Chris' Fish Place

Thoughts on things, mostly books.




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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.


The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My Life - John le Carré

Le Carre’s book is more a collection of essays that may or may not be true (at least according to his disclaimer).  The essays range from the very personal (about his father) to the funny (about a credit card) to the historic (about Philby).  There are stories about the development of his novels for movies – including stories about Burton and Guinness.  There is a funny bit about Robert Redford.


                But Le Carre’s boo isn’t just name dropping, or to be more exact, it’s not about name dropping at all.  In part, Le Carre talks about his thinking, about how he sees things, flaws and all.  And while he doesn’t have the easy-going style of Neil Simon’s memoirs, there is a charm and breeziness to the essays. 

This morning

I woke up this morning thinking I would hate to be a ambassador called on to explain Orange's remarks. Then I realized what a wonderful oppurtunity this would be. I think it went something like this:


I'm sorry PM I can't explain my doofus, sorry president's remarks. What can I say? I didn't vote for the jackass. Neither did the majority of the country. I mean, he can't even read. Hell, I shouldn't even be here. Not because this country is a "shithole". It isn't. But because I'm only filler until my doo-president fills the post. Which he hasn't done because he is too busy golfing.


By the way, on the behalf of Americans who came from shithole countries, so the majority of Americans, I would like to present you with this small gift as an attempt to repair relations.


Yes, I know it's golf lessons. I want you, sir, madam, to be able to kick Orange - sorry my President's ugly ass on the golf. I want you to play 18 and hit 18 as Hawkeye said.


Yes, I pre-ordered Black Panther tickets too. It looks so kick ass.


While you winning at golf, at a Trump golf course, you should mention how much you enjoyed the wedding of Meghan and Harry. You and May had a wonderful chat too, before you went to your meeting with the Queen.


When you meet President Oran - Trump, you should shake his hand strongly and remark how relieved you are to have recovered from such and such illness in time for the visit. Then cough loudly. When he rushes to get soap, explain that skin color does not wash off, unlike fake spray on tans.


Don't forget to kneel during the anthem. And only ask for pie with four scoops of ice cream.


I know it won't solve anything PM, but it will make everyone happy when Trump's head expoldes.

So cute and funny

The Canine Kalevala - Mauri Kunnas

This is a retelling of the Kalevala using dogs, wolves, and cats.  It is just so awesome.  Honestly, if you thinking of reading the Finnish national epic, read this version first and then read the massive one.  This one will help you keep people straight.  Though, you will think of them as having four legs.

And that's what you call a book

Another Brooklyn: A Novel - Jacqueline Woodson

I picked this up as a freebie from the publisher at the 2017 MLA convention.  The main reason I picked it up was the raves that Woodson got from a panel about YA literature and race (which was literally the best panel I went to during that convention). 


Incidentally, this book has also been chosen for One Book, One Philadelphia.


                Another Brooklyn is about, well, death, life, poetry, and girlhood. 


                August is called back to Brooklyn for her father’s death.  The story opens shortly after his funeral, and Woodson writes a wonderful scene of two siblings who are different but who love each other and can tease though the differences.  On a subway ride, August sees a woman from her past and remembers her girlhood in Brooklyn.


                Her girlhood is adjusting to New York after moving from Tennessee.  Part of the story is adjusting a different environment and different type of life, once her father decides to convert.  She also adjusts to the changes in her body and how the people, in particular the males, around her react to that.  Her family is struggling financial at time when there is white flight in Brooklyn.  Part of what we see is how poverty and harassment do effect people’s live.  But that is the charm of the book, it is simple a section of life that does not get much coverage in the media.


                The book isn’t really for very young children, for rape and sex are addressed.  In some points, somewhat graphically, in others clearly.  Additionally, Woodson’s style might not be to everyone’s taste.  She writes in a prose poetry style.  In fact, my edition sets the prose up in an almost poetry style.  This means you will either love her style or it just will not be for you.

Okay, I'm hooked

Annihilation - Jeff VanderMeer
I've always been luke warm about Vandermeer. On one hand, I love what short stories of his I have read. He also wrote one of the best essays in the world on Angela Carter, and for that, I will forgive him much. But the one longer work of his I read City of Saints and Madmen, I didn't really care for. It wasn't bad, but it just wasn't for me, even with the octupus.

So I basically read this because I think I want to see the movie, but being a reader, I need to read the book first.

Oh my, this is good. 

I mean, okay, on the surface, it is short and compact. But there is such atmosphere in this novel. And then you are trying to figure out things - like what is really happening, what is really society or a system. Everything is so well done and there is not a wasted word. 

