Chris' Fish Place

Thoughts on things, mostly books.




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If you are an Audible member, they just started this new thing.  Every month they put up a selection of six of their originals.  You can chose two for free.  This month's selection includes an X-File story, a play with Carey Mulligan, and Emma Thompson leading a cast reading Austen's Emma.

Grim Tale Square

Little Beast  - Julie Demers

This is a bit of a strange book.  It echoes Beauty and the Beast tales as well as the Wild Man/Green Man stories, but the figure is a bearded girl.  She is kept seperate from the nearest.  The other people are the Boots, and since this takes place in 1944, we are supposed to be making connections with what is happening over in Europe, over in France.


The charm in the story, with the fairy tale motifs and strange canting narrator, is the beauty of the language, of the connectin between the girl and the nature that surronds her.  In some ways, seperated as she is from society, she is a far better judge of human character.

Cozy Square

Ghostly Paws - Leighann Dobbs

Do you like cats?  Do you think cats have access to secret otherworldy ideas and magic?


Then this is the book for you.


Willa has inherited her grandmother's bookstore and cat.  She can also see ghosts who talk to her and ask her to do things, like find killers of people.


And then the cat Pandora has a side thing going because the cats in this cozy, little town fight the power of darkness.


It is a pretty standard set up to a cozy mystery with fantasy elements.  What I enjoyed most about it, outside of the cats, was the friendship between Willa and various women.  There is non of that superior feeling crap you see in so many places now.


It was a fun read.

Free Square

Perdido Street Station - China Miéville

This is a re-read for my RL book club as well.


This is the second time I have read Perdido Street Station.  I enjoyed it far more this time.  The first time I read it, I gave it three stars.  Now, it's four.


It is a weird novel that would also work for the cryptozoologist square.


It traces the paths of scientist in a city.  He is hired to make a winged being fly again, but he then gets caught up in rebellion.  The world building is wonderful.  It is like a cross between Dickens and Dr. Who.  There is much in the book about government and rights, and class, and moths, and bugs, and icky stuff.


I do wish, however, that the central female lead didn't disappear for a large section of the book.

The Faithful Friend - Robert D. San Souci, Brian Pinkney

Robert D. San Souci's Faithful Friend is a Martinique's version of the Faithful John, the Grimm story. 

I like this version far more. In part, it is because of the ending. But also because the woman in the story, here Pauline, is far more active in this version.

Oh the cows, the cows

Compulsory Games - Robert Aickman

To call those short stories strange is to undersell them. They are beyond strange, yet they are about the human condition.

There are also murdering cows.

How cool is that?

They might not be really cows.

The cows are in the short story “Hand and Glove”.

There are mushrooms.

In many of the stories, a theme is love and/or marriage. The relationships are never quite what they at first appear to be. But the language and writing are beautiful.  There is also this strange tale about a guy and three women.

Was going to use this for a cozy bingo read but

That Old Witch! - M. Z. Andrews

I was going to use this as my cozy bingo read, but I can't finish it.  I cannot take 400 plus pages of this.


You would think it would be good.  It almost sounds a witchy version of Golden Girls meets Murder, She Wrote.  But nope.  


I mean, I knew I was in trouble when I started - take for instance


". . . a sudden, fierce gust of wind whipped at the newly budded tree branches and sent a spray of gavel dust up into the air, exfoliating the front of the three-story Victorian and the back end of the old jalopy parked in the dirt driveway" (1)




"The pale, wrinkled skin on her outstretched arms sagged from just below her elbows to her armpits, her short elastic sleeves doing little to carry the burden of the excess baggage" (1)




"Arched white trellises covered in pink and purple clematis and lavender-shaded wisteria ancoer themselves centrally" (2)




"With her nose still point to the clouds, Kat opened her eyes and ever so slowly dropped her chin." (3)


(I'm not sure how the nose stays pointed at the sky the, to be honest).




"She had only a few minutes to get out of the garden before the magic fertilizer with the rain coming down." (3).


