Chris' Fish Place

Thoughts on things, mostly books.

 

 

                             

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Free in US on Kindle

Testament of Youth - Vera Brittain, Mark Bostridge

The Hachette Book version of Testament is currently free.

 

Find it Here

10 Free Kindle Books

Amazon is offering these books for free for a week.  Still Waters is good.

 

https://www.amazon.com/article/read-the-world?ref_=apubna_pr_gr_10006_rb_2_1_1804

 

This was sOOOO good

Tales from the Haunted South: Dark Tourism and Memories of Slavery from the Civil War Era - Tiya Miles

I love this book.  I love this book.  I love this book.

 

I should admit that I think I feel about ghosts the same way that Dr Miles does. I love a good ghost story, and in particular, I love ghost folklore. But I try to be aware of what the stories also say about society - both the source society and the current society. I love the work of L.B. Taylor Jr., in part, because he does deal equally with history and folklore. That's where his interest lay, and while a Southern, he doesn't whitewash.

Miles taps into the question of ghost folklore and tourism in the South, in particular, the use of ghost stories about slave to sell tours. She not only digs at the history (or non-history) behind such stories, but looks at how the various places address slavery. IT is a rather enlighting and anger inducing book, but it does make you think and provides you with a reading list.

Miles' passion and prose is so clear and engaging that I want to read everything she has written and will write after reading this good book.

 

 

I really loved this book.

Out in June

City of Devils  - Paul French

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley

 

                Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom opens in 1935 at a club in the city of Shanghai.  Jones is going to met a gangster, and, of course, the shit hits the fan.  It is a Hollywood version of what Shanghai was like during the interwar years. Yet, there is some truth to it.  The city did have Badlands, and there were clubs that not only hired but catered to expatriates from America and Europe.  In his book City of Devils, Paul French presents the truth and while it does involve show girls there is a great more drugs, murder, and the looming threat of war.

 

                French details Shanghai, in particular Joe Farren and Jack Riley, two men who were sometimes engaged in legal business and sometimes in not so legal business.  Joe Farren started as a Fred Astaire or Vernon Castle type.  Escaping Vienna and touring Asia with his wife and the dance troupe they eventually started.  Farren is the dapper man, the married man with his wife Nellie.  He does resemble, at least in French’s description. 

 

                Riley is more of a gangster type.  American, blunt, and physical as opposed to dapper.  But not stupid, not stupid at all. His washing up at Shanghai isn’t so much to do with his performance ability. The two men are sometimes partners, sometimes rivals, sometimes enemies.

 

                In the story of the rise and fall of the two men, French also describes the imploding of Shanghai as an international colony forced upon the Chinese as well as the coming Second World War.  It isn’t just crime that causes the problems but also the Japanese and the shifting of power.

 

                At points, French introduces newspaper columns and Chinese views on what is occurring – either the view of the white men or the invading Japanese.  It is those bits that are the most moving and wonderful because they move the book beyond a simple history of the underworld.

 

                French writes with passion and vigor.  His prose is quite engrossing, and he does the best he can with limited sources.  What is most interesting (and hardy lest surprising) is that the women were harder to trace than the men.  It is to French’s credit that he shows the women as more than just molls or enablers.  In fact, a few of them are movers and shakers.

 

                The book is both engaging and engrossing.

Wonder Woman By Greg Rucka Vol. 1 - Greg Rucka
I picked this up because I wanted to read The Hiketeia story. 

Which was worth the price.

The Hiketeia deals with WW taking on supplicant who is wanted for murder, and who Batman is chasing. The story gets at the difference between WW and Batman. One thing that has always bugged a little about Bats (and I should not that I was not, and never will be, a regular Batman reader) is that whenever I read him, he always cared more about the bigger crimes instead of the little crimes and injustices that lead to them. In fact, he wants people to follow the rules that he doesn't follow. Bugs me. The Hiketeia addresses this, and is quite a stunning story.

The other stories are about WW's conflicting places and duties as Amazon, savior, warrior, and ambassdor. It's quite well done.
 
 
 

 

 

Read this

Dread Nation - Justina Ireland

First off, before anything else, if you called yourself a feminist and don’t see this cover and go ‘gimme’ you are not a true feminist.  Woman, that cover.  Whoever designed it – props.  Major props and hopefully a large raise. 

