Shop now Shop now Shop now  Up to 70% Off Fashion  Shop all Amazon Fashion Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Shop now Shop now Shop now
Profile for C. Dearden > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by C. Dearden
Top Reviewer Ranking: 1,650,095
Helpful Votes: 131

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
C. Dearden (Sheffield, England)
(REAL NAME)   

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2
pixel
The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance
The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance
by Paul Strathern
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.38

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A history you can bank on, 13 Sept. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
WHILST on the face of it, this is a biography of one of the world's most significant historical families, Strathern's account of 400 years of the Medici family ends up in turn charting the course of European history through the various branches of Florence's most illustrious family.

The story of this family, deeply rooted in banking and commerce, meanders from the medieval era right through to the middle of the 18th century, drawing in characters and events from England to the Balkans and emphasises unapologetically the influence wielded by the Medici clan across the old world in matters of trade, politics, war, religion, science and of course of art. This was the family which variously championed Gallileo, Brunelleschi and gave its name to two popes. A family which was subsumed by conflict in countless wars and whose riches built Florence.

Strathern tells the story in a highly readable and undoubtedly popular manner. He is not weighed down by the intricacies of banking method which first procured the Medici fortune but neither does he gloss over the subtleties of political intrigue and scandal which permeated the Medici lineage. For the most part it is a sophisticated but accessible account of the part played by the Medici in much of Europe's history, interspersed with biographical accounts of figures in the clan from the revered Lorenzo the Magnificent to the charicature Gian Gastone.

The book elicits feelings of contempt, anger and compassion for the characters it touches upon. Similarly the events chronicled by Strathern elucidate anger, frustration and wonderment. At times the Medici, like the world around them, were capable of genius whilst otherwise acting in a most base and neanderthal manner.

As it nears its end, the book is guilty of diverting away from the story of the Medici in becoming a more general historical account of the 17th and 18th centuries. Certainly the chapter on Gallileo over-emphasises the importance of Medici protection in all but a couple of key incidents. By the end of the book - as at the end of the Medici story - it is clear the part played by the Florentine banking family is a bit-part and they are no longer key figures on Europe's political scene.

Even those with a researched knowledge of the Medicis will find themselves surprised by the scope of their involvement in science, art and politics from 1450 up until the 1700s by which time Gian Gastone had turned the name into a laughing stock.

My own cause for reading this book was as a pretext to a holiday in Florence. My understansing of the artwork, the architecture and the aesthetic of this city was enhanced greatly by this most enjoyable and intricate discourse on the wonderful lives of this wondrous family. I would heartily recommend this to anyone visiting Tuscany, such was the influence of this family on the towns and villages which make up this beautiful landscape. Similarly, anyone with a fleeting interest should consider this as near to a definitive account of the Medici family as can be found.


Tulipomania: The Story of the World's Most Coveted Flower and the Extraordinary Passions it Aroused (Colour)
Tulipomania: The Story of the World's Most Coveted Flower and the Extraordinary Passions it Aroused (Colour)
by Mike Dash
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating and timely read though not without flaws, 3 Mar. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
A small group of overly-ambitious and self-regulating traders pool together in a cramped room, electric with frenetic energy. These men begin the process of buying and selling increasingly complicated instruments about which very few of them possess any degree of knowledge. Ordinary citizens, wowed and fascinated by the astronomical profits being made by these traders, begin to deal on their own account. Intangible assets become more valuable than bricks-and-mortar and the majority of the population remain absolutely perplexed by what exactly is being traded.
This is not Wall Street. This is Haarlem. And the trade does not centre on CDOs, CFDs and ETFs; rather the focus of traders' attentions is a small flower indigenous to a mountain range in northern China. And this is tulipomania.

It was a flower only recently introduced to the United Provinces of Northern Europe and its rise had been meteoric. Renowned for its beauty and revered for its imperfections - the most desired flowers were disease-ridden - the tulip had first found its way into the gardens of French and German aristocracy in the middle of 1500s. Charting its course from there until, in 1637, when it caused the biggest financial disaster yet known to humanity is a difficult process tackled with a degree of aplomb by Mike Dash in his short narrative on this intriguing - and increasingly relevant - phenomena.