There also are the following questions - if the majority of people in the town are okay with witches, then how is saying you went to witch school a conversation killer?  How can never being married means you have no family or friends?  If the funeral director let you leave the funeral with a woman's ashes, you should not be surprised when you discover that she named you in her will.  If you had to leave town for years, why did you run a diner there?  I mean, how could you do that?  If you leave in the town for, say, 40 years, and then left for a few years, say 5, shouldn't you know at least the old stories?

I know, I know

I am behind on posting an updated bingo card and reviews.  Start of the semester here.  Review wave coming though!

M/M Romance - Still free on kindle

The Selkie - Nicole Field

If you are know the stories concerning selkies, seal wives, you know the issue of the skin being stolen by the husband, who then takes the woman as his wife, which, of course, was his plan from the start.


Field takes that story and not only updates but makes the center couple two guys.  It is a rather good take and riff on the selkie story.  The motivations of both men are well done and the story feels organic.  I enjoyed it far more than I thought I would.

Bookish Bingo - Terror in Small Town square

The Lake - Perrine Leblanc, Lazer Lederhendler

I picked this up when I was in Montreal.  It was written in French and was up for the Gov. General's Award.  I can see why.  


The back of the English edition makes it sound like a quasi, if not full on, murder mystery.  This is not really the case.  The terror in a small town does have to do with a few murders, though the killer is not a mystery for long.  But the terror is just the murder, it is also the treatment of people who are different from the majority in a small town.  This is true of the two central characters.  


The description of the town as well as the description of scent is wonderful.  The writing shines more than the plot.

Sandhamm #4

Tonight You’re Dead - Viveca Sten, Marlaine Delargy

This installment of the Sandhamm Mysteries find Nora coming to terms with her divorce and newly single status.  Thomas is recovering from losing some toes.  Of course, there is another mystery to solve.  The mystery isn't all that compelling - there is no real sense of danger - though it does raise question of miltary training and makes good use of a spooky location.


Surprisingly, I enjoyed the parts with Nora more - usually I prefer Thomas as Nora seems so much melodrama, but her family situation is more sympathic here, and she is less annoying.  So that was nice.

Halloween Bingo

This is my lovely card:




I will be using a cat for read, a pumpkin for called, and a cat with a pumpkin for called and read.


My wild card author will be Kelley Armstrong.


My early start read is The Lake by Perrine LeBlanc.  It will be for terror in a small town.


For the other squares, I will be drawing (but am not limited to) the following books:


Red Death by P. N. Elord

And Then There Were None by Christie

Perfume by Patrick Suskind

The Bones of Avalon by Phil Rickman

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

Savage Season by Joe Landsdale

Shadowed Souls ed. Jim Butcher and Kerrie L. Hughes

Haunted Castles by Ray Russell

The Penguin Book of the Undead 

The Penguin Book of Witches

Collected Ghost stories by E. F. Benson

Wizards  ed. Jack Dann

Ka by John Crowley

Little Beast by Julie Demers

The Con Artist by Fred Van Lente

Rebecca  by Daphne DuMaurier

Submerged ed. Butler and Palamatier

Moriarty and the Hound of the Baskervilles by Kim Newman

Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School  by Kim Newman

The Death of All Things ed. Gilman and Richardson

Geezer Girls by Drea Say Mitchell

Gangster Girl  by Drea Say Mitchell

Godmother by Carolyn Turgeon

My COusin Rachel  by DuMaurier

House of Leaves by Danielewski

RIP Neil Simon


Audio version

An American Marriage - Tayari Jones

This is a review of the audio edition and deals with an issue that may only apply to the audio edition.