 

                I first noticed this title last year because of the cover.  It popped up on my GR feed.  I don’t normally read much in the way of zombie titles –for a variety of reasons – but this looked awesome, though for some reason I thought the main character was going to West Point or something.  Needless to say, much anticipated, so a great worry of please don’t be a letdown.

 

                It’s not.

 

                At first blush, Ireland’s book looks like a mash up of Huck Finn with Michonne from the Walking Dead (though the main character Jane uses sickles). 

 

                It is and isn’t.

 

                It’s so much more.  It’s true that Ireland seems to be drawing quite a bit on Finn, and Jane harkens to him, but Ireland also seems to be drawing on Kate Chopin.

 

                And yet, it is so much more.

 

                Jane is a young woman who is going to a school for girls.  This school trains girls to kill shamblers aka zombie.  All the girls at the school are black because the government has mandated that all blacks and Native Americans (I’m being polite, Ireland uses the correct term for the 1880s, coming from a white man) be sent to schools to learn how to kill the undead (slavery is supposedly illegal but Jim Crow and Reconstruction exist).  In one swoop, Ireland combines residential schools and their abuses with Jim Crow and the use of Army recruitment centers in minority and lower income areas.  She also works in medical experiments on minorities. 

 

                This isn’t your normal zombie book.       

 

                And that’s important because in North America most people disregard the connection between zombies and forced labor, a form of slavery that continues after the slave’s death.  That’s the horror.  Not the brain eating.  It’s true that Cherie Priest set her steampunk zombie series in an alternate Civil War, but her zombies are more connected to drug use.  Ireland’s use of zombies during the Civil War and Reconstruction is far more powerful and visceral.  The sense of uncomfortable and not right is far stronger than, say, in the Walking Dead.  In part this is due to how people use the zombie plague, but also because of the symbolism connected with zombies. 

 

                Jane is wonderfully drawn character though she is also the book’s major flaw.   There are too many cases and situations where she is the only capable woman or girl.   Or the smartest.  This is a flaw that is all too common to a great many novels staring kick ass heroines.  Unlike some people, Ireland does try to argument.  Just when you think Jane is going to be a bit too princess perfect, Ireland seems to realize as well and someone else does something that earns Jane’s admiration.  Jane does grow over the course of the novel, and she also is not the girl that everyone lusts after.  So, she is almost too perfect, but that almost is important.

 

                That, and Jane is a black woman in a time and place that sees as the lowest of the low.  She must constantly downplay her intelligence (the use of reading in this book is absolutely beautiful) and constantly deals with insults.  She has a sense of humor, but she is also, rightly, angry and struggling in an unfair, racist system.  She grows over the course of the book, and her voice is a real one.  Her voice, despite its use of 1800 terms, is also a very real, modern one when dealing with issues like slavery and killing.

 

                There are more than a few scenes with connections to police shooting of unarmed African-Americans. 

 

                This book should be taught along with The Hate U Give. 

 

                And not because it is the first alternate history book I’ve read that gives us an alternate history Ida B. Wells.

 

                Jane is surrounded by believable characters.  I love Kate.  I’ve always loved Michelle Sagara West and Kelly Armstrong because they showed women being strong in radically different but equally important ways.  I have to add Justine Ireland.  Kate is a wonderful character and her story arc is just as powerful as Jane’s.  Ireland deserves a reward simply for what Kate says towards the end of the book about relationships.  There does seem to be a hint of a standard YA love triangle, but romantic love is not the focus of the book.  Jane’s potential beaux include an ex, Red Jack, who makes his way the only way he can, and Gideon who she is attracted to because of his smarts as well as his chest.

 

                How cool is that?

 

                The most powerful part of the story, however, are the parts of letters that head each chapter.  For part of the book, the letter is one (or more) from Jane to her mother who lives at Rose Hill.  In the last section of the book, the letter is one (or more) from Jane’s mother to Jane.  The letters are powerful because of what they must say and what they can’t say, simply because both women know that the letters may be read by a third party.  It is though Jane, who is bi-racial and her mother’s back story that Ireland deftly subverts the use of the mulatto, in particular the tragic mulatto, in literature.

 

                In a world that never was, Ireland shows us the world that is and makes the reader confront it.

Read it

Dread Nation - Justina Ireland

First off, before anything else, if you called yourself a feminist and don’t see this cover and go ‘gimme’ you are not a true feminist.  Woman, that cover.  Whoever designed it – props.  Major props and hopefully a large raise. 

