Audiobook reviews and an Event

First off, I have been asked by Amazon KDP if I’d like to be part of their forthcoming event in Edinburgh on May 23rd, to which I of course said, “I’d LOVE it!” I might have picked them up wrong but it seems they want me to be part of a panel giving advice to aspiring authors, rather like I did with them at the London Book Fair in 2014 (read about that incredible, and often humourous experience HERE). So, if you are in Scotland and can make it to the EICC on May 23rd, please come along and say hello – I will be taking copies of one of my books to sign and give away to interested parties!

Some more info HERE – I believe you need to sign up but tickets are free.

Right, enough of that. Onto some reviews of my latest Audible purchases….

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I was a spotty teenager when I first discovered The Sword of Shannara more than 25 years ago. My friend was given it as a birthday gift and oh, how I laughed at him for being a geeky nerd twat!

Until he let me borrow it and I thought it was just the best book anyone had ever written.

It was my gateway into fantasy and, although now I can see it’s basically a total rip-off of Lord of the Rings, it’s still an excellent read/listen. The parallels with JRR Tolkien’s masterpiece are blatant and legion (Flick & Shea = Frodo & Sam, Gimli = Hendel, Aragorn = Balinor, Gandalf =Allanon, Nazgul =Skull Bearers etc etc), but Brooks is, or at least was, a fantastic writer and I highly recommend this to everyone. My only reservation is the bizarre amount of times he describes characters as “lean”. It seems everyone that populates this world, from the giant druid Allanon to the lowliest goblin, is “lean”. They have lean frames, lean faces, lean figures…They could all do with a good feed from the sounds of them.

But I digress, it matters little to the overall experience, and this is one of the most enjoyable audiobooks I’ve listened to so far. Scott Brick isn’t perfect for fantasy narration – I liked him way better in Asimov’s sci-fi Foundation series – but he does a fine job here, even if his pronunciation of “Shannara” is irritating at first and he sometimes gives Flick a weird Dick Van Dyke-style cockney accent.

It’s a really long book so it represents great value for your monthly credit!

My rating – 5 / 5, easy!

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Writing Great Fiction – The Great Courses

I enjoy listening to lectures for some reason and this seemed like it would be an ideal way for me to learn a few new tricks while I drive around at work.

To be honest, and I’m not blowing my own trumpet here, I think this is probably aimed more at real beginners who’ve yet to pen a novel or publish even a short story. I found the lectures interesting although I’m unfamiliar with the vast majority of the books the professor uses as examples. They’re mostly all classics but I grew up on fantasy and sci-fi and now concentrate on historical fiction so I’ve not read The Maltese Falcon or Dickens or Melville but it doesn’t matter, you get the point of the lectures regardless.

The overall theme seems to be: “I’m not saying this is the right way or the wrong way to write because different authors forge their own path.” In other words, there might be rules most authors will stick to but they’re there to be bent and broken so, do what you like.

If you’re looking for some concrete ways to write a best-seller this isn’t for you. It IS, however, an interesting and entertaining listen and I’ve enjoyed it so give it a shot.

Rating – 3.5 / 5

That’s it for now I’m afraid. I have a few other new books in my library including the next two in the Dune series, a history of the decline of the Roman Empire, and an Aleister Crowley biography but I’ve either not finished those or not started them yet. I’ve been listening to too much AC/DC recently after buying myself a Gibson SG Standard and rediscovering my once-favourite band!

Keep it tuned here for more audiobook reviews and news on the release date of my final Forest Lord novella, The Abbey of Death which is all finished….

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Audible audiobook review roundup Jan 2017

Here’s a few short reviews of the audiobooks I’ve been listening to over recent weeks. Check them all out on Audible!

Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert

Read by Simon Vance although his name isnt listed first in the credits for some reason

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I enjoyed this but, let’s be honest – only the first book in this series is truly a classic. Herbert’s writing style is good and the narration is absolutely fantastic but the story here is only good rather than great. Paul Atreides is still here and so are many of the other characters we bonded with in Dune, but this is a shorter book.
Still highly recommended, but maybe only worth 4 stars rather than the 5 Dune deserved.

Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

Read by Simon Vance

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Well, you know I MUST have enjoyed Dune Messiah because I straight away moved onto this, the next in the series! Paul is gone (or is he…?) and we follow his children in this book. There’s not a lot of action but the politics and psychology of the tale are really well done and this is a worthy successor to Dune Messiah.

It’s still not as good as Dune though!

Another 4/5.

HP Lovecraft The complete omnibus vol 2 

Read by Finn J.D. John

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I bought this because the previous audio collections of Lovecraft I’d bought didn’t include certain stories for some reason. At the Mountains of Madness for example, which I really wanted to hear (bear in mind I’ve read all Lovecraft’s stories multiple times over the years).

The narrator here initially struck me as really good, to the extent I thought about buying volume 1 too. But for some reason, after a few hours listening, I’m not really drawn into this collection. It’s not the stories that are at fault because The Shadow Over Innsmouth and my favourite Lovecraft tale ever, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, are included. These are really excellent stories but…I don’t know what it is. The narrator has a great voice, he acts out the parts very well and it should be great but, for some reason I seem to switch off completely when listening to him and before I know it I’ve missed half the story and need to replay it!

