Chris' Fish Place

Thoughts on things, mostly books.




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Phil Rickman can write women

A Crown of Lights - Phil Rickman

He really can.  Merrily is such a wonderfully drawn character, but she isn't the only well written woman in the book.  


So Merrily (who I keep seeing as Dawn French) has to deal with witches and weirdo Christians and a Jerry Springer type show.  It is a really good book about faith and belief.  Betty has it right - faith and religion are completely different.


I also really like Betty and Robin's relationship in this book.  In part, because Robin while not prefect, really loves and cares for Betty.  It's like Terry in The Detectorists when he is asked if the Lindy Hop is more important than protecting a site, and he says no, but Shelia (his wife) is.  You melt and will forgive him pretty much anything.


Of course, the core relationship beside Merrily and her faith, is that between Merry and Jane.  With Jane, Rickman has created a teen girl who is not annoying.


The mystery is pretty good and ties into domestic abuse issues, which was a good touch.

Out this week

Telemachus Vol 1: In Search of Ulysses - Kid Toussaint, Kenny Ruiz

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley

I do have to wonder why a Greek girl would be wearing something like Polycaste does, but over all this is a pretty interesting re-imagining of the story of Odysseus. It focuses on Telemachus and his quest to find out what happened to his father. The driving impulse seems to be the idea that his mother is thinking about remarrying, which is actually a refreshing change from the original.

Telemachus is somewhat like an ancient version of Captain America, but he gets together a pretty interesting group of Aveneg. . . er companions – including a son of enemy of Odysseus.

The art is cute, almost like anime, but it works and fits the story. Readers should play attention because they are some really nice lines that minor characters have. While not entirely true to the works of Homer, this is a really fun read and would be a good introduction to the Matter of Troy for a child.

That's Check Point Charlie on the cover

The Story of Brexit: A Ladybird Book - Jason Hazeley, Joel Morris

Inner rational voice: How dare you spend money! We're broke.

Reader Me: Look, I really need to laugh, okay. This is really funny. See?

Inner rational voice: The bit about the shed and the PM is so great.

Reader Me: And the cheese. The bit about cheese.

Out this week

The Daughters of Salem - Thomas Gilbert

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Salem holds a strong place in the American psyche. In part, this is due to making students read Arthur Miller’s the Crucible. Perhaps it is the stories that surround the town of Salem itself. The story itself has been examined a variety of ways. Thomas Gilbert’s feminist take is not the first such.

Though it might be the best fictional take.

Gilbert’s story focuses on the young girls in the town of Salem, in particular Abagail, and how the women are controlled by the male dominated society. He also works in the culture clash between the Native Americans and the European colonizers.

It is a harsh story, but the way Gilbert tells it, it becomes a more powerful story. It tackles the issues of how a society views those who are different. The focus on the fear of the other as well as a woman’s ability to reproduce make this story and graphic novel timely.

Austen inspired mystery

Pictures Of Perfection - Reginald Hill

Hill loved Austen, and it shows in this mystery which draws quite a bit from Austen.  It isn't just the use of quotes of her letters to start each chapter, but also in Hill's using a turn of sentence to open roads of meaning.  Austen did that too.


The plot concerns a small town, and Hill makes good use of the beginning and ending chapters.  The town is full of your standard country strange people with various issues.  It is a fun little read.

The next time I hear one person say how horrible it is that federal works aren't getting paid for work and how that never happens at any other job is going to get smacked.


The federal workers are being screwed.  I want them to get paid.  I do not wan them to get evicted or miss meds.  I think it is horrible.


But adjuncts:


1. don't get paid for at least a month, sometimes more at a time.

2. can't collect unemployment in many states because they are contracted to work at a starting point. For instance, in some states adjuncts who are not working over the summer cannot collect unemployment because they have been hired for fall work.

