Chris' Fish Place

Thoughts on things, mostly books.




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Review of Elephant Macaw Banner 1-3

The Fortuitous Meeting (The Elephant and Macaw Banner - Novelette Series Book 1) - Christopher Kastensmidt A Parlous Battle - Christopher Kastensmidt

The Elephant and Macaw Banner series is written by Christopher Kastensmidt.  I picked up the first three volumes in the series when they were offered as Kindle freebies.  The first three volumes - The Fortuitous Meeting, A Parlous Battle and The Discommodius Wedding - detail the beginnings of a series of adventures of two men - Gerard Van Oost and the warrior Oludara.  By the second book, the adventures are joined by a woman, a native of Brazil, named Arany.  The setting is a Brazil during the time of the Portgeuse arrival/conquest, but it is an alternate reality, a historical fantasy, for the adventuring men must battle and face monsters and gods.

The first three installments (each averaging around 40 pages) are pretty good.  Is it the best fantasy I have ever read?  Well no, but the idea is interesting, there has been editing, and the characters are likable and believable.

Gerard has a problem; he wants to explore and make a forture; however, no company will have him because he is Dutch and Protestant.  Additionally, while his heart does seem to be in the right place, he isn't the sharpest sword in the armory.  Fortunately, he runs into Oludara, a warrior from Africa, who has been sold into slavery.  Oludara is a Yoruba, a ethnic group from the area of today's Nigeria and Benin.  Because Oludara has the intelligence to answer a question of stragedy, Gerard determines to free him (by buying him and then freeeing him) and to do earn the large amount of needed money, Gerard must see Sacy-Perey, a Brazilan prankster god/creature.  He's like Loki, but younger, darker, nicer, and missing a leg.

The second and third volumes find Gerard and Oludara interacting with the Tupinamba people and eventually becoming part of the tribe.  While the interact of Gerard with the native tribes might be a bit too modern for it to be truly historically accurate, the books do have a clear eye to detail about the culture as well as poking fun at what the Europeans think of the Tupinambas.   The series is quite fun in the terms of the use of legends and myths of Brazil.  

The only false note is in the first volume when Gerard buys Oludara.  Oludara does sound out Gerard, making sure of the man who buys him and that is not the false note.  Oludara was only one of many men brought on a slave ship to be sold to millers and sugar farmers.  When Gerard asks Oludara if any of the other slaves are family, the Yoruba answers no, and once Gerard says, basically, that's good because he couldn't afford to pull the others.  I can understand why Kastensmidt does this - he wants to answer the question that most readers are wondering - what about the rest.  It also shows Gerard in a good light (though Kastensmidt does not make me too modern as seen in the other installments).  Yet, Oludara's disregarding of the other men rings false - would this really be his reaction, especially considering his reactions in the other volumes?  It just felt like there should be more here.  It was too simply done.  It felt off, as if Oludara would have tried something more.  

But Oludara is the star, he is the central.  He isn't simply the wise black friend who the white guy seeks advice from.  He isn't the moral speaker.  In the first volume, it looks like it might be the case, but in 2 and 3, Oludara is central stage.  He is the one who gets the love interest while Gerard simply plays the best friend, the second fiddle.  

Which is kinda nice.

The Upstairs Wife: An Intimate History of Pakistan - Rafia Zakaria

When I brought this book, I was expecting something along the lines of Fatima Merissini. This book is not that.

What this book is a chronicle of a family life in Parkisten after Partition, Zakaria’s family moved to Pakistan because of the anti-Muslim climate of India. Zakaria’s family history, in particular, that of her childless aunt whose husband takes a second wife. The personal conflict in the family is also shown in contrast to the unfolding political and societal drama, as Pakistan’s government tightens control over women.

In many ways, Zakaria’s story is like Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale, and considering that Atwood’s novel doe draw on real events and rules that have been applied to women, this should not come as that much of a surprise. After all haven’t you seen the photo of a bunch of old white guys deciding that maternity care is not essential for health? Haven’t you read about the anti-abortion bill that was signed by a white man surrounded by white men? Haven’t you heard of the Saudi Girls council with just men? The Russian loosening of spousal abuse laws? How about the women leaving Saudi Arabia because of the constraining laws? The various Texas bills and laws concerning abortion? The lawmaker who referred to women as a host for the baby? The fact that in many countries young girls can legally be married to older men?

So yeah, The Handmaid’s Tale is real, and this book really proves it.

Unlike Atwood’s fact based dystopia, Zakaria memoir showcases the erosion of rights and standing as a woman actually becomes a leader of the country. The trials and tribulations that the women endure might not be common to all at least on the face, but at the root? At the root, it is.

But the memoir isn’t just concerned with Pakistani politics, but also with the effect of international politics on the ordinary Pakistani citizen. (I for one wish I had read this prior to reading A Golden Age). It is non-linear, so it will put some people off, but if you give yourself over to the voice, it is like you are having a cup of tea with the author.

The Constant Gardener - John le Carré

Yeah, this isn't the best le Carre. The beginning of the book was quite engrossing, and then it is like it takes a right turn. The husband's investiagtion is just annoying on some levels. 3 stars because of the beginning.

Amityville Horrible - Kelley Armstrong, Maurizio Manzieri

I have to say that Jamie is my favorite character in the series. Mostly, because she is the everywoman who just happens to be able to talk to ghosts. She is not stupid, though she think she is, but she is the most normal of the women in the series. She also is a modern woman who is in a relationship with a man who gets that her career is important to her. And they are older, not those young things. True, the plot is a little predictable, but Armstrong does make use and have fun with the reality genre. This is a nice edition to the series.