The previous Lovecraft collection I listened to used a variety of narrators and, at the time, I didn’t understand what the point was but now I think it may have been a good way to hold the listener’s interest.*(See my review of that collection at the foot of the page!)

I really don’t know how to rate this – the tales are fantastic, the narrator certainly seems good but I’m bored listening to it and it’s NOT spooky even when I listen to it on my own, in the dark, out in the middle of nowhere around Glasgow when I’m at work!

Weird tales indeed….

Mort by Terry Pratchett

Read by Nigel Planer

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I love Planer’s reading of Pratchett’s stories so much, he is perfect for them and this is no exception. As usual, the sound quality is horrendous, but other than that this is a good tale that will make you laugh (does anybody remember laughter? – I hope you read that in a high-pitched rock god’s voice). Death himself working as a cook in a greasy-spoon cafe is great as is the titular hero wondering WTF is going on as he slowly morphs into the grim reaper. Hugely imaginative as always with Sir P!

4/5

The Cross and the Curse by Matthew Harffy

Read by Barnaby Edwards

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Longtime friends and followers of mine might know that I endorsed Harffy’s debut novel, The Serpent Sword. That was a self-published affair which garnered enough interest and sales that Matthew was taken on by a major publisher, Aria, and this is the resultant sequel.

The tale is quite straightforward with love, action and beautifully written prose aplenty and, combined with a really good narrator, makes for a great listen. It gets especially nasty (in a good way!) about two-thirds in and things really start to come together there.

I felt a little as if this was a bridge between the first book and the next, setting things up for what’s to come for the rest of the series. That’s no bad thing and there is enough to keep your interest up throughout although I did miss a bit of humour. The events are dark and gritty and the characters know it – but it would have been nice to have a bit of childish banter between the men just to lighten things. As it is, the word I kept thinking of as I listened was “earnest”. The dialogue is earnest, the characters are earnest and the prose is too. I was wishing someone would fart or stand in a dog turd but sadly there’s no slapstick silliness here!

This series has been compared to Bernard Cornwell’s Uhtred stories (by me, actually, in that previously-mentioned endorsement!) but, although settings and time period are similar, the writing is completely different in The Cross and the Curse. Fans of one author will enjoy the other I’m sure, as both are absolutely brilliant.

5/5

Finally,

Ubik by Philip K. Dick

Read by Luke Daniels

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The narrator here sounds so much like the guy that did VH1’s “Behind the Music” that I kept expecting him to say something like “Dave Mustaine’s drug use spiralled out of control and left Megadeth in a state of limbo. When we return…!”

But he never did and, Googling the guy it seems he’s got nothing to do with “Behind the Music”. It was quite off-putting for a while but I got into it soon enough and I started really enjoying the narration. His voices are really good, nailing the 60’s hippy stoner in particular, and it leads to a great listening experience although it’s quite short.

The story is Dick’s usual mindf**k that leaves you scratching your head wondering if reality is as real as we’re led to believe, with twists and turns all over the place. Some of which don’t make much sense but you can forgive that because it’s such an interesting book.

It’s a slow burner but stick with it because by the end of it you won’t want it to stop! I still want to know what happened next!

5/5
Next time I’ll be listening to Bernard Cornwell‘s The Flame Bearer and the final two books in the Dune series so keep it here…Also, don’t forget the final book in my Forest Lord series, Blood of the Wolf, is now available from Audible, read by Nick Ellsworth as usual. Save a credit for it, it’s an incredible listen!

 

 

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*The Necronomicon by HP Lovecraft

Read by various. This review is one I posted originally on Audible.co.uk

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“Eldtrich and unspoken horror…no, wait!”

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes, I’ve loved it! I assume you already know Lovecraft if you’re looking at this so I’ll review it with that in mind.
The stories are well read and, although it’s not quite as creepy as reading them yourself, it’s still great and…come on, you get about 65 stories here, for ONE CREDIT?
That has to be (at the mountains of) madness!

What did you like best about this story?

I sometimes work at night and driving around the dark, wintry streets of Glasgow, often out in the sticks, with this audiobook playing in the background….brilliant!

Which character – as performed by the narrators – was your favourite?

Some of the narrators are great, some not so much.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I locked the doors in my car when I was listening in the dark….who knows what lurking horror might have crept up on me?
Lovecraft is never terrifying or shocking in a 21st century way, but his writing is always creepy and sticks in your mind. This collection does a fine job of bringing that crawling chaos to life.

Any additional comments?

Considering I got this for one monthly credit I honestly can’t complain. There’s 60-odd stories, all professionally read and that is just great value for money. I’ve read the stories dozens of times myself over the years and yet still found myself wanting to listen more to this to see what happened next. And I’ve only listened to the first few stories so far! Can’t wait until I hear the likes of “Shadow Over Innsmouth” or “The Call of Ktulu” (oops, sorry, I’ve got Metallica on just now, got mixed up for a sec!).
Needless to say, if the quality drops I’ll edit my review but for now I just wanted to post my thoughts as there’s not a lot for other listeners to go on.
Trust me – if you’re a fan of HPL give this a go.

