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Falls the Shadow
Falls the Shadow
von Sharon Kay Penman
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 18,96

3.0 von 5 Sternen Simon de Montfort. Superman, 23. Juni 2010
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Falls the Shadow (Taschenbuch)
In 'Falls the Shadow' Sharon Penman relates the life and times of Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, his wife, Eleanor, and the bloody Barons' War of the mid-thirteenth century. She also picks up the story of Here Be Dragons, though to a much lesser extent. Starting with Simon de Montfort's arrival in England in 1330 the book covers English history to 1367.

I have read a number of other historical novels by Sharon Penman and I was always impressed by her ability to bring the past to life and to create credible, three-dimensional characters whose motivations are understandable. While in this book she definitely achieves to present the thirteenth century in a vivid manner, I became increasingly irritated with her presentation of characters and motives. Naturally, some of this is a question of interpretation, but the way Simon de Montfort is glorified was just too much for me. Everything about him is magnificent and way above avarage, be it his eloquence, his horse or his battle strategies. Even his hair is blacker and thicker than other people's. Too much praise can be quite off-putting. Montfort's flaws are conveniently forgotten or only mentioned in passing. Against this almost superhuman Montfort Ms Penman pitches an array of silly, incompetent or egotistical opponents who often are more caricatures than credible characters. Instead of Ms Penman's usual balanced approach, showing both sides of the conflict, 'Falls the Shadow' is the Barons' War according to Simon de Montfort.

I also thought it strange that the further the story progresses the less we hear about Llewelyn ap Gryffydd. (Sharon Penman apparently decided to shift this to another novel.) I also can't refrain from pointing out that there are some points were the depiction of events is, historically speaking, just plain wrong.

This said, if you are looking for a well-written, colourful and entertaining historical novel, if you like a story with a larger-than-life hero and are not too fussy about historical accuracy, this is a novel I can warmly recomend. People who prefer an even-handed approach may find themselves more than a little irritated.


The Last Man (Wordsworth Classics) (Wordsworth Classics)
The Last Man (Wordsworth Classics) (Wordsworth Classics)
von Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
  Taschenbuch

3 von 5 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
2.0 von 5 Sternen A Novel Like a Long Trek Through a Bleak Landscape, 19. Juni 2010
A while ago, I was struck by the idea to read something else by Mary Shelley, whose Frankenstein: Or, the Modern Prometheus (Penguin Classics) I have read and re-read several times. 'The Last Man' was a book readily available and the subject also sounded interesting. I embarked on reading this novel with curiosity but it did not take long before this feeling was replaced by quite a different one: irritation.

'The Last Man' is, as the title implies, a novel about the end of humanity and, as I have learned in the introduction, the first of its kind. It lies in the nature of the subject of the tale that the tone of the story is rather bleak, but the relentlessness of the negativity of this book was more than I could handle. (A reaction I apparently share with the unenlightened critics of the 1820s.) I had to take several long breaks from reading it to get to the end at all. It was, however, not only the depressing mood that irritated me. The characters are utterly unrealistic and I don't care if they represent people Mary Shelley knew (notably Percy Shelley and Byron). The rhapsodical parise for some characters made me feel nauseous. The women are swooning, dainty damsels in distress who exist soley to support their husbands or look after their children. Typical for its time, of course, but still annoying. The characters' reactions are, in my opinion, often inconsistent with their previous behaviour. Moreover, the tale is so overflowing with methaphors and similes that I got quite sick of them. That the end of the 21st century as depicted here looks more or less exactly like the time 1820s is understandable, but I could not help feeling somewhat let down.

At the end of the day and despite my continued irritation, I was curious enough to slog through the entire book to find out how the story ends and how all of mankind, except the narrator of the story, dies.


