Chris' Fish Place

Thoughts on things, mostly books.




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Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America - Gilbert King

This is not a biography of Thurgood Marshall. In many ways, it is a study of one case during the years after WW II and before Brown. King includes infromation about other cases, showcasing that there are names we should know besides Till.

King also looks at all the players in the Groveland and in particular, the effect of Marshall upon them. In many ways, that is the most intersting part of the book

That Sleep of Death: A Sam Wiseman Mystery - Richard King

There is way too much telling going on. You have two book lovers, and we are told what their conversation is about not shown. Furthermore, why would you keep referring to your friend and business partner by both her first and last name? King captures Montreal well, but that doesn't make up for the other issues


Murder Strikes Pink - Josephine Pullein-Thompson

Like most girls, I first encountered the Pullein-Thompson sisters by reading one of their horse books. In my case, it was the bound volume of Black Beauty’s Family, which is criminally underrated and includes a better horse in WWI story than Warhorse. The BBF was so good that years later when as an adult, I received two other collections by sisters from friend who was saying, “I know they are kid books, but”, I interrupted with, “awesome”. I wasn’t aware that they had written adult novels until this book was offered free for kindle (Endeavour press is awesome).

Murder Strikes Pink is a mystery about the death of a wealthy and waspy show jumper owner who no one seems to like and everyone seems to be in some fear of. The cast of characters is pretty standard for any British mystery. It has a Midsomer Murders type of appeal. 

There is so disquiet and gloss over. Honesty, one problem is a bit too easily solved. Yet, it has the small English village charm of a Christie. What Pullein-Thompson gets much credit for her is her use of characters – no one is perfect and everyone is really human. 

Um seriously?


Not the best

The Best Man to Die - Ruth Rendell

This is not the best Wexford installment.  The mystery is not all that interesting, and Wexford is insufferable and little bit sexist.  If you have not read Rendell before, this is not the one to start with.  

Good Installment

The Torso - Helene Tursten, Katarina Emilie Tucker

Irene Huss is the Nordic detective you need.  She has a husband who is a chef, twin daughters, and a unneuter male dog who has fathered puppies who all need a home.  The most upsetting home problem is that one of the daughter is a vegan.  The horror is in the work where in one of those scenes that appears in every mystery series at some point -  a dog walker finds a sack with body parts.


This also means that the Swede Huss has to go Copenhagen where she has to put her judo skills to use (and these are judo skills that make sense so she isn't a special princess).


What I like best about the Huss novels is Huss.  She isn't perfect, but she tries her best.  She also is not a drug addict, sex addict, drink too much, or beat people up.  It is a mystery free of that angst driven, lonely detective.  


And for that I love it.

the reason why I don't watch my local NBC News

Okay, I'll admit my depression has been acting up lately (Winston's black dog and what not), but I am pissed about my local NBC"s coverage of the smuck Nasser.  When reporting on the sentencing, the reporter said "the doctor who women say molested them".  Sorry, he's been found guilty.  HE DID IT.  By saying women say, you are calling it into question.  Such stupid sexism in a news report.  Piece of shit reporting.  SO PISSED.


Ursula K Le Guin has died.

Spellbound 1-4

Spellbound (Issues) (4 Book Series) - Jean Dufaux, Jose Luis Munuera

What happens when good and evil meet and fall in love?  Does evil corrupt good?  Does good redeem evil?


                Spellbound answers that question.  Blanche is a princess who is in danger of losing her kingdom and Malador is a prince in the same situation.  They decide to team up.  What then follows is an exploration of power and morality.


                There are several very nice light touches in the book.  Malador’s sister is really funny, and the undead and goblin armies are quite funny when they discuss kneeling, spleens, flesh, and battle cries.


                Yet my favorite part of the story is Horriblus, who is a potion seller who reminds me of Vitalstix.  He has the nose, he has the feet, he has a hopeless crush, and is actually quite sweet and lovely.

Black Panther Soul of a Machine Series 1-8

Black Panther: Soul Of A Machine (2017) #3 - Ariel Olivetti, J.A. Giles, Chuck Brown

This is an 8 short issue series via Kindle, where it is free.  Each issue is about 8-10 pages, so the whole series is about 80 pages.  It is still free for kindle.  The artist depends on the issue, but overall the art is good; no issue has bad artwork.