5/5

Blood of the Wolf now on Audible and an extract from my brand new series!

Audiobook fans rejoice (or just mumble “woohoo” if you prefer)

The fourth and final Forest Lord novel, Blood of the Wolf, is now available as an audiobook from Audible and, I believe, iTunes. Read, as always, by Nick Ellsworth it clocks in at 12 hours, being the longest book so far by a fair margin.

Click on this link to go to your own country’s Amazon page or just use your Audible account to find it in the store.
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On another note, I have finished the first draft of my final Forest Lord novella – The Abbey of Death starring Will Scarlet. Look out for that around March/April with a cover reveal very soon. This will be the last book featuring the Robin Hood characters so it will be an interesting time for me.

Up next is my brand new historical fiction series, set in 5th century Britain, with the first book tentatively titled “The Druid” since it’s about, yes, you guessed it, a druid! I started writing it yesterday and it was so much fun to be creating an entirely new character after four or five years with Robin, John, Tuck etc. Very exciting indeed!
Here’s a short, unedited, extract, I hope you enjoy it. All being well this book will be out this year but I need to make certain it’s perfect as the first book in a series is the all-important foundation the whole thing rests upon. It will be worth it though, I’m sure…

As ever, please comment below and SHARE using the buttons for Facebook, Twitter etc etc!
Cheers!
Steven

Bellicus regained his stool which groaned under his weight as he relaxed, tearing off a piece of bread from the fresh loaf on the trencher before him and chewing thoughtfully as his light-blue eyes scanned the long hall, taking in everything and everyone. He had a special talent for understanding people. For accurately judging a man’s character from just his facial features and the way he carried himself.

His intuition was greatly valued by Coroticus and it had led to the young druid’s newly elevated position as the king’s personal advisor.

“Who better to have at your side,” Coroticus had smiled, “than a giant druid who can read a man’s intentions in an instant and fight like a centurion?”

Bellicus felt a warm glow, from pride at the remembered praise as much as from the beer which he raised now to his lips and sipped appreciatively.

It was true, he was a fine judge of character – a gift from the Gods which he couldn’t really explain himself. His martial prowess though – that was mostly down to hard work and the finest teacher this side of either of the Romans’ ridiculous walls.

Being taller than any other man he’d ever met was also helpful when it came to a fight although, as a druid, he wasn’t expected to form part of his lord’s shieldwall. That hadn’t stopped him trying it a handful of times though. The first time had almost turned his bowels to water but he forced himself to go through it again, and again, until one day he’d found himself nervous, rather than terrified, as he and his comrades faced down the charge of two-dozen Saxon marauders from the south-east.

After that, he’d given up the shieldwall. He’d conquered his fears and it had served its purpose.

Blood of the Wolf audio approved!

This morning I have approved all the audio files for the Audible version of Blood of the Wolf and it’s going through the ACX quality control process. All being well it will be available to download within the next couple of weeks!

I proof-listened to it twice, which can be a bit of a chore in a short period of time, but I enjoyed it greatly. Nick Ellsworth really does this final instalment in the Forest Lord series justice with his reading.

I hope you’ll check it out once it hits Audible (I believe it will be on iTunes too) and do let me know what you think of it. If you bought the Kindle version already you will be able to get the audio at a greatly reduced rate so bear that in mind.

 

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Audiobook Reviews October 2016

Here’s my regular round of reviews from my recent Audible purchases. A couple of fantasy books and a couple of true classics, with a kids book at the end! But are any of them worth your time and money? Read on and find out…

 

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First up is The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. This is the sequel to The Name of the Wind which I raved about not long ago as it was the best fantasy novel I’d read/ listened to in years. And, for the most part, this second book continues the series in similar, great fashion. It is insanely long (42 hours!) so you are getting quite incredible value for money if you use a monthly credit for this thing and, like the previous story, the narration is perfect. Rupert Degas has a huge repertoire of voices and accents and he’s just a pleasure to listen to. The best narrator I’ve ever heard? Yes, I think so!

The story is a good one, with our hero Kvoth now a bit older, a bit more settled in himself and he has some great adventures in this tale. However, I found myself becoming a little bit irritated this time around as our hero is a master at EVERYTHING. From playing his lute to bedding women to fighting like a samurai to throwing magic around like a young Gandalf (yes, he’s still a teenager)…it becomes ever harder to suspend disbelief. By the time he’s seduced a Goddess and she’s found him the best lover ever you start to remember this is just a book, Kvoth isn’t a real man, and it’s hard to remain lost in the world Rothfuss has so diligently crafted.

But overall this is still a five star listen and highly recommended.

Rating – 5/5

twins

Another fantasy book, this time from the Dragonlance mythos. I always thought the mage Raistlin, and his big, dull-witted twin Caramon were the best characters in the whole series and this particular trilogy is ideal as it follows them on an adventure through time. My biggest issue with 80’s fantasy is how twee it often is – when people are dying there’s always some element of slapstick or silly one-liners that destroy any suggestion of realism and make them seem like more of a children’s story. Time of the Twins isn’t as bad as some of the Forgotten Realms books in that regard, and Raistlin is a nice, dark character, utterly selfish and nasty but, irritatingly the kender, Tasslehoff Burfoot (even his name is twee!) tags along and brings that annoying element of misplaced humour to proceedings. Occasionally the authors use the kender in a more interesting way – when bad things happen and the childlike character is upset it really does add an extra edge of horror. In general though, I wish fantasy authors would forget the comedy characters.

