LISTENER

Simon

  • 503
  • reviews
  • 5,830
  • helpful votes
  • 508
  • ratings
  • Clash of Empires

  • Clash of Empires, Book 1
  • By: Ben Kane
  • Narrated by: Steven Pacey
  • Length: 16 hrs and 35 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 1
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 1
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 1

When a new empire rises, and old one must fall. After 16 years of bloody war against Rome, Hannibal Barca is on the verge of defeat. On the plains of Zama, Felix and his brother Antonius stand in the formidable Roman legions, ready to deliver the decisive blow. Victory will establish Rome as the pre-eminent power in the ancient world. But in northern Greece, Philip V of Macedon is determined to restore Alexander the Great's kingdom to its former glory.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Kane Is More Than Able!

  • By Simon on 21-05-18

Kane Is More Than Able!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 21-05-18

This was my first time with a Ben Kane novel and I guarantee it won't be my last! This looks set to be a series that will be genuinely epic in nature and scope. The multiple viewpoints cover life at both the top and bottom of both sides in this clash of Ancient powers. A steadfast king faces off against a hugely ambitious Roman politician with both desperate to win at all costs. At the other end of the scale a Macedonian rower dreams of becoming a spearman while two Roman brothers spend most of their time merely trying to survive.

Kane imbues each with their own feelings, hopes and dreams. He puts them all to the test and brings us victory and defeat alike. There are great action scenes including pitched battles, skirmishes and even drunken brawls. In reality it is four separate stories being woven into a much broader overall tapestry. There is a fair amount of thoroughly researched detail concerning the military organisation and tactics of the Macedonians as well as the overall period.

The narration is by the excellent Steven Pacey, the material is possibly not as perfectly suited to him as some of the other books I've heard him doing but being the master he is he delivers it superbly.

Just one point to mention, during the foreword it's strongly recommended that the listener consult a pdf that should have been included. It is said to contain maps that help understand the geography of the story with the nations being so different to what we know today. I contacted the author and he said he was unaware of the issue but he would ask the publisher about it. I also asked Audible who also said that the publisher hadn't provided it. It didn't feel like it spoiled the story for me but I do hope they add it to the package. In the meantime I did find what seemed like serviceable maps online to give me at least a broad overview.

That nit aside this is an excellent start to this series. As it's my first from the author I can't compare it to what he has done before but to me this flew by like a Javelin from a Roman legionary. Sometimes I find there is a certain amount of drag in multiple viewpoint stories but Kane has made each of his lead characters very human and compelling, albeit it in very different ways. Bring on Book 2!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Word Wars

  • By: Iain Lee
  • Length: 4 hrs and 45 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 9
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 8
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 8

Ponder the world's most pressing and seemingly pointless questions with Iain Lee and guests. In this riotous, competitive and comedic panel show, high profile guests square off against each other for victory. From lowbrow pop culture to high art, irresistibly silly questions become the weapons of mass distraction in this seriously hilarious 'war of the words'. Expect strong language, riotous laughter and answers to questions you never thought should be asked in the first place. And then be thankful that someone finally had the courage to ask them.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Words Missing In Action!

  • By Simon on 19-05-18

Words Missing In Action!

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 19-05-18

In all honesty words fail me, they really do, which would actually make me a great contestant for this show should Audible decide to inflict a second series on us. In truth it is as you would expect dependent on the quality of the guests in each episode. Some of them do actually raise a few laughs.

The fact is though that for most of it the host and guests are clearly finding themselves funnier than anyone else is. The host Iain Lee's manic laughter at his own scripted efforts have more than a hint of desperation about them and the lukewarm reactions and awkward silences from the studio audience speak louder than anything else.

It's kind of okay but there is much better out there which given it's free makes it passable I suppose. Regardless, I won't be in a rush to download a second series should Audible decide to go for it again.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Extinct

  • Extracted, Book 3
  • By: R. R. Haywood
  • Narrated by: Carl Prekopp
  • Length: 12 hrs and 56 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 72
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 69
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 68

The end of the world has been avoided - for now. With Miri and her team of extracted heroes still on the run, Mother, the disgraced former head of the British Secret Service, has other ideas.... While Mother retreats to her bunker to plot her next move, Miri, Ben, Safa and Harry travel far into the future to ensure that they have prevented the apocalypse. But what they find just doesn't make sense. London in 2111 is on the brink of annihilation.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Brilliant.