                The central plot is an attempt by Machineswift to take over the world via a tech conference and Wakanda.  While Black Panther plays a crucial role in a few of the early issues as well as the concluding issues, the focus is on what is basically an international geek squad – which includes Wakandans, but also various others so it is a true global incentive.


                The emphasis is on battling with intelligence – it isn’t Hulk Smash, but coming up with a solution to a problem.  This doesn’t mean that there isn’t a bit of a battle, there is, but the geeks are the true heroes.


                Furthermore, the series makes excellent use of Shuri, who, quite I find to be the more interesting of the siblings.  There are plenty of women as well as men, both genders shown to be fighters and scientists.

Out in April

Wolf Sanctuary: The Wolves of Speedwell Forge - Chuck Rineer

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley

                If you live in Pennsylvania, you might have heard of Wolf Sanctuary founded and run by the Darlingtons.  The Santuacry is a rescue sight for wolves that also educates visitors, though it is wolves first and visitors second.  In other words, you need to make a reserveration.


                Rineer’s book is a photographer’s look at the various packs that reside on the property.  It is not a history of the foundation or of the various packs and wolves (though a brief overview is given).  What is celebrated in this volume is the beauty of wolves in wonderful, striking photographs.  The book includes brief descriptions of the relationships between the wolves as well as some facts. 


                Truthfully, the book’s selling points are the pictures of wolves during wolf things.  Like standing and sleeping the snow, playing, sleeping, being pups.


                So beautiful.

Interesting take on fairy tales

Regal Academy #1: A School for Fairy Tales - Luana Vergari, Bendetta Barone

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley


                I haven’t seen the series on Nickelodeon, so I am coming to this as a newbie.


                The story is a high school for the children or grandchildren of famous fairy tale characters.  We are introduced to Rose who has a thing for shoes and literally falls though the rabbit hole.  She discovers her relationship to Cinderella and is introduced to new friends, including a young woman who likes creepy crawlies but can also turn into a frog.  There is a male Snow White too.


                In many ways, the story is a mash up of Harry Potter ideas and a show like Disney’s Descendants.  The fairy tale kids learn how to use magic, including pumpkin magic, and there is even some dragon riding.


                While the mean girl and crew trope is used here, the story is largely about friends working together to succeed.  Additionally, while the female characters are stereotypical drawn (in some cases without enough room for a stomach), there is no emphasis on looks.  While Rose’s parents don’t look old enough to be her parents, her grandmother at least has wrinkles.


                The stories are engaging, and the female characters do not need saving.  In fact, it’s fun to read stories where female leads are feminine, friends, and not simply guys with boobs.


                There are some nice cute nods to other versions – including a wonderful mouse character, Rose’s intense desire for shoes, and Rapunzel’s hair. 

Out in May

Queer City: Gay London from the Romans to the Present Day - Peter Ackroyd

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley


                One of my closest friends is a gay man who is twenty plus years older than me.  Most days, we take a walk though the local cemetery, The Woodlands (where Eakins and Stockton are buried among others).  Early on in our ritual, we noticed a headstone for a couple, but the couple in this case were both men.  Sadly, it was one of those couple headstones where one partner is still alive, and the other has died years ago.   My friend said that it was likely that the husband had died of AIDS.  When I asked him why, he pointed out the death date and the link to the AIDS epidemic.  Seriously, after a conversation like that, you never look at tombstones the same way.


                I found myself thinking about that as I read Peter Ackroyd’s Queer City.


                Queer City is another entry into what I call Ackroyd’s London History series (London, The Thames, London Under), and, as the title indicts, follows the history of London’s Queer residents and culture.  Queer here meaning homosexual and trans, which dates further back than you would think.  Ackroyd’s Queer City is a bit close to a chronical history, in a way that the other London books are not, though much of the flow and hither and there is still present.  You are either going to love this poetic style or hate it.


                There is a level of almost catty gossip and sly humor to Ackroyd’s non-fiction books.  Even a massive tome that is London doesn’t feel anyway near that long because of his tone.  It engages the reader, moving the book far past a simple history book.  So, we have observations like, “They were a tribe of Ganymedes and he was their Zeus”.


