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Michael Stringer

I look for books with ideas on multiple levels, a good story, and a bit of fun.

Melbourne, Australia | Member Since 2007

42
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 23 reviews
  • 154 ratings
  • 245 titles in library
  • 16 purchased in 2014
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FOLLOWERS
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  • SPQR VI: Nobody Loves a Centurion

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 2 mins)
    • By John Maddox Roberts
    • Narrated By John Lee
    Overall
    (56)
    Performance
    (49)
    Story
    (49)

    Julius Caesar, as we know, arrived in Gaul (now France) and announced "I Came, I Saw, I Conquered." But when Decius Metellus arrives from Rome, not seeking military glory but rather avoiding an enemy currently in power, he finds that although the general came and saw, so far, at least, he has far from conquered. The campaign seems at a standstill. Decius' arrival disappoints the great Caesar as well. He has been waiting for promised reinforcements from Rome, an influx of soldiers to restart his invasion. Instead he is presented with one young man ridiculously decked out in military parade finery and short on military skills.

    Michael Stringer says: "Decius the reluctant warrior"
    "Decius the reluctant warrior"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I have always enjoyed the SQPR stories more when Decius gets out of ROME, and this recounting of his adventures in Gaul particularly shines. A good part of the SPQR stories comprises the historical descriptions; taking the reader into the world and mindset of ancient Romans. With this story Mr Roberts gives us some experience of life in the Roman legions. That adds a lot more interest than another series of descriptions about the minutiae of life in Rome.

    Decius's adventure with Caesar's legion unfolds at a satisfying pace. It is well dosed with humour and interesting characters. Decius is clearly a 'modern' man that we can identify with, and is also clearly a man out of his time. His contemporaries mostly think him mad, but I find him totally sane.

    Anyone with an interest in historical novels will enjoy the delicate substance of this story intermingled with historical narrative. Anyone with an interest in the history of Ancient Rome would be foolish to miss this book.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Heirs and Graces: A Royal Spyness Mystery

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 22 mins)
    • By Rhys Bowen
    • Narrated By Katherine Kellgren
    Overall
    (1453)
    Performance
    (1309)
    Story
    (1298)

    As 35th in line for the throne, Lady Georgiana Rannoch may not be the most sophisticated young woman, but she knows her table manners. It's forks on the left, knives on the right - not in His Majesty's back….

    Nancy says: "Enjoyable light murder mystery"
    "Engaging characters with a 'realistic' story"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    In this story we see Georgie show some insight, but not much foresight. She is engaged by a Duchess to help a far-flung heir to the duchy learn the ways of the aristocracy. As she says herself, she doesn't show much aptitude to this task.

    Then of course there is a murder and Georgie has to help solve it. The pace of solving the murder is extremely uneven, but I suspect probably quite realistic. No real progress occurs for ½ the story, then Georgie has a lucky guess in the last 10 minutes so that everything falls into place.

    Fans of whodunnit stories may find this book frustrating, but those looking for a story of pleasant characters in living in the dying days of English great houses will be rewarded.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 19 mins)
    • By Jack Weatherford
    • Narrated By Jonathan Davis, Jack Weatherford
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (3905)
    Performance
    (2473)
    Story
    (2491)

    The Mongol army led by Genghis Khan subjugated more lands and people in 25 years than the Romans did in 400. In nearly every country the Mongols conquered, they brought an unprecedented rise in cultural communication, expanded trade, and a blossoming of civilization.

    Peter says: "Brilliant, insightful, intriguing."
    "Humbling history of a genius leader"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The history of the Mongol Empire has been done a great disservice in the traditional Western education. This engaging, flowing book puts this right. It starts with the story of a young Genghis Khan that draws heavily on a semi-mythical history. However once it reaches the period of Genghis Khan's leadership of all Mongol people in the elected role of Great Khan, the narrative transitions into a less emotive style that still holds interest.

    The book continues after the death of Genghis Khan to cover in detail the continued growth of the Mongol Empire until its zenith under Kublai Khan. The narrative closes with a summary of the decline of the empire, and how Western history has inaccurately and negatively portrayed the history of the Mongol people.

    However what particularly interested me was all the detail on how the Mongol Empire functioned using a distinctly enlightened set of ideas. These included such concepts as religious tolerance, paper money, a cheap postal network, public education, a public service run on merit, and a frequent promotion of trade in preference to conquest. The Mongol Empire applied many ideas fundamental to modern Western civilisation many hundreds of years earlier than they appeared in Europe.

    The book does play down the horror of Mongol conquest, and they did like conquest. After all the Mongol Empire didn't get so large without it. Once the Mongols had conquered an area though, it appears that the benefits of their good government flowed quickly.

