Chris' Fish Place

Thoughts on things, mostly books.




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Hunting the Truth: Memoirs of Beate and Serge Klarsfeld - Serge Klarsfeld, Beate Klarsfeld
If you live outside of Europe, you might not have heard of the Klarsfelds - Serge and Beate (or Beate and Serge), a wife and husband who are responsible for bringing several Nazi war crimnals to trial. Serge is a French man whose family is Jewish and whose father died in the Holocaust. Beate is a German whose father fought for Germany in WW II. The memoir's early section deals with the early lives of both and thier eventual meeting courting. The bulk of the book is about the journey to activisim and pursuit of justice. Told by alternating voices in different sections, the primary focus is on thier work, though thier love for their family shines. Well worth the read, and the couple should win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Out in Aug.

The King's Assassin: The Fatal Affair of George Villiers and James I - Benjamin Woolley

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley


                If you are like me, you most likely heard about Buckingham via Alexandre Dumas’ Three Musketeers.  The real Duke of Buckingham, George Villiers, is paradoxically more and less interesting.


                Despite its title, this work of popular history is more of a straight biography then a presentation of what or who could have killed James I of England.


                That is part of the problem.  Considering the title of the book, the actual thesis of assassination doesn’t raise its head until the very end.  This placement makes the title a bit misleading.  True, the title isn’t the assassination of King James I, hinting at a biographer of an assassin, but the title does mislead.


                As a popular biography of George Villiers, the history works.  Woolley writes with energy and vigor, if at times a gossipy tone.  He plays attention to the influence of the women in Villers life, but does not do the blame everything on wives and mothers route that some biographers do.


                Yet, the fact that you are waiting for an assassination to raise its head does occur.


                The book almost works as a biography though the later years of Buckingham’s life get short attention.  It is almost as if Woolley is saying “here’s the man before the death of James I; don’t you think that he could have killed the king?”


                And a thesis shouldn’t be a question.


                Three stars because of the detail about Villiers, but if you want to read a historic mystery involving James I try Bellany or Somerset.

Good series

Loire Valley A World Heritage Site: From Sully-sur-Loire to Chalonnes-sur-Loire. Travel Guide 2016 - Jérôme Sabatier Strasbourg Patrimoine Mondial: Guide de voyage Strasbourg, Grande Ile - 2016 (French Edition) - Jérôme Sabatier Canal du Midi A World Heritage Site: Travel guide Canal du Midi - 2016 - Jérôme Sabatier Lyon A World Heritage Site: Travel Guide Lyon, Historic Center - 2016 - Jérôme Sabatier Carcassonne A World Heritage Site: Travel guide Carcassonne, medieval City - 2016 - Jérôme Sabatier

This is a travel series about UNESCO sites in France.  It is well done with lots of tourist information including family friendly suggests.

Out in July

The Billionaire Raj - James Crabtree

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley.

Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers is only mentioned briefly in James Crabtree’s excellent look at the super rich of India, The Billionaire Raj. I found this fact interesting because I request the book via Netgalley precisely because I have read and taught Boo’s book. Granted, Crabtree’s book is a study of the extreme upper class so slums really don’t enter into the book. Yet, and Crabtree knows this, it is impossible to read this book, in particularly the parts about buildings with private pools and indoor football pitches, without thinking of those slums were people lack clean water, secure housing, and light.

I’m talking about the Residence Antilia owned by Makesh Ambani. A rather unique house. The fascination with it does also include the fact that it does give one a great a view of the slums. Talk about looking down.

This is not to say that Crabtree’s book is not a must read because it is. Instead of focusing on the soap opera or crime story details of the rich, Crabtree looks at the society. Not only does Crabtree look at the rise of the monied class, but he also examines the work of politics and graft, thus making a necessary read with Boo’s book.
Additionally, it is quite easy to see connections to America’s current political environment. Some of what Crabtree describes is quite easily seen outside of India. It’s just that India juxtaposes the two more starkly. Such images of extreme wealth and the desire to expand and keep it, despite the situations of those around the wealth. It is also about the families that control the wealth and the politics that allows them to flee, or to travel, out of the country to exile. Crabtree also details why the situation continues. His book gives more depth to the reading of Boo.