I loved this book when I first read it as a teenager and to be fair it’s still a good story. Certainly worth a listen even if the narrator misprounces words and names  which is not his fault as someone should have been proof-listening and pointing out the many errors.

Rating – 4/5

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Now to the first of the stonewall classics – Sherlock Holmes! This is another long one representing enormous bang for your buck at FIFTY EIGHT HOURS!

I’m a huge fan of the Jeremy Brett TV series from the 80’s and 90’s and, for me, Brett is and always will be the real Holmes so I wasn’t sure how I’d like someone else’s voice reading the dialogue but I needn’t have worried. Simon Vance is perfect and runs Rupert Degas close as one of the best narrators I’ve heard yet. He has that refined, upper class accent that works so well with the setting and he has just enough voices to make it all hugely entertaining. I actually stopped listening to this at one point because I was enjoying it so much that I didn’t want it to ever end! Although in saying that, I have found myself not enjoying the later stories to the same extent but I’m not sure if that’s fatigue or because Doyle’s latter-day Holmes stories simply weren’t as good as the earlier classics.

Still, for such a long book, read so well and featuring two of the best characters ever created, this is one of the best Audible buys around.Do yourself a favour and use one of your credits for this!

Rating – 5/5

dune

The next of the true genre-defining classics is set in a far different time and place to Holmes’s London but I was really pleased to realise it’s also read by Simon Vance! There’s some other voices who chime in here and there making this something of a more lavish production, but overall it’s just Vance and he does a fine job again.

Dune is a strange book – I first read it when I was about 15 and thought it was a boring pile of crap. Then I tried again a couple of years later and it blew me away. I returned to it once more in my thirties and again loved it. The rest of the series isn’t so great, especially the later books, but this first novel is so good if you’ve never read it before please give it a try.

I suppose the hero, Paul Atreides, is similar to Kvoth in the way he’s so good at just about everything but here it seems natural. I have already used my latest credit to buy the sequel, Dune Messiah, so look out for my review of that in due course although at only 9 hours it’s much shorter than Dune which clocks in at around 21 hours.

The book inspired an excellent Iron Maiden song – “To Tame A Land”, check it out HERE where it’s backed by parts of the not-so great movie…Frank Herbert HATED heavy metal so wouldn’t let them call the song “Dune”, unlike Patrick McGoohan who was happy to allow them to call another song “The Prisoner”.

Rating – 5/5 again!

I’ve listened to some excellent audiobooks in recent weeks although I also bought the Forgotten Realms “classic” Pools of Radiance which I always fancied as a kid but never got around to reading.

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I’m not even going to bother with a review for it but I won’t be trying any more from the series. It was like watching someone else play a bad computer game. Anyone a fan of this series?

 

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Finally, something a little bit different! My 9-year-old daughter loves books too and has started listening to Audible which I buy extra credits for. I must admit, being a thrifty Scot I rather grudge using a credit for a kids book as they generally last for about 1-2 hours! But my daughter has really enjoyed some so I asked her to write a little review for her favourite so far.

The World’s Worst Children by David Walliams

Reviewed by Freya McKay

The narrator (David Walliams) spoke very clearly and had good expressions in his voice. It was disgusting when the boy picked his nose and made it into something even more disgusting! My favourite character was one of the girls who always did naughty things and blamed it on her wee brother. They are all very naughty! This book is very interesting  and I sometimes wonder how the writers comes up with such good stories.

 

So there you go, I hope you’ll check out some of these and enjoy them as much as Freya and me. If you are waiting to use a credit on the fourth and final book in my own Forest Lord series, Blood of the Wolf is in production right now. Nick Ellsworth returns to voice Robin and John and the rest of the crew and I cannot wait to hear it!

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Audiobook reviews July ’16

It doesn’t seem like that long since I last posted some reviews of my latest Audible purchases but here’s some more. If you don’t already have an Audible membership I can’t recommend it highly enough – you can get any of these (or any of mine!) for FREE with your month’s trial, and if you don’t think it’s for you after that, just cancel.

Anyway, here’s the reviews:

Elminster: The Making of a Mage

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I enjoy fantasy books because they’re a true escape from reality, often with a light touch, and this is very much in that vein. I believe this is something of a classic in the Forgotten Realms universe but I’m not entirely sure why. Yes, it’s quite enjoyable, with lots of magic and revenge and elves and whatnot but…it’s disjointed and almost reads more like a game than a novel. I had no idea what was going on for much of it, but that wasn’t a problem as the same scenario seemed to play out more than once. Or maybe I just wasn’t paying enough attention.

Like all these Forgotten Realms/Dragonlance style books it’s quite twee and seems aimed at teenagers (and teenagers of the 80’s/90’s too) but there’s some sexual elements in this one that raised my eyebrows as they seemed totally out of place.