3. Routinely get no pay for work because at any point before a semester or even during they can lose a class. I have literally lost classes the day before the class was suppose to start. I know people who have lost classes after a semester, and the class they were teaching started. This means that I am out not only the salary for the class, but also did preparation for the class for free. It also means in some classes, an adjunct getting doubly screwed because they turned down one class at college x to teach at college y, and then college y pulls the course at the last minute.

4. In some classes are fined if they are sick and miss work, even if they were so ill they ended up in the ER.


I doubt greatly that adjuncts are the only group facing work for no pay problems as well.

So please, stop acting like this treatment of workers is new.

The Summer Queen - Elizabeth Chadwick

The first book in Chadwick's series about Alienor (Eleanor of Aquitaine). It basically covers her marriage to Louis and the very beginning of her marriage to Henry. Chadwick's Alienor is not only in keeping with her brief appearances in the Chadwick Marshall books, but also with the image that most of us have of the Queen. Perhaps even a bit of Kate Hepburn

Izuna Vol 4: Wunjo - Saverio Tenuta

This is a really good conclusion to the series.  The whole series does look at how society and nature interact.

Good Volume even if a bridge

Izunas - Saverio Tenuta, Bruno Letizia, Carita Lupattelli

This is a bridge volume in the series about the Izuna.  Though it is a pretty powerful story.

BBC Radio Crimes: The Inspector McLevy Mysteries: The Second Shadow & The Burning Question - David Ashton, Brian Cox, Siobhan Redmond, BBC Worldwide Limited

A very good installment of the Levy mysteries.  Love this series.

Good Start for the new Doc

Dr. Thirteenth - Adam Hargreaves

If you do not already know, the latest re-generation of Dr. Who is a woman.  This has some people annoyed because they are sexist.  Personally, I like this new Dr and it is the first time in a very long time, that I actually love all the companions.


This installment in the Doctor Who/Mr Men series features the 13 with all three of her companions.  It is a lovely story about a birthday party.  I particularly like the Mr Men shapes chosen for the various cast members.

Bittersweet Conclusion

McLevey: The Collected Editions: Series 11 and 12 - Brian  Cox, Siobhan Redmond, David Ashton, Bbc Radio 4

It is bittersweet to come to the end of the BBC radio series of McLevy. Bittersweet because at least, David Ashton has McLevy novels as well as Jean Brash novels. So that's good. But this series is such a joy. The casting is well done - Brian Cox as McLevy and Siobhan Redmond as Jean Brash led a cast that includes David Ashton himself. The mysteries are interesting. There is even a wonderful sense of place. 


This is a great series and well worth listening to.

Kathleen Hale Update

Someone on Netgalley gave the book five stars.



See the source image



Recently someone said that Aquaman was Black Panther but with a better ending.


                And that’s garbage.


                Look, I’m far more a DCU fan than an MCU fan.  But c’mon.  You can’t deny the importance of such casting, not only in terms of characters of color but also in terms of women, and Killmonger’s choice at the end was his choice.  It’s not that you can’t criticize Black Panther because you can – why does the only African-American woman character in the movie have few lines and dies, the reliance on STEM and not philosophy, and so on - but at least criticize with intelligence.


                But what gets lost is the racial discussion that the Aquaman movie has.  Okay, it may not be as nuanced as Black Panther, but it is there, and strangely, despite its perhaps more simplistic nature, and connects to the current American political situation.  


               Aquaman aka Arthur as played by Jason Momoa is a poc.  His father is a poc and his mother is the Queen of Atlantis, white and blonde.  As far as we know in the movie, Aquaman is the only half Atlantean and half human.  Additionally, most of the other Atlanteans with speaking roles are white, very white.   Aquaman’s half-brother, his rival for kingship, is blonde, though Patrick Wilson is not a natural blonde.  He is a purebred.  Aquaman is a bastard half breed to those underwater.  This change is important because in the comics Arthur Curry is blonde and blue-eyed.  His brother is usually dark haired.  It is inverted in the movie.  For the better.