Magic and Mystery

The Forbidden Harbour Vol 1 - Stefano Turconi, Teresa Radic

 Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley

Perhaps it is the power of the ocean itself that lends itself to mysterious tales. The Forbidden Harbour make use of Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Marnier, but simply to call it a mystery gothic comic is misleading. 

At first glance, the story seems simple enough – the adventures of a young shipwrecked boy as he is returned to civilization and is taken in by three sisters. But that isn’t quite correct. In many ways, the magical story is about faith, responsibility, and regret.

But honesty, the real winning part of this book is impossible to be discussed without spoilers, so here’s your last warning.

Radice gets huge points for her depiction of attempted rape because the man who tries to rape one of the sisters is a good man. His impetuous to force comes simply because of the sisters does not want to marry him because she doesn’t love him. Considering how hard it is for society to accept that nice guys don’t rape (i.e. Brock Turner), Radice use of it here is very powerful.

I can’t thank her enough for that.

Out Now

The Photographer of Mauthausen - Salva Rubio, Pedro Columbo

Disclaimer: Arc via Netgalley

Francisco Boix was a Spanish Communist who fled to France and then with the invasion of Germany was sent to Mauthausen as a political prisoner. His photographs that he hid in Mauthausen, at great risk to himself, played a role in the war crime trials that followed the end of WW II. He is often overlooked in American history classes because he was a Communist (and died long before the Wall fell) and Spanish. But he is important because of the evidence that he preserved.

Rudio’s graphic novel is partial biography, detailing what might have happened or did happened in the camp as Boix finds himself in a position to gain evidence of the war crimes committed in the camp. The horrors of the camp are not softened in the graphic novel. The layout and conveying of the story not only illustrate the dangers in saving the historical record, but also in the various ways the evidence was used in the war crime trials as well as the purpose of the trials themselves.

Highly recommended.


Motorcity - Philippe Berthet, Sylvain Runberg
Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley

A somewhat entertaining mystery story that strains believability by having someone fresh from the academic as an apparently ranking detective. She is also the only good woman who really does anything. The artwork is good, and the storyline doesn’t pull punches. As an American I’m somewhat disturbed by the use of the Confederate flag in some panels, especially near the end.
Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny - Kate Manne

If you are human, you should read this book. Manne's book is academic treatise on Misogyny, and is anything but dry. While I'm not convinced she had to include the look at literature (such as her analysis of Mockingbird), but her look at court cases (her reading of the Brock Turner case is brilliant) and politics is well worth the price. 

Seriously, read this book.

Wonderful Copenhagen

Hans Christian Andersen's Copenhagen: A Fairy Tale Walk through the City - Bente Kjølbye, Ole Larsen

This isn't so much a history of places that Andersen went to, but a brief look at thier connections to them. The walking guide is pretty accurate, though it doesn't fully note how far two of places are from the rest. Nice photos.

Wonder Woman and Catwoman - Sign me up

Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman Vol. 1 - Gail Simone, Ethan Van Sciver

So a bit of a mixed bag, though overall the stories are good and so is the artwork. 

The book starts with "Gothamazon" by Simone where Wonder Woman steps in to help Gotham while the Bats clan, with the exceptation of Oracle, are down for the count. The story illustrates, quite well, the differences between Batman and Wonder Woman. There are also some nice touches of humor. The second story "Defender of Truth" by Amanda Diebert and the fifth, "Bullets and Bracelets" by Sean Williams are, perhaps, a bit too heavy on the moral of the story, but who cares? They are enjoyable stories.

The two stories "Brace Yourself" and "Taketh Away" touch on some of the same issues - though "Brace Yourself" as far more humor; Jason Bischoff's stories of Diana vs Mom were great. Cohen's "Taketh" actually highlights the expecetions that women are forced to handle on a daily basis, including treatment when they decline an invitation as well as the expectation to be beautiful all the time.

The most problematic story is "No Chains Can Hold Her" and while it references the early days of comics and seems tongue in cheek, it falls completely flat. As does "Ghosts and Gods". For whatever reason the story doesn't quite work.

