Profile for Thomas Holt > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Thomas Holt
Top Reviewer Ranking: 1,880
Helpful Votes: 722

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Thomas Holt

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-16
pixel
Kings Go Forth [DVD]
Kings Go Forth [DVD]
Dvd ~ Frank Sinatra
Price: £6.63

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Appalling travesty, 26 Jan. 2013
This review is from: Kings Go Forth [DVD] (DVD)
In spite of the stellar cast, this is probably the worst movie version of a novel ever made. Why? Well, let me tell you about the novel first. In 1957, J.D. Brown (he also wrote the novel on which the excellent movie Paper Moon was based) produced his seminal work - Kings go Forth. Based in the last year of WW II in northern Italy, it tells the story of two GIs - one an ordinary guy and one a wealthy, educated socialite - who become great friends but then fall for a beautiful young woman they meet. She is also American but her wealthy parents chose to live in Italy. You can't tell by looking at her, but the woman's father was black and her mother white - they left the pre-war USA for obvious reasons. The rest of the story combines war action with the tragic development of the woman's relationship with one of the men. It is one of the most heart-rending tales you could ever read, told with the most incredible passion and understanding.

For some reason, Hollywood decided it didn't want passion and understanding - thereby removing all the dramatic impact of this wonderful novel. The result is a series of cardboard cliches, the most predictable mush you could imagine. Even the great actors involved can't redeem this one. Avoid the movie like the plague, but, by all means, read the novel - things have changed, but not by much.


British Baking
British Baking
by Oliver Peyton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great cakes, but not for beginners who trust recipes!, 24 Jan. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: British Baking (Hardcover)
I find it hard to believe that people have tried recipes from this book without any problems - they must have been lucky! I've been baking for decades and none of recipes I've tried worked perfectly. I know it's not just me because other reviewers have had similar experiences. I've already discussed the failings of the Apple and Blackberry crumble in a comment, so, as a test, I tried the simplest cake I know - Victoria sponge - I've never had a failure with that yet. The oven timings and/or temperature simply were way out. I know ovens vary a lot, and mine is a trashy bit of Italian junk I wouldn't wish on anybody. Nevertheless, I have been baking successfully with it for nearly five years (I'll soon be able to convince myself that it's reached the end of it's useful life!). With the best baking books, I find it works well in ventilation mode if I bake at 10 deg. lower than the recommended temperature and for a few minutes less than the recommended time. My Victoria sponge using these criteria was liquid in the middle and nicely light brown on top! I upped the temperature by 10 deg., baked for another 20 minutes and my cake is now nicely cooked through and a healthy brown, but not burnt, on top. I finished it traditionally with homemade raspberry jam and no cream - weight watching! In spite of the above criticism, my wife said it was the best cake I'd ever made!

Next, I did the lemon drizzle cake, again delicious using the oven temperature in the book and the time stated. So, that's the secret! The temperatures in the book are about 10 deg C too low for my oven, and the timings are right. BTW, the lemon drizzle cake uses a 900 g loaf tin - in mine, this gives too big a surface area so the cake is too thin to rise properly (yes, I know about mixing technique etc., but you need a certain minimum thickness for rising to work well). Next time, I'll up the quantities by 50% and bake for longer. It's a great cake so you can't have too much!

Given the experiences of other reviewers with wrong/missing ingredients etc., I would advise those cooks wanting an easy life to avoid this book until Oliver finds the time to put out a revised edition with all the recipes independently checked on average equipment.


The Guns of Navarone
The Guns of Navarone
by Alistair MacLean
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.74

5.0 out of 5 stars So good, it became a collection of cliches for the war novel., 22 Jan. 2013
This review is from: The Guns of Navarone (Paperback)
This novel, and the movie it spawned, became blueprints for the successful war story in the late '50s and '60s. Germans have been trying to live down the cliches ever since. Inspired by real naval guns erected by the Italians on a Greek Island, later taken over by the Germans, this yarn adds a race against time commando assault, a clever twist or two, and reads at a furious pace. The Hollywood adaptation acknowledged the presence of women on the planet - a fact steadfastly denied by MacLean in many of his books. He seemed to think that women slowed the action!

A very good read - not up to the inspiring, if dreadful, reality of HMS Ulysses - but not far off it; this novel always seems to please - unlike the movie which becomes stale after a couple of viewings. As is often the way with very successful, groundbreaking novels, perhaps the numerous copies and sequels dull the original somewhat unfairly.


HMS Ulysses
HMS Ulysses
by Alistair MacLean
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best first novel ever written?, 18 Jan. 2013
This review is from: HMS Ulysses (Paperback)
What little you can tell of the story without spoilers has been done in other reviews. I will try to add a little to that. This is a tale of the Royal Navy escorts of the convoys supplying the USSR during WW II. From reading reviews on other sites, a few people seem to think the extreme weather described is exaggerated for dramatic effect. My thesis was on the Arctic and, take it from me, autumn/winter in the North Atlantic and peripheral Arctic Ocean is exactly as described by MacLean - these appalling conditions are typical!

