Chris' Fish Place

Thoughts on things, mostly books.




 Challenge ParticipantFrequently Auto-Approved80%Reviews PublishedProfessional Reader













Exposure - Evelyn Anthony

I can honesty that this a book that I mostly likely would not have brought. I picked it up because at the end of last year, Open Road Media had hundreds of freebies listed, and several Anthony books were among them. I am a book slut and the rest is history.

While the plot of the book is somewhat predictable, it was, in fact, a thrilling read. The heroine is Julia, a reporter, who is told by her boss to bring down a business rival. What I really liked was that Julia's sex life was not condemned and her ex-boyfriend was not a douche or wanting to get back together.

A missing eye and a sheriff's hat does not equal brains (which is why the zombies don't eat him)

The Walking Dead Compendium Volume 3 (Walking Dead Compendium Tp) - Charlie Adlard, Charlie Adlard, Robert Kirkman

Another good, if massive section. Kirkman isn't frightened to make hard choices, even if the story does seem to be largely male driven. I'm not sure, for instance, if WD would pass the Bechel test. The developments regarding Maggie do make up for much of this, and the shading of Michonne's character is wonderful. I do wonder if I am the only one who wants to smack Carl.

Welles and Dickens

Bleak Expectations: The Complete Second Series - Mark Evans

Wonderfully quirky. If you love (or even hate) Dickens this is really worth listening to. From the truth about pregnancy (at least for some politicians) to what those Martians really looked like, this is a fun ride.

Well, Cliffnotes has no worries

Summary and Analysis of The Underground Railroad: Based on the Book - Worth Books
Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley.

I honestly believe that many students today do not realize how easy in some ways they have it. When I was in school, we just had Cliffnotes. Today, there are Cliffnotes, Sparknotes, Monkeynotes, Charles River Editors Guides and so on. Worth Books (a Division of Open Road Media) offers “Smart Summaries” of various titles is the latest group to offer such books.

Like many other summery and analysis books, Worth Books makes it clear that this is a supplement to the book, in this case The Underground Railroad, and not a replacement for actually reading the book. In terms of summery, this is well done, functioning more as a summery as opposed to spoiler filled plot synopsis. There is a summery section as well as a major character section, and these two things work together.

The weakest part is the analysis section. It’s not bad, and in a general way, it is good. The strongest points are the context section, which notes the publication history and events in both the publishing world and “real” world. The sections using quotes from the novel and explaining references are good. The reference section, however, does leave out a bit in terms of historical events that Whitehead did draw are. The left-out thing that most disturbed was the total lack of mention of Octavia Butler. True, Butler’s Kindred can be classified as science fiction, but it is an important fictional book about slavery. To not even mention in the further reading section or a brief rundown of other slavery novels is an oversight. Additionally, there is a definite link between Butler and Whitehead. This does not lessen either work, but if an author is going to make a justified comparison to The Diary of Anne Frank, Butler should be mentioned as well.

It might be helpful as a starting point for discussions at a book club where conversation is hard to start.


Reading Habits

1. Do you have a certain place in your home for reading?

I do.  It's called the space I am in.  In other words, just give me reading material.  I'll read anything.



2. Bookmark or random piece of paper?

I prefer bookmarks because they are pretty, but paper will do.


3. Can you  just stop reading or do you have to stop read after a chapter / certain number of pages?I don't have a page number or anything.  However, before if I am reading in bed before turning off the light, I have to stop middle sentence.  I think somehow, I got into my head that it insures I wake up the next day.


4. Do you eat or drink while read?

Yes.  I have also been glared at when reading at dinner table when family is present.  But hey, they are the ones who turned on the stupid football (American) game.


5. Multitasking: music or TV while reading?

Yes.  But not all the time.


6. One book at a time or several at once?

Several.  I usually have a kindle book, a real book, an audio book, and a book of poetry.


7. Reading at home or everywhere?Everywhere, except buses and cars otherwise I puke.


8. Reading out loud or silently in your head?

Usually silently


9. Do you read ahead or even skip pageses?

Both.  It depends on the book and how I feel.  Sometimes if the book is bad but I want to know the ending.  Sometimes if it is a graphic novel.