"The Attack of the 50 Foot Wonder Woman" and "Dig for Fire" are pretty good adventure stories, though one is light in tone than the other.

My favorite is "Morning Coffee" by Ollie Masters which involves Wonder Woman hunting down Catwoman. It's just wonderful.

Yes, it takes place in that Hay

The Magus of Hay (Merrily Watkins Mysteries) - Phil Rickman

It was somewhat ironic reading this on a kindle considering. I do prefer real books to ebooks. It's an okay story and mystery. A bit Midsome Murders too

Wonder Woman vs Ares

Wonder Woman, Vol. 6: Rise of the Olympian - Matt Ryan, Gail Simone, Aaron Lopresti, Bernard Chang

So the gods come back and they are not quite happy. Seriously, a story about self, stepping up, and self-determination. Awesome. Hard hitting. Striking. Wonderful.

Wonderful BBC series

Mclevy the Collected Editions: Series 5 & 6 - David Ashton, Brian Cox, Full Cast, Siobhan Redmond

I love this series based on the life of McLevy, a Scottish policeman in Edinburgh.  Mostly because Jean Brash, who is freaking awesome.  If you haven't listened to this wonderful series, give it a go.  Nice humor, good characters, and Scotland.

book 2

The Raj Quartet, Volume 2: The Day of the Scorpion - Paul Scott

When I was in college, I saw the famous mini-series based on this series.  I tried reading the first book, and for some reason, couldn't get into it.  This year, suddenly, I felt an overwhelming desire to try again.  I am glad I did.


Scott's second volume adds more characters, including two young women who are finding and determining their place.  What is a particularly riveting section is the questioning of Huri.  Some really beautiful passages.  Scott also writes good women, and doesn't condemn for thier emotional chocies.

Audio version

Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution - Nathaniel Philbrick

This is a good popular history of the Battle of Bunker Hill.  Philbrick spends time one the various people and doesn't slur or malign either side.  He also focuses quite a bit on non-famous actors and women.  

Out in Sept - Good installment

Cold Bayou - Barbara Hambly
Disclaimer: Arc via Severn Publishers and Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

In part, a book’s popularity determines whether or not it will be adapted to film or television. I get this. But sometimes, I look at all the shows that make into production and wonder why. Then I wonder why, no one has made a mystery series out of the Benjamin January novels. The first one was published in 1997. The series has staying power. So seriously, Hollywood, wake up!

This installment finds Ben, Rose, his mother and sister traveling to a plantation outside of New Orleans to attend the wedding of a rich Veryl St-Chinian to a far less rich and less pure Miss Ellie Trask. Needless to say, the rich man’s family is rather put out about this low case Irish wench weaseling her way into the old rich boy’s heart.

It’s a plot that has been use in one way or another since well, whenever. But Ben isn’t in Martin Chuzzlewit. Before the dead body is discovered, the January family’s freedom is at risk, so Ben finds himself fighting to prove his innocence of murder as well as to keep his family free.

Hambly’s series works because she captures a New Orleans after the purchase but before the Civil War, when American were slowly, perhaps, changing the way the society of New Orleans as well as the laws work. Ben and his family view this though the gaze of freed slaves (his mother, he, and his sister were freed. His second sister is mistress to one of Viellard family, who are related to the St-Chinian family). Everything about Ben’s life is affected by his skin color and status, he is trained as a doctor but cannot work as one, so instead is a musician. One sister is a voodoo priestess who does not speak to their mother, who secured the family’s freedom by drawing the interest of a rich white man. The strain between mother and oldest daughter is tied to sex and behavior among whites. Ben’s wife, Rose, is a mixed race woman who runs a school for mixed race girls. His sister’s relationship with her protector is conducted with the knowledge that they cannot marry and that their daughter will always be viewed as secondary, if that. 

Hambly tackles the issue of shade of skin color as well – not only within the January family- but also with those that they know. Power and status are important to not only the whites who inhabit the story but to the blacks and at great cost, for freed slaves have more to lose than respect.
The mystery and its outcome are well done. Hambly, as usual, makes her female characters shine even though the series is centered on a male title character.

It’s just a shame that a series that combines race issues, history, and a homage to Christie doesn’t get enough respect to be made into a film.