Chris' Fish Place

Thoughts on things, mostly books.




 Challenge ParticipantFrequently Auto-Approved80%Reviews PublishedProfessional Reader













This was a nice surprise

Princess Princess Ever After - Katie O'Neill

This is the right type of cute. Two princesses who want to more than simply princesses. It's wonderful, it's brillant. It has a chubby dragon and a cookie-loving unicorn. It is perfect. 

If this had been the first of his I read, I wouldn't have read any others

Snow - Orhan Pamuk, Maureen Freely

I'm mixed about this book. On one hand, I love the political look. On the other hand, I am so tired of books where the female characters are simply seen as symbols by the men in the story.

But the politics. That was awesome.

Not like the Lies book, but damn good

Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism - James W. Loewen

Loewen's book is a must read for anyone who lives in the United States. While lacking the more informal format and tone of his books about historic places and textbooks, Sundown towns sheds light on a little known and little acknowledged evil in America's past and current life. 

This book is more of a formal study , which is understandable because Loewen is in part agruing that Sundown Towns existed. His points about neighborhoods and subarbs are equally valid. While he uses harsh (racist) language, it is when he quoets from sources and is used to not hid what happened. So he doesn't do it with a thrill or to be simply transgressive. If we are to have a conversation about race and crime and cities, this book is a must read.

#2 in Otherworld Re-read

Stolen - Kelley Armstrong


I'm re-reading this series this summer. This second volume is a good installment, especially with woman who do things as opposed to wait for things to be done. I forgot how young Savannah was when she first appeared. The realization of how age makes me dislike the 

Adam and Savannah pairing. Still, that's my personal dislike. I enjoyed the introduction of Paige and of the women working together. Quite fun.


Old ReviewElena, to me at least, is the most engaging of Armstrong's characters. She is nicely flawed, not annoying, and has a sense of humor. While there are flaws in the book (Armstrong's writing here isn't as polished as it is in the later books), Stolen is a fun read. I enjoy the fact that Elena is NOT a classic beauty and really loved her comments about bust and waist size. Also enjoyable is the fact that Elena is not strictly rescued

Pink Horse is She-Ra's, but the black horse is Black Beauty (made in China)
Pink Horse is She-Ra's, but the black horse is Black Beauty (made in China)
Breyer Black Beauty Set - Black Beauty and Duchess
Breyer Black Beauty Set - Black Beauty and Duchess
Black Beauty Set - Ginger and Merrylegs
Black Beauty Set - Ginger and Merrylegs
Black Beauty
Black Beauty

Any others you want to see?

King of the Wind Set - Lath, Roxana, Sham.
King of the Wind Set - Lath, Roxana, Sham.
Sham and Lady Roxana
Sham and Lady Roxana

I collect model horses, and because Linda loves King of the Wind, I'm posting these pics.  Breyer King of the Wind Models.  The set was released when the movie based on the book came out.

Out in Oct

Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom - David W. Blight

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley

We like, want, our heroes to be uncompleted, to always be heroic and constant while in the spotlight, and to leave that spotlight before they change politics or ideals. We want to remember Lincoln as the great emancipator not as the man who at one point wanted all freed slaves to return to Africa, a place they had never seen. That ruins the image of martyr Lincoln. We have the same feeling of many of our heroes, including Frederick Douglass.

Who despite what some people think is, in fact, dead. Perhaps the memory of Douglass is doing great things in a symbolical sense, but the actual man is long dust.

For most people, Douglass is the man who escaped slavery and publicly spoke out against it. Some people even confuse him with Henry “Box” Brown. Many students read Douglass either his Autobiography, or perhaps more commonly, the selection detailing his learning to read. The drawback to the commonly used selection is that it is many times the student’s only reading of Douglass, who sometimes some students think is a woman who is having sex with her mistress.

People today have heard of Douglass, but they don’t know of Frederick Douglass.

David W. Blight corrects that in his massive, though it does not read that way, new biography of Douglass.

Perhaps the hardest part of any Douglass biography is the reconstruction of his early life. This isn’t because of a lack of memoirs, but a surfeit of them, including subtle but important differences. Did he ask to be taught or did Sophia Auld teach him because of her own idea? A combination of both perhaps? Blight’s reconstructing of Douglass’s early life makes it clear when there is a question about what happened, where Douglass himself differs or where scholars raise questions. He does not choose sides; he deals with facts and context. A refreshing thing.

It is also something that he uses when dealing with Douglass’s relationship to his first wife Anna Murray, a free black woman who played a central role in Douglass’s escaping slavery. Murray was illiterate, not stupid, but illiterate as common for many people than. She and Douglass married soon after his escape, and they stayed married until her death. She birthed his children, she gave him a home to return to. Sadly, we do not know what she thought about her husband, about his relationship with the white women who would stay at her house, or about his feelings towards her for she is left out of his writing – much of interior family life seems to be. Blight, it seems, is slightly frustrated by this mystery of Anna Murray, and in the beginning, it almost seems like he is being, not condescending or dismissive, but almost shrugging off, not an accurate description but close. As the biography progress, however, you become grateful and happy that Blight does not presume to know what Anna Murray would think. He does suggest authors that try to channel her, but Blight keeps her presence as a real woman, almost shaking his head at Douglass’s silence. It helps that he keeps Douglass’s second wife, Helen Pitts, off page for much of the time as well.