A lyric

The Ink Readers of Doi Saket: A Tor.Com Original - Thomas Olde Heuvelt

This a rather beautiful little fable. It is meandering, it is a wish, it is a butterfly. There is beauty here.

Ghosts of Florida: The Haunted Locations of Jacksonville, Jacksonville Beach, Atlantic Beach and St. Augustine - Jeffrey Fisher

Very general descriptions of places, but an interesting read.

Sometimes Freebies aren't bad - Ghostly stories

Ghost Stories: The Most Terrifying REAL ghost stories from around the world - NO - Ellen Foster

Not a bad little book. There are some typos and errors. Overall, however, the book is a nice little read and nicely varied.


America's Secret Hauntings (Most Haunted Places Series) - Sarah Ashley

While I am slightly annoyed that my home state was not in this book, Ashley's book is quite a good collection of haunted places, including histories of the places. Nicely done, with illustrations. Ashley's tone is good and engaging. Not a dull read.

You Can't Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain - Phoebe Robinson, Jessica Williams

In the sake of fairness, I should note that like Robinson, I think Lisa Bonet is the da bomb. I always loved Denise best, mostly because she was the oldest girl who was regularly on the Cosby Show. However, I do think it is interesting that Robinson slights as proof as Bonet's awesome ablitiy her husbands (Lennie Kratvitz and Jason Moma). Not that I blame her, and not that I am innocent of doing it. Perhaps that itself is proof about why feminism is so needed today.

The best essays in this collection are the ones about hair, hence the title. As a white person, I never knew people asked African Americans if they could touch the woman's hair - it never occured to me that any such request was anything other than rude. But when I started teaching, I did learn about the rude behavior.

Robinson's essays on hair are also about why women style thier hair (and some of these points are true for any woman). It balances nicely Chris Rock's movie about hair. I wish this had been out about two years ago when a student of mine wrote her research paper about the issue. I would love to know what the student thought of this book.

The most compelling essay outside of the hair is about Robinson's experience on television or attempting to audtion for roles.

The pop culture tone of the book can wear a little thin. There are almost too many jokes.

Thoughts and Prayers to London and England.

Please Read - Signal Boost for Fellow Reviewer Frank Errington

Hello peeps. If you spend any time in the horror community, you might have run across a reviewer by the name of Frank Errington. He’s simply an all-around good dude in an all-around crappy situation. He needs a kidney. Currently he’s looking for a live donor. I asked him if I could boost the signal with my blog and he said sure, so below you will find an image of Frank and a phone number. You can call Frank direct and he’ll give you info on how to find out if you’d be a suitable donor. I tried, but the transplant people told me my prediabetes automatically disqualified me. Maybe you can help.


Take care of each other,




Reblogged from Grimlock ♥ Vision

I do have a model of Kipper

Penelope - Norman Thelwell, Norman Thelwell

What's not to like about Thelwell?


I want Kipper, I really do.

The secret of La Baie

The Hudson's Bay Company: The History and Legacy of the Famous English Trading Company in Colonial America - Charles River Editors

Good little history. When Charles River Editors does it right, it goes out of the ballpark.

This is a cool series

Secret Washington  D.C. - Sharon Pendana

Nice little volume. Gave me some new places to see. I love this series.  There is this cool multi house something that I want to go to next time I visit.

Why I love Reading

I know that these posts are supposed to be genre based, but that's not goint to work for me.


For me, reading is life.  I know it is for many of us on sites like this or Goodreads or Librarything.  Pick your poision.  You have more books than you know what to do with.  The ereader is the book haul.  Your bedroom or house is simply a place where you sleep or live with books.  It's library with an alternate function.


I was, am, never the out going one.  I am the shy one, the quiet one, the one with her head in the book because the best thing about human race in many class is literature.  At first, books are an escape.  There's magic.  There's horses.  There's dragons.  The underdog wins.  The unpopularity doesn't matter because the book doesn't care.  You meet people like you in books.  The characters don't give a damn what your hang ups are, and they don't betray you - at least not in the real world way.  You can forget, submerge, be on Mars, Krynn, MIddle Earth, Medevial France, the Tudor Court, a mole in a hole.  


And you can stop reading.  You are in control and not in control.  It's a good feeling.


Because books are there.  Once, you just needed a library card.  Now, you need a phone or computer.  


Then you get older, and you realize that books teach you.  That Robin McKinley's Hero and the Crown didn't just teach about story telling but about being a woman.  That non-fiction is worth reading too, even if it is about those long dead people.  


Non-fiction boards your mind.  Fiction does too.


It keeps you sane because it is the rabbit hole and the ruby slippers.  The way out, the way back.  It can protect you from those other humans, yet educate you about them too.


It is a way to make friends.


One of my oldest friends is my friend because we both loved The Hero and the Crown.  Today, we have many books in companion, and some we don't. I went to my first protest with my book club.   Every friend I have on a site like Booklikes or Goodreads is there because of books.  Books aren't about life; they are a key to life.


I love reading because it helped me find my voice.

Currently Free on Kindle

House of Rejoicing: Part 1 of The Book of Coming Forth by Day (Volume 1) - Libbie Hawker Sea Monsters: A History of Creatures from the Haunted Deep in Legend and Lore - Charles River Editors Buckingham Palace: The History of the British Royal Family's Most Famous Residence - Charles River Editors

Following books currently free on kindle.  


House of Rejoicing

Sea Monsters Charles River Editors

Buckingham Palace Charles River Editors