 

                I first noticed this title last year because of the cover.  It popped up on my GR feed.  I don’t normally read much in the way of zombie titles –for a variety of reasons – but this looked awesome, though for some reason I thought the main character was going to West Point or something.  Needless to say, much anticipated, so a great worry of please don’t be a letdown.

 

                It’s not.

 

                At first blush, Ireland’s book looks like a mash up of Huck Finn with Michonne from the Walking Dead (though the main character Jane uses sickles). 

 

                It is and isn’t.

 

                It’s so much more.  It’s true that Ireland seems to be drawing quite a bit on Finn, and Jane harkens to him, but Ireland also seems to be drawing on Kate Chopin.

 

                And yet, it is so much more.

 

                Jane is a young woman who is going to a school for girls.  This school trains girls to kill shamblers aka zombie.  All the girls at the school are black because the government has mandated that all blacks and Native Americans (I’m being polite, Ireland uses the correct term for the 1880s, coming from a white man) be sent to schools to learn how to kill the undead (slavery is supposedly illegal but Jim Crow and Reconstruction exist).  In one swoop, Ireland combines residential schools and their abuses with Jim Crow and the use of Army recruitment centers in minority and lower income areas.  She also works in medical experiments on minorities. 

 

                This isn’t your normal zombie book.       

 

                And that’s important because in North America most people disregard the connection between zombies and forced labor, a form of slavery that continues after the slave’s death.  That’s the horror.  Not the brain eating.  It’s true that Cherie Priest set her steampunk zombie series in an alternate Civil War, but her zombies are more connected to drug use.  Ireland’s use of zombies during the Civil War and Reconstruction is far more powerful and visceral.  The sense of uncomfortable and not right is far stronger than, say, in the Walking Dead.  In part this is due to how people use the zombie plague, but also because of the symbolism connected with zombies. 

 

                Jane is wonderfully drawn character though she is also the book’s major flaw.   There are too many cases and situations where she is the only capable woman or girl.   Or the smartest.  This is a flaw that is all too common to a great many novels staring kick ass heroines.  Unlike some people, Ireland does try to argument.  Just when you think Jane is going to be a bit too princess perfect, Ireland seems to realize as well and someone else does something that earns Jane’s admiration.  Jane does grow over the course of the novel, and she also is not the girl that everyone lusts after.  So, she is almost too perfect, but that almost is important.

 

                That, and Jane is a black woman in a time and place that sees as the lowest of the low.  She must constantly downplay her intelligence (the use of reading in this book is absolutely beautiful) and constantly deals with insults.  She has a sense of humor, but she is also, rightly, angry and struggling in an unfair, racist system.  She grows over the course of the book, and her voice is a real one.  Her voice, despite its use of 1800 terms, is also a very real, modern one when dealing with issues like slavery and killing.

 

                There are more than a few scenes with connections to police shooting of unarmed African-Americans. 

 

                This book should be taught along with The Hate U Give. 

 

                And not because it is the first alternate history book I’ve read that gives us an alternate history Ida B. Wells.

 

                Jane is surrounded by believable characters.  I love Kate.  I’ve always loved Michelle Sagara West and Kelly Armstrong because they showed women being strong in radically different but equally important ways.  I have to add Justine Ireland.  Kate is a wonderful character and her story arc is just as powerful as Jane’s.  Ireland deserves a reward simply for what Kate says towards the end of the book about relationships.  There does seem to be a hint of a standard YA love triangle, but romantic love is not the focus of the book.  Jane’s potential beaux include an ex, Red Jack, who makes his way the only way he can, and Gideon who she is attracted to because of his smarts as well as his chest.

 

                How cool is that?

 

                The most powerful part of the story, however, are the parts of letters that head each chapter.  For part of the book, the letter is one (or more) from Jane to her mother who lives at Rose Hill.  In the last section of the book, the letter is one (or more) from Jane’s mother to Jane.  The letters are powerful because of what they must say and what they can’t say, simply because both women know that the letters may be read by a third party.  It is though Jane, who is bi-racial and her mother’s back story that Ireland deftly subverts the use of the mulatto, in particular the tragic mulatto, in literature.

 

                In a world that never was, Ireland shows us the world that is and makes the reader confront it.

DNF

The Song of the Bee-Eater (The Desert Queen Book 4) - M.L. Bullock

Because Mina as a name in Anicent Egypt!!!

 

WTF!

Pretty good as novelizations go

Wonder Woman: The Official Movie Novelization - Nancy Holder

I think that writing a really good novelization is becoming a lost art.  But Nancy Holder knows what she is doing.  This is everything a good novelization should be.

