Profile for Didier > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Didier
Top Reviewer Ranking: 679
Helpful Votes: 2361

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Didier (Ghent, Belgium)
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20
pixel
The Scent of Death
The Scent of Death
by Andrew Taylor
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.74

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As good as it gets, 9 Nov. 2014
This review is from: The Scent of Death (Paperback)
I'm not really an 'Andrew Taylor-expert' having previously only read The American Boy (but what a book that was!), but I do try to read lots of historical novels which makes it all the more inexplicable that I somehow lost sight of Andrew Taylor. Anyway, that's perhaps neither here nor there because I did read 'The Scent of Death' and it is indeed a superb historical novel. As the story begins, it is August 1778, and Edward Savill has just arrived in New York as a clerk working for the American Department. His job is to assess the claims of loyalists who have lost out because of the war, and as such he soon finds himself the object of interest of lots of people desperate for news from London, while at the same time some of the local officials are decidedly curt to him. But before long Savill finds himself entangled in much murkier business. A man is killed, and it turns out that very man just weeks ago paid a visit to the house of Judge Wintour, where Savill himself is staying...

If like me you're fond of historical crime fiction, 'The Scent of Death' will not disappoint: a book filled with intriguing characters, a superb feel for creating exactly the right atmosphere, and a plot that keeps twisting and turning, what more does one need on a chilly winter's evening snuggled up under the duvet?


On The Map: Why the world looks the way it does
On The Map: Why the world looks the way it does
by Simon Garfield
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A treasure-trove, 9 Nov. 2014
I have no particular interest in maps except when travelling: to get where I need to go I will happily use a gps in the car (how did we manage before? It still baffles me but somehow we did), but once there or usually even before leaving, I do like to browse around a good map shop, and buy one or more maps of the region. To me, there's something reassuring in knowing where I am and how that relates to other places near by, don't you have that feeling too? Well, having just finished this wonderful book it seems we're not alone in feeling that way, and that there's ever so much more to maps - both historical and modern - than just representing in 2D a particular city, region, country or continent.

This book simply brims over with interesting, even fascinating stuff I never stopped to consider: the cartographic revolution caused by the Ordnance Survey, the idiosyncracies of fictional maps, Hereford's Mappa Mundi and Beck's London tubemap, guidebooks, the problems in constructing globes, not to mention the colourful host of people vividly brought to life in this book: discoverers, mathematicians, map thiefs and forgers, .... Add to that the easy-to-read, often tongue in cheek style Garfield uses and the net result is a book I found very hard to put down. Even if you're not even remotely interested in maps, try it: my guess is you'll never look at a map with the same eyes again!


Lancaster And York: The Wars of the Roses
Lancaster And York: The Wars of the Roses
by Alison Weir
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very good account, 9 Nov. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I guess that few would disagree when I say that the Wars of the Roses is a quite complex period in the history of England, and perhaps all the more so if, like me, you were born and bred elsewhere. But, as English history is one of my interests, I decided nonetheless to try to come to grips with it as it is undoubtedly one of the most defining periods in English history, with plenty of 'larger-than-life' characters involved. I actually read other books on the same topic (or related to it) before I started this one: A Short History of the Wars of the Roses (I.B. Tauris Short Histories) proved to be an excellent introduction, and Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor England is an absolutely riveting read about the period right after the Wars of the Roses.

But for good measure I resolved to read Alison Weir's book as well, and having finished it now I'm glad I did. To be sure, it is completely different from Grummitt's book. To put it crudely, whereas Grummitt's is perhaps a more 'scientific' history (which I imagine could perfectly well be used as a textbook for students of English history) and gives more attention to what came before and the effects of the War of the Roses, Weir's story is told from a more 'personal' angle. But there is no problem in that of course, I'm convinced that Alison Weir did her research very thoroughly as well (the bibliography covers more than 10 pages). The bonus is that Weir's account reads perhaps all the more fluently, focusing on this unbelievable host of colourful characters, involved in their ruthless struggle for the throne of England. Absolutely riveting!


Expo 58
Expo 58
by Jonathan Coe
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clever and (very) funny, 9 Nov. 2014
This review is from: Expo 58 (Paperback)
Years ago I read 4 of Jonathan Coe's novels one after the other (having started with The House of Sleep which is still my favourite, though What a Carve Up! is incredibly good too), and then - for some reason or other - I lost sight of him until I saw this book in a shop window. Which I couldn't resist buying, for the simple reason that I am Belgian myself, so 'Expo 58' is - as to many Belgians I guess - an almost mythical event in a not too distant past, the traces of which are still visible today. In fact, I often get a glimpse of the Atomium on my way to work. Perhaps that makes me an impartial judge, but there you are...

In any case, I was hooked from page one and fond memories of other Coe-novels I had read earlier came back to mind: how he succeeds - as few others - to write about extraordinary events taking place in the lives of very ordinary people (could anyone be more 'ordinary' and average than his mild-mannered protagonist Thomas Foley?), but at the same time introducing the most quaint characters (such as detectives Mr Radford and Mr Wayne, what a pair!) but keep them credible too. There's no need of any 'willing suspension of disbelief here', on the contrary: I ended the book feeling 'something like this could happen to me too'. Between the beginning and the end of this unassuming but very clever novel you'll have laughed, but you'll have felt sad and melancholic as well. The writing is immaculate, the dialogues superb, and I for one will never look at the Atomium with the same eyes again!


The Ways of the World: (The Wide World - James Maxted 1)
The Ways of the World: (The Wide World - James Maxted 1)
by Robert Goddard
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not one of Goddard's best, 9 Nov. 2014
I have been a Robert Goddard-devotee for quite some time now, and some of his novels I still vividly remember to this day (Sea Change being my absolute favourite) although I read them years ago. For some reason or other I found this first novel with James Maxted as protagonist slightly less to my liking. It's hard to pinpoint why really: is it because I felt James Maxted just a little too good to be true? The man certainly doesn't seem to have a weakness or fault. Or because what he accomplishes in the face of overwhelming odds singlehandedly is just a tiny bit to unrealistic to remain credible? I'm not sure, however I finished 'The Ways Of The World' happy to have read it but nonetheless slightly disappointed as well.

To be sure, an average Goddard-novel is still by any standard (or at least by mine) better than most, but if you're new to Robert Goddard I would advise to start elsewhere. Who knows, based on this novel you might write him off (wrongly so in my personal opinion) too soon and never get to read some of his gems such as the above-mentioned Sea Change, or Painting The Darkness, Closed Circle, or Into the Blue.


The Strangler Vine (Blake & Avery 1)
The Strangler Vine (Blake & Avery 1)
by M. J. Carter
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.74

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good historical novel, looking forward to more of the same, 9 Nov. 2014
I recently read this book while on holiday, as it seemed a good contender in the category 'easy-to-read historical adventure novel'. In the past I read some quite goods book on The East India Company and the Mutiny (amongst others the incomparable The Siege Of Krishnapur and The Mutiny which is also very good). If you're looking for exactly that -easy-to-read, historical and with a dash of adventure - this book is exactly your ticket.

As has been done by plenty of others before him (and there's no harm in that of course), M.J. Carter pairs an unlikely couple of protagonists: the veteran Jeremiah Blake, ex-Company man 'gone native', and young ensign William Avery, about as prejudiced about the land he finds himself in as they get. Blake and Avery find themselves, at first much against their liking, sent out together to find out the whereabouts of a certain Xavier Mountstuart, a Company agent that has gone missing. Travelling down the Grand Trunk Road they soon find themselves pitted against unlikely enemies, and slowly become aware that they may have bitten of more than they can chew.

Captivating characters, suspense, and lots of 'couleur locale', it's all here! So I for one can only say that this proved to be the perfect holiday read, and am looking forward to further adventures of Blake and Avery.


Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe
Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe
by Norman Davies
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.09

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent, 17 July 2014
Well, I honestly find it hard to figure out how to start a review of this splendid book, so many and varied are its qualities. For starters, I think the concept of delving into the history of 15 vanished kingdoms (not all of them literally kingdoms) a very original one. Vanished they may be, but as Norman Davies convincingly demonstrates, each of these long-forgotten kingdoms (perhaps not by all of us but definitely by me) is in fact still an influence on today's politics. Unless you're an expert in European history, I guess you probably never heard of Borussia, Sabaudia, Rosenau and Rusyn before (I know I hadn't) which means there's discoveries to be made and things to learn here on every single page.

Davies must have done an unprecedented amount of research (and travel) to amass such a huge amount of information, which means there's all the more praise to be given because he subsequently managed to distill all of it into a (granted: fairly hefty) volume which never becomes heavy-going or can be savoured only be academics. There's plenty of helpful maps and family trees, but above all: a wealth of information and insights. A very exciting book!


King Solomon's Mines (Oxford World's Classics)
King Solomon's Mines (Oxford World's Classics)
by H. Rider Haggard
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars good old-fashioned fun, 17 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I read 'King Solomon's Mines' years ago in a Dutch translation (when I was 16 or thereabouts? I remember having read 'She' around the same time) but in an ongoing effort to read (or read again) all major Victorian novelists I ordered a brand-new copy, in English this time. Reading it now - having turned 49 recently - was obviously a very different experience. I'm sure I was more captivated the first time by the adventures of Allan Quatermain, Sir Henry Curtis, Captain John Good and Umbopa in Kukuanaland, whereas now I could not help noticing how for instance the language is old-fashioned and to our modern ears may sound stilted at times, or the latent racism that appears now an then (one of the native guides is characterised as 'for a native a very clever man').

Be that as it may, I still found 'King Solomon's Mines' to be one of the finest adventure stories I have ever read! It's up there with gems like Treasure Island (Oxford World's Classics), Captain Blood (Vintage Classics), The Thirty-Nine Steps (Wordsworth Classics) or Kim (Vintage Classics) to name but a few. Fast-paced action, archetypical heroes and villains, what's not to like? This remains one of the books every boy - young or old - should read at least once in his lifetime.


Butcher's Crossing (Vintage Classics)
Butcher's Crossing (Vintage Classics)
by John Williams
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

5.0 out of 5 stars Unforgettable, 16 July 2014
I raved about 'Stoner' as many of us did, and spurred on by the intense experience of reading that novel I also bought both 'Butcher's Crossing'. In a way, they are completely different books, so much so that according to me if one read both books without knowing the author's name few would guess they are in fact by the same author. But then again, 'Butcher's Crossing' has the same intensity and though it is set in an entirely different time and location, I was bowled over as much if not more than by 'Stoner'.

In 'Butcher's Crossing' we meet Will Andrews, who dropped out of his third year at Harvard and travelled West to the godforsaken town of Butcher's Crossing looking for... well, what is it exactly he's looking for? Perhaps as Henry David Thoreau would put it 'to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life' I guess. Andrews teams up with a motley crew: the buffalo hunter Miller, his (half-crazed) assistant Charley Hoge, and the skinner Schneider, and together they travel to a remote Colorado valley, where according to Miller a lost herd of buffalo roams, just waiting to be killed by the right men. What follows is an incredible journey with untold hardships, where Will gets to know each of his companions, and himself, stripped of all cultural and social conventions. Miller is as obsessed by this almost mythical herd of buffalo as Ahab was by the white whale, and before the story is over Will Andrews, just as Ishmael did, will find that he has indeed come a long way from Harvard.

Told in a sparse but perhaps therefore all the more vocabulary, this is one of the very best books I read in recent years. To coin a cliché: unputdownable.


A Game of Sorrows
A Game of Sorrows
by S. G. MacLean
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great Alexander Seaton-mystery, 3 Mar. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: A Game of Sorrows (Paperback)
Having very much enjoyed the first novel featuring Alexander Seaton, The Redemption of Alexander Seaton, I took me quite a while before I began reading 'A Game of Sorrows', but from page one I was once again captivated.

In the winter of 1628 (Charles I has been on the throne for 3 years by then), Alexander receives a quite unexpected visit in his rooms in Aberdeen: blissfully unaware that he even had one, Alexander's Irish cousin Sean O'Neill turns up with a story of a curse resting on their family, and pleading with Alexander to return to Ulster with him to lift the curse. And so it is that barely hours later Alexander finds himself on his way to Ulster, instead of travelling to the Baltic as his Principal Dr Dun had asked him to do. And once there, Alexander soon finds that the advice given to him to 'trust no one' is very apt indeed...

As in 'The Redemption of Alexander Seaton', this is a very good historical novel / thriller / mystery: Shona MacLean has a real feel for the period and knows how to immerse a reader so it feels as if you were present there and then. The characters are all very well drawn, and the plot is intricate enough to keep you eager to read on and on, but not so complicated you'll find yourself flipping back and forth to re-read earlier passages. Although I really couldn't afford to do so, I completely ignored all other pressing business and finished this brilliant novel in a matter of days.

If you're fond of good historical novels, this book should be a treat!


Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20