Overall it’s a decent listen despite the narrator sounding exactly like John Wayne in places, but I doubt if I’ll check out the rest of the series.

Rating 3/5

The Name of the Wind

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Holy crap! This came out of nowhere for me. As I said, I enjoy fantasy but it’s often hard to find really good stuff in the genre as much of it’s very generic and apparently aimed at kids, but, I had a look on the internet and this book had a ton of recommendations. For one monthly credit the length is fantastic value for money so I had to give it a shot and, wow…I’m glad I did.

First off, as an author myself, I listened to this thinking, “Shit, I wish I could write things like that.” Little things here and there, phrases, lines, ideas that are so wonderfully written that it makes you wonder why you bother trying to compete! However, just to tone down the superlatives, I did think the story worked better when it wasn’t in flashback mode (as most of the book is).

That said, this may be the best book I’ve read/listened to in a while – I truly wanted to keep listening when it was time to switch off. The main character is a bit TOO amazing, with genius level skills at everything he tries, but hey, it’s fantasy and, as Dave Mustaine once said, the world needs a hero, right? His adventures are exciting and the cast of characters that fill out the world are interesting enough to make it all hang together.

A special word has to be said for the narrator, Rupert Degas. He uses different voices and accents for each character and they all sound fantastic, truly bringing the whole thing to life in a way I don’t think I’ve ever heard before in an audiobook. So not only do you have some seriously great writing, but maybe the best narrator around reading it!

I won’t say too much about the plot – it’s the old “young boy overcomes hardship to grow and become a great dude” kinda thing, with some magic and even a dragon of sorts. It could be listened to with children yet isn’t twee the way those Forgotten Realms books can sometimes be. There’s no swearing or sex and yet it still comes across as a proper “grown-up” book.

To sum up, I can’t recommend this one highly enough, it’s brilliant and serious value for money.

Rating 5/5

The French Lieutenant’s Woman

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A strange one, this. Rather like the first time I ever read HP Lovecraft, I thought it was a big pile of crap and wondered what all the fuss was about. And then, days and weeks later, I found myself thinking about it fondly. Unfortunately, Fowles wasn’t as prolific as Rhode Island’s master of cosmic horror, so I can’t go back and immerse myself in his work the way I did with the Cthulu Mythos since I’ve already read it all (The Magus is one of the best books ever written in my opinion). But that’s how The French Lieutenant’s Woman affected me and it’s a sign of its quality and strange genius.

I suppose it could be called historical fiction but it’s not like anything Simon Scarrow, Bernard Cornwell or even I would come up with. Oh no, Fowles was never that straightforward. The main story here is traditional enough, I suppose, but the thing that jars throughout is the author commenting on what he’s writing and why and what he might have written instead, even the ending.

It’s bizarre, and it destroys any immersion the reader/listener might be feeling within the otherwise well constructed world.

However, like the previous review above, I found this book interesting from an author’s viewpoint. How many novels have you read in your life? Hundreds? Thousands? And pretty much every single one will follow the same template. That’s fine, and there’s a good reason for it: books are better when they follow that formula!

Yet The French Lieutenant’s Woman breaks from that norm and the author purposely intrudes just as you’re losing yourself in the story, not just once, but repeatedly. It’s a crazy way to write a book but I can only applaud Fowles for doing it. The guy wanted to be different from everyone else and he certainly was.

As usual, the ending isn’t what you’d expect or hope for, but anyone that’s read Fowles will already be expecting that and it’s another area where he differed from everyone else.

The narrator reads well and does a good job.

I can’t really sum this up because I’m not sure how I feel about it myself but I certainly recommend you read or listen to it. At least it’s not as horrible as The Collector…

Rating – ?/5

 

The Wyvern’s Spur

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This is the sequel to Azure Bonds, which I reviewed in a previous audiobook roundup. To be honest, it’s more of a psuedo-sequel as the main character from that one isn’t even in here. Instead, it follows a fringe character from the first book (a poor one too) and a halfling sidekick who was in Azure Bonds but again, in my opinion, isn’t a great creation. So, while the first book had some decent main characters, they’re out the window here. Now it’s a couple of un-heroic “heroes”, one of whom spends much of the book as a donkey, and an uninspired plot that doesn’t really go anywhere.

The writing is, as expected, twee. Don’t expect any tasty language here – no “For f**k’s sake, Tyrion!”, instead it’s “Oh, bother,” and the female narrator reads it as if reading to a three year-old.

Despite that, I’ve enjoyed it well enough. If you’re looking for something very light that doesn’t tax the brain, I suppose you could give this a go, but there’s much better out there and it’s not as good as its predecessor.

There’s a third book in the series, Song of the Saurials, but I don’t see how it can possibly tie up all the plot strands from the first two and, to be honest, I don’t know if I care enough to download it anyway.

Rating – 3/5

 

Socrates: Philosophy In An Hour

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As the title suggests, this is a short one. I don’t know the usual price, but I got it in a deal for about £1.99 and it was worth it. It’s not just a dry summing up of Socrates’s ideas – I actually laughed out loud in places. Keeble is a great narrator (he did a fine job on Cornwell’s King Arthur books) and the writing here is entertaining. It’s not the best book you’re ever going to read on the fabled philosopher, but it’s certainly worth a listen as it’s good fun.

Rating – 4/5

 

I hope you try out some of these, particularly Name of the Wind (I’ve just spent this month’s credit on its sequel) and  don’t forget – all of my books are also available from Audible, brilliantly narrated by Nick Ellsworth!

 

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Some new audiobook reviews

As you probably know, I have an Audible account and listen to quite a lot of audiobooks. Here’s some reviews of my latest purchases, check them out!

comrades at odds review

Comrades at Odds: A Tale from The Legend of Drizzt
UNABRIDGED
by R. A. Salvatore
Narrated by Ice-T

I’ve read a few of Salvatore’s Drizzt books and thought they were really good. I’m also a big fan of Ice-T, either in Law and Order:SVU or his metal band Bodycount – the guy just has a great voice!

ice-t reads fantasy book

Ice-muthaf**in’-T, y’all!

So I saw this short story read by him and I thought it was just such a strange combination that it HAD to be cool.

And it kind of is, but ultimately isn’t the best book you’ll listen to this year.
The story is okay, presumably setting up a new character for later full length novels, but not a lot happens and I felt like this was probably aimed more at fans who are familiar with this era of the stories.
Ice-T’s reading is quite good, but it IS reading. He doesn’t try to act any of the parts and never varies his voice when it comes to different characters. He reads a woman’s lines in the same voice as he reads any of the men’s. To be fair, Ice-T putting on a girly voice would have seemed pretty hilarious so it’s not surprising he avoided it, but it does mean the performance is lacking something.
It doesn’t cost much and it’s overall a decent listen so I can recommend it – just don’t expect too much. You might be better starting with one of Salvatore’s full length novels like The Chrystal Shard.

Rating – 3.5/5

empire

Empire: The Novel of Imperial Rome
UNABRIDGED
by Steven Saylor
Narrated by James Langton

I’ve read some of Saylor’s stuff in the past and enjoyed it so when I saw this very long audiobook for the princely sum of one credit I knew it would be good value.
And it is! It lasts for a long time so will keep you going until the next credit rolls in. But is it any good? Yes, for the most part it’s well written, has interesting characters and is almost a history lesson without becoming boring or dry.
It follows one family, from generation to generation, as they deal with the various emperors and great events that shaped the mighty Rome. It’s all set within Rome itself and it’s mainly about people and political events, so don’t expect battles or heroic centurions. This is no Ben Kane or Douglas Jackson book but it works, mostly, just as well as something more action oriented as it’s so interesting and so well read – the
narrator really does a fine job.
The only downsides for me were a) everything is rather bleak and depressing, with lots of descriptions of people being tortured for fun while the populace lap it up like rabid dogs and b) there’s too much emphasis on the sexual appetites of everyone. It seems like everyone in Rome was either a sadist or a nymphomaniac which might be true for all I know, but it doesn’t make for the most exciting book. At times I felt like it was too depressing and I just longed to listen to some throwaway, light fantasy or something fun by the likes of Terry Pratchett.
But, overall, this is a fine audiobook – great value for your credit, with a nice performance by the narrator James Langton, and, in general an interesting and nicely structured tale.
Give it a try!

Rating – 4/5

azure

Azure Bonds: Forgotten Realms: Finder’s Stone, Book 1
UNABRIDGED
By Kate Novak , Jeff Grubb
Narrated By Kristin Kalbli

I first read this book a long time ago when I was a teenager. So, probably about 25 years or so ago. At the time I thought it was great, so when I saw it listed on Audible I thought it’d be worth a listen. This is one of the old-school, 80’s American fantasy novels a la Dragonlance and, as such, it’s aimed more at young adults than the likes of Game of Thrones. This is no bad thing in itself but some fantasy fans new to the genre might find this kind of book a little twee.
I was happy to find myself enjoying the tale, which is a good one no matter what age you are, and the characters and events were interesting enough to keep me listening right to the end. I’ll buy the second book in the series too at some point, no doubt.
Dragons, magic, sword fights, friendship, a dangerous quest – it’s all here and the fact it’s aimed at teens means there’s some light humour and nothing gets too dark or depressing.
The narrator is okay without being either brilliant or annoying.

Heartily recommended.

4.5/5

macbeth audiobook review

Macbeth: A Novel
UNABRIDGED
by A. J. Hartley , David Hewson
Narrated by Alan Cumming

Narration was very good (can’t beat a Scottish accent, even if it IS from the wrong side of the country here!) and overall I enjoyed this audiobook. A bit light though, it seemed to flick between scenes without much character development. I’ve never seen the play so thought this would be a good introduction but now I’m not fussed about ever seeing it.
Feels a bit like a wasted opportunity, I think the bones of the story could have been turned into a better modern novel.

Rating – 3.5/5

eagles at war ben kane audiobook review

Eagles at War
UNABRIDGED
By Ben Kane
Narrated By David Rintoul

I’ve been a big fan of Ben Kane’s since his very first Forgotten Legion series, and I was reading his first Spartacus novel in the hospital just after my son was born. I really wanted to check out this new series of his, but I don’t have much time to read these days so the Audible version was downloaded as soon as I had a spare credit.
The narrator is excellent, really putting himself into the tale and acting rather than simply reading which I really enjoy.
The tale, based on a true story, is a good one, with a few nice twists and turns, some good characters and an ending that sets up the rest of the series very nicely. I liked the way the author made me wonder who I should be rooting for – who was the “goodie” and who was the “baddie”? In most books that is very clear cut but here you empathise with both sides and that elevates this work above the usual run-of-the-mill action romp.
If I have a criticism it’s the fact that a certain character was blind to what was coming, even when it was pointed out to him on more than one occasion. It seemed so obvious that it made the guy in question come across as a bit of a fool but I suppose this is something authors must deal with when they choose to write about true events and people.

Overall, another great book by Ben Kane, although I personally liked the Spartacus novel better and will be downloading the second in that series next.

Rating – 4.5/5

Don’t forget, if you have an Audible or iTunes account, check out my own audiobooks, they’re all excellent, honest!

 

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Click the pic to check out my own audiobooks!

 

 

Some audiobook reviews – Terry Pratchett, Bernard Cornwell, Graham Hancock, Dr Penny Sartori, and Donnie Eichar

I listen to quite a lot of audiobooks nowadays, through the Audible app on my phone or tablet. I got into it when I had to proof-listen my own audio versions (read, of course, by the fantastic Nick Ellsworth) and it’s a great way to enjoy books you might not have time to physically read.

Here’s some short reviews of my most recent listens. Ben Kane’s Eagles At War is next up…

If you’ve read (or listened to) any of these let me know what you thought of them in the comments section, or email me via the CONTACT page!

Bernard Cornwell Warriors of the Storm narrated by Matt Bates

Graham HancockMagicians of the Gods narrated by Graham Hancock

Donnie EicharDead Mountain narrated by Donnie Eichar

Dr Penny SartoriThe Wisdom of Near-Death Experiences narrated by Penny Sartori

Terry PratchettThe Colour Of Magic narrated by Nigel Planer

Dead Mountain

dyatlov pass incident

I’d been quite interested in this whole myth, legend, whatever you want to call it, for a while now. For those
that don’t know, basically a group of pretty experienced and competent hikers went out climbing near Siberia
and didn’t return. They were found in various states of undress, all dead, having left their tent in a hurry.
But why?
Well, this book aims to explain it.
The narrator is quite good, although his voice can be a bit droning and ultimately it’s a short book. That
said, the main revelation, the reason why we’re listening to this, could fit in half an hour so the other 6
hours is basically the author’s tale of his journey retracing the hikers’ steps.
And it’s an interesting one, well told, really taking you along on the snowy ride with him.
His theory for what happened to the group makes perfect sense to me – better than UFO’s or Yetis or KGB agents
in my opinion. When you put yourself in their position and listen to what he thinks happened it really does
seem like he’s figured it out.

I managed to listen to this whole thing in one day, so that tells you two things: 1) it’s short and 2) it’s
compelling listening.

Recommended!

Warriors of the Storm 

warriors of the storm audiobook

I personally believe this series has gone on for too long. It should have been tied up, with Uhtred retaking
Bebbanburg at least four books ago.
However, Cornwell is such a great writer that, although I feel the story overall isn’t as powerful as it could
have been in a shorter series, I still read or listen (as here) to each new book as soon as they come out!
The previous novel (Pagan Lord if I recall correctly) I felt was a bit meandering, and this one starts much
the same, with not a lot happening – certainly no blood or thunder – for a while, and I was starting to worry.
But it soon picks up and Uhtred heads off to Ireland and returns again, killing and mutilating lots of enemies
and even setting up a new king along the way.
The supporting characters, like his daughter and her husband, are great – just as blood-thirsty as Uhtred
himself, yet, like him, still likable!

It’s good stuff and the end suggests Bebbanburg may, finally, be the focus next time around.
I hope so.
The narrator isn’t as good as the guy that did Cornwell’s King Arthur series. I don’t know how old this fellow
is, but his VOICE makes him sound like he’s in his early-mid twenties. Since this story is told from Uhtred’s
point of view, and Uhtred is an older man, the whole thing just seems off. To his credit though, he reads well
and has a good range of accents, even if some of them don’t quite come off every time!

Overall, if you have enjoyed this series so far, you will like this one just as much, possibly even more than
some of them.
Bernard Cornwell really is a master of his trade!

Magicians of the Gods 

graham hancock audiobook

I, of course, read Hancock’s earlier book, Fingerprints of the Gods, years ago and it led me onto his other
work and more by the likes of Robert Bauval, Graham Phillips, Christopher Dunn etc so I was interested to read
this one. Since I don’t have much time to read books these days I decided to try the audio version.
I’m glad I did, BUT, it must be said, audio for a book like this has its downside.
First of all, Graham has an entertaining, engaging voice. Yes, he has a slight accent, but who doesn’t? It
never once annoyed me and, overall, he reads excellently, with a passion and knowledge of the writing that
only the author could bring.
However, with a book like this I really like to a) see photos of the things being described and b) research
some of the places and themes that are covered.
With a physical book both of these are not a problem, but with audio there are no pictures and on more than
one occasion I had no idea how to research something Graham was talking about. These places are in foreign
lands, so the spelling isn’t always obvious and there’s stuff I’d like to have found out more about but I’ve
forgotten what they were now since listening to this while driving around at work made it impossible to take
notes!
Still, I got the overall gist of what the book was about and much of it was utterly captivating (that seed
bank hidden somewhere underground really captured my attention – I just wish I knew how to spell its name!).
In terms of value for money, this is a really long book so well worth your monthly credit.

These books sell millions, yet they’re still viewed by the mainstream as somehow crackpot, which probably puts
many people off them.

If you find yourself even remotely interested in the ideas in the book’s synopsis I recommend you give this a
listen. Maybe try and borrow a copy of the hardback from your local library though, so you can dig deeper
yourself!

Recommended.

The Wisdom of Near-Death Experiences

dr penny sartori audiobook

I had really high hopes for this when I started listening to it and I should stress I did enjoy listening to
it. But I felt there wasn’t enough science in it – it’s mostly anecdotal evidence and a lot of it is from
people who claim to be “psychic”.
I’d have liked to hear some hard facts about what the doctor’s research found but from what I can gather her
experiments didn’t really prove anything. The symbols she set up high so anyone in her ward experiencing an
NDE could see them were never seen. So you can take that as evidence of the NDE not being as real as its
claimed, can’t you…?
I expected to be convinced by this book but ultimately it just raised a lot of unanswered questions. If it’s a
REAL thing, why do cultural expectations play any part?
It IS worth a listen, and the narrator is quite good just don’t expect to embrace death after listening to it!

The Colour of Magic

terry pratchett audiobook review

Nigel Planer’s reading here is perfect, it literally had me laughing out loud on numerous occasions. His Hrun
(or whatever he’s called) is so funny I looked forward to that character appearing every time. Pratchett
really got off to an amazing start with this book, his writing really shines. I’ve read the paperback before,
of course, at least twice since I first discovered it back when I was a lad and this version brings it all to
life.
The one issue is the horrendous sound quality. I can only assume this was recorded back when the book first
came out, in the 80’s, and the production team used TDK D90’s to capture Planer’s voice. When transferring the
audio to digital for this version they must have played back that old cassette, recorded it on a potato and
uploaded it to Audible. It is really that bad.

HOWEVER, it does NOT ruin the overall experience that much and I still really recommend you buy this. It’s a
fantastic piece of escapism and I couldn’t wait to download the Light Fantastic and now, Sourcery, to enjoy
Rincewind’s adventures for as long as possible.
RIP Terry Pratchett, a true literary master.

 

I hope you give some of these books a try, and if you haven’t already dipped your toes in the world of audio, the Audible app is FREE and you also get to choose one (might even be two now) FREE audiobooks as a trial so there’s no reason not to give it a go.

All of my own books are also available from Audible and (I believe) on iTunes. If you’d like to know more about them please comment below or use the CONTACT button!

best robin hood novel

 

Friar Tuck and the Christmas Devil out today, Friday 13th November!

kindle singles programmeThat’s right, today, Friday the 13th, sees the publication of my new novella Friar Tuck and the Christmas Devil, which includes a foreword by Phil Rose who played Tuck in 80’s TV show Robin of Sherwood!

You can buy it for just 99p UK, $1.49 USA, and it’s also available as a paperback and from Audible. As with all my books, if you buy the paperback you get the Kindle version FREE and if you buy another format you get the Audible version much cheaper so treat yourself – or your friends and family – to a nice story for the winter celebrations! If you’re still not sure, check out some of the reviews on Goodreads from the people who were sent advance copies.

Click here to buy your copy – getBook.at/FTXD

To celebrate the release I’m going to be giving away signed copies of my books over the weekend. All I ask is you spread the word on social media. Share this post on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest or wherever else you can, and email me to let me know you’ve done it at stormwatch1977@hotmail.com

I’ll draw names from the hat at random and I’ve a big pile of books to give away so…Folks on my mailing list will have other chances to win more so if you haven’t signed up yet, click here!

Normally only a small number of people enter my giveaways so you’ll be in with a great chance of winning. Please don’t be shy! Share and tell!

I will even be giving away a couple of copies of Knight of the Cross with it’s brand new artwork so hit that Facebook share button…

best historical fiction novella

Shiny new cover art!

Friar Tuck and the Christmas Devil audiobook PRE-ORDER up now.

The Kindle and paperback versions have been up for a couple of weeks, and now the audiobook is available to pre-order from Audible. Includes a foreword written AND read by Phil Rose from Robin of Sherwood, you don’t want to miss this, it’s the perfect thing to listen to in the festive period!

UK:

http://www.audible.co.uk/pd/Crime-Thrillers/Friar-Tuck-and-the-Christmas-Devil-Audiobook/B017HNZJGC/ref=a_search_c4_1_1_srTtl?qid=1446486708&sr=1-1

USA

http://www.audible.com/pd/Mysteries-Thrillers/Friar-Tuck-and-the-Christmas-Devil-Audiobook/B017HNY332/ref=a_search_c4_1_1_srTtl?qid=1446486896&sr=1-1

friar tuck