10. Barking the spine or keeping it like new?

My books are owned.  See below


11. Do you write in your books?

I was an English major.  What else are you suppose to do?

Must Read of 2017

Once We Were Sisters: A Memoir - Sheila Kohler

Late last year, I joined My Book Box, a subscription box service that send you two books each month along with a couple other things (book marks, tea, soap, butterbeer candle, a poster). I signed up for the Mystery and Non-Fiction selections. The mystery selections have been good. Not outstanding, but not bad. The Non-Fiction selection have been outstanding. With the exception of two books, the non-fiction books have been books that I would not have otherwise picked up. (One exception is that I was going to buy the book anyway, and the other is that self help books and I do not get along. I filled out the response survey and said that the same. I got a percentage off a renewal).

I can honesty say that I would not have picked up this book. And that would have been my lost.

Kohler's memoir is so much a memoir as a memoir mediation. She is trying, has been trying, to come to terms with her sister's death, possible murder, for years. Kohler and her sister were born into South Africa in the 40s/50s. In on sense, the book is, as Roxanne Gay would correctly note, a memoir about women in unhappy marriages. Yet, the book manages to transcend that. Perhaps it is because of the world we currently inhabit, perhaps it is because Kohler and her sister would been one of the last generations (if not the last) to be educated to be wives (or who went to college to get a husband), yet both sisters eventually fight against that. Instead of making the breaking/challenging of tradition the moral of story, Kohler allows read to make his or her own conclusions. In some ways, the book seems to be about Kohler's coming to terms with her guilt, over what happened to her sister, over apartheid, over not staying in fight apartheid. Whether or not the guilt is deserved is left up to ready and isn't really the question. Kohler like all of us is plagued by what if and should of.

Thomas Cromwell: The Untold Story of Henry VIII's Most Faithful Servant - Tracy Borman

This is actually quite a nice and balanced biography of Cromwell. He isn't white washed, he isn't made a saint. It is pretty darn good. And you don't need a background in the Tudors to read it.

Out Feb 7, 2017

The Book Thieves: The Nazi Looting of Europe's Libraries and the Race to Return a Literary Inheritance - Anders Rydell, Henning Koch

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley.


                Recently, I attended the 2017 MLA conference.  There were several panels, more like hundreds and while some of them were a little dull, many of the ones I attended were awesome.  One of the best was a panel about the destruction or taking of the libraries those a nation conquers.  The focus was largely on the Israel/Palestine question in terms of those libraries (and the panel had to be hastily resembled apparently), but the points raised are good ones.  Want to control or destroy a people, want to control a narrative?  You must control the literature to do this.  You must control access and literary as well.


                It’s like art, and after all, literature is part of the arts.


                Over the past several years, there have been various movies and books about the Nazis obsession with art.  Usually that definition of art has been defined as the visual arts – paintings, sculptures -  yet some writers, such as Lynn H. Nicholas do mention and go into some detail about the Nazis confiscating of the Torah.  Outside of this, mention of the destruction of Jewish books, there has been little in general history, and perhaps just English, about the Nazis derive to get books, to raid libraries.  Anders Rydell’s book, The Book Thieves, addresses this.


                Rydell looks at the Nazi’s looting, not just of Jewish libraries, but of city and country libraries and archives.  He also looks at those libraries that gained volumes, sometimes huge collections because of the circumstances of invasion and looting.  The story starts as many book stories do – with a book that is at its heart a mystery.  Any buyer or reader of a previously owned or used book, there sometimes is a mystery about the previous owner – an inscription, a bookplate, underlining – something that is a clue about the before.   Rydell is part of returning this book to a descendent of the original owner.  


                The book itself traces not only the vanishing of private libraries but the battle to save and smuggle books to safety.  The books in danger include religious works, fiction, and old manuscripts.  The stories are at times inspiring - as the German librarians who are determined to trace the owners or their descendants of books that the library gain though less than moral means.    At times the stories are depressing, such as the Italian library that lost its treasures and has yet to find them.  There are the Dutch who brave death to save works.