  • By mudbud on 19-05-18

There Is Life After Extinction After All!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 19-05-18


Now I thought that this series actually was extinct after the last book which seemed to tie everything together so well that i thought that the story was done and dusted. RR Haywood who does have form for giving a series longevity obviously thought otherwise. So it was a with a little trepidation that I ordered this one and started listening. Almost straight away though the doubts were cast aside and I was drawn into the deliciously childish banter of Ben, Saffa, Harry and co. The story that Haywood weaves around them is clever and quite captivating without ever taking itself too seriously.

Carl Prekopp is well suited to Haywood's style and captures the characters and the humour with considerable aplomb. He brings the significant number of action scenes to life as the story twists and turns and the two rival groups vie for supremacy.

The book does complete a decent story arc but this time leaves much more open so it's clear that there will be more to come. If you enjoyed the first two books it's very likely you'll enjoy this one with its faster pace and increased levels of action. And if you do enjoy this one too and want more it does look like you'll get your wish!

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Dead If You Don't

  • By: Peter James
  • Narrated by: Daniel Weyman
  • Length: 12 hrs and 4 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 36
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 35
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 35

Roy Grace, creation of the CWA Diamond Dagger award-winning author Peter James, faces his most complex case yet in Dead If You Don't. Shortly after Kipp Brown and his teenage son, Mungo, arrive at the Amex stadium for their team's biggest-ever football game, Mungo disappears. A short while later Kipp receives a text with a ransom demand and a warning not to go to the police if he and his wife want to see their son alive again.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Action Man Grace!

  • By Simon on 18-05-18

Action Man Grace!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 18-05-18

The Roy Grace series gets a stripped back approach in this latest episode. The back story has been parked and it's full steam ahead almost from the start. Those back stories for Grace or the other characters have largely been parked in favour of the action. As a result there's less of Grace the person and more adventure. Crucially there are less of the sugar-laden romantic scenes too.

As always there are dastardly villains with a particularly Bond-like aspect to this one. There are outlandish plots and Roy Grace is somehow the man on the spot who has choices between following procedure and doing what he sees as the right thing. Luckily for him he has the ever-watchful Cassian Pugh looking over his shoulder ready to summon him to his office at a moment's notice and irritate the hell out of him while trying to bring Roy down.

The narration by Daniel Weyman is of course absolutely top class and even though the story may follow a formula, it's a good formula making this a five star listen despite the need to suspend belief a little bit at times. The stripped back approach means that the whole thing bounces along at a thoroughly entertaining pace.

One point worth noting is that the book itself is actually only just over 11 hours long, the last hour of this production is given up to an hour of James's next book Absolute Proof which is due out in October. I don't mind these extras of course but I'd like to know when they are coming so that I don't plan to listen to say the last two hours of a book on a long drive only to be cut short. I think it would help if these were advertised.

16 of 18 people found this review helpful

  • The Visitor

  • By: K. L. Slater
  • Narrated by: Lucy Price-Lewis
  • Length: 8 hrs and 41 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 8
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 7
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 7

Holly never thought she'd move back to her hometown, but then something terrible happened. She doesn't know if she can recover. But she knows she can never tell another soul. People say her neighbour, David, is 'different'. He doesn't go out much, and never after dark. But in David, Holly finds just what she needs: a friend. Someone who's always there. No-one knows Holly's secret or where she lives. She has left the past behind. So why does she feel as though she's in terrible danger?

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • A Drama That Doesn't Quite Deliver

  • By Simon on 16-05-18

A Drama That Doesn't Quite Deliver

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 16-05-18

The thriller genre is a fairly broad church containing everything from Jack Reacher's famously high body counts to the kind of books that K L Slater writes. These Slater books are more well-written dramas than outright thrillers and this one more than most. I found it engaging and enjoyable even though it is an extremely patient and low key setup. It is of course extremely well read by Lucy Price-Lewis who is one of the best narrators in the business for these kinds of books. There is a lot to like here.

Unfortunately, after the slow patient build up the last hour or so of the book suddenly goes a bit crazy. Although several of the key characters are built up for potentially odd behaviour it all just loses cohesion in a frantic final denouement that just didn't feel fitting. There were just too many convenient examples of characters dialling up the unexpected.