Dash is not given an easy task; by his own admission archives lack any great depth of literature on this period of the Dutch Golden Age and contemporaneous accounts are scarce or serve as moral warnings as opposed to candid accounts of this hyper-trade. And at times this weakness in source material is evident as Dash fills pages with speculation and assumption. Based entirely on fact, however, this book would be a great deal shorter and would not play along with some of the more exaggerated claims made about the period between the summer of 1637 and the following Spring.
Dash shows a keenness for history which does not always makes itself amenable to the reader and he is often guilty of acting outside his brief when he heads off on tangents about the Dutch Golden Age, specific characters in 17th century Amsterdam, and wider commentary on the nation as a whole. Whilst it could be construed as scene-setting, the author sometimes dallies too much in the social history of what is essentially a fiercely economic occurrence.

Though what he does well is undermine the common conception that tulipomania was a true supernova which broke the back of the United Provinces and bankrupted the nation. Its economic consequences, as severe as they were, affected only a minority who had optimistically thought there was a fortune to be made in holding promissory notes pertaining to an asset as unpredictable and volatile as an unplanted bulb.

The book's greatest strength is in reinforcing the idea that the crash was caused by the ineptitude of the tulip trade's dealers. As opposed to the stockbrokers who plied their trade in a sanctioned and regulated bours, the tulip trade was handled in smoky, ale-filled taverns by drunkards and laymen with no training and little knowledge of either horticulture or economics. It was a market riddled with opportunists and tainted by fraud - there was no assurance that the bulb being bought belonged to the seller or was of a particularly cherished variety of tulip - and the entire market was built upon the frailties inherent in dealing on something which had, at the end of the day, no tangible, realisable value.
Finding a book on this fascinating period of history is a tough task in itself and this is unsurprising as there is a clear lack of primary, contemporary literature detailing precisely what happened and when to precipitate such a devastating crash. Mike Dash has accomplished the most complete modern history of the event, however, and his books stands head-and-shoulders above the rest of the academic texts which document those turbulent few years.

Tulipomania is a quick read at fewer than 300 pages and it is easily digestible for those with, and those without, a firm grasp on the economics of market trading. More keenly, it serves as a timely reminder of the dangers of speculation and margin trading.


Insight Guides: The French Riviera
Insight Guides: The French Riviera
by Apa
Edition: Paperback

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiration and information - and plenty of each, 3 Mar. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
INSPIRATION. It does not come from reading a Wikipedia page about a destination, nor is it stirred
up by reading page after page of text without photographs or drawings. Insight Guides are both
practical and emotional, serving up information and inspiration in equal measure.

For all the good the internet does, it can be an incredibly daunting resource for someone researching
a holiday to an unfamiliar location. Wikipedia, TripAdvisor and the tourist board will all offer up
useful information but there is no amalgamation, no united purpose. It's all a little bit here and
there.

For me, guidebooks are an essential port of call. They give you the overview you need to get a sense
of the town, city or country, whilst also providing an opportunity for in-depth study of particular
points of interest. It allows the reader to mine down to whatever level of information they wish
- you can know about a country's geopolitics or you can know what time the local modern art
museum closes on a Sunday. All in one resource.

Insight Guides are, in my experience, the finest of the lot. They are concise but never brief. They do
not resemble the tomes of Lonely Planet guides nor are they guilty of the lack of depth for which
DK's efforts can be criticised. Instead they fall in a happy middle ground and impress as a result.

I picked up this guide for inspiration as I was due to move to Cagnes-sur-Mer and it was not an area
of which I had any experience. I grabbed this and the DK Eyewitness book covering the same region.
Immediately there is a difference - the DK pitches at the reader with more hand-drawn graphics,
more boxes and more insets. The Insight, whilst by no means short of photographs, maps and
graphics, places them around a sizeable chunk of text which affords the reader a grand opportunity
at fully understanding a region.

If one was to dip in and consider only the pictures, the Insight Guide trumps the DK guide. If one is
inclined to take in the wealth of information contained in the Insight Guide, it is undoubtedly the
better guidebook. You come away from the book not only wanting to see every place mentioned
in the book but also knowing how doing so would be possible. And yet this is not a book comprised
solely of glowing positives - there is the welcome inclusion of warnings pertaining to tourist traps,
overrated attractions and unsafe suburbs.

