like to dig into the heart of what not only motivates characters but to understand the reasons behind their angst and/or anguish and personal journey.

I agree with Brad – sometimes narrators take a bit of time to get their bearings with the voices. I sometimes think they should do a demo and playback how the voices sound vs. making a final take in the incubation period of developing them.

Now I wish I could have heard the sequence with Alex’s Dad – as apparently it was a great sequence full of emotional depth! I do agree – on the level – some narrators and authors are in such sweet harmony together, the ending result is a better layer of insight into both the context of the story and the inspiration from the narrator’s internalisation of the writer’s perspective. It’s an interesting moment where it feels there is a blurred line between writer and narrator; the first time it happened for me is with Jake Urry and Mr Storry’s The Cryptic Lines.

*raise your hands* if you love cinnamon butter and toast! lol

From what Brad was relating through his review, I could see how the world-building was on the lighter side – almost as if this was an audio play, wherein the descriptions were muted against what you might need to fully envision what was there. Except of course for the action sequences which thankfully seemed to be fully fused together. One of my personal pet peeves is an absence of world-building where it’s up to the reader to pull out more of what isn’t described than what could have been carried through the narrative arc. Honestly, I love #SpecFic for the world-building so if I find a writer who limits this side of the ledger, I sometimes feel myself ‘stepping out’ rather than ‘hugging close’ to the narrative.

Case in point: I could not DEVOUR the pages of The Clan Chronicles fast enough because I was so wholly inside that world Ms Czerneda created, I could not wish to escape it anytime soon because there was SO MUCH to see and experience. That’s what I’m looking for in Science Fiction & Fantasy – the epic layers and the depth of worlds where you forget which planet you live on yourself.

The rest of the review brought out the zany side of Brad + Britney’s personalities, wherein they defended why this audiobook was a SHELF for them except after listening to their review, I was almost convinced this might have been a half-shove for me. I get critical about Science Fiction world-building but also character development; Alex seemed a bit too one dimensional and a bit reluctant to take that bridge of a step towards independence to where I think I might have felt frustrated by her inaction and commitment issues to where I might have had a more lackluster aftertaste than an itching to await the (“Following the Stars” in 2018) sequel like Brad + Britney are vying for themselves.

And, then — I had to wonder, was there a reason why my copy didn’t play anything but dead air?

Life is full of unexplained phenoms….

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Listen to Brad + Britney discuss ‘Understanding the Stars’.

Would you SHELF or SHOVE this audiobook?

Tweet them your remarks or leave them notes on iTunes or Stitcher!

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I previously hosted an Author Interview for this audiobook!

Visit & leave your comments for the author!

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 This blog tour is courtesy of Audiobookworm Promotions:

Audiobookworm Promotions Event Host badge provided by Audiobookworm Promotions

Whilst participating on:

Understanding the Stars blog tour hosted by Audiobookworm PromotionsFun Stuff for Your Blog via

{SOURCES: Cover art of “Understanding the Stars”, book synopsis, author biography, author photo, Audiobookworm Promotions badge and the audiobook tour badge were all provided by Audiobookworm Promotions and used with permission. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets embedded by codes provided by Twitter. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: Notes of a Listener (Podcasts) Banner and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2017.

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Saturday, 10 June, 2017 by jorielov in Audiobook, Audiobookworm Promotions, Blog Tour Host, Indie Author, Notes of a (Podcast) Listener, Science Fiction, Soft Science Fiction, Space Opera, Speculative Fiction

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2 responses to “Blog Book Tour | A listener’s spin on #podcast review of Xela Culletto’s “Understanding the Stars” (#SFF)

  1. I’m one who has a hard time ‘getting into’ audiobooks. However, this one sounds absolutely intriguing and am adding it to my TBR! Wonderful review Jorie!

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