    I have a keen interest in the history of civilisations, and this book on the Mongol Empire is an excellent addition to that canon. I recommend it to anyone interested in the history of ideas.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Ender's Game: Special 20th Anniversary Edition

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 57 mins)
    • By Orson Scott Card
    • Narrated By Stefan Rudnicki, Harlan Ellison, Gabrielle de Cuir
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (22739)
    Performance
    (14111)
    Story
    (14257)

    Why we think it’s a great listen: It’s easy to say that when it comes to sci-fi you either love it or you hate it. But with Ender’s Game, it seems to be you either love it or you love it.... The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Enter Andrew "Ender" Wiggin, the result of decades of genetic experimentation.

    Kapila says: "6 titles in the series so far"
    "Well-crafted, but a psychological fantasy"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Ender's story builds on an English theme of children off at boarding school getting up to adventures and growing up before their time. Ender's battle school in space is harder than most, and the story of his challenges there as teaching focussed on simulated battles is engaging. There is always underlying doubt in the integrity of the teachers, and I waited the whole book for confirmation or refute. This thread of the narrative is well spun.

    However ultimately the book fails because Ender doesn't really grow up. The stream of ideas that flow from Ender's mind from the time he is 6 until he is 13 doesn't change. He starts as 6 going on 16, and goes through what is the typical psychological journey of a young soldier. Yes we are told that Ender is a genetic extreme, but ultimately he is too grown up to be believable. I know that child prodigies exist, and Ender is clearly one, but prodigies still have some aspect of children's behaviour. Psychological evolution is not that fast.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Echo Burning: Jack Reacher 5

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 58 mins)
    • By Lee Child
    • Narrated By Jeff Harding
    Overall
    (46)
    Performance
    (41)
    Story
    (43)

    Jack Reacher, adrift in the hellish heat of a Texas summer. Looking for a lift through the vast empty landscape. A woman stops, and offers a ride. She is young, rich and beautiful. But her husband's in jail. When he comes out, he's going to kill her. Her family's hostile, she can't trust the cops, and the lawyers won't help. She is entangled in a web of lies and prejudice, hatred and murder.J ack Reacher never could resist a lady in distress.

    aussieGeorge68 says: "The best jack reacher so far."
    "Excitement builds"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Jack Reacher stories are amphetamine in writing. A friend 'pushed' me into them last Christmas - the first 2 consumed every spare moment from my week's holiday, and a good many more moments than they should have. At the time I thought luckily there were no Audible versions.

    Now there are! Initially I didn't like listening to this first one I experienced. Jeff Harding has the right voice for the genre, but his women's voices sound like little girls. It took me a long time to latch into the story.

    However eventually I did, and I enjoyed it. Jack Reacher is the 21st-century Odysseus, and like all good myths, this one resonates on multiple levels. In addition 'Echo Burning' builds the tension slowly, and eventually it hits a point of pushing more adrenaline than ice climbing. It kept me coming back for more. I suspect that it will for all who like reading of an interesting hero sorting through interesting problems.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Moving Pictures: Discworld, Book 10

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 12 mins)
    • By Terry Pratchett
    • Narrated By Nigel Planer
    Overall
    (126)
    Performance
    (78)
    Story
    (80)

    Cameras roll - which means the imps inside have to paint really fast - on the fantastic Discworld when the alchemists discover the magic of the silver screen. But what is the dark secret of Holy Wood hill? As the alien clichés of Tinsel Town pour into the world, it's up to the Disc's first film stars to find out.

    Luke says: "Pratchett + Planer = Perfection!"
    "All diversions, not much story"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Terry Pratchett appears to have got a little obsessed with his panoply of characters when he wrote Moving Pictures. The book brims to overflowing with lots of little stories, but the core story feels short changed and shallow. It was so shallow that I can't even remember seeing it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Backstage Pass: Sinners on Tour Series, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 32 mins)
    • By Olivia Cunning
    • Narrated By Justine O. Keef
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1101)
    Performance
    (1016)
    Story
    (1024)

    It's been months since Brian Sinclair, lead guitarist for the famous rock band Sinners, composed anything. Unable to write the music that once flowed so naturally, Brian is lost without his musical mojo. But when sexy psychology professor Myrna Evans comes on tour to study groupie mentality, Brian may have found the spark he needs to reignite his musical genius. When lust turns to love, will Brian be able to convince Myrna that what they have is more than just a fling, and that now that he's found his heart's muse, he doesn't want to live without her?

    Leesa says: "Totally Fabulous!!"
    "Fun blend of erotica and romance"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Ms Cunning (a more obvious pseudonym I couldn't imagine) has given me a treat. She manages to set a fun series of erotic encounters into an authentic context, and then add an engaging romance into the mix.

