Chris' Fish Place

Thoughts on things, mostly books.




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Seen on Twitter this morning

1, Another author whining about one star reviews who then stalked the review.  Update - the author has since delated the tweets and is apologizing.  

2. Hilary Mantel's conclusion to her Cromwell series comes out in March 2020.  This is not a drill.

3. It is still not a drill about the Mantel book.

LibraryThing Giveaway

Best in Class: Essential Wisdom from Real Student Writing - Tim Clancy, Johnny Sampson

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book via a Librarything giveaway.


                If you teach, it is that time of the year.  The time when questions such as, “I know I didn’t do any of the work, but can I still pass the class” get asked.  It is the time when you read essays that are done at the last minute so students write things like “I think that it is the title of the movie” or “two other sources that I didn’t write done”.


                It is why teachers always ask for booze.


                Clancy’s collection of strange writings from students is a balm to the soul.  You, dear teacher, are not alone.  You haven’t failed at teaching; the students just have not been paying attention.


                Clancy’s collection of student writings includes intelligent sayings like, “Music is the aspirin of the soul” (43) as well as head banging sentences such as “Contrary to popular belief, Canadian women are no more hairy than their American counterpoints” (41).


                The book is loosely divided into sections that include misspellings, made up words, historical musing and comments about literature.  The accompanying illustrations by Johnny Sampson are clever.


                While this is an ideal present for any teacher, it would also be a good aid in teaching, not only in terms of the importance of proofreading, but also because of the Sampson illustrations that showcase what the sentences means as opposed to what it intends.

South American Arabian Nights

Eva Luna - Isabel Allende

Allende's Eva Luna is part look at South American history, in particular revolutionary history, and part Arabian Nights.

It is all magic.

Much is said about lyrical novels, and Allende's novel isn't so much lyrical as a rich tore with hidden passages and meanings.

It's a pleasure to read if not engrossing.

Gotten as a Kindle freebie

The Mosque-Cathderal of Cordoba - Charles River Editors

Good little history.  Could of used more photos though.  

They really should have listened to the women.

The Illegal: The Hunt for a Russian Spy in Post-War London - Gordon Corera

A pretty good, if short, history about a Russian spy who posed as Canadian. It is interesting  Of course, what is most rage inducing is the fact that no one took a woman seriously because she must be lying and overly emotional.  She called it folks, so did the woman officer who you didn't listen to because of boobs.

Watch out for the Smog

Death in the Air: The True Story of a Serial Killer, the Great London Smog, and the Strangling of a City - Kate Winkler Dawson

Dawson's book chronicles the battle against the London Smog and the murders of Reg Christie. There isn't much to connect the stories outside of the time period - so there doesn't seem to be a connection between the smog and the murder.

Which in lesser hands would make at least one of the stories feel like padding. It is to Dawson's credit that this does not occur.

I was slightly more interested in the Christie case because I recently read Who's Buried Where in London which mention and listed the grave sites of the victims. Yet, I found the smog story to be the most interesting, in part because the people that the smog kills are everyday people, in part because of the relevance to today's climate (why the earth hasn't killed people yet, I don't know), and because the smog deals with politics and change.

This isn't to say that the serial killer isn't just as insulting, in particular when he goes on the ran and is almost like the smog, an not 100% visible killer, but I just found the smog story more interesting, and quite frankly, would have gladly just read about that. However, I can understanding the desire to pair it with a murder - to be honest, it is what drew my attention - so the marketing does make sense.

If you are interested in the history of London, this is an important read.

Star Wars Legends Epic Collection: The Newspaper Strips Vol 1 - Russ Manning

You can tell that these were a product of the late 70s and early 80s. I lost count of how many times Leia needed to be rescued. True, she was more active than your average damsel in distress, but still got really annoying, especially when she did things that were out of character. The later stories are better. But the women are largely interchangeable and it is mostly Luke and Han centric.

BTW, Luke, before you found out that Leia was your sister and you still liked her, you might have had better luck if you weren't as patronizing as f**k. Just saying

Out in Sept.

The Long Call - Ann Cleeves

Disclaimer: I received a free ARC of THE LONG CALL by Ann Cleeves from Macmillan in an exchange for an honest review.


                The first book I read by Cleeves was the fifth book in her Shetland series, which is not the way to start that series.  But eventually because people I knew loved Vera, I started to watch it, and then watched Shetland.  So, when an opportunity came to get in on a new series, I grabbed it.


                Matthew Venn is not your normal brooding British detective.  This isn’t to say that he doesn’t have problems, but those problems are almost common place.  You might never know someone whose significant other was killed by a serial killer or whose father stuffed birds, but you most likely met someone like Matthew.  And not only Matthew, but someone like Jen and Ross – the two detectives who report to him.  Jen is older than Ross and a single mother who is not burdened by guilt.  Ross is younger and isn’t what he first appears to be.


                The mystery centers on the finding of a body on a beach.  Who is this man become the question and the rest of the novel, in addition, to solving that mystery, also presents and mediates on the question of appearances.