                Yet, the book covers so much.  Ackroyd starts during the Pre-Roman/Roman era, detailing even how gladiators weren’t perhaps quite the men we think they were (apparently, they really like perfume).  He then moves to the advent of Christianity and the Anglo -Saxons.  He does discuss not only homosexual men but women as well, noting that society’s view of women was also reflected in how society (not law, but society) viewed homosexual relationships.


                Being Ackroyd, he is particularly interesting when discussing literature.  There is a detailed look at Chaucer’s homosexual pilgrims as well as the view of the erotic theatre of Elizabeth’s time (“the codpieces were padded so the cods looked plumper”).


                But he also doesn’t hesitate to describe punishment dealt out to those who did not fit the norm.  We learn not only of whippings and beatings, but also of women slicing off a penis of an accused homosexual.  We hear of what happened to two women, one of whom had married the other while disguised as a man.  We learn more about those women who Waters wrote so well about in Tipping the Velvet.  As well as certain Mrs. Bradshaw, who will get approving looks from Disc fans.  We learn about the view of homosexuality and the arrival of AIDS in Britain.  This last section of the book is perhaps the quickest and almost glossed over.  I found myself wondering if this time period was too personal for Ackroyd to comfortably write about, at least in times of his story (Ackroyd’s long term partner Brian Kuhn died of AIDS in the 1990s).


                It is this last section of the book that is at once the most hopeful and most touching.  In the same chapter where he discusses the AIDS epidemic, he looks at the legislation of gay marriage as well as the phrase “check our privilege”, and this too made me think about the differences between then and now.  How some younger members of queer culture (or transgender culture) are somewhat dismissive of those that came before.   A trans person was dismissive of older homosexual because of lack of awareness of what that generation had endured.  He was not aware of men and women being unable and even forbidden to attend the sick and death beds of loved ones.  The word Stonewall to this young person meant little more than a Civil War Reference. The student lacked awareness and inability to see beyond or outside his own pain/frame of reference. It is also possible that this young man (his preferred description) had been condensed to by older homosexual/trans population.  One can sense a missed discussion between groups.  It is case like this that Ackroyd seems to be thinking about when he talks about checking privilege.  He doesn’t claim immunity, but he is pushing towards an ability to talk, to discuss, to learn, to be better.  Ackroyd is making a cause of understanding each other, in a way that the city he writes so passionately about seems to understand its residents.

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America - Richard Rothstein

This book chronicles the laws that were used to keep segeratation in force, even when the Jim Crow was over.  Important read.

Good Walking tour guide

A Spy’s London - Roy Berkeley

This book is a series of walking tours to look at famous spy sights in London.  Quite well done, and there is a funny light tone.

Murena Series 1-10

Murena - Volume 2 - Of Sand and Blood - Jean Dufaux, Philippe Delaby Murena - tome 1 - La Pourpre et l'or (French Edition) - Dufaux, Delaby Murena - tome 9 - édition spéciale (French Edition) - Jean Dufaux, Philippe Delaby

A friend told me once that when they were filming I, Claudius (they being the group that included Derek Jacobi and Brian Blessed) that they were having so much fun that they didn’t want to stop, hence they did the second book too.


                I have no idea if that story is true, I hope it is, and quite frankly, you haven’t lived until you have seen John Hurt as Caligula dancing around.


                If you liked I, Claudius the series or if you like the nasty Roman emperors killing each other, you should enjoy the comic book series Murena.  The story is about the title character, a son of the mistress of Claudius, and his relationship with Nero as Nero comes to and controls his power.  In some ways, the series is like a sequel to the story of I, Claudius. 


                Murena himself is not a saint, and at times becomes more than sinner.  IN some ways, he is Nero’s mirror, a reflection of the man he both loves and hates.  Two sides of the same coin in some ways.  Nero, too, isn’t all bad, and he finds himself being pulled in many different directions.


                At times, it is true, I wished that the women would interact a bit more.  This isn’t that there aren’t enough female characters, there are.  They just don’t; interact with each other.

                The series does an excellent job with the fire of Rome and the aftermath, in particular the effects on the Christian population of the city.