Chris' Fish Place

Thoughts on things, mostly books.




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Nice little book

Caves of Japan: A Tiny Photo Tour - Beth Matsuka

While this book does not have actual travel data (such as opening times or travel issues), it does have some interesting information and nice photos. It does present an aspect of Japan that is often overlooked.

still free for kindle

Light: A National Poetry Day Book - Gaby Morgan

The best part of this book is seeing what the poets pick as poems to share.

Full Moon Square

Ghosts of Boston: Haunts of the Hub (Haunted America) - Sam Baltrusis

This collection of ghost folklore from Boston is okay. The constant references to Ghost Hunters and the file under part of each entry were a bit annoying, however. It does also focus greatly on hotels.  Nice photos.

Deadlands Square

Blood is Another Word for Hunger - Rivers Solomon

There are some very strange (and most likely racist) people who like to get married at plantations.  So strange (unless they are racist cause the whole racist thing explains it).  What Rivers Solomon does in this hard hitting and powerful short story is illustrate not only the horrors of slavery but also of Reconstruction in the South.


At one level the story is about a slave who recovers/comes to terms/moves past the PTSD that must have come from slavery, and on another level it is a story of ghosts and the power of revenge as well as those who live in the dark.


It is quite beautiful and horrible at once.

International Women of Mystery Square

Captcha Thief - Rosie Claverton

Of the three Amy Lane mysteries I've read, this is my least favorite. But let me be clear, it is not a bad book. There is a cliffhanger type ending, so be warned.

The development of the relationship between Amy and Jason felt very organic, its just that the development and purpose of one character don't quite work for me.

But still will be reading the others in the series. Amy is awesome!  The friendships that are at the heart of the book are the books best selling point, well that and the location of Wales.

Paint it Black Square

The Architect's Apprentice - Elif Shafak

Actually wasn't going to read this for the Paint it Black Square but then realized it worked.  Happy Day.


I am finding writing this review difficult. On one hand, this is a magic novel. On the other hand, it is a quiet novel - not so much a book of great events, though a great man is a supporting character.

And Chota, why is Chota there? In many ways, he seems like a plot device, but in other ways he feels like something far more.

Yet, there is a magic to the book. It is engrossing, it is encompassing, it plays with the ideas of stories and rumors.  It is actually quite fitting for Halloween because it is about masks and hidden thoughts, feelings, motivations and such.

It's a book to revisit.

Diverse Square

Emergency Skin - N.K. Jemisin

Apologies to OB who reviewed this two weeks ago and it didn't quite register for me.  If it had I would have picked it up sooner and before Ryanecandye tweeted about it last night.  Sorry Blue.


When some indie writers complain about readers, they slight readers disinclination to say, two bucks on a "book" that totals 33 pages and is, therefore, really short story.  Such authors claim that readers only want freebies. They are both right and wrong.  If a reader buys the book and didn't read the page length, well that's on them. And let's be honest, I've picked up a great many kindle books when they were offered free, so who doesn't love a freebie.  But why should I, as a reader, spend two dollars on a short story by an author I don't know and haven't read before?  One of the first books I got when I got my first kindle was an Indie author.  The book sounded really good so I brought it.  And it was really, really, really bad.  I mean, deleted it from my account bad.  So I tend to be very careful with new to me authors.  


But authors I know - they can take my money.  I don't mind spending a few dollars on a Byatt, Hines, LaValle, or Jemisin story (just to name a few).


And quite frankly, this Kindle Single is the reason why Jemisin should add the Nobel Prize to her trophy wall (and the Booker, but I am not sure if this would qualify for the Booker because of the length).


So Skin - Skin is something you should read.  Now.  Drop everything and read it.  I love the Fox Series 9-1-1.  Yes, yes, I know it isn't realistic but I don't care.  It is various women of various body types that kick ass and are friends.  I love it.  But I was so engrossed in this story that I missed the opening to my beloved show (the only show I watch on Network tv when it comes on as opposed to later On Demand or on Hulu).


In one short story, Jemisin deals with issues of science, racism, climate change, sexism, ethics, law enforcement. I mean just wow.  Totally wow.  Bloody brilliant wow.


(BTW, the audio version is read by Jason Isaacs and is free with the kindle ebook).



American Horror Story Square

Lucretia and the Kroons (Kindle Single) - Victor LaValle

There are several books in the world that are suppose to help children come to terms with death. Usually they concern the death of a pet or sibling, sometimes a friend. When I was child, and even as a adult, they usually missed. At one part there was something that felt fake about must of them, almost forced. That isn't really that surprising.

But if I had read this when I was a child, a teen, it would have changed that image of those types of books.

Lucretia is dealing with the illness of her friend Sunny as well as her own changing body. She is caught between times, as it is. She has a good home life - her family isn't rich, but LaValle does present a loving family - mother, brother, sister.

When Sunny returns home and a play date is arranged, Lucretia finds herself on an adventure, involving the Kroons - who inhabit the top most apartment that is never rented out.

LaValle writes women and girls so, so well. The interacts between Lucretia and her mother, between the girls, the use of the wigs. It's all so wonderful. And unlike some books the ending is a such a true ending, such a magnificent ending. It's such a beautiful novella - horror, emotion, life all swirled together and working wonders.