I will stick with this author, she has a quality of writing about her and an eye for making relatively mundane situations genuinely engaging but I felt oddly dissatisfied at the end of it all. She just didn't convince me like she has in the past.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • The Making of a Massacre

  • By: Audible Original, Ginger Thompson
  • Length: 2 hrs and 10 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 4
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 4
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 4

[Contains sensitive content] In March 2011, gunmen from one of the most violent drug trafficking cartels in the world swept through a small Mexican border town, leaving behind dozens of disappearances and deaths. This series follows ProPublica's Pulitzer Prize-winning Ginger Thompson as she investigates an instance where America's war on drugs had devastating civilian consequences.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • An Utterly Barbaric Tale

  • By Simon on 14-05-18

An Utterly Barbaric Tale

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 14-05-18

This is genuinely an amazing story where truth is actually more evil than fiction. I have seen much less extreme stories in fictional thrillers described as being unrealistic. It's an unbelievably tragic story of oppression, corruption and unrestrained violence. The fact that it can happen in the modern day will seem almost inconceivable to most of us in the UK but is unfortunately a reality for some.

The production values are as you would expect very strong but to me some of it seemed overly dramatic in tone. The story is an incredible one in its own right so introducing the chapters in the same tone as an action movie trailer and so on really isn't needed. Maybe it does help for a US audience, I couldn't say, but it did take a little of the impact away for my personal tastes.

That said, it is a story that needed to be told, and it needs to be heard so if you have a couple of hours free take the time. just don't expect any faith you have in the goodness of humanity to survive unscathed.

5 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Hot Pursuit

  • A Walker/Tamiko L.A.P.D. Adventure, Book 1
  • By: Paul Bishop
  • Narrated by: Peter Borys
  • Length: 7 hrs and 45 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 1
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1

It's 1977, and veteran L.A.P.D. cop Calico Jack Walker and his rookie partner Tina Tamiko are planning to make Calico's last shift on the job something special. But plans, as they do, never run smooth because Walker and Tamiko are good cops no matter what the cost - even if they're LA cops, in uniform, in their patrol car, on duty, and way out of their jurisdiction on the Las Vegas Strip. When a major crime is going down, good cops never hesitate. 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Singing a Siren's Song

  • By Simon on 14-05-18

Singing a Siren's Song

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 14-05-18

Anyone familiar with the classic Lethal Weapon films will immediately be able to identify with at least a rough idea of the targets Hot Pursuit is aiming at. Some humour, some slapstick, some larger than life characters and a little excitement to add some spice to the mix.

It's not a bad effort and Walker, the older grizzled cop and Tamiko his youthful ninja-like partner make for an interesting combination as Murtagh and Riggs did. Walker though is more like an older version of Riggs and there is no conservative Murtagh in this pair.

There are of course larger than life villains, obnoxious colleagues to pick fights with and the mandatory idiot boss out to bust their balls. Peter Borys does a very credible job narrating this very American production though I wouldn't recommend listening while driving as the sound effects employed include frequent police sirens in the background that will have you looking around wondering what's going on!

The story is of course ridiculous though given the author's credentials he possibly knows a thing or two that I don't about police work and the like. Whether these sirens call out to you or not depends on how in tune you get with the character chemistry and the humour. At first I really wasn't sure but I was chuckling along by the end and certainly wouldn't object to more of this developing series being released on Audible.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Hell Bay

  • By: Kate Rhodes
  • Narrated by: Stephen Perring
  • Length: 8 hrs and 52 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 33
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 29
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 30

DI Ben Kitto needs a second chance. After 10 years working for the murder squad in London, a traumatic event has left him grief-stricken. He’s tried to resign from his job, but his boss has persuaded him to take three months to reconsider. Ben plans to work in his uncle Ray’s boatyard, on the tiny Scilly island of Bryher, where he was born, hoping to mend his shattered nerves. His plans go awry when the body of 16-year-old Laura Trescothick is found on the beach at Hell Bay. Her attacker must still be on the island because no ferries have sailed during a two-day storm.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Atmospheric and Evocative!