                What’s more, when Aquaman’s half-brother decides to declare war on land people, he has to get the whole of the sea peoples to join together under his rule.  With the ones that look like him, he negotiates, tricks, and doesn’t kill.  The two that look unhuman, more fish, he kills.   Sounds vaguely white supremacist or Nazi like doesn’t it?


                Aquaman, on the other hand, listens to those who are different from him.  He talks to fish, he is the first to talk to the Kraken.  He unites in a way that his brother doesn’t.  Early in the movie when he doesn’t do this, he learns from his actions.  He is, as his name refers to, a King Arthur for modern world.


                The distrust of the surface world by some of the Atlanteans is because of pollution and invasion.  Sound familiar?  It should.  Those are the reasons that Trump gives for his wall – a wall to keep brown people out of what Trump sees as a white land.

                It’s important to note that one of the ending notes of the movie is the reunion of Aquaman’s parents, not only does it bookend the movie, but it shows the strength in coming together as opposed to living separately.  It is being stronger for our differences and embracing them instead of being fearful of the other.


                This isn’t to suggest that Aquaman is a perfect movie.  I mean, isn’t Mera worthy too, but it isn’t just simply a super hero movie.

Perhaps Aquaman’s racial message is too simplistic for today’s conversation,

but it still has some relevance.

La Femme De Gilles - Madeleine Bourdouxhe

There is a type of tale called Patient Griselda.  It basically goes like this – high ranking man marries lower class woman, he then subjects her to all types of “tests”, such as saying they are divorced, hiding their marriage, sending her away, - the final “test” is to request that he marry his own daughter by the woman.  Of course, he doesn’t go through with the marriage.  The point is to test the woman’s obedience, for she agrees to everything without a whimper making her the perfect wife.


                Obviously, the story isn’t very popular today.  Most reader might want to give her a sword or a gun. But at on time, the story was considered good.  I think this was because at that time people only counted men but I could be wrong.


                La Femme de Gilles is in many ways a response to that tale.  The title is important, literally the women (wife) of Gilles, Elisa.  She loves him very much; in fact, she seems to define herself by this love.  Even thing is fine until Gilles has an affair. 


                On the surface the short novella is about the disintegration of woman who realizes that her marriage is not what it was, but also, she is not what she was.  The work is more than that.  Both the afterword and introduction note that what drew some attention was how Bourdouxhe treated female sexuality.  This is true for the women in the book desire.  And the other woman’s sin isn’t in the sex, its in who she choses to have sex with, who she chose to wield her power over.


                What is most interesting is the response to the idea of patient Griselda, and even how we see women who have been betrayed by their husband today.  Take for instance, Hilary Clinton.  On one side, there were people who wanted her to leave Bill because of his affair.  On the other side, there were people who said that if HRC were a real wife she would have kept her husband, the affair was her fault.  If HRC, or any betrayed woman in the public eye, gave away to rage where people could see, the word shrew at the very least be tossed about.  We might all be on Beyoncé’s side when the story about Jay-Z hit, but how many people would have judged her harshly if it had Beyoncé cussing out Jay-Z instead of Solange.  Even when we belong in the its-their-business-don’t -care camp we ignore the cost of betrayal to the woman, unless like some artists that cost is made public, and even then, that is a public face not the internal one.  Bourdouxhe is writing about the internal destruction that the knowledge brings beyond the everyone knows. 


                It is the interior life of patient Griselda who can’t show it because the cost is too high.


                It is a shattering book.

Tales of Wonder: Retelling Fairy Tales through Picture Postcards - Jack Zipes

This is an overview of various postcards depicting various fairy tales. Most of the postcards are drawn from his private collection. In edition to a brief overview of the history of the postcard as well as the history of fairy tale art on postcards, Zipes includes various tales, including a possible source for Rip Van Winkle. There are also brief biographies about some of the artists.

It is a beautiful book. It is great fun to look at how the various postcards depicted various characters. Though it was a bit stranger that the Andersen section didn't include postcards from Denmark.