This was a supremely enjoyable book. Labarge takes the reader through everyday baronial life, using as much of her evidence the rolls (i.e. financialThis was a supremely enjoyable book. Labarge takes the reader through everyday baronial life, using as much of her evidence the rolls (i.e. financial records!) of several households to illuminate what was key to daily life -- how expenses were paid, what expenses were recorded and when, and so on. It's a wonderful example of extracting information about people's lives through apparently boring records. It's a great process to watch, and the information she gets from it helps provide a real idea of how (rich) people lived at the time. Labarge shows you a whole and deep picture; this is no one-note piece of pop culture treating medieval life as dirty, strange, and pathetic. It's a view into a world that was different from ours, yes -- but not nearly in the ways that we frequently imagine it is.
Add in to this Labarge's dry wit -- she's frequently downright hilarious, to the point where I took a screenshot of one paragraph and posted it on Instagram -- and you have a book that I am going to be throwing at everyone I know who's remotely interested in medieval history....more
Seanan McGuire is just plain fun, and this short is a wonderful little bit of the October Daye world -- just enough to keep you going while you're waiSeanan McGuire is just plain fun, and this short is a wonderful little bit of the October Daye world -- just enough to keep you going while you're waiting anxiously for the next book (come on, Once Broken Faith, come on...). Tybalt's inner monologue is, of course, a little different from Toby's, but it's still distinctly McGuire in its sensibilities, and his perspective on the Sidhe (especially the Cait Sidhe) is always fun.
Gaiman's version of Hansel and Gretel brings out the power in this tale -- not children simply lost in the woods and taken by an evil witch, but childGaiman's version of Hansel and Gretel brings out the power in this tale -- not children simply lost in the woods and taken by an evil witch, but children abandoned by loving parents in famine, left to fend for themselves, taken in by a twisted woman and, frankly, tortured. He makes your skin crawl. Add in the beautiful illustrations, which are dark and don't lend themselves to making out the details, and you have the perfect accompaniment to a story which is itself dark and haunting....more
This was a real passel of fun. Much more light-hearted than the usual Westerosi fare, with lots of knightly adventures and all sorts of drama. I'd absThis was a real passel of fun. Much more light-hearted than the usual Westerosi fare, with lots of knightly adventures and all sorts of drama. I'd absolutely recommend this to any ASOIAF/GoT fan, and especially those who sometimes want a little bit less death and blood (though not much; this is about knights).
Dunk and Egg are amazingly fun characters -- caricatures, in some ways, of princes and hedge knights, but also fully fleshed out humans. The stories are exciting, as we have come to expect from GRRM, and the prose is his usual: not astounding, but descriptive and able to carry your emotions through. (I will say that the repetition of certain catch phrases bothered me, as it was rather extreme, but that's a pretty minor nitpick.)
The reader for this book, Harry Lloyd, was also quite good; pleasant voice and good acting, though sometimes the whispered parts were incredibly hard to hear....more
This book is a ton of fun. It's hard sci-fi for sure -- there's so much physics! -- and the science is both well-integrated into the story and interesThis book is a ton of fun. It's hard sci-fi for sure -- there's so much physics! -- and the science is both well-integrated into the story and interesting. (As per usual, no one ever gets the language parts right, but such is the suffering of we linguists.) This was a really good change from my recent diet, which has leaned towards weird fantasy. The science was put to some genuinely imaginative uses, very far from classic pew-pew lasers but still exciting and compelling.
The plotting in here is well-done and intricate, and I enjoyed the characters quite a bit -- there's a lot of development, and a lot of depth to the characters. Even the ones that you expect to be caricatures, like the gruff policeman Da Shi, end up with unexpected facets.
As someone who's also been reading a lot of Western authors recently, I was also pleasantly reminded that not all viewpoints are the same -- there were plenty of cross-cultural moments where I remembered that I was reading a Chinese author, and not an American one. If you too are looking to get out of a cultural bubble (especially if you're a middle-class white American), you might want to give this book a whirl. You should give it a whirl anyways, because it's fun and thought-provoking....more
My thoughts after this one can be summed up with: "readable, not a wow."
This is an extremely imaginative collection -- there's no two ways about that;My thoughts after this one can be summed up with: "readable, not a wow."
This is an extremely imaginative collection -- there's no two ways about that; I loved the settings for these short stories, and enjoyed so many of the aspects of the world-building. However, the stories themselves failed to grab me either in the head or the heart. One of my fellow book clubbers described this as feeling like it came out of an MFA, and I agree with her: The style is (lightly) experimental, and interesting, but not ground-shaking. There's a strong focus on sexuality and sensuality that would probably have hooked me much more when I was younger, and more confused and hesitant about those things. Otherwise, however, I found myself not particularly invested in the characters or their stories. This isn't perhaps fully surprising -- it's a short story collection, and those by nature are less developed -- but nonetheless, I've been spoiled by reading a ton of amazing fiction lately and this didn't grab me the way I have been recently. I'd love to see what the author could do with a novel, though....more