Chris' Fish Place

Thoughts on things, mostly books.




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Good collection

Witches, Ghosts & Loups-Garous: Scary Tales from Canada's Ottawa Valley - Joan Finnigan

This is a very nice collection of oral tales from the Ottawa Valley. The tales come from a variety of backgrounds - so there is Quebecoise but also Anglo, Irish, Scots. Finnigan does a god job at capturing the voice. Well done.

Everybody Behaves Badly: The True Story Behind Hemingway's Masterpiece The Sun Also Rises - Lesley M. M. Blume

I am not a huge Hemingway fan, and honesty, I forget the reason I picked this up. But it is a very readable book without any white washing. Blume focuses just as well as those people who surrounded Hemingway as well as Papa himself.

They Talk Different Here - Etienne Toussaint

A very good collection of poetry.  Deals with race and city life.

Skip this

White Ninja - Tiffiny Hall

She's 13? Because she sure does not describe people the way a thirteen year old would. The voice that the story is being told in, does not work.

The Royal Succession (The Accursed Kings, #4) - Maurice Druon

Another good installment.  

Kindle Freebie

If You Were Me and Lived in...Viking Europe (Volume 6) - Carole P. Roman, Mateya Arkova

A pretty good intro into the history of the Vikings.  

Kamouraska - Anne H├ębert

The Clio Collective was right about Hebert. This is a good read about a woman, an abusive husband, and a murder.

kindle freebie

Santa Monica Main Street/Venice - Janelle Lassalle

Too much of  a focus on where to eat.


Babies of the Badlands - Kat Socks

The coyotes look more like wolves, but this was cute.  I'm not sure why the correct terms for the mothers are not used.

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The Snake Who Wanted To Be A Horse (WantsToBe) - Valerie Harmon, Carol  Stevens
I am conflicted about this book. On one hand, the artwork is great. In general, the story is a good one about problem solving.

However, the ending. Look, I get that it is important to teach people to go by than appearances and to reach for what you want. The thing is that the ending to this book, where a snake does in fact become a horse is, quite frankly, a fail. It comes to close to the idea of "if you are not perfect, just get the work done" theme/idea that appears in so many things. And it is disquieting. To be fair, I doubt the author means for the story to be taken that way, but it feels that way. Don't worry if you are not "x" because there is a way to become "x". Normally, that's fine but when the snake just magically becomes a horse, it smacks of third party help or the idea that if you don't change, you don't want it badly enough (ie. According to the logic of the story, if a person was missing a hand and worked really hard at pretending they had two hands, a new hand would happen) and that is a bit dangerous.

give it a miss.

The Wives  - Tarryn Fisher

The book wants to play with the reader's mind and allows that desire to override anything else. It does start out very strong. But the first big reveal of what happened and its excuse for things does not quite work. It made me think of The Perfect Girlfriend, which handles the unreliable narrator issue far better. Good start, weak middle and horrible finish.

(BTW, I do not usually do this, but I strongly advise against reading this if you cannot have children or suffer from a mental illness).

Kindle Freebie

The Ghanaian Goldilocks - Tamara Pizzoli, Phil Howell

This is everything a retelling of a story should be Pizzoli adapts the story to fit Ghanaian culture. The artwork is charming. Quite lovely.

Metaphrog's Bluebeard - Metaphrog
Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley.

Bluebeard is and is not a strange. A modern reader sees it as a warning tale for women but the whole “rein in one’s curiosity thing’ gets more than a raised eyebrow from today’s woman. I mean, she at least didn’t kill anyone. The Brothers Grimm are a bit better. But there is something about Bluebeard – the castle, the beard, Angela Carter’s short story. Who knows?

Metaphrog’s retelling, in graphic novel form, combines these various versions and presents something that is pretty darn good.

In this version of the story, the center, the part that holds is the love that the family has for each other, this is particularly true of the sisters. By filling in, or better answering questions versions, that the original versions raise, Metaphrog not only makes the story more engrossing but more modern. There are issues besides the question of curiosity vs feminism. There are also the issues of rich and poor that that are raised in the original but dealt with in passing.

The artwork is glorious. But the stand out winning aspect is the use of the name Eve for the heroine. It is reclaiming the story in so many different ways, moving it beyond the curiosity evil original and taking it further than Angela Carter’s “Bloody Chamber”.

Enjoyed this

Illuminae - Jay Kristoff, Amie Kaufman

The set up of this novel is pretty good. The cast too is varied in terms of gender. In other words, the heroine is not the only kick ass girl. Once I was able to "forget" that the lead was 17 (she so does not sound like it), the book worked. Quite enjoyable. Nice, quick read.

Out in June

The Lost Pianos of Siberia - Sophy Roberts
Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley

There is something about Siberia that does stir the imagination. The ice, the snow, the tigers – all of the above, you know. Perhaps it is the survival of people who survive in such a place. Roberts book, despite its title is more about Siberia than about pianos. But that is okay.

The book is framed by the idea of quest for a piano, though at times it is very easy to forget that this quest. While the book does discuss the lost pianos, the book details more the inhabitants and prisoners of the land.

Roberts travels around Siberia include not only a hunt to view the famous tigers but also a visit to the location of the death of the Romanovs. The writing is more powerful when she is dealing with nature. The chapter about the tigers, for instance, contains some of the most beautiful writing about the big cats. When the pianos come back in, strangely the book seems to lag a bit.

But there is something engaging about Roberts style nonetheless. The joy of her trek and travel infuses the book and it is impossible not to get caught up in the excitement and joy. Perhaps because she finally has achieved a trip to Siberia (and perhaps this is why the request feels secondary). It was a good read.

Author should be Max Eisen

By Chance Alone - Max Eisen

Max Eisen's memoir details his experiences during the Holocaust.  Eisen's story takes the reader from pre-WWII til his immigration to Toronto.  The writing is engrossing and powerful.