Der Vampirglaube in Südosteuropa: Studien zur Genese, Bedeutung und Funktion. Rumänien und der Balkanraum (Romanice)
Der Vampirglaube in Südosteuropa: Studien zur Genese, Bedeutung und Funktion. Rumänien und der Balkanraum (Romanice)
von Reinhard Krüger
  Taschenbuch

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4.0 von 5 Sternen Interessante Studie über die Entstehung des Vampirmythos, 18. Juni 2010
Nachdem ich schon einige englische Bücher über das Thema Vampire gelesen habe, habe ich mich trotz leiser Bedenken ein deutsches Buch zu diesem Thema vorgenommen, ist doch manch deutsches Sachbuch nicht wirklich eine Freude zu lesen. Meine Bedenken sind aber bei der Lektüre rasch verflogen. Peter Mario Kreuters Studie ist sehr gut zu lesen und seine Ergebnisse sehr aufschlussreich und interessant.

Im Gegensatz zu vielen anderen Büchern wirft Kreuter nicht Volksglaube und literarische Vampire bunt durcheinander, sondern beschränkt sich ganz auf die Entstehung des Vampirglaubens in Südosteuropa. Einer Definition des Vampirs und Abgrenzung zu anderen ähnlichen mythischen Kreaturen, wie Werwölfen und Zombies, folgen die originalen Beschreibungen der Vampirepidemien, die in der ersten Hälfte des 18. Jahrhunderts für so großes Aufsehen sorgten. Auch die Erklärungsversuche des Vampirs durch Psychologen und Mediziner werden angesprochen. Die Geschichte des Südosteuropäischen Raumes wird ebenfalls besprochen, auch wenn mir bis zuletzt nicht ganz klar wurde, was das osmanische Reich genau mit dem Vampirglauben zu tun hat. Im letzten und für mich interessantesten Teil des Buches behandelt Kreuter die Funktion des Vampirglaubens und wie er möglicherweise entstanden ist. Ich konnte seiner Argumentation zwar nicht immer folgen, was aber natürlich ist, wenn es um Fragen der Interpretation von Quellen geht oder wie belastbar diese sind.

'Der Vampirglaube in Südosteuropa' ist eine faszinierende und gut geschriebene Studie, die die volkstümlichen Anfange dieses Phänomens eingehend beleuchtet.


Miss Pym Disposes
Miss Pym Disposes
von Josephine Tey
  Taschenbuch

3.0 von 5 Sternen Slightly Old-Fashioned and Sedate Crime Novel, 10. Juni 2010
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Miss Pym Disposes (Taschenbuch)
'Miss Pym Disposes' is a crime novel by Josephine Tey, who also wrote such classics as The Daughter of Time and The Franchise Affair (Classic Crime). It tells the story of Miss Pym, a spinster of a certain age, former teacher, and lately writer of a surprise beststeller on psychology. Following the invitation of an old school-friend she visits Leys Physical Training College to give a lecture on psychology and is persuaded to stay on. She spends her time observing the students of the college and, eventually, she has to solve the crime that happens there.

While I enjoyed reading the novel, I have to admit I could not completely find my way into the story. For one the pace was a bit too sedate for my taste. (Additionally and irritatingly, the blurb on the book revealed almost the entire plot of the book (a crime I am committing here too).) I also had some difficulties really envisioning the scene. What the students are trained for and how old they are were questions I kept puzzling over during the entire time I read the book. Perhaps my confusion and the slow pace is due to the fact that the book was first published in 1946. It may be simple the author's decision to write a different sort of crime story. (I am no expert on the history of crime fiction so I am guessing here.)

Slow-paced and unspectacular as the crime story may, 'Miss Pym Disposes' is well-written, the characters are nicely drawn, taking the reader back to the past, that in the end proves to be no more innocent than our own.


Isabella and the Strange Death of Edward II
Isabella and the Strange Death of Edward II
von Paul Doherty
  Taschenbuch

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3.0 von 5 Sternen Whatever Happened to Edward II?, 7. Juni 2010
The reign of Edward II and its spectacular collapse at the end of 1326 are a fascinating period of English history, not least of all because it was Edward II's wife, Isabella of France, who was responsible for the uprising against Edward's rule and his deposition. Edward II disappeared into a dungeon and, so it was rumoured, was nastily killed on the orders of his wife and her lover Roger Mortimer. Or was he? In this book Paul Doherty tries to solve this vexing question and to make sense of some of the contradictory evidence.

The book is a strange mixture of facts and speculation that in the end did fail to convince and on several occasions manage to irritate me. To me it seemed more than a bit odd that on the one hand Doherty obviously did some serious research about the period, but on the other hand he is often relying heavily on out-dated and not exactly trustworthy books. While he puts forward an objective discussion on how the evidence may be interpreted, he also presents supsicions or conjectures as facts. Doherty also seems to think he knows exactly what the different actors in this drama thought or felt and what their motivation was so that sometimes the book is more akin to a novel than a work of non-fiction. That he gets some facts wrong - particularly when dealing with events not directly connected with the period discussed - will probably only annoy people who are as nitpicky as myself.

Nonetheless, 'Isabella and the Strange Death of Edward II' is a very readable book and Doherty puts forward an interesting theory about the fate of Edward II. It is, however, not a 'scholarly' book and anybody who is looking for more than entertainment should take it with a grain of salt.


The Castle of Otranto (Dover Thrift Editions)
The Castle of Otranto (Dover Thrift Editions)
von Horace Walpole
  Taschenbuch

4.0 von 5 Sternen The Original Gothic Novel, 19. April 2010
Verifizierter Kauf(Was ist das?)
'The Castle of Otranto' is the original Gothic Novel, written by Horace Walpole and first published anonymously in 1764. Only after it proved to be a success did Walpole admit that the story was not, as originally claimed, a translation from an old Italian manuscript. The story, about ancient curses, delapidated castles in foreign parts, supernatural events and dire prophecies became the template for an entire genre.

While I have long known about the book and read numerous references to it, I have to admit that I was quite surprised when I eventually got round to reading it. For one, it is a lot shorter than I expected it to be. In fact, when I unpacked it, I first thought I had accidentally bought an abridged version. (Fortuitously, I was reassured by the blurb that it is an unabridged reprint.) Secondly, I had not expected it to be so ... well, silly. Apparently the question of whether or not the author intended the story to be a joke or taken seriously, has and is still being discussed. It depends on the reader's personality whether s/he is frightened or amused by the tale and I obviously belong to the latter category.

The Dover Thrift Edition includes the complete text of the second edition with the introduction by Walter Scott and Horace Walpole's prefaces as well as an interesting introduction by E. F. Bleiler (which I prefer to read after the actual story as a good deal of the plot is revealed in it). It's an enjoyable and diverting read and a real classic of English literature.


The Traitor's Wife
The Traitor's Wife
von Susan Higginbotham
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 14,27

1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Entertaining Historical Novel, 31. März 2010
Rezension bezieht sich auf: The Traitor's Wife (Taschenbuch)
In 'The Traitor's Wife' Susan Higginbotham narrates the life of Eleanor de Clare, wife of the infamous Hugh Despenser the younger. He is the 'traitor' of the title. Eleanor's life is truly fascinating and well worth telling. As cousin of Edward II and wife of his favourite Hugh Eleanor is intimately invovled in the turbulant reign of this king. Her own fate is determined by the actions of others, their triumphs and tragedies are her own. Only rarely is she able to actively influence her life.

Approaching the events from the perspective of Eleanor de Clare naturally leads Susan Higgnbotham to present several historical characters who usually have a rather bad reputation, most notably Edward II, Piers Gaveston and Hugh Despenser the younger, in a (mostly) positive light. While I think that that the author was successful in showing her protagonists as differentiated and complex characters with understandable motives, I found it difficult to completely accept her interpretation of events. Not only because I know that the problems the opposition had with Edward II and his adherents were a bit less petty than they are depicted here. It is mainly the fact that the main opponents of Edward II and his favouites, foremost Queen Isabelle and Roger Mortimer, are mere caricatures who are motivated only by egotism and injured pride. I think the story would have profited greatly if the author had approached the conflict more even-handedly.

Notwithstanding my personal quibbles with Susan Higginbotham's interpretation of history, 'The Traitor's Wife' is a very entertaining, well-researched and well written historical novel that will delight fans of this genre.


Smoke and Ashes
Smoke and Ashes
von Tanya Huff
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 7,56

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5.0 von 5 Sternen A Fast-paced and Gripping Adventure, 11. März 2010
Verifizierter Kauf(Was ist das?)
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Smoke and Ashes (Taschenbuch)
'Smoke and Ashes' is the third part of the adventures of Tony Foster, trainee asssitant director and trainee wizard. As a(nother) catastrophe of apocalyptical dimensions approaches, he finds himself once more in the midst of it. After the evil shadow lord (Smoke and Shadows.) and an evil ghost (Smoke and Mirrors) he now has to stop a full blown demon invasion.

Like the two previous volumes of this series, 'Smoke and Ashes' is an absolutely gripping story. Tanya Huff skillfully combines adventure with wry humour and adds a good wiff of eroticism to create this fantastic tale. The plot is enormously fast-paced (or possibly I was just reading it so fast) and while perhaps not the most novel or extraordinary one, Tanya Huff's style and the enormously enjoyable characters she creates ensure that the book is a real page turner.

'Smoke and Mirrors' is absolutely recommended for fans of urban fantasy the genre (I advice to read the books in the correct order) and personally I am looking forward eagerly to read more of Tony's adventures.


Once Upon a Time in the North (His Dark Materials, Band 5)
Once Upon a Time in the North (His Dark Materials, Band 5)
von Philip Pullman
  Gebundene Ausgabe
Preis: EUR 10,45

3 von 3 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen A Tale of Aeronauts, Polar Bears and Politics, 2. März 2010
'Once Upon a Time in the North' is 'a brand new story from the world of The Golden Compass' as the cover of the book informs us. In fact, the small book tells the story of how Texan aeronaut Lee Scorseby and his dæmon Hester first encountered polar bear Iorek Byrnison. More or less stranded in inhospitable Novy Odense, a port on the Barents Sea, Lee inadvertantly becomes entangled in the political struggles of the town and has to take sides, whether he wants to or not.

While no doubt one reason for the publication of 'Once Upon a Time in the North' is to cash in on the success of the His Dark Materials Trilogy: "Northern Lights", "Subtle Knife", "Amber Spyglass", this book is by now means just that. The story is well told, suspenseful and gives the reader the opportunity to explore a new aspect of Pullman's fictional universe and meet three of its interesting characters again. I certainly thoroughly enjoyed reading this tale of aeronauts, polar bears and politics.

In short, 'Once Upon a Time in the North' is entertaining and engaging story and well worth reading. The book also contains some nice illustrations and a game called 'The Peril of the North' (I have not yet tried it out and therefore don't know how good it is).


Smoke and Mirrors
Smoke and Mirrors
von Tanya Huff
  Taschenbuch

4.0 von 5 Sternen A Haunted Mansion and Terrible Evil, 28. Februar 2010
Verifizierter Kauf(Was ist das?)
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Smoke and Mirrors (Taschenbuch)
'Smoke and Mirrors' is the second adventure of Tony Foster, former streetkid in Toronto now production assistant on 'Darkest Night', "syndicated television's most popular vampire detective series". When the show is on location at a lonely house to shoot an episode about a haunted mansion Tony discovers that this house is really haunted and that not all ghosts are benign.

Like the earlier Vicky Nelson series and the first of Tony Foster's solo adventure Smoke and Shadows. - though Tony's ex-lover Henry Fitzroy makes a short but vital appearance in both books - 'Smoke and Mirrors' is a thoroughly enjoyable book. The story is fast-paced (the majority of the events happen in one night), entertaining, gripping and fun. Whether it is observing Tony trying to use his fledgling abilities as a magician, or being utterly bewildered by co-star Lee's behaviour, or if reading about the reaction of Henry Fitzroy to the events, the reader will feel thoroughly invovled in the story.

Definitely recommended reading (preferably after reading 'Smoke and Shadows') for fans of vampires, ghosts and the entire Urban Fantasy genre.


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