  • By Simon on 12-05-18

Atmospheric and Evocative!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-05-18

Hell Bay does for the Scilly Islands what Peter May's The Blackhouse did for the Outer Hebrides. A talented but conflicted detective returns to his remote rural roots and is plunged into a disturbing investigation involving many of the people he once called friends. The atmospheric evocation of the islands and the people that live there is a genuine triumph. While I never like to compare authors as everyone gets different things from each of them the feeling of being transported to a place that Kate Rhodes achieves here is reminiscent of May's efforts. It really is that good.

The plot twists and turns and while it never quite hits fever pitch it's very satisfying as DI Ben Kitto unravels the strands of paranoia that the conflicting evidence weaves around him. Stephen Perring does a fine job of the narration being clear, articulate and providing a good range of voices for the characters without resorting to caricature accents.

This book is definitely at its most impressive in bringing a remote island to life both in the warmly emotional intelligence used to draw the characters and the starkly beautiful yet cold-hearted nature of a small, remote island. I'd thoroughly recommend this if you like darkly atmospheric murder mysteries.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • The Shape of Water

  • Inspector Montalbano, Book 1
  • By: Andrea Camilleri
  • Narrated by: Mark Meadows
  • Length: 4 hrs and 53 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 28
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 25
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 25

The goats of Vigàta once grazed on the trash-strewn site still known as the Pasture. Now local enterprise of a different sort flourishes: drug dealers and prostitutes of every flavour. But their discreet trade is upset when two employees of the Splendour Refuse Collection Company discover the body of engineer Silvio Luparello, one of the local movers and shakers, apparently deceased in flagrante at the Pasture. The coroner's verdict is death from natural causes - refreshingly unusual for Sicily.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Really sad

  • By Ms C Symington on 25-08-17

Should I Stick or Twist?

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-05-18

I really don't know whether to stick at just this first book or twist and try another one. It's obvious from looking around other review sites that this is a much-loved series that improves as it goes on. I'd add that Inspector Maltabano shows some real promise as the central character, on a couple of occasions he delivers some cracking lines.

On the down side this cleverly named yet brief introduction to the series isn't as compelling as one might hope. The story is fairly mechanical and whether it's the original writing or the translation is hard to tell but a lot of the dialogue clunks along like speeches being delivered rather than organic interactions, especially the police commissioner at the end.

I think the narration by Mark Meadows is fine, to my inexpert ear his Italian pronunciation sounds authentic but this clashes with the English accents given to the characters at times.

So, mostly because my father promises that this becomes a really enjoyable series and those occasional killer lines delivered by Maltabano I will probably twist at some point but I don't feel a great urgency to do so.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Falcon of Sparta

  • By: Conn Iggulden
  • Narrated by: Michael Fox
  • Length: 12 hrs and 12 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 47
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 44
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 44

When Cyrus, brother to the Great King of Persia, attempts to overthrow his reckless sibling, he employs a Greek mercenary army of 10,000 soldiers. When this army becomes stranded as a result of the unexpected death of Cyrus and then witnesses the treacherous murder of its entire officer corps, despair overtakes them. One man, Xenophon, rallies the Greeks. As he attempts to lead them to freedom across 1,500 miles of hostile territory seething with adversaries, 10,000 men set off on the long way home.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Conn's Falcoln Has Him Flying High Again!

  • By Simon on 10-05-18

Conn's Falcoln Has Him Flying High Again!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-05-18

I was starting to think that I wasn't quite so in thrall to Mr Iggulden after my two previous attempts at his books. Dunstan was a strong but slightly less spectacular historical novel while Darien from the Empire of Salt trilogy wasn't something I thought would set the fantasy genre alight no matter how brave he'd been to try something so new.

The Falcon of Sparta though sees Iggulden doing what I think he does best. Taking an historical tale of already epic proportions and bringing it to life for us. Giving us heroes, epic battles and a grand, impossible journey engineered by a quite unlikely champion of Greece! The sheer scale of what they attempted given the terrain and distance they needed to cross is one of the truly great stories of the Ancient Greeks.

The structure of the book is a little different with the narrative being carried by almost a relay team of lead characters. Michael Fox is the man charged with putting the breath into Persians and Greeks alike. He does a very sound job and is engaging throughout though I wouldn't say his performance is quite of the very top standard. He's certainly much better than some of the choices Conn or his publisher have made in the past - check out the Emperor series for the proof.

If you've enjoyed some of Iggulden's earlier historical fiction and want some more then this is a very worthwhile purchase.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful