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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 19-09-18

Surprisingly Good!

First off I must state from the outset that I am particularly ignorant about Hollywood and this period in US history. It was the name of Walt Disney that attracted me in the first place and boy did I have some childhood illusions shattered! This is a fascinating story set among some of the most famous megastars of the age but including some of the lesser known Tinseltown residents too.

The effect of the paranoia that swept America about the communist threat is a very human tale. The American Government response threw even the American Constitution out of the window in its zeal to out the "reds" leaving a trail of broken lives in its wake. It really is a great example of how far people will go when hysteria grips with even Donald Duck being exploited to make propaganda!

Adam Roche presents excellently and the soundscape is contemporary to the events and very enjoyable in its own right for nostalgia purposes. It all makes a very compelling package and its brevity is well-judged because at the end I still wanted to hear more.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 19-09-18

Greater Than The Sum Of Its Parts!

From the excellent opening scenes in the Middle East and Northern Island this story and its hero John Carr take a hold of you. Deegan of course has the weight of experience on his side as one of our most experienced special forces operatives. This doesn't always translate perfectly into the ability to write about it in an engaging manner but right from the off he nails it. The representation of Belfast and its denizens has a brilliant swirl of atmosphere about it that i have rarely seen done so well. Deegan's writinng made me feel like it was me and not John Carr walking down the Falls Road alone late at night!

Carr himself is a great lead and I will definitely be following this series for a long time if this is going to be the standard. Now Scotland gets its very own Jack Reacher antihero though there is definitely a touch more grit and realism to this one. If I was to be picky I would say that while his lead is great Deegan isn't shy of using a cliche character or two , Russians and women on the periphery of the story seemed to suffer the most in this one not least from Carr himself. Carr is a soldier who has been through the worst of experiences and his attitudes do reflect that in some ways though he also shows some good old-fashioned antihero nobility at times. It's that mix that makes us love these characters so much.

The narration is extremely well suited to John Carr himself and there is a good range of voices and accents even if one or two of the Irish women do sound more butch than Carr himself! That's a very minor quibble though as Joshua Manning does a fine job behind the microphone particularly with Carr and some of the IRA nasties.

In all this one of those prize audiobooks where author, narrator and of course the lead man all come together to create something that's definitely greater than the sum of its parts.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 15-09-18

The Wootah Hooter!

Angus Watson is at it again, this is a genuinely fitting follow up to the excellent You Die When You Die. It gets better and better as it goes along with Watson's humorous approach to fantasy leading the Wootah refugees and Sophie Tornado and her gang through a genuinely epic adventure. Watson's imagination runs riot with monsters, battles, arena fights and chases each vying for attention.

The way that he delivers internal monologues and then Sean Barrett brings them to life is audiobook gold. Watson lets us get right inside the heads of his characters and one rather short-lived character's thoughts as he charged into battle had me genuinely laughing out loud. The joy of these books is that while there is at times an almost cartoon like feel to some of the characters and fighting you are constantly engaged with the characters and their fates. Who could not love Finbogie the Boggy or admire Sophie Tornado? Who could not laugh at Keith the Beserker or not find themselves grinning to hear the battle cry "Wootah!"

This is cracking stuff and I can't wait to hear how the trilogy ends with the next one!

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-09-18

Only Curiosity Dragged Me To The End!

Audible have steered me towards some great new authors recently so I was very much looking forward to this one. The setup sounded intriguing albeit a bit stretched, the Jansen family background is contrived to say the least. However, as the book developed it all just seemed to fall about around me, I'm still not even sure how seriously it was trying to take itself. I'm very used to the need for contrivance and occasional odd coincidence, even the best thriller writers use them. But this just felt like a different league. By the end I was resolved to follow the plot just about anywhere to find how it ended but only through morbid curiosity. I've actually finished the whole thing with a feeling like someone just played a clever joke on me and everyone around me is laughing and I still don't get it.

So, with that in mind I am going to be absolutely fascinated to see what fellow reviewers make of it. I would say though that this really does rely on high levels of coincidence, a complicated set of twisted character motivations and very odd behaviour from the characters at times. To give an example without spoilers the way that Jack's last meeting with his father comes about is to say the least improbable. The odd "White Light" aspect of the Society just felt bizarre and wasn't fully explored.

If I'm being harsh and it's a case of me just not getting it then I apologise to Audible and the author, I did after all enjoy a couple of the characters and some of the writing. I just can't recommend the overall thing personally.

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18 of 20 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-09-18

My First Wilbur Smith . . . Not my last!

I'd never tried Wilbur Smith before, an amazingly prolific author still going strong in his dotage, albeit ably supported these days by David Churchill. Courtney's War is actually the umpteenth book in Smith's series about the Courtney family apparently but it works perfectly as a stand-alone.

In many ways it's a traditional World War 2 thriller but as the lead is a female spy it perhaps sheds some of the traditional imagery. It works on its own because Saffron Courtney is a brand new character, a tough, sassy lady who becomes a secret operative.

The story is epic in scope spanning the entire length second world war though being character driven it never feels overdone. It touches on some of the real evils and horrors of the second world war, in particular the concentration camps and the appalling "Final Solution". I learned a couple of things about this that I had never heard of before.

The romantic angle does play a fairly large part on top of the suspense, horror and action. I don't think that Smith will be branching out into romantic fiction any time soon but he does it as well as most thriller writers. The story does take its time in places but it gives lots of good depth and historical background making it very satisfying listening.

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8 of 8 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-09-18

Keeble's Masterclass Shines on Karen's Grim Noire

in A Gathering of Ghosts Maitland and Keeble have come together to produce a fabulous audio book.

Maitland paints the grim existence of the denizens of the Middle Ages as well as anyone. She uses a palette of grimy greys, desolate blacks and sullen browns to describe their oft-blighted lives. There is very little humor or optimism in her books.

Keeble delivers a genuine masterclass despite the fact that so many of the characters are female. He brings out the ragged desperation that these poorest of peasants must have felt in an admirable performance. Their hopes, their fears and often their sheer terror are brought vividly to life. In fact this is one where it's difficult to say who contributed most to the overall production, author or narrator. They are a great combination.

Maitland takes full advantage of the dim history and rampant superstition of the times. Old Gods, vengeful spirits and various magics are infused into this atmospherically stark and grisly story. very definitely one I would recommend!

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8 of 8 people found this review helpful

2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-09-18

Not the Book I Was Looking For

A rare case of not being able to finish a book for me. After some pretty compelling fantasy epics I was in the mood for something snappier and I loved the idea of a traditional British Empire contesting rebels with a James Bond character, albeit with an American twist, at the centre of it. It didn't turn out to be quite the smooth ride I expected though.

For such a short book I felt that White went into too much unnecessary detail, for example a listing of planets and statistics about them. His characters spoke far too formally and with some definite cases of verbal diarrhea. While he does put a lot of effort into his re-imagined history it was often distracting rather than of any benefit.

The narration by Matthew Lloyd Jones was mostly fine but some of his accents felt weak and his dispassionate alien voice was perhaps too good in that it was hard to listen to.

So, maybe some good ideas but this was a book that simply didn't work for me.

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-09-18

A Spiral Into Utter Darkness!

This, series has been genuinely outstanding. It includes what I would regard as some of the most powerful scenes that I have ever seen in a fantasy series. Tyrion's endless struggle against his oppressors and his own nature is genuinely a dark and gripping tale. He is constantly hemmed in by the unforeseen consequences of his actions and he and his children descend into a darkness that threatens to overcome everything. I now think that the author was definitely right to include his warning about the nature of the book, it delves into areas that are far from comfortable reading. Child abuse, domestic violence, intolerance and dark deeds are at the heart of this story and yet there are also positive, strong characters and the enduring hope, albeit often fleeting, that light will prevail. The tale of Tyrion's torment, his crushing desire for revenge and how it drives a man who undoubtedly had goodness in his soul to the edge of his sanity is a masterpiece. The true darkness though is how it effects those around him and what many of them become.

The narration by Alex Wyndham is top quality throughout, his voices really help to flesh the characters out.

The tensions grow as Tyrion and the world around him are dragged further and further into darkness. It all leads up to a quite cataclysmic finale and a sudden, brutal ending. Although there are some slower passages in this book the way that the sheer madness builds and then quite literally shudders to that dramatic conclusion is near perfection.

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-09-18

Cold Iron is a Warm Start

I’ve been totally immersed in quality fantasy really and Miles Cameron has produced another quite absorbing tome for us to consider. It tells the story of Arunthur, a farmer’s son from a small and fairly remote village who left to study at a big city university. It bypasses much of the standard early coming of age stages and delves straight into Cameron’s world of magic, intrigue and colourful characters. War is steadily encroaching on the land and just while everyone should be uniting against a common foe a myriad factions compete based on their own priorities and designs. The worldbuilding is quite fascinating and the characters are cleverly built with no little depth in a traditional fantasy style.

At the heart of this story are a lot of issues that resonate in our current society and probably always have. The class and wealth divides plus racial and gender prejudices are all there in the core. In fact on some review sites I have seen the suggestion that the book itself is racist which I would reject totally and utterly. Some of the characters do show prejudices and intolerance of others but I think it’s always clear just what it is and it’s never glorified in any way. We won’t deal with prejudice and racism by pretending they don’t exist, that’s for sure. And it is an intrinsic part of this world’s mechanics, to be honest much like in a lot of other fantasy novels I have read.

The narration by Mark Meadows is well done. He’s not the most demonstrative but he has a good range of voices and accents for the characters.

All in all this is a promising start to the series and this first volume ties up plenty of subplots while setting things up nicely for bigger things to come. There is action, intrigue and a very detailed world to enjoy in Cold Iron and I get the feeling that things are just warming up . . .

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7 of 7 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 30-08-18

Bloody Rose is Bloody Good!

When most sensible debut authors produce something as spectacularly good as Nicholas Eames did with his Kings of the Wyld opener to "The Band" series they tend to follow up with something that gives the fans exactly what they want. And you could argue that Eames did that by continuing his stories of mercenary bands roaming the Heartwyld and its environs. But that would be to miss the fact that he largely ditched his old characters, changed from an aging band reforming one last time to a current and vibrant one. He then changed the sex of his leading heroes, replaced the excellent Jeff Harding with Katherine Fenton, moved most of his delicious musical references to the 1980s and started 6 years after the end of the previous book!

I can only imagine how deliciously smug Mr Eames might have become after taking these brave moves because "Bloody Rose" delivers an equally riotously funny, action-packed fantasy experience as the Kings book did. In fact I would venture to say that some aspects of it such as the action sequences are even better. The musical references are just as tasty with my favourite being the Hucknall Bean though the clever mention of Simon le Bon's pop rockers made me smile as well. Even us prog rockers are well catered for but these references are just a side show to the story.

Katherine Fenton is also something of a revelation. She covers such a wide range of character voices and tones you'd think it was two people sometimes mastering the bizarre cast of characters and voice tones with considerable aplomb.

Although Bloody Rose could stand alone I would read Kings first if you haven't already as quite a few of the events of that one are played upon and the background you will gain will add depth to this one.

In short, he's done it again, despite all the changes Eames has hit the sweet spot bang in the middle and I'm already looking forwards to where the next book will take us!

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8 of 8 people found this review helpful