                Rydell’s book adds another and important layer to the history of the Nazi attack on culture.

The Twilight Wife - A.J. Banner

There is this oldish movie that pops up on Hallmark from time to time. It stars Justine Batemen, remember her, as a wife who loses her memory and reconnects with her husband. It actually is pretty good. You should watch it.

This book reminds me of that movie, and I wonder if Banner was influenced by that movie.

Banner's writing is pretty damn good in terms of sentences. It just is sometimes the plot and pacing feel like a let down. There is a feeling that something better is just there, you keep waiting but it never fully comes. Maybe this is because of the editing process or because of contract limits. Don't know.

What I do know is that there is never a real sense of danger. That even considering the memory loss of the heroine, some plot points and reveals are very, very difficult to buy.

The landscape comes across, but I just wish the pacing and atmosphere had been a bit better.

Moomin: The Deluxe Anniversary Edition - Tove Jansson

Okay, I love these strips. Some really sneaky humor too.

The Dinosaur Knights - Victor Milán

I actually enjoyed this one far less than the first. Have no fear, I intend to read the third book, and there are parts of this book that are great.

As many other reviewers have pointed, this book does pass the Bechel test. When the women talk to each other, they do not talk about men.

And yet, there is something off about the women in the book. We are given several characters to follow, of those, the only woman is Melodia, who was wonderful in the first book but seems to have been dosed with stupid pills in this one. And yes, considering the

[spoiler]rape and imprisonment she underwent


 in the first book, some mental issues are not surprising. But this stupid? Additionally, it is strange that the male buddies tend to survive bu Melodia's women friends don't.


In particular the



the  death of Pilar came across very badly for several reasons. It felt overly violent with the description of the raptor juggling her breast. It felt like too much titataltion. It also felt like fridging because it was used to show angst for Rob and Melodia. Both of whom seemed to recover rather quickly. [/spoiler].

Silence - Shusaku Endo
I received a copy for free from Bedford/St Martins.

I’m pretty sure I am going to hell. I’ve read plenty of Saints lives, and there is one thing about Christian martyrs that puzzles me. If suicide is wrong, then isn’t martyrdom also wrong. Wait, wait. Hear me out. I know lying is wrong too, don’t get me wrong. But isn’t martyrdom suicide by another means? Two options, and one is death. We have seen variations of this in other places – Spain where Jews were forced to convert and some did – but only outwardly. So, if a small white lie could enable to not only live but to also practice in private than was it bad.

Or at the very least, why would it be so bad. Yes, you have a responsibility to faith but do you not have a responsibility as well to those around you?

Endo’s book deals with Christian persecution in Japan, and confronts another question. Does a priest, should a priest, renounce in order to save his flock. The novel isn’t so much about characters, and the people do not seem as if they are going to step off of the page. Still, the question raised is a worthy one. It is a book that lingers.


Women's March in Philadelphia

Good if short

Ambrose Bierce: The Life and Mysterious Disappearance of the Famous American Author - Charles River Editors

Good short biography of Bierce, also nicely relates the various rumors about his death, while making good points for why he should be more widely read. Well done

Short biography of Seabiscuit

Seabiscuit: The Life of the Most Famous Horse in American History - Charles River Editors
This really isn't that bad. The problem is that it is almost a cliff-note version of Seabiscuit: An American Legend, and that really is not a problem because credit is given. I do wish there had been more acknowledgement about Seabiscuit's lack of prowess at breeding.


Mickey meets Dante

Disney Graphic Novels #4: Great Parodies: Mickey's Inferno - Disney, Guido Martina, Angelo Bioletto Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley. Mickey Mouse meets Dante, how can this work? Strangely, it actually does. This is a reissue of a parody produced in the 1960s. In many ways, it is a good way to introduce a Disney fan of any age to Dante, though some of the funnier bits a child would not fully understand. The set-up works, and it is great fun to see Disney characters in place of Dante’s people. As with most parodies, however, it does seem to go a tad too long. However, the best part of the graphic novel is the closing panels. Absolutely great! Worth reading for that alone, to be honest. At least, if you like Dante.