Blight’s depiction of Douglass is within the context of his time and dealing with those who see contradictions and problems in who Douglass was – such as his expansionist tendencies, his view on Native Americans. Blight presents an imperfect human, as all humans are, but presents him with understanding and a feeling of fascination that are easily transmitted to the reader.


Who else is on Listy and Librarything?  (if you don't mind sharing)


My Librarything profile.


I'm on Listy as ChrisEthier

Updates - WARNING Racist TERMS

Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism - James W. Loewen

So I'm reading this and are going to try post updates.  Racist Lang. below


















Last Warning


Apparently Anna, Illinois (a town) stands fr "Ain't No Niggers Allowed"


Sundown Towns - white only towns  (usually no African Americans but also  in some places no Chinese or Hispanics, Jews).


Racial relations improved after the Civil War, but worsened from 1890s - 1930s.  ( this is also borne out by the book The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case by Micahel A Ross).


1890s-1930s - Nadir of Race relations, term coined by Rayford Logan


1901-1929 (1973 for South) - Congress totally white.  After the Civil War there were African American men elected until 1901.


South had/has fewer Sundown towns - Lowen contends that this is due to wanting African Americans to do the dirty work - such as housekeeping.

Long but really worth reading

I subscribe to the TLS, New York Review of Books, and the London Review of Books.  Every so often I consider dropping my subscription to the London Review, even though Marina Warner writes in it every so often.  But then they throw down something just fucking great.  This link will take you to the recent essay (very long essay) about the Grenfall Fall that occured last year (the high raise fire where 72 people died).  It is not an easy read in terms of the subject material, so if you are having one of those bad days that I know many of us on here sometimes get, you might not want to read it.  However, it is honesty one of the most compelling, interesting, and well-written things I have read all year.  If you decide to read it, you might want to take a break or two while reading.  


But damn, it is good.

The Hate U Give - Angie Thomas

Re-read remarks

I re-read this because I am teaching this. My first review stands, but let me add something. Like many teachers, I noticed what my students are doing when I walk into a classroom. Usually, it's everyone looking at thier cell phones. But yesterday, I walked in and most of the class was reading this book, and most of the class is ahead of where they need to be. That's something special. Thank you, Angie Thomas.

Older Review
It’s Obsidian Blue’s fault I read this book now. It is. I was, still am, advocating this for my book club, but it wouldn’t be until the end of the year because we are booked till October.

Yeah so, but after Blue wrote a glowing review, I knew I had to read because if Blue really loves something, it means that I will really love it.

Yeah, so, all those reviews about how this is the book of the year, how this is the book that everyone should read this year, all those reviews are right.

Starr is from the “ghetto” but because her parents want the best for her and her brothers, so she and her brothers attend a fancy prep school about 45-60 minutes away. In her home neighborhood, she is known basically as her father’s daughter who works at his store.

She is two people prep school Starr and neighborhood Starr.

And then what happens to often happens. A friend is shot by a police officer. An unarmed friend is shot by a white police officer. Starr’s worlds collide in ways that are expected and not so much.

Look, I’m white so what Starr experiences is something I never experienced and never will experience. Yes, all teens have that dichotomy, but there is a vast different between the standard two persona teen and two personas for simple survival sake, so my view of reality is different, but this book feels real. I have taught Starr’s parents. My friend teaches Starr’s classmates.

The amount of detail in this engrossing read is great. It is Starr’s growing knowledge about those around here, in all her places – not only her classmates but her family and friends as well. There is the case of Maya, Kenya, and Chris – who quite frankly comes across as a wonderful. Starr’s father is a former gang member, but her uncle is a detective. There is the conflict of a desire or need for a better and/or safer life and to do right by your birth place. There is a good bit about cycles and the need to break them, about being trapped in a place where every choice is bad.

And it is to Thomas’ credit that fairy tale ending isn’t there, at least not wholly (you could argue that a certain facet of a fairy tale ending is present). The ending feels real, Starr’s voice is real, there is not a false step here at all.

The book isn’t anti-police – after all there is Starr’s uncle. Additionally, it isn’t racist against white people. There’s not only Chris, but his parents (not central characters but their part in the end works), there are also several white friends of Starr who are her friends. The question of her boyfriend at the end of the book isn’t so much questioning as teasing (honestly, it happens all the time).