Since this guide, an Insight Guide has been purchased in advance of every trip I have taken and that
is not a trend I see stopping anytime soon.


The Cloud Book: How to Understand the Skies
The Cloud Book: How to Understand the Skies
by Richard Hamblyn
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, accessible and attractive introduction to nephology, 6 Jun. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
LOOKING up into the skies represented, for me, a gaze into the unknown. Whilst I understood, like any student of British secondary school geography would, the basics behind cloud formation, convection, thermals and cloud types, the idiosyncrasies of each cloud, and the effect they have on weather, generally escaped me.

Hamblyn's book has changed that. To pick up, The Cloud Book is instantly accessible with some truly stunning pictures adorning its pages showing off the 27 cloud types, and numerous other cloud-related phenomena (parhelions, lightning, auroras to name but a few) and offers up some interesting reading for even the most casual nephologist. On further inspection, this book shines as a tome of very interesting but not overly complicated descriptions of the cloud types, their implications for the weather and their likely transformations. That is one of the strengths of Hamblyn's book, that it affords you the opportunity to immerse oneself as far as one likes - either scratch the surface of learning cloud types or begin to piece together the bigger picture of cloud transformation and amalgamation.

Each page is handily given over to a particular cloud type or phenomena and everything described by Hamblyn is accompanied by a wonderful full-colour picture. The text is digestible, the pages are well set-out and it is difficult to offer any criticism of the design and layout of the book.

At times, admittedly, the book assumes some scientific knowledge of clouds which necessitates one reading over the same paragraph a couple of times to ensure understanding of the metamorphosis of ice crystals, Noctilucent clouds or whatever phenomena is at hand, but generally the book's accessibility is of great credit to Hamblyn.

This was the absolute starter book for me and Hamblyn has achieved a deal of success in leaving me yearning for more knowledge on the subject. Fortunately my time with this book was accompanied by some terrific thunderstorms, offering me the opportunity to reflect on my reading in the shadow of some of the most incredible clouds offered up by the earth. I foresee this book serving as a very useful reference book for some time to come.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 24, 2011 3:48 PM BST


Let Me Tell You About Wine
Let Me Tell You About Wine
by Oz Clarke
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.99

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Markedly "Oz" but still a useful starter's book, 13 May 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Before I start, I should make it known that I find Oz Clarke a very engaging and entertaining character with whom to run through the minefield of oenology. His TV show with James May was utterly fantastic, his frustrations at May's philistine nature showing through time-and-time again. On paper, however, his personality isn't so infectious and it instead left a rather lip-smacking, tannin-rich after taste having read this book.

I am an absolute novice when it comes to all things grape. That's why I plumped for this book - with many of the recommendations pitching it at just my level - and parts of it are certainly very useful in developing one's knowledge of wine. However it did at times feel as though you were being led on Oz's wine tour in which he goes into detail about the wines to which he is partial and always providing subjective insights into the wines, regions and grapes. There are useful guides, yes, but there is also a lot of wit and diatribe which, for me, took away from the guidebook essence of this volume.

I wouldn't urge anyway to shy away from this book as it is an accessible start-up but I would almost certainly recommend you supplement it with a more hardy and objective tome like the Oxford Companion to Wine if you are truly to become the cultured student of oenology.


Henry: Virtuous Prince
Henry: Virtuous Prince
by David Starkey
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.43

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deep, provocative and entertaining biography of a misunderstood King, 7 April 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Henry: Virtuous Prince (Paperback)
Like many, my studies - and thus knowledge - of Henry VIII were purely academic and centred on the Reformation, Wolsey and those infamous wives, all with little attention being paid to the shaping of the man himself or the formative years of his Princehood.

Starkey's book, however, is unapologetic in avoiding the more prominent aspects of Henry's live, eschewing them in favour of a more in-depth study of his birth, the background to his entry into the world, and those events which shaped him into the better-known character of his later years. As a result it ends up being a very informative, and at times deeply emotive, insight into the misunderstood, and under-represented parts of his life - the trauma of suffering two very heart-breaking deaths in the family, the power struggle which persisted throughout the latter years of his father's reign, and the treachery and mistrust which pervaded the Tudor court.

