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Monika Simon (München)
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Suffolk Folk Tales
Suffolk Folk Tales
Preis: EUR 7,49

5.0 von 5 Sternen Strange and Wonderful Tales from Suffolk, 22. Dezember 2013
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Suffolk Folk Tales (Kindle Edition)
I better admit right at the start that I know the author of this book. In fact, she introduced me to story-telling and showed me, usually not a fan of short fiction, that there are some short stories that I enjoy. If I were to pretend that this does not influence my judgement of the book that would obviously not be true. However, I don't think that this means I am not allowed to share my opinion of her book.

Suffolk Folk Tales, like the other books of this series, is a collection of thirty tales from one country. The author has collected a wide variety of different genres: ghost stories, stories of love found or lost, stories about demons, dragons and fairies, historical - or at least possibly historical - tales, and fairy tales. It was always a pleasant surprise to discover what the next story was going to be. I also find it fascinating to discover tales which are variations of similar tales that are told elsewhere.

I have learned by now that I enjoy these stories best, when I read them one at a time. And I thoroughly enjoyed these thirty tales. They are all well told, entertaining and moving. They are the kind of tale that begs to be read aloud.

The information about the origins of the stories given at the end about their sources were also very interesting.

Altogether a very enjoyable and entertaining book that I can highly recommend.


Within the Hollow Crown: A Reluctant King, a Desperate Nation, and the Most Misunderstood Reign in History
Within the Hollow Crown: A Reluctant King, a Desperate Nation, and the Most Misunderstood Reign in History
von Margaret Campbell Barnes
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 14,82

3.0 von 5 Sternen Entertaining Novel Lacking Historical Accuracy, 30. September 2013
'Within the Hollow Crown' bears the subtitle 'A Reluctant King, a Desperate Nation, and the Most Misunderstood Reign in History'. Though it is perfectly possible that the publishers rather than the author is responsible for this tag, it should have alerted me to the fact that the novel is not exactly one of outstanding historical accuracy. Richard II was neither a reluctant king nor is his reign the most misunderstood reign in history.

Of course, as a novel, it is perfectly acceptable that the book takes poetic licences with facts, particularly as it covers a long period of time. Interpretations of motives and characters are what makes historical novels interesting as here (unlike in non-fiction books) it is possible to try to get behind the bare facts and explain why history happened as it did. It is therefore a question of taste and previous knowledge whether the extent to which this happens annoys or not. While I found this book quite interesting and entertaining, it also disappointed and, in parts, irritated me. Since I know quite a bit about the reign of Richard II, the historical inaccuracies just rub me the wrong way. But worse than simple factual mistakes are, in my opinion, if the characters who inhabit the late fourteenth century exhibit the emotions and attitudes of today. Additionally, personally, I found the characters not particularly convincing and rather flat.

To sum up: The book is an entertaining novel but possibly not really advisable for readers who expect historical accuracy or complex characters.


The Bone Thief: 900 A.D. A time of turmoil. A kingdom in dispute. An unlikely hero... (Wulfgar, Band 1)
The Bone Thief: 900 A.D. A time of turmoil. A kingdom in dispute. An unlikely hero... (Wulfgar, Band 1)
von V. M. Whitworth
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 9,76

4.0 von 5 Sternen Entertaining and Accurate Historical Novel, 28. Juli 2013
In the Year 900, England (or what would later become the kingdom of England) was a place very different from what an uninformed reader, particularly here on the Continent, would expect. Large parts of the land were ruled by 'Vikings', and after the death of Alfred the Great the situation in the other parts was far from rosy. Into this distant past, the author of The Bone Thief takes her readers, to accompany the 'unlikely hero' Wulfgar on his adventurous journey across the country to find a lost saint.

I am far from an expert on this period, but I have heard from those who are more knowledgeable about it, that the book is extremely well researched. Additionally, while many historical novels get the facts right, who did what when, often authors unfortunately transport their own mentalities and attitudes to the past, giving their characters too modern a perspective, possibly in the belief that otherwise they would alienate their readers. The Bone Thief is a welcome exception in this point. Though it is impossible to really know what men and women were thinking or feeling in the past, an approximation can be achieved. The characters in The Bone Thief are solidly based in their time and place. That does not, however, mean that their behaviour or way of thinking is beyond comprehension. People are people no matter what century they live in.

A well-researched book, however, does not necessarily make a good novel. 'The Bone Thief', however, is both: An accurate book as well as an unusually good read. The story of Wulfgar's quest is well-plotted and gripping to read. There are encounters with interesting people, adventure, risks taken and dangers encountered. Altogether 'The Bone Thief' is thoroughly a good and very entertaining read: Highly recommendable.


The Venom of Serpents: The Arrowsmith Saga, Part Two
The Venom of Serpents: The Arrowsmith Saga, Part Two
von Dane St. John
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 14,52

4.0 von 5 Sternen Battles, Revolts and Drama in the Fourteenth Century, 6. Juni 2013
The second part of the Arrowsmith Saga picks up where "The Nectar of Angels: The Arrowsmith Saga, Part One: 1 leaves off and continues the adventures of David Arrowsmith, as he recounts them to Jean Créton, the French historian.

Unsurprisingly, the points that I found worthy of criticism as well as those that merit praise are the same as in the first part of the Arrowsmith Saga . Like the first volume of the saga, the story is suspenseful, full of high drama, and is an entertaining read. The archaic language, the 'I wot's etc., again rubbed me the wrong way, particularly since they occur in a book that includes words like 'brainstorming'. There were fewer sections of the tale that made me wonder why I was reading about them than in the first part. As the story progressed, I was increasingly keen to find out where the tale would lead us. With a story of this length it can be difficult to keep track of what is going on even for the author and this Dane St John manages admirably. Again there were a few too many encounters with famous people for my taste - a point that is even raised by Jean Créton. The protagonist was almost too good and noble for me, but though I occasionally felt like giving him a good shake and tell him 'hey, those are the bad guys', the story certainly had me rooting for him and hoping everything turns would turn out well.

'The Venom of Serpents' is an entertaining, well-researched historical novel for those who have enjoy reading seriously long novels.


In Broad Daylight
In Broad Daylight
von Seth Harwood
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 11,99

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3.0 von 5 Sternen Good, Suspenseful Crime Story, 29. Mai 2013
Rezension bezieht sich auf: In Broad Daylight (Taschenbuch)
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'In Broad Daylight' is a good and well-written crime novel. The story is fast-paced and suspenseful. I was so interested in the story that I hardly put the book down as I was wanted to find out what would happen next and how the tough FBI investigator would catch the serial killer. Set in Alaska was interesting (at least to me, who's never been there), the crimes were mysterious and the characters interesting.

However, as good and entertaining as the novel was, for me there was something lacking. Everything was a little too predictable and gave me the impression that it was written according to some (possibly even existing) handbook for crime writers. Take a) a brutal serial killer, b) a tough agent, with a small personal handicap, and c) an interesting locale that most of your readers are unfamiliar with. Fasten the pace and make it personal. I may simply be demanding too much, but for me the difference between a good book like this and an excellent book is that the latter breaks the mould, that there is something surprising, unusual, something that makes me go back and re-read the book even though I know the story already. 'In Broad Daylight' is a good, gripping crime novel and a very entertaining read, but lacking that little extra spark to make it great.


The Nectar of Angels: The Arrowsmith Saga, Part One
The Nectar of Angels: The Arrowsmith Saga, Part One
von Dane St. John
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 12,81

3.0 von 5 Sternen The Amazing Adventures of David Arrowsmith, 21. Mai 2013
"The Nectar of Angels" is the first part of a two-part historic novel set in late 14th-century England, Scotland, Wales and France. And just like the scope of its settings, the sheer length of the saga is amazing. In it the main character and hero of the tales narrates his life's story to the French chronicler Jean Créton.

Set in the second half of the fourteenth century, "The Nectar of Angels" describes David's life from orphaned baby in plague-devastated Wales to his childhood and youth in Bordeaux, Oxford and London. The reader learns about his upbringing and how by various mishaps and unforeseen circumstances he becomes an outstanding archer, a wine merchant, and how he is encounters a variety of historic figures from John Wycliffe to John of Gaunt.

The story is very well written and the author very knowledgeable about the time he is writing about. One point of the narration that I did not like is the use of archaic English (e.g. 'I wot' or 'verily'). Some - including (obviously) the author - feel that it adds to the historic atmosphere of the story, others - like me - find it distracting. My other point of criticism, and the reason for my giving the book only three stars, is that for a significant part of the tale I was wondering what the events described in the book have to do with the overall plot. That said, all these episodes are interesting and entertaining to read. The reader does need some patience to see the tale unfolding. The characters are well-drawn, though either a little too good or too bad for my personal liking. And, to my admittedly very critical eye, just a few too many famous people turn up.

Altogether, for friends of long and detailed historic novels this is certainly one to read.


Gloucestershire Folk Tales
Gloucestershire Folk Tales
von Anthony Nanson
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 14,01

4.0 von 5 Sternen Fairies, Mysterious Beasts, Ghosts, Saints, and Much More, 19. Mai 2013
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Gloucestershire Folk Tales (Taschenbuch)
Anthony Nanson's 'Gloucestershire Folk Tales' is one of a series of books collecting the folk stories of the various counties of England. This collection contains thirty folk tales from Gloucestershire, a county that - as the author writes in the introduction - can claim to be the "heart of Britain's history".

Though not usually a great fan of short stories, I found these tales a delight to read. I particularly enjoyed the variety of topics and genres that they cover: from the legend of martyred king ('St. Kenelm of Mercia') to the devil visiting Gloucestershire. There are a number of ghost stories (e.g. 'White Lady's Gate' or the really creepy 'Puesdown Inn') and tales that tell of encounters with various other-worldly creatures, benign and otherwise. A number of tales also centre around actual historic events, some that had happened 'only' a few centuries ago (e.g. 'The Bisley Boy') and some from the more distant past ('The Buckstone and the Britannic Palace'). A dragon, flying pear trees, and a Bogglewort are just some of the strange things one encounters in the tales.

Whether the stories focus on supernatural events or more mundane occurrences they are enormously entertaining to read. 'Glocuestershire Folk Tales' is a very entertaining book that I can recommend to anybody who is interested in folk tales, legends or just good story-telling.


Damocles
Damocles
von S. G. Redling
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 11,99

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4.0 von 5 Sternen Gripping and Enjoyable Science Fiction Novel, 22. März 2013
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Damocles (Taschenbuch)
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'Damocles' is the tale of an encounter between two different species of humans. A small group of scientists set out from Earth to find the origin of a mysterious message they received. S.G. Redling's novel describes the encounter when the 'Earthers' land from the perspective both of one of the newcomers, Meg, and one of the natives, Loul.

The scenario is, admittedly, not a new one for a Science Fiction novel. The meeting and interactions between humans and 'aliens' is one of the stock features of this genre. However, 'Damocles' approaches the encounter in a way that is highly entertaining. I was engrossed by the meeting of two different and yet in some ways similar species and by the unfolding tale. There are no great action sequences or overtly dramatic scenes in which everybody is in the danger of an immediate and horrible death. Nonetheless, I was gripped and read the book through in almost one sitting. By habit I am rather overly critical and get easily irritated. Reading this book I just enjoyed myself. I sympathised with the characters and wanted to find out what was going to happen next.

Even though it is somewhat superfluous to say, 'Damocles' will not be everybody's cup of tea. I, for my part, thoroughly enjoyed it.


To Defy a King (William Marshal)
To Defy a King (William Marshal)
von Elizabeth Chadwick
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 12,95

3.0 von 5 Sternen Entertaining Historical Novel, with Minor Flaws, 7. März 2013
'To Defy a King' is a historical novel by the prolific author Elizabeth Chadwick. Like many books of this genre, it focuses on a 'strong' female character, in this case Mahelt, daughter of William Marshal, earl of Pembroke, and wife of Hugh Bigod, heir of the earl of Norfolk. The novel is very well researched (though some research methods are rather unorthodox) and provides, as far as the facts are concerned, a good description of the events of this time. The years of the tyrannical rule of King John are a fascinating period of increasing unrest, civil war and political change. It is an entertaining, even gripping tale, probably more so for those who, unlike me, do not already know what is going to happen next on the 'big stage' of English history.

The characters are interesting, but a clear demarcation is drawn between the good guys and the bad guys. Few waver somewhere in the middle. Personally, I prefer characters to be a little more complex. I find this clear-cut good vs. bad less interesting. Particularly if the 'good' people also are the ones who are good-looking, love children, treat their social inferiors with respect and never hurt animals unnecessarily, while the 'bad' people are cruel to animals, have no patience for children and treat their servants, lower ranking men and women of all classes with disrespect. Here the 'good' people also display in part amazingly modern attitudes, for example about a woman's place in life, while their 'bad' counterparts are mentally stuck in the middle ages, as one might envision them.

Despite these drawbacks, I did enjoy 'To Defy a King'. Having quite extensively researched the period myself and being a rather demanding reader, I also know that my perspective is different than that of many other readers and can recommend it to friends of historical novels.


Die Gegenspieler: Friedrich Barbarossa und Heinrich der Löwe im Kamp
Die Gegenspieler: Friedrich Barbarossa und Heinrich der Löwe im Kamp
von Paul Barz
  Gebundene Ausgabe

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1.0 von 5 Sternen Im finstersten Mittelalter, 3. Februar 2013
In "Die Gegenspieler" beschreibt der Autor Paul Barz die Geschichte der beiden Cousins, pardon Vettern, Heinrich der Löwe und Friedrich Barbarossa von den 1140er Jahren bis 1195. Um diese enorme Zeitspanne einem Buch zu behandeln, kann der Autor natürlich nicht allzu detailliert auf die einzelnen Ereignisse eingehen. Das ihm das gelingt, ohne dass das Buch unverständlich wird, ist aber auch schon das beste Kompliment, das ich ihm machen kann.

Ein farbenprächtiges Gemälde einer glanzvollen Zeit verspricht der Text auf der Rückseite des Buches, doch so sehr die Juwelen auch funkeln, der stärkste Eindruck, den das Buch hinterlässt, ist dass das zwölfte Jahrhundert eine finstere Epoche war, bevölkert von rohen, ungebildeten und selbstsüchtigen Männern und Frauen. Charaktere strotzen vor Grausamkeit, andere sind naiv bis zur Albernheit oder so von der Richtigkeit ihrer eigenen, überdimensionierten Ziele erfüllt, dass sie größenwahnsinnig zu sein scheinen. Brutalität und Gedankenlosigkeit gegenüber anderen waren sicher ein Teil des Mittelalters. Hier ist es aber die einzige Seite der Zeit, die zu sehen ist. Die "Ungestüme Kraft", von der auf der Rückseite die Rede ist, besteht nur aus Zerstörung, die "derbe Sinnlichkeit" darin, Sex so grobschlächtig wie irgend möglich zu schildern.

Die Einseitigkeit der Darstellung der Zeit und ihrer Bewohner haben mich in der Tat so geärgert, dass ich mich - nicht zum ersten Mal - gefragt habe, was der Autor hier eigentlich erreichen will. Dass der Leser totfroh ist, heute zu leben? Die historischen Ungenauigkeiten und schlichten Fehlaussagen, die auch reichlich vorkommen, konnte ich daneben fast ignorieren. Eine reine Geschmacksfrage ist, ob altertümelde Sprache mit ihren 'Eidams' und 'Oheimen', ein Gefühl der Authentizität vermittelt oder den Leser (wie mich) stört. Mich hat letztendlich nur meine Faszination für diese Zeit (und mein Unvermögen Bücher auf halber Strecke wegzulegen) dazu gebracht, das Buch bis zum Ende zu lesen.


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