Some readers might be put off because they don't like war books. Believe me, this is not your average war book - it features heroism, but does not dwell on it, indeed it takes you to a plane beyond heroism - where very ordinary men do the most extraordinary things without thought of themselves - make sacrifices so remarkable that I still can't read this book without tears flowing. For MacLean gives his story a thoroughly believable realism - so much so that sometimes one has to take a break from some of the most harrowing experiences - they are so real that you become involved - emotionally, spiritually, and physically (in terms of perspiration, anyway!). The sheer conviction of this novel is so powerful that I am absolutely certain that all of the events described happened somewhere, sometime. Whether MacLean witnessed them or not doesn't matter, to have the imagination and narrative skills to bind these scenes into a coherent literature at a first attempt is almost beyond belief.

I can't begin to describe the effects this book has had on me since the first reading when I was about 11. It's influence has been profound and has undoubtedly made me a better person. But, at the same time, it's a tremendously exciting, if draining, read. A wonderful accomplishment, particularly as a first novel. MacLean must have been desperate to escape teaching English! To call it the best MacLean may be true - how could he better it within his chosen genre? But comparisons should not be so restricted. I have no hesitation in saying that it is easily the best first novel I have ever read, by anyone. Try it - you have nothing to lose!


The Italian Baker
The Italian Baker
by Carol Field
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best baking book ever written!, 3 Jan. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Italian Baker (Hardcover)
Every recipe I have tried from this brilliant book has worked. But that is not its only strength! Meticulously researched, presented with no photographs - but simple line drawings where needed, instructions for mixing by hand, mixer, and food processor, with traditional recipes beautifully modified for non-Italian shopping - this book is a model for all baking books. Each chapter commences with a description of how the subject matter fits into Italian life, its history, and general hints on how to approach making the various breads, pizzas, focaccias, cakes, pastries, and biscuits. Each recipe generally has a personal note from the author detailing where she found this item and how to enjoy it best. The recipe instructions are simple to follow, being divided where appropriate into cutting, filling and shaping, rising, and baking sections, for example. Several recipes also include variations on the main recipe.

I have several baking books, and have thrown out more than I have kept. So, my description of this as the best baking book ever written is not a decision taken lightly!

Please note that this review applies to the original edition. There is a revised edition with colour photographs and claimed revisions for more modern ingredients. Personally, I find the original more than adequate and find colour photographs pointless. Therefore, I cannot comment on the revised edition.


Ballymaloe Cookery Course
Ballymaloe Cookery Course
by Darina Allen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.40

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best general cookbook out there, 26 Dec. 2012
The market for general cookbooks is very crowded, with some really great contenders - The Times Cookbook from the early '80s, Good Housekeeping from the same period - were my favourites. But, for my money, Darina Allen's book beats them all. Its great strength is that the recipes work well. And that's not because they're particularly easy, but this is a teaching book and fills any holes in your skills. Just look at the chapters: Stocks and soups, Starters, Eggs, Rice, other grains and pulses, Pasta and noodles, Vegetables, Salads, Fish and shellfish, Poultry, Lamb, Pork and Bacon, Beef, Offal, Game, Puddings, Cheese, Cakes and biscuits, Breads, scones & pizzas, Jams & preserves, Breakfast, Barbecues, Finger foods, Drinks, Sauces. There's also a Conversion chart, Glossary, and comprehensive Index. Chapters start with a review of techniques, how to's, and useful information, followed by recipes. A common feature is Master Recipes which detail the methodology for making a basic item, followed by variations. For example, the recipe for Sweet White Scones gives full instructions and is followed by 11 variations detailing only how they differ from the Master Recipe. This allows a very comprehensive set of recipes. I don't know how many there are, but I would guess between two and three thousand. The Index alone covers 27 big pages!

My first copy of this book was the American edition which I picked up cheap. Since then, I've replaced this with the UK version because I love baking. This book is stuffed with great cakes, biscuits, and breads, but I have never been able to cope with the vagaries of cup measures.


Cricket Conflicts and Controversies
Cricket Conflicts and Controversies
by Kersi Meher-Homji
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.17

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A major step up from the tedious books on cricket statistics, 25 Dec. 2012
This entertaining volume is divided into Major and Mini Conflicts and Controversies. These cover the period from the late 19th century to the present. Typical of the Major issues is a detailed review of the IPL and, of course, the Bodyline Series. Included in the Minor issues is the Mike Atherton ball-tempering controversy and Tony Greig's claim that England would make Clive Lloyd's West Indies "grovel". The author is rarely judgemental, and where he is, I found myself usually agreeing with him. The issues covered here are what cricket is really about - what makes it fun and of timeless interest. Occasionally tragic - often, in retrospect, funny - these incidents are recorded with sensitivity and fairness.

With a forward by Greg Chappell, this book will enhance your understanding and enjoyment of cricket. And, when it's 'rain stopped play', give you an entertaining way to pass the time to the next dry spell!


THE FRENCH POWDER MYSTERY.
THE FRENCH POWDER MYSTERY.
by Ellery. Queen
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A remarkable and highly enjoyable whodunnit, 28 Oct. 2012
This is the second Ellery Queen novel and answers most of one's criticisms of the first, "The Roman Hat Mystery". Good though it is, the latter was clearly a first novel. "The French Powder Mystery" in comparison simply oozes sophistication, from the play on words in the title, through clever use of nursery rhyme in some chapter headings (inspiring some of Agatha Christie's later novels?), the fine portrayal of New York policing in the '20s, the easy prose - perfectly in tune with the huge array of interesting characters, through the development of the puzzle to the revealing of the killer in the last few words of the novel (be warned!). Also, the catapulting of the body from a department store public demonstration of a folding bed has to be one of the most original "body findings" in the history of the crime novel!

If you are used to Christie, be aware that this is considerably longer, and much more complicated. One reviewer complains of "red herrings" - but this book is, above all, a puzzle to be solved by the reader. A logical puzzle has to have alternative pathways, or it would be too easy. Unlike most crime writers, Queen is scrupulously fair in that there is only one possible solution that fits all the facts.

To fulfil the conditions of the puzzle, some ingenious plot manipulation is required with very contrived circumstances. But, even Dickens was very guilty of that, without the excuse of writing a whodunnit! If you appreciate fine use of language and immaculate characterisation, like to solve puzzles, understand that not all murders take place in English country houses, and don't expect to whip through a book in a couple hours, then this book could be for you. If it's so good, why only four stars? Simple, because it's not the best of Queen so I need a bit of slack for the others.


The Good Cook
The Good Cook
by Simon Hopkinson
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another must have cookbook (groan!), 26 Oct. 2012
This review is from: The Good Cook (Hardcover)
Browsing Nigel Slater's latest offering on Amazon the other day, I noticed ListMania - where somebody had listed Simon Hopkinson's Roast Chicken and Other Stories as one of the best cookbooks ever. I'd never heard of Simon before and needed yet another cookbook like a hole in the head! Still, I looked him up and found that he comes from Bury (Lancs.) - enough said! Several generations of my family came from there and, ravages of "planners" and industrial decline apart, it still has its good bits.

This review of The Good Cook is for the Kindle edition, so I can't really comment on the aesthetic qualities of the book itself other than to say, the pictures are good but there seems to be a lot of wasted space. However, Kindle compensates for that by having cross-referenced links everywhere, but it's a helluva price for an ebook! Like most (all?) of Simon's books, this is organised by ingredients - in this case in a rather ramshackle way - probably because it is, I believe, based on a TV series. Generally, the recipes within each section flow naturally from one to the other - often sharing a common ingredient and usually belonging to what I will call the same flavour family. This is a very unusual approach which I greatly appreciate. It not only teaches you about marrying flavours and textures, but enables the author to insert his advice, anecdotes and serving suggestions to greatest effect. The overall result is a unique cookbook, containing not only a wealth of wonderful recipes, but some terrific insights and a few slaps in the face for the received wisdom of the "foodie" brigade. How many chefs do you know who will acknowledge that ready-ground white pepper has the 'correct' flavour for some dishes? And as for offal, well - "I suppose it's alright in pâté and terrines - anyway chicken livers aren't really offal - are they?"

I suppose in writing style, Hopkinson is similar to Slater, but coming from the viewpoint and experience of a professional chef as opposed to a home cook. I'm not making any judgement here, and neither should you. They are equally valid and valuable starting points for a very good cookbook. But they are very different. Perhaps, like me, you will have to make room on your shelves for both. For, having belatedly discovered Hopkinson, I am now going to have to get the hardcopy versions of his books. A book on the worktop is much more practical than a Kindle!


Medusa
Medusa
by Hammond Innes
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars An exciting, interesting novel - well worth reading, 24 Oct. 2012
This review is from: Medusa (Paperback)
This isn't the very best of Hammond Innes, but it is up there with them. Although well into his 70s when he wrote this, there is no indication that age was affecting either Innes' considerable ability or his eagerness to write. Centred on Minorca (Menorca) in the 1980's, the action follows the progress of an "independence" invasion of the island, potentially involving the Russian and American Mediterranean fleets and the Royal Navy courtesy of a clapped out frigate that appears to have been specially commissioned for the purpose. The story is told through the eyes of a British property agent cum tourist fishing contractor and a complex mesh of relationships involving, in addition, a buxom and wanton archaeologist, the property agent's wife, the commander of the frigate, and the latter's half-brother who is a key figure in the insurgency. The characters are extremely well defined and Innes, typically, draws them out at his leisure so that their every action is consistent and, even if surprising, believable.

For those who think this an unlikely scenario, I would remind them that only about five years before this was written, Spain's fledgling democracy was saved from military take-over by the courage and quick-thinking of her monarch. Moreover, the running sore of Basque separatism indicates that scenarios like that of the book are not too far-fetched. My main criticism on reading it was would Downing Street have had the courage and the wit to send the frigate in the first place? In the end, I reluctantly decided that Lady Thatcher probably would have done.

So, an exciting, interesting read - well up to the high standards we have come to expect from Innes. He is sorely missed!


Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-16