Starkey's manner of prose is engaging, thought-provoking and entertaining. He exhibits a keen knack for bringing you into the realm of which he is writing about with superb digestion of contempary accounts mingling alongside his own analysis, often contrasting greatly with the established history about Henry VIII. He is wise in using short chapters, often little over ten pages, to keep the story from being undigestable, and just about every chapter ends on a note urging you to press forward and continue with the story. As it was, I needed little coercion and found myself completing the book in just over four days, such was the ease with which one can immerse themselves in the story and the obvious potency of the story itself.

For a subject matter which, owing to academia's inate dryness, is often disregarded by casual students of Medieval history, Starkey does a superb account of bringing it back into the realms of interest and excitement. A casual reader, likewise a knowledgeable student of Tudor history, will find this book, on all counts, a successful retelling of an all-too-familiar story.


No Title Available

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars High quality and very useful knife, 21 Mar. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
A very useful knife indeed with just about every function one could perceive as useful from an army knife. For the less serious adventurer, however, having to unscrew the small screwdriver every time one wants to use the corkscrew is something of a pain. Besides that, the locking blade provides an excellent tool and the plethora of other pull-outs from the knife cover most uses. Feels great in the hands and is a solid, reassuring weight. I opted for this over the SwissChamp and the WorkChamp XXL and I see no reason to choose either item over this excellent tool.


The White War: Life and Death on the Italian Front, 1915-1919
The White War: Life and Death on the Italian Front, 1915-1919
by Mark Thompson
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Illuminating and engaging account of a forgotten war, 21 Mar. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
For many, like myself, the Italian Front of the Great War was a forgotten front oft-omitted from academic studies and certainly not a prominent fixture in any student's learnings on the First World War. What Mark Thompson has achieved, then, is a commendable and thoroughly enjoyable study of this 'background' arena to the war.

It reads not only as a study of the conflict itself and rather encompasses a cultural and social overview of the impact of the war on Italy as a whole. In doing so, Thompson draws on Italy's status as a "new" state and he tackles all of the issues surrounding loyalty and nationalism which arise when fighting a war as a nation of vastly different people drawn together under the umbrella of 'Italy'. His insight into the irredentist cause is fascinating and brilliantly explained. His knowledge, and aptitude in delivering this knowledge, of combat and strategy is deep and immersive. His sources, as demonstrated by the vast bibliography, are drawn from all manner of studies and books and he has boiled-down these elements to fantastic effect.

What emerges then is a highly readable account of this conflict and the state of a nation with his prose urging you to turn the page time-and-time again. At times the book rouses into a fast-paced and excitable romp through conflicts, as per the pages on the numerous battles of the Isonzo, the disaster at Caporetto, or the Allied-assisted rout of the Asiago plateau and across the Tagliamento. Other times, the book slows to a lull as it focuses on the cultural background to the conflict, offering brilliant contempary accounts of the Italians' attitudes to the war.

Throughout, Thompson shines a light to some of the fascinating characters who shaped the war, from the understated Boroevic, the contemptible and hard-headed Cadorna, or the fiercly patriotic and violently nationalist D'Annunzio. This is underpinned by the emotional first-hand accounts of dozens of ordinary soldiers caught up in the bloodiest conflict known to man. All sides are accounted for with enticing glimpses into the forgotten minorities who fought valiantly - the Croats, Bosnians and Serbs - as well as the victors' voices and those of prominent Habsburg figures.

I would hastily recommend this book to anyone with even a fleeting interest in this arena of war. It does not read like an academic study though its sources and the author's knowledge certainly put weight behind the argument that it is such, but rather it is almost a fiction-esque account of ineptitude, bravery and obedience - all in equal measure. At times harrowing, though always honest, Thompson has delivered an incredibly astute window into the White War.


Exilim Pro EX-Z750 silver (bundle)
Exilim Pro EX-Z750 silver (bundle)

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best in class, 26 July 2006
Launching a product into the £150-£300 price bracket is potential camera suicide, such is the intensity competition. Sony, Fuji and Kodak amongst others have all launched cameras around this price mark promising to suit the 'casual photographer'. So when Casio decided it was time to launch their updated EX-Z750, one could be forgiven for thinking it was a product destined for a long shelf-life. That is certainly not what this camera deserves.