                It isn’t just the dead body or the police themselves, but also the civilians who inhabit the novel.  How clearly do we see those who inhabit the same space as us, who share the same blood or family ties?  In part the novel is about the connection between parents and children, and, thankfully, Cleeves does not use Jen in the most trope filled, obvious way – Jen is not conflicted about her children versus her job.  Her worries in that regard are, well, not at of the ordinary and there is no real angst there.  It is a refreshing change considering how many times we have seen the women police officer dealing with restatement at home – far more than the opposite way.  No, the look at parents and children are, primary, with the civilians, in particular the parents of Christine and Lucy as well as with Caroline and her father.  In fact, the conversation that occurs roughly mid-way in the book between Caroline and her father is one of the best conversations between father and daughter I have ever read in fiction.  The pauses, the struggle of finding the words that need to be said is perfectly portrayed.


                The characters of both Christine and Lucy, two young women with Down’s Syndrome, are well done.  There is a tension between the women who are testing boundaries and their parents who belong to a totally different generation.  It has to with independence and how much one is capable of.  I love how Cleeves crafted Lucy and Maurice.  While we may disagree with Maurice’s view of his daughter, we know that he loves her.


                In all, this new British mystery starts a season that I look forward to returning to when the second book comes out.

Pro Choice Reading List

We Should All be Feminists and Dear Ijawele by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


Adichie’s two shot books, based on her TedTalk cover the basic reasons why everyone should be a feminist.  The “sequel” are the lessons to be taught to a child to raise a feminist.


The Handmaid’s Tale by Atwood


This is the reason why people are comparing those states to Gilead.    Atwood’s novel still resonates long after it has been published and long after the year of its action has passed.  It presents an alternate future of American where the rights of woman are non-existent.  There are Hulu series, movie, graphic novel, opera, and ballet adaptions.  

There is a sequel coming out later this year


Road to Nowhere series by Meg Ellison


The first book in the series is the Book of the Unnamed Midwife.  If any modern book is the successor to Atwood’s Handmaid, it is the Unnamed Midwife.  Set in a future where a virus has killed off women, the novel traces the journey of a former midwife as she tries to find a safe space.


Down Girl by Kate Manne


Manne’s work of non-fiction is about the current rash of misogyny, in particular in the media and legal system.  It is academic work but not at all dry.


The War on Women by Sue Lloyd-Roberts


This is the book that was left unfinished at the time of Lloyd-Roberts’ death.  It is mostly UK-centric, but it does cover the pay gap was well as child brides and forced marriages.  Lloyd-Roberts’ BBC programs which cover the same information are available on YouTube.

Suffrajitsu by Tony Wolf


So, this comic book series reimagines the suffragettes as trained ninjas.  It is fun.


Eve’s Seed by Robert S. McElvaine


McElvaine’s book about biology and sex can be dry, but it is an important read.  Atwood even recommends it.


The Search for an Abolitionist by Nancy H Lee

If you want to know about getting an abolition when they were illegal, in other words the society we might be coming back to, you should read this.  Laws such as the ones recently passed can lead to the dangers here.


What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape by Sohalia Abdulali


Abdulali’s book is really about rape, but what we mean when we talk about rape.  Considering how rape is being ignored in recent abortion laws, we really need to talk about that.


Boundaries of Her Body by Debran Rowland


It’s massive, but it is look at laws that effect women in the U.S. 


The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti


Valenti’s slim book looks at how people, men in particular, are really concerned about women’s virginity. 


From Eve to Dawn 1-4 by Marylin French


French’s four volume history of women in the world is comprehensive.


Sister Citizen by Melissa Harris-Perry


Harris-Perry’s book looks at the intersection of politics, race, and feminism.   The abortion laws in the southern states are going to effect minority women to a greater degree than white woman.  Just as they will affect poorer women more than rich women.


The Veil and the Male Elite by Fatema Mernissi


One important about women and Islam.  Mernissi’s comments and insight are thought provoking.


The Hidden Face of Eve by Nawal el Saadawi


If the orange man was intelligent enough to know who el Saadawi was, he wouldn’t want you to read her book.  So, you should read it.


Rape is Rape by Jody Raphael


This might be the best book about rape ever.


Men Explain Things to ME by Rebecca Solnit


Mansplaining.  You know what those white men are doing.


Liberty and Sexuality by David Garrow

A good read about the history of reproductive rights


Women & Power by Mary Beard.


Kind of obvious, right?

Good collection

Australian Folk Songs and Bush Ballads: Over 100 Traditional and Popular Songs Celebrating Australia - Warren Fahey

This is a collection of various songs and ballads. Fahey includes a brief history of the song as well as musical notation.

There is also quite a bit about the various folk singers.

Castle Gripsholm - Kurt Tucholsky

May 2019 NYRB Selection

Look at that cover. What’s not to love?