Part of Civil War Summer Reading

This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War - Drew Gilpin Faust

While the sub-title of the book indicates the focus on the Civil War, much of what Faust illustates can be applied to how cheaply we seem to hold life these days. And no, I'm not talking soley about inner city violence, but mass shootings, terrorist attacks. You name it. Because, the book is about how society's view to death changed radically during the Civil War.

Faust's book is divided into chapters, each named with a facet of death. She details the original view of death in the society of the time, but then how that changed with the war - not only in terms of how the army dealt with the bodies of the wounded, but also how individuals dealt with the missing loved ones. It is an enthralling and distrubing read that is a needed one. 

French Revolutions was better

Gironimo!: Riding the Very Terrible 1914 Tour of Italy - Tim Moore

There is something funny about an honest, out of shape guy writing a book about trying to ride the Tour of Italy route from 1914.  It's a fun read.  

Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture - Roxane Gay
Look, don't let my rating fool you. This is an important book; it should be required reading. I love the inclusion of both LGTB and male voices, and important. 

I just, and this isn't going to sound nice but, I just wish there had more culture, if that makes sense. While the bulk of the collection are personal essays, most of those are about writers who have survived rape. Which is fine, but those personal essays, by and large, are also about coming to the realizations about lack of victim blaming or the effect the attack had on the person later in life. Again fine, but the title mentions culture and that is lacking somewhat. The essays that are the better essays are the ones that connect more strongly to culture - such as those by Union, Stokes, Chen, and xTx.

But this book should be required reading

Women of the Underworld Re-Read

Bitten - Kelley Armstrong

I "discovered" this  series returning from Kentucky.  My friend and I stopped at a bookstore and three volumes of this series were on the sale table. Those books were 3, 4, and 5 so I didn't read this, the first book, until later.


Bitten was Armstrong's first published book and in some ways, it shows.  The writing and pacing could be smoother.  There are some bit too repetitious details, and when two characters die, the emotional impact is lacking because while the heroine, Elena, is close to them, the reader has been told this and not shown.  And one of the sex scenes is a bit creepy.  Secondary characters are not as developed as they will be in later books (this is true about Clay who changes slightly).


But, it is a cut above most Urban Fantasy, and the creepy sex scene is one of the reasons why.


Bitten is about Elena Michaels, the Otherworld's only female werewolf (supposedly.  At least the only one anyone knows about).  In Armstrong's books, you can become a werewolf by birth, but only if your father was one and if you are boy; or you can become a werewolf by getting bitten by one - something that kills most people.  Elena became a werewolf because her boyfriend, in wolf form, nipped her and drew blood (She did not know he was a werewolf at the time).  Elena, therefore and with good reason, blames her boyfriend, Clay, for her change in life.  What makes it worse is the question of whether it was intentional or not.  At the start of the book, Elena has left the pack, mostly because of her anger and conflicted feelings, and lives in Toronto.  She has a human job and boyfriend.  She gets along well with his family.  The late night walks need some excuses, but so far so good.  She gets called back when dead bodies get left on pack land.  Needless to say, this causes issues.


The creepy sex scene occurs when Clay looses binds her arms.  He points out that if Elena says no, he will stop.  The way Clay is drawn by Armstrong as well as the sitution make it quite clear that this is true. Elena doesn't say no, but the whole binding her arms without permission is a bit well .  . creepy.  Clay is also a bit pushy.  He borders on stalkish.  He never followed her to Toronto, but he does invade her space.  He's charming but a bit much.  You can understand the attraction, but like Elena, you are conflicted.


Or you should be.


Many reviews of this book and the second in series, say that Elena was too tough on Clay, that she needs to get over it.  But, I think that is the point.  What would you do if the man you loved and thought you were going to marry, changed your life by making you something other than you were?  You have to give up everything - the job you wanted, the life you wanted.  You become stronger and special, but also bloodthirsty.  And if the bite was intentional?  Too often in Urban Romance the romantic lead does something suspect to the heroine - think Jean Claude who forces Anita Blake to date him by threatening to kill her boyfriend.  How is that charming?  It's not.  It seems that Armstrong is trying to explore a complicted issue.  To be fair, I think she doesn't pull off entirely, but at least she is trying to explore those issues of consent and stalking that other Urban Fantasy takes as a trophe of romance.


Elena is a fresh breath not just because of her confliced feelings (which are beautifully illustrated and totally human) but because she is realstic about her looks.  She is wanted by other werewolves not because she is stunning (she's not) but because she is the only female wolf and to male werewolves she smells like heat.  She  is insecure and messy.  She tries her best, but is far from perfect.  And when characters call her upon her behavior, she, like most of us, gets defensive but then thinks about it.  



Soul by Soul: Life inside the Antebellum Slave Market - Walter Johnson

Johnson's book focuses on the American slave trade, looking at the ways, the whos, and hows.  


He focues on the traders (including the man who sold Northup) as well as those who were trader and those who brought.  It was mostly a man's world.  What is most interesting is how some slaves were able to influence sales.


Part of Summer Civil War Reading