 

The novel, obviously, follows the plot and action of the recent Wonder Women movie.  The motivations and thoughts of several characters are fleshed.  Importantly, there are three Amazons that Diana particularly admires - her mother, her aunt (aka her other mother), and Artmis (who is the black Amazon that Diana spars with in the movie).  This is cool.  I also highly enjoyed Diana's thoughts on Etta.  There are some really wonderful passages, like young Diana's desire to fight peacocks.  One improvement over the movie is the story of the Amazon's birth and the fight with Ares.  Holder has both Antiope and HIppoytla tell Diana the story.  I like Holder's staging of the story much better.

 

Incidentally, there was some comment about Diana's interaction when she meets Chief - the use of Blackfoot language is kept without a translation (it's easily enough to find out what is being referred to online).  I really loved that touch.  

Do not read if bugs freak you out

The Ghost of Shapley Hall - Amy Cross

Guy meets girl.  Goes to girl's stately pile, and shit happens.  This book does really remind of M R James.  

 

However, I'm sorry but the typo about a living character who doesn't have children being caught up in the history of her descendents made me laugh so hard.

A bit iffy in some plot points but really good

Ghosts of Hexley Airport - Gillian Cross

The Ghosts of Hexley Airport is basically what the title says.  A new security guard must deal with the night time visitors, who may or may not be there.  You see, there was a tragic accident ten years ago. 

 

Cross does really well with the amostphere of the story, and the characters, by and large, are belivable.  The big reveal does work in an overall sense, but there are two characters that don't quite fully fit the reveal in all ways.  Whether or not this was due to a typo, I'm not sure.  If it isn't, this is one of those books where not everything is explained, but I like that.  

 

The book is self published, but I only say two real typos.

Poetic

Zeina - Nawal El Saadawi, Amira Nowaira

It is interesting reading this book after discovering that El Sadwaal camped out in Tahir Square.  Zeina is a book about the roles or lack of them that men and women are forced to play.  The primary focus is on the treatment of women.

 

                At first glance the novel appears to be a story about Bodour and her illegitimate daughter Zeina, the novel is more a story of alternating viewpoints, mostly those of various women, but every so often a view of a man creeps in.  It also deals with how religion can be used to subjugate, not just in Islam but also in Christianity and Judaism.

 

                The use of language is beautiful and pointed.  From a statement like “How He [God] command a woman to desire her husband when he dominated her” to a description like “Her [Zeina’s] eyes were two blue volcanic stones, two dark flames that changed with the movement of the earth around the sun”.

 

                If you are not bothered by the shifting viewpoints and lack of traditional structure this is a lovely book.

Movies, Movies, Movies

Okay, I've been looking at trailers lately, and as per usual there are lots of heroic men doing heroic things while women just look good.  Take for instance, the Avengers trailer.  Look, I know we are suppose to be all worried because of contracts and shit.  But seriously, here's the spoiler - everyone dies and gets brought back to life.  But here's my question - we have plenty of women in this movie.  But at no point in the trailer do the women even seem to look at each other let alone talk to each other.  It's great that both Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (and to a lesser degree 1) and Black Pather actualy had women have real conversations, admittly usually about men in round about ways, but still finally in Marvel movies we have that - though we had to wait until Black Panther for a black woman to do anything besides make Tony Stark feel guitly. We have some Black Widow action in the trailer, but otherwise it is just men in the forefront and women either info dumping or looking at the men.   At least this Avengers has more women than Justice League.  

 

Then there is Isle of Dogs, where the pretty show dog is the female dog and the story is about a boy and his dog.

 

Okay, we have Ant and Wasp, so at least that's a woman doing something.  But I don't really care.

 

Hey look, there is a Taraji B Henson movie where she plays the wronged wife - and the only reason this isn't a Lifetime movie is because its Taraji.  I mean, how often does that stop plot get recycled and recycled.  

 

Oh, and Jon Hamm's wife gets killed by terrorists and he has to do something after she dies.

 

There is also Harry Potter whatever number.  I'm sorry how is Newt not Harry.  Okay, okay he doesn't have a scar but still same thing.  Guy hero with other Guy heros in the trailer.

 

And we have a movie with Diane Keaton gets turned on by 50 Shades of Grey.  

Wait, finally, Alita Battle Angel where the girl is a Cyborg!  A girl does shit!  Finally!  It isn't out to December?  WTH!

