Chris' Fish Place

Thoughts on things, mostly books.




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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?

Faith Hunter fans

Check this out

Etta James could sing this book

Jazz Age Josephine - Jonah Winter, Marjorie Priceman

This book is about Josephine Baker pre-WWII, so the bit about her helping the French Resistance isn't here.  Her cheetah is, however.  


Told in lyrics that read like jazz, the story of Baker's young life and start in stardom is related without fanfare, yet the racism that she faced is presented quite clearly.  The art matches the setting.


It is quite wonderful.

The Wild Child - Mary Jo Putney

Free on Kindle, in the US at least.

1066 Graphic Novel

1066: Guillaume Le Conquérant - Patrick Weber, Emanuele Tenderini

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley


                In terms of history, this is spot on.  It would help if you are familiar with the general events surrounding the 1066 invasion as well as the politics leading up to it. 

                I mean, Weber remembers the women.  So, you have Harold, Edward, and William.  But you have Edith and Mathilda among others. 

                The one problem is that too many of the men are drawn too much alike, so I had to flip back and forth a couple times.  Still, this is a good, solid comic history of the events.  In particular, while it does have nudity and blood (quite a bit of blood), it would be a fitting read for a younger student of history. 

Star Wars Musing

What puzzles me most about the various Star Wars stories that occur after Jedi is the naming of Leia and Han’s children.  To be more precise, it is the naming of Ben or Anakin.  Why the hell would either of those be in either parent’s top ten list.


                I suppose, you could say that it was though Ben Kenobi that Han and Leia met so that’s why.  But really doesn’t quite work.  And, yes, Anakin is named for Leia’s biological father, who stood by and watched her real father get blown to smithereens along with everyone else on Aldrin after over seeing her torture.  True, Vader did save his son, but that’s Luke’s business. 


                Why, for instance, wouldn’t Leia want to name her son after her father – Bail.  The man who raised her, who quite clearly in the movies and the books, loved her as a daughter?  Who was by any measure a good father?  We could argue that Padme’s genetics make Leia partly who she is, but those same genes are in Luke, who whines quite a bit.  Leia was raised to serve.  She makes tough decisions that, quite frankly, Han and Luke don’t really have.  (It’s also telling that when Luke is called upon to make a tough decision, to stay with Yoda, he choses to go save his friends.  It’s understandable.  But Leia plays for time and does not sell out the Rebellion.  That’s a hell of choice and cool head).  Leia is the leader you want, in many respects.  And who is responsible for that?


                Not Vader, that’s for sure.


                But the naming of the Ben and Anakin also strikes the mother from the record.  Before the editing and editing, in Jedi, Leia remembers her mother.  We’re never given a name, we were told she was sad, but not a name, at least not in that movie. 


                In the Star Wars universe, it seems that the bloodline, and only the bloodline, matters.  Take for instance, all the complicated theories that people are still floating about Rey’s parents.  Or the fact that we all seem okay with how quickly Luke forgets his aunt and uncle.  More exactly, it is the biological father that counts more than the mother.  Kylo must kill Han, not Leia, even though Leia is the force sensitive.  When Ben has the chance to kill Leia, he can’t.  He cannot bring himself to do this.  Perhaps Rian Johnson intends this not only as a comment on how far to the dark side Kylo is, but a comment on who was the better parent.  It is the only time we have seen a mother actual matter in terms of being a mother in the films.  Padme isn’t a mother, she’s a vessel who conveniently forgives her abuser before her death.


                Being a father apparently counts more in the Star Wars universe.  Because he saves his son, Anakin is able to appear as a happy force ghost.


                WTF?  Okay, I am undoubtedly bringing a Christian view to it, but we don’t see the Emperor’s Force Ghost hanging with Yoda, do we?


                Hell, just disregard me.  I have no idea where I am going with this.

The Forgotten Slaves of Tromelin - Sylvain Savoia

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley


                There are many stories from history that we do not know.  It isn’t that in every case they are totally forgotten, though that is true in some cases, for sometimes people do know the story, but the story is not widely known.  This graphic novel relates one of those known but unknown stories.


                The novel tales two stories.  The first is that of the slave who not only find themselves kidnapped but then stranded on a small island.  The second is group of scholars many years later as they struggle to piece together what happened.  There is the stark contrast between the deprivations that the shipwrecked people suffered to that of the relative ease in which the researchers live.


                The dual stories work, as the graphic novel is true.  It is a non-fiction graphic novel.  Once you realize this is account and that is why some of the characters aren’t as fully developed as they would be in more fictional and less scholarly accounts.

                The amount of information that the book conveys is quite nice and the art work is lovely.

well worth reading

The Wolves of La Louviere - Flore Balthazar

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley


                The author’s note for this graphic novel says that it is a fictional story based on true facts and that some people are real, some note, some names have been changed.  The note is hardly needed for the story, for if you know anything about civilian life in the second World War, this story does have the ring of truth.


                The story follows a teen aged girl, Marcelle, her family as well as a young teacher, Marguerite, who becomes a subversive in the fight against the Nazis.  It is though the trials and tribulations of the family, whose father is missing and who suffer though air raids and shortages, as well as the more active resistance of Marguerite who disturbs a rebellion paper that the cost of being occupied comes home.


                Additionally, the story challenges the role of women in Belgian just before the War and during the war.  Marcelle and Yvette’s treatment in the family is quite different that of their brothers, in particular with regards to education.  Marguerite, too, confronts not only Nazis but misogyny.  So, the story presents not only the war, but the change that accelerated or came because of the war.


                It is a very powerful story.