                There are times when I think an audio book is, in fact, superior, to the written form.  For instance, Lincoln at the Bardo.  If I had read that, having brought it thinking it was a novel, I pretty sure I would have been frustrated at the format.  But the audio book, with all those voice actors – that worked for me.  My reaction to this book is heavily influenced by the structure of the audio performances.  Both Mr. Crisden and Ms. Davis gave stellar performances, and it wouldn’t surprise if they get nominated for awards.  The book itself, in terms of writing, is powerful.  The subject matter timely – how the justice systems harms more than those who are unjustly accused, in large part, because of the color of their skin.  Roy, one of the men who tells part of the story, is married to Celestial.  Not quite newlyweds, but the first brush is still on the fruit, when he gets falsely accused of rape, found guilty, sentenced, and finally released after five years when the injustice of the system was brought to light.  What happens to the marriage in that five-year span and once Roy gets out is the subject matter of the book.  In addition, to the examination of “justice” on a family, Jones also looks at how gender roles play into that effect.


                Jones deserves much credit because it is a bit hard to like Roy.  You can feel sorry for him, you can admit the injustice and cruelty of what happened to him.  Yet, even before his injustice, he doesn’t quite see Celestial as hers, and not his.  But the reader shouldn’t lose sight of his stepping out on his marriage with Celestial.  No, I’m not talking about what happens when he leaves jail, but before.  Roy never directly says he physically cheated, but he mentions that 99% of the time he didn’t got beyond flirting (so 1% of the time he did, is the inference), and he brought lingerie for another woman.  Maybe Celestial didn’t care if it was just sex, maybe she did.  The listener doesn’t know.

                And that’s the problem with the audio version.


                The story is told via three viewpoints – Roy, Andre (Celestial’s oldest friend and, later, her partner), and Celestial.  Part of the story is told though letters that Roy and Celestial send each other, most notably when Roy is in jail.  When those letters are read, the listener hears Celestial via Roy’ voice or his view of her voice.  IN other words, Crisden’s voice (or his voice trying to do a woman’s) instead of Eisa Davis’.


                Which means, this story of a marriage, is largely told by Roy and Andre – Celestial has the smallest voice in the whole audio book.


                Now, this might be intentional.  Look at the symbolism of her name, for instance.  Roy is the one that things happen to, the one who loses the most, so it is understandable that it is his story.  But like all of us, Roy is not a 100% reliable narrator.  Look, I am only talking how we all unreliable narrators whether or not we knowingly are. 


                The thing is, if this is a story about a marriage, then we need Celestial’s voice. IN her own voice.  Being read Celestial’s letters in the voice of Roy makes her too removed from the reader.  The inflection and emphasis on certain things change.  Now, this could be Jones’ intention.  It really could be.  And if it is, it works really well.  But in an audio book it is immensely annoying because the listener gets use to fake Celestial voice as opposed to real Celestial voice.  This is incredibly jarring.  So, jarring.


                And fake Celestial’s voice is so whiny.


                And then Roy, understandably so, frames things in a way that rubs you the wrong way (talking credit, in part, for Celestial’s store). 


                But the loss of a marriage, whether or not that marriage would have worked, is such a palpable feeling as well as the sense of relief that characters like Andre feel because it didn’t happen to them.  The pressures that are brought on Celestial because she is a black woman married to a black man who has been unjustly locked up are also dealt with. 


                It is a really a beautifully written and thought-provoking book.



An American Marriage - Tayari Jones

I've clicked the spoiler box, but I'm going to be pretty much spoiler free.  Comments might not be.


Has any one read this?  I'm listening to the audio.  And depsite a line that is  "the chilly evening was cool" or something like that, the writing is pretty good.  The way Jones writes about houses is poetry.


The book is three points of view - Roy, Celestial, and Andre (and the audio uses two readers - one male, one female).  In the audio, so far, there is more of Roy and D'Andre narrating the story and telling the reader/listener what Celestial said.  It's strange because in the audio, the male reader changes his voice to a quasi woman's voice when Roy or Andre relates what Celestial says.  It makes her sound passive and a bit whiny.  It also is like why do you care about this woman.  When Celestial herself speaks, the impact is different. This is highlighted by the fact Celestial has less space than the men (who are pissing me off a little).


In the physical book, if you are reading it and not listening to it, does Celestial come across as whiny, passive in those sections?