 

I know you're going to say Red Sparrow, but (a) I don't want to look at naked Jennifer Lawrence and (b) I'm tried of Jennifer Lawrence in roles that she is too young for.  

 

Look, I get it.  Men make the movies.  But can we please have more movies were women do heroic things that do not involve going after thier cheating husband, finding their G spot, or being a free spirit?  Yes, we had Proud Mary and Atomic Blonde.  There is Tomb Raider reboot as well, but here's the thing - can we also have a heroic female movie where the women are not in competition, do not talk about men, drive their own plot, and actually help each other?

 

(Yes, I know Wrinkle in Time, but I want more than one movie, thank you).

 

Sorry, the Avengers trailer is pissing me off so much.

The War on Women - Sue Lloyd-Roberts

I’m sure if you posted the title of this book on Twitter a bunch of people would tell you that there is no war on women. 

                And those people would be wrong.

                This was the book that Lloyd-Roberts was working on when she died.  As such, it is therefore unfinished.  A great deal of the information that is covered was also covered by the work that Lloyd-Roberts did for the BBC (and you can easily find these programs on YouTube).

                The book is focused on British and International cases.  In many cases, Lloyd-Roberts showcases a facet of the war in one place and then applies it also to some communities in the UK.  It should be noted that when addressing the interplay with religion, Lloyd-Roberts is careful to place blame on the interpretation of a religion.  She covers child brides, forced marriages, rape, trafficking, and the pay gap.  She illustrates that the war on women is pretty much worldwide, just taking different forms.

                But there is also hope as the sub-title indicates, thorough this hope needs the help of others in the global community.  This theme starts early with the story of a cutter (FGM) who seeks asylum in the Britain.  If any, the book is a call to arms.

I hope Stinkbug and Pence are choking on thier bile

A Day In The Life Of Marlon Bundo - Marlon Bundo, Jill Twiss, Richard Parsons

Marlon Bundo is not a godfather, or at least he doesn’t seem to be.  It is important to know this.  This picture book is a response to the Pence family book about their bunny rabbit and a plea for tolerance.

 

                And as my students would say, “it is as funny as shit”.

 

                Yeah, I’m not sure how shit is funny either.  I mean, okay, I suppose if you have been constipated and then you go No 2, it might as good as shit.  But what sort of weird tickling shit exists that makes you laugh?

 

                This book by Jill Twiss (John Oliver) is about a bunny who falls in love with another bunny, another buck (I am sorry but a male bunny is a buck and not boy, just saying). and then Donald Trump aka Stinkbug tells them they can’t marry.  Thankfully, Marlon Bundo has a bunch of friends, one of whom, the dog, understands democracy.  The cool thing is that Marlon’s friends are all different in different ways – including a decorative turtle and a hedgehog (honesty, you have me at hedgehog) who likes to read the endings first to make sure the book isn’t too traumatic (Dude, put down Old Yeller!).

 

                The artwork is beautiful.

 

                Now, I’m sure that some people are going to get upset about this spoof of the Pence family book, but you know what – I don’t care.  I don’t care at all.  Pence has shown that he does not care about me because I have a vagina, and he wants some of my friend to change who they are.  So, you know what, Mike Pence can take his homophobic, sexist self and jump in a lake.

 

                Don’t worry, Marlon Bundo, you have a home for life.

 

                A half star off because I am a comma purist so really 4.5, but the illustrations are so beautiful.

The Summer Book - Tove Jansson, Esther Freud, Thomas Teal

March 2018 Reader’s Group Read.


Rhianna Pratchett recently penned a piece for the Guardian about what the Moomins meant to both her and her father, Terry Pratchett. The Moomins are truly magical and wonderous. Jansson’s Moomin books are also about acceptance and love; it is not really funny in the book that one character wears a dress his aunt once wore.
But Jansson’s other work is as powerful as the Moomins. 
The Summer Book doesn’t really have a plot. In some ways, it is a collection of loosely connected short stories about a young girl and her grandmother as they spend time on a summer island. Sophia’s mother has died, Jansson never mentions what exactly happened, and her father is present but more as a hovering figure.
Sophia and her grandmother wander the island, and there are wonderful descriptions about the forest and the water. There is a visit from of Sophia’s, a young girl with wonderful hair. Sophia comes across as a rather interesting child. The book examines the rhythms of life and the conflicts that can occur. It’s a lovely little tale