The camera's first point of interest is, put simply, the camera itself. The screen is huge, far better than anything in its class, and it honestly means that photographs don't need to be uploaded onto the computer in order to be viewable with any degree of comfort. You can huddle three people around the camera's LCD screen and flick through with a great picture, picking out the smallest details on the image. Factor in the huge screen into the tiny camera and you begin to have a feeling of Dr. Who about you, such is the apparent impossibility of fitting all of the required components into such a small unit. And then, when the amazement over the attractiveness settles, you start it up.

This camera is customisable far beyond what its competitors offer. Having had experience with the Fuji Finepix F401, it seems crazy to think the two cameras command a similar price tag. The Casio offers far more custimisation in order to get the perfect snap as well as incredibly useful pre-programmed Best Shot modes. With the Fuji, you'll find yourself toying around only to achieve minimal effect when the photograph is taken. Explanining how useful the camera's customisation options are is hard without a picture to back it up but, believe me, it's much better than in comparable Fujifilm and Cybershot cameras. In fact, it'd be better likened to Fuji's F810, a camera which retails for almost twice as much as the Casio.

Reviews are critical of the Casio's flash range, being that it is only 1.8m. Having used the camera in over a hundred nighttime shots, I can attest that it is not an issue for all but the most challenging of shots. Close-ups of flowers and food in the dark bring out colours as vibrant as had the shot been taken in the day whilst, straying slightly out-of-range for the flash, the light still seems to benefit the photography. 1.8 metres may be the ideal range for flash but expect to be able to use it up to 2.5 metres away without any noticable detriment to the photograph.

The size of the camera make it perfect for slipping into your pocket for a night out whilst its programmable photo options mean it is just as well-suited to long-range scenery shots and panoramas. Quite simply, for the market it is in, this Casio stands head, shoulders and torso above the rest.


The Lincoln Lawyer
The Lincoln Lawyer
by Michael Connelly
Edition: Paperback

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Twists and turns...and trips, 26 July 2006
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Lincoln Lawyer (Paperback)
I'd never even heard of Michael Connelly before reading the much-applauded The Lincoln Lawyer. I'd been drawn to it by a half-price offer, not knowing the author but finding the blurb to be enticing enough to fork out the £5 for the book. What a buy.

The reviews I've read since enjoying the book have all given the book dues on the basis of the twists and turns in its plot. For me, this was not the greatest feature of the book. Yes, it twists and turns more than a Salsa dancer but what I picked out as being the best part was the character you got to know by reading the book. Mickey Haller is such a genuine character, built upon even more so by the fact that the book is written in first person, and you know him inside-out by the end of the book. Only in hindsight, having since read The Black Echo by the same author, am I able to confirm that Haller is a much better developed character than Bosch in my opinion, with more to him than the 'hard-done-by, take-no-crap' Bosch. Because of this, the book is a good read for someone who doesn't want to be dragged under by the depth of the forensics and criminology aspect, as was the case in The Black Echo, but wants to read about how a man grows through the case he is pursuing. Interestingly, it was this aside which kept me holding onto the book.

The case does have its turns, unquestionably, but the last 200 pages are simply an ambling pretext to an easily anticipatable ending. I won't spoil it but, if you get to page 400 and think you've figured it out then, well, you probably have. However, the plot was hard to make too unpredictable given its nature and thats where Connelly truly shines as a fine writer. He gives so much attention to Haller's life outside of the case that it affords the reader the ability to 'relax' away from the case without putting the book down. You can read the book for the crime, or for the character, but each are linked so well you won't put it down for wanting more of either.

So, despite tripping up slightly in dizzying us amongst the twist and turns of the plot, Connelly has here a solid gold read which one can immerse themself in as much as they wish. It's an easy beach-read for someone wanting a nice, flowing story and, by the same token, it's a tough grind for someone wanting an intense criminology story. Haller's got you for the summer.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 1, 2009 11:58 AM GMT


Page: 1 | 2