    Myrna's adventures with Bryan give the reader plenty of excitement. However the budding relationship between them, hindered by the shadow of her past, keeps everything 'real' and uncertain. I had a good time listening to this story - thanks Ms Cunning.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Outlaw Platoon: Heroes, Renegades, Infidels, and the Brotherhood of War in Afghanistan

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 17 mins)
    • By Sean Parnell, John Bruning
    • Narrated By Ray Porter
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (603)
    Performance
    (539)
    Story
    (541)

    At 24 years of age, U.S. Army Ranger Sean Parnell was named commander of a forty-man elite infantry platoon - a unit that came to be known as the Outlaws - and was tasked with rooting out Pakistan-based insurgents from a mountain valley along Afghanistan's eastern frontier. Parnell and his men assumed they would be facing a ragtag bunch of civilians, but in May 2006 what started out as a routine patrol through the lower mountains of the Hindu Kush became a brutal ambush.

    Chris says: "Great book...Everyone should listen to this book!!"
    "War well described"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Stories of war frequently fall into simplistic clichés, with portrayals of faultless heroes fighting nameless evil. Sean Parnell though, has avoided all the clichés (well almost all) to write a lucid, engrossing depiction of war in the 21st century.

    He provides a rich, complete picture of the infantryman's experience, both physical and psychological, when trying to enforce peace in the face of insurgency. Sean avoids the political issues of why US soldiers are in Afghanistan, but doesn't shy away from the realities that his soldiers face as a result.

    The book's most important contributions comprise its examination of the motives of each soldier for going to war, and how the army's organisation, their training, and their battle experience builds the intense brotherhood between them. In this Sean has given a contemporary perspective on a profession as old as human civilisation, that of the warrior.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Witness

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 18 mins)
    • By Nora Roberts
    • Narrated By Julia Whelan
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (7474)
    Performance
    (6506)
    Story
    (6496)

    Daughter of a cold, controlling mother and an anonymous donor, studious, obedient Elizabeth finally let loose one night, drinking too much at a nightclub and allowing a strange man’s seductive Russian accent to lure her to a house on Lake Shore Drive. The events that followed changed her life forever. Twelve years later, the woman now known as Abigail Lowery lives alone on the outskirts of a small town in the Ozarks. A freelance programmer, she works at home designing sophisticated security systems.

    Amazon Customer says: "A great book"
    "Beguiling romance dressed as a thriller"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    After the typical opening of a young adult romance, the story moves into the brutal consequences of a 16-year old girl being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This sets the scene for the core story, which starts 12 years later.

    For most of the book, Ms. Roberts provides a graceful, witty story of growing love between a fearful women with an Asperger's-like character and a gentle, confident man. Over this romance hovers the dark shadow of potential discovery and subsequent violence. This tension gives the book its unique character. I don't read romance novels, but knowing that the unfinished story of the book's start needs resolution, I stayed with it.

    Resolution occurred, but it avoided cliché, so I got to the end realising that the journey was more fun than the story finished. Consequently I listened to it all again, and again.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Snuff: Discworld, Book 39

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 29 mins)
    • By Terry Pratchett
    • Narrated By Stephen Briggs
    Overall
    (347)
    Performance
    (311)
    Story
    (314)

    It is a truth universally acknowledged that a policeman taking a holiday would barely have had time to open his suitcase before he finds his first corpse. And Commander Sam Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch is on holiday in the pleasant and innocent countryside, but not for him a mere body in the wardrobe. There are many, many bodies and an ancient crime more terrible than murder. He is out of his jurisdiction, out of his depth, out of bacon sandwiches, and occasionally snookered and out of his mind, but never out of guile. They say that in the end all sins are forgiven.

    phillip says: "An eye popper of a title to google - "Snuff"!"
    "Pinnacle of Pratchett achievement"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    If ever one needs an example of practice makes perfect, read an early Discworld novel and then read Snuff. With Snuff, the Pratchett pair have written a delightful, gracefully paced and poignant novel. It's full of humour too.

    The story stars a frequent character in Discworld novels, Commander Sam Vimes. He has matured along with the books, but retained his core character that endears him to both myself and his wife Lady Sybil Ramkin. However, like all Discworld novels, the book contains a delightful ensemble cast, with Willikins, Chief Constable Upshot and Lady Sybil being just a few interesting people that I would love to know better.

    In Snuff, Terry Pratchett has composed a well-paced plot that moves steadily along, introducing multiple threads, to eventually tie up many in an satisfying way. Snuff has none of the indulgent flights of fancy that appeared in some of the earlier novels, and just the right number of side-tracks.

    Of course, like all good Pratchett novels, Snuff contains a light, but thoughtful meditation on several significant philosophical issues. Three that stuck in my mind are the 'rule of law', slavery and the treatment of minorities on the fringe of society. I can think of no more entertaining manner to consider a complex issue than read a Pratchett novel.

    But let me not forget the lashings of humour that Snuff contains. In the course of Sam's journey into the countryside, Pratchett lovingly pokes fun at cricket, Jane Austin novels and the countryside itself.

    With Snuff, the Pratchett pair have written their best novel yet!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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