Children's Book Round Up

Maria's Comet - Deborah Hopkinson The Queen's Cat (First Year at The Palace) - David Rossmaur Arial the Astronaut - Jelena Stupar, Mary Nhin My Truly Most Favorite Fluffy Friend: The Value of Friendship - Pamela Tomlin, Tamara Piper

The Queen's Cat and Arial the Astronaut tare the best of this batch of Kindle freebies.  Maria's Comet is a bit too fictional when it would have made a nice non-fiction children's book.  The Fluffy Toy has cuteness and that's about it.

Halloween Square

Norbert's Spooky Night - James Sutherland

I read the first book in this series a while ago.  Despite being #5 this is the second book in the series I have read.  


Norbert and his friends decide that Halloween is not so much for animals as it has vampires and witches.


It's like reading about the residents of Dibley that didn't make it onto the show.  It's fun, it's light, it's amusing.  The narrative voice is great.

Black Cat Square

Old Cat and the Kitten - Mary E. Little

Look, if you have cats - in particular if you have black cats - skip this book.  Run screaming from it.  Hide from it.  It's one of those "something bad happens to animals so kids learn life lesson" crap books.  


The writing is good, but yeah, no.

Halloween Bingo Free Square - Out Next Month

Bowie's Bookshelf - John O'Connell

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


(Halloween Bingo note - I mean Bowie, costume, c'mon, if he doesn't fit no one does).


                2016 was a horrible year.  It started with the death of Bowie and ended with the death of Carrie Fisher.  And let’s not talk about the election okay?


                If one knew anything about David Bowie, other than his music and Iman, one knew that he loved to read.  There was a list of 100 books that influenced Bowie that was released before his death in conjunction with a show of his costumes at the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario).  After his death, his son, Duncan Jones, founded the David Bowie Book Club, a podcast series that is working its way though the list.  O’Connell’s book provides a brief overview of each work on the list, but, perhaps more importantly, the influence it might have had on Bowie as well as pairing the book with one or more of his songs as well as further reading.


                One question this book raises is if the complete 100 book list is easy enough to find online, why read this book?  Part of it is because of the essays that accompanies each work.  The essay not only serves as an introduction to the various books but also details about when Bowie most likely read the book for the first time, biographical information about the author and Bowie, and details about what songs refer to the book.  There are also references to Iggy Pop.


                Some of the books on this list were introduced to Bowie by his half brother Terry.  This includes the influence of the Beats as well as writers that he felt an affinity for – such as Fitzgerald and Carter.  It also includes writers who wrote about him such as Camille Paglia or authors that he met or wanted to meet.


Some writers, like Carter and Fitzgerald are not a surprise, but Bowie also read heavily into history – not only Howard Zinn but also a door stopper about the Russian Revolution.  There are some writers or books that are somewhat surprising - such as The Leopard or Day of the Locust (tbh, I’m surprised that anyone likes Day of the Locust).   Beano and Homer even make the list, and there is a good number of Harlem Renaissance Works on it and less famous works as well.  I want to read A Grave for a Dolphin now, and I had never heard of it before.  There are stories about recommendations that he made to friends and backing musicians, such as the Street by Ann Petry.


                O’Connell’s writing is engaging, and the book is an easy one to dip in and out of.  The hardest part is dealing with the grief of Bowie’s death.  (OH, and not wanting to strangle O’Connell when he writes that Bowie read the most of any person on Earth type hyperbole because I know some people he should meet.

The Little Unicorn Chu - Cerrie Davies

Well, if you want to give a kid a book where the lesson is pounded into the kid's skull with a hammer, this is the book for you.

zombie kids that really don't look like zombie kids

Moore Zombies: The Search for Gargoy - Wendy Knuth, Brian Allen

I found something off about this book that I can’t put my finger on. In some ways, it is almost too text heavy and that does the glorious illustrations a disservice. In other ways, the the roles are so stereotypical that it undermines the use of a zombie family, especially one where all the children are still pretty.

Nice selkie retelling

Seal Mother: A Selkie Tale in Verse - Rose English

This take on the selfie legend is pretty good, if not the smoothest told. I love the focus on the after, the connection with the children and it reframed the story quite well.



I love the focus on a daughter and mother as opposed to the son.

Mystery Square

A Girl Named Anna - Lizzy Barber

This was a 2019 Sept MyBookBox Mystery selection.



A Girl Named Anne is told from the viewpoint of two girls.  One, Anna, whose story is slightly  more important, and a second, Rosie, whose voice is far more engaging.  The story centers on what happened to Rosie's missing sister, Emily, who went missing when Rosie's British family was visiting Harry Potter land   Astroland.


It is not a bad book, and many people loved it, but I found it to be, well, a bit boring. 


In part this is because the reveal kept to too late in the book; therefore, relying on the characters of Anna and Rosie.  And I found Anna's voice to be so boring.  In part this is because of the circumstances, but there is no life in those chapters as there is with Rosie's.  But Rosie's chapters, in retrospect, don't really contribute that much to the plot, so there's that.  I can understand it is to show the effect on the family left behind  but that gets quickly overwhelmed by Anna's which is (1) not surprising and (2) somewhat disappointing.  I wanted more from those chapters instead simply becoming an appendage to Anna's story. The really good part of the book is Rosie's friendship with Kiera.  That relationship is so wonderfully written and beautiful.  It is the most solid part of the book.