And then you have lines like this, “I looked at the two herrings, the two herrings looked a me, and none of us said anything” (25).

On one level the story is about a man and his lover going on vacation to Sweden. One the other hand is it that or the story the character wrote about two people going on vacation.

Then it is also a story of saving a child from an ogre.

There is humor in this story, this fairy tale about a tale. The names that are assigned to various kings are amusing. There is Adolphus the Unshaven, for instance.

There are comments about gender, “. . . you women take what you do seriously -that’s your undeniable advantage over the rest of us” (68).

It is strange reading this book so shortly after reading a Calvino work because there is still a strange sense of otherworldliness, of not quite knowing what it is going.

But that is also vacation.

The story is almost two because there is the child who becomes the child that the vacationing couple could have and therefore must rescue. It makes an interesting if weird little quest. It is almost like you are entering the picture on the cover, a weird castle and forest where almost anything goes.

But not quite.

It is a lovely read however.

Once there were cities

Invisible Cities - Italo Calvino

May 2019 Bookclub read


                Once upon a time, there was a guy called Macro Polo, and he invented a very cool pool game.


                Yeah, I know.  But he did talk to Kublai Khan about cities.


                Or was it one city?  Or women?


                Calvino’s book isn’t so much a story but a mediation.  The question is what he is mediating on.  Is it simply how a city can be so many things?  Any city can be.  Each neighborhood of a city is like a minor city.  The rhythm of city differs not only from events – Philly celebrating the Super Bowl win is different than the Mummers which is different than Taps in the Park.


                Of course, you could say that people are cities too.  All our cells, organs, and what not.  Our veins and arteries are the freeways.


                Then, are the cities also women?  Does Polo see the city as a city of women because he had a wife and three daughters?  Or because there was a woman in every district for him?


                Every city in this book is contains a woman’s name, and the names can be seen as symbolic, whether or not they are supposing to be symbols, well its’ Calvino.  So, anything goes.


                The small descriptive pieces transcend space and time.  There are doubled cities. Cities above and below.  It is impossible not to think of the City and the City when reading this.  Mielville’s later novel deals with class and crime, something that haunts Calvino’s work but is not dealt with in the same way.


                The strange thing is that thinking of Calvino’s work which also seems to refer to the death of cities, and that is prophetic considering the effect of climate change on some cities, including Polo and Calvino’s Venice.



I Hate Fairyland Vol. 1 - Skottie Young, Skottie Young, Jean-Francois Beaulieu

2019 Reread - still funny, though the gut surprise is absent on a re-read. But still very, very funny and wonderful.

Well, fluff. This is the most demented thing I have read in a long time. I love it! If you read Jim C. Hines's short story that chronicles what happens when a werewolf meets a certain children's show, you are going to love this.

Must Read Study

Search for an Abortionist: A Study of 114 Women Who Underwent Abortions- Thier Reasons, Their - Nancy Howell Lee


Disclaimer: Read via Netgalley.


                This book is part of Open Road’s Forbidden Library, out of print books that shook up the world or the news in some way, shape or form. I think it’s great that they are doing this.


                Normally when I get approved for a book via Netgalley, I feel obligated to write a thoughtful, in depth review. But if this book, I don’t think I can. I have been so angry about people, mostly certain politicians, and how they treat woman parts that I’m sorely tempted to simply say that





Because it’s true. Even though this study of women and abortion was first published in 1969 it is vitally important to understand how then worked when so many law makers and various groups want to draft and enforce laws that make access to abortion or even birth control near to impossible, you can smack them upside the head and call them on it. They need to read it to simply understand that the issue isn’t as simple, as black and white as they would like to believe. It isn’t simply that bike spoke stories. It is a study, a scientific study in numbers that shows the whole process worked for the women involved.


                I know that my reaction to this book – everyone should read it – is based in part on my reaction health issues and hiccup with my healthcare provider in terms of coverage of a birth control device. (Let me say here, that my doctor, doctor’s billing office, and the individual people on the phone have been helpful, polite and have made the whole situation less stressful). Incidentally, the device was needed to control bleeding and cells, put that in your pipe and smoke Rush Limbaugh. But abortion and birth control are linked, and this study does much in illustrating that as well as why abortion should be legal.


                I’m sorry Open Road Media that I can’t give this book the detailed and passionate review that it deserves. It strikes too close, it’s too important.


                Honestly, read it and then send it along to your representative.

Reblogged from Chris' Fish Place
The Immortals - Jordanna Max Brodsky
What happens when an ancient Greek cult starts killing women in New York? Certain gods and goddesses get ticked off.

On one hand, the book is at times, very predictable. There is little tension in the final good guys vs bad guys fight.

On the other hand, it is a fun read, and Brodsky makes excellent use of history of ancient Greece and NYC. She uses Artemis which is nice as she is usually pushed to the side for more "beautiful" goddesses.

I do wish there had been less women who must be saved and more women than Artemis at the final fight scene. However, it was still an enjoyable read.

The bath tub scene.