Totally engrossing.


Ghosts of Huntingdonshire

The Haunted History of Huntingdonshire - Mark Egerton

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley


                In fairness, I should not that this book committed one of my pet peeves – the use of whilst.  Seriously, people need to stop with that.

                That aside, this is a pretty good little book about the haunted areas of Huntingdonshire.  Egerton covers a wide variety of places and different types of haunts.  He also does the research and leg work into the stories, spending as much time the library or with local historians as camping out for the ghosts.

                The style is light and enjoyable.  You never feel like you are being given a history lecture or trying to be convert to “ghosts are real and you better believe”.  There is a certain joy and wonder to Egerton’s style that transmits quite easily to the reader.  He also gives you enough information for a reader to find the places.  

                Nicely done.

ALA Catalog

So I get the ALA graphics catalog.  They have some new stuff.  Bookmarks come 100 to a pack, packs are usally $9 or under.


There is a Lunar Chronicles poster and bookmark, featuring Ivo.

They also have Infernal Devices as well as Mortal Instruments.  Several comic book related ones - Cap, Thor, Justice League, Hulk, Spidey, Gal Gadot as Wonder Women, Batgirl etc.  


Star Wars too. They have Rachel Carson and Rosa Parks too.


There also is a Misty Copeland Read poster.  She is holding We Were Eight Years in Power.  

The Contract With God Trilogy: Life on Dropsie Avenue - Will Eisner

I'm not quite sure what I just read. The title story is must clear cut, and heart breaking. The other stories tend to be on that line of rape and sexual power that make you feel a bit icky. There is also sucide and animal death.

Yet, the stories are extremely powerful. It is worth the read.

Well, why is Orange upset?

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House - Michael Wolff

Honesty, this really doesn't shed any new light on the shit storm that the White House.  For much of the book, you are really going like "no shit".  Wolff's writing is good, but at times you do wish he gone deeper - he's no David Simon, for instance.



Highlights of the book's claims include


- no one liked the nightly dinners with Trump, they were torture.  Wolff doesn't say why, but I'm sure it was because everyone wanted two scoops of ice cream.


 - Trump is a spoiled actor (I would've added without the good looks).


-Kushner's family is not happy with him.



"Media is personal. It is a series of blood scores. The media in its often collective mind decides who is going to rise and who is going to fall, who lives and who dies. If you stay around long enough in the media eye, your fate, like that of a banana republic despot, is often an unkind one—a law Hillary Clinton was not able to circumvent."
-The Trumps do not share a bedroom, the first couple to have seperate bedrooms since the Kennedys.
- He eats Micky D's because he is fearful of getting poisoned
-Orange thinks all women in the DOJ hate him (called Yates a cunt might have something to do with this.  Being an accused rapist might be another reason).
-The Battle Flags in the Oval Office was Orange's idea
-we have confirmation that  Trump doesn't read and apparently did  buy text books or do homework in college.  Professor is a slur to Trump.
 - Another quote "Trump’s extemporaneous moments were always existential, but more so for his aides than for him. He spoke obliviously and happily, believing himself to be a perfect pitch raconteur and public performer, while everyone with him held their breath. If a wackadoo moment occurred on the occasions—the frequent occasions—when his remarks careened in no clear direction, his staff had to go into intense method-acting response. It took absolute discipline not to acknowledge what everyone could see."
- a description of Orange man - "An overweight seventy-year-old man with various physical phobias (for instance, he lied about his height to keep from having a body mass index that would label him as obese), he personally found health care and medical treatments of all kinds a distasteful subject"
- There's this gem "Women, according to Trump, were simply more loyal and trustworthy than men. Men might be more forceful and competent, but they were also more likely to have their own agendas. Women, by their nature, or Trump’s version of their nature, were more likely to focus their purpose on a man. A man like Trump."
-How Trump remembers the guy from China - "(This required some tutoring for Trump, who referred to the Chinese leader as “Mr. X-i”; the president was told to think of him as a woman and call him “she.”)"
-Kebbler the elf (Sessions" description: "A small man with a Mr. Magoo stature and an old-fashioned Southern accent, Sessions was bitterly mocked by the president"




Ivanka on her father's hair - according to Wolff

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House - Michael Wolff

"She treated her father with some lightness, even irony, and in at least one television interview she made fun of his comb-over. She often described the mechanics behind it to friends: an absolutely clean pate—a contained island after scalp reduction surgery—surrounded by a furry circle of hair around the sides and front, from which all ends are drawn up to meet in the center and then swept back and secured by a stiffening spray. The color, she would point out to comical effect, was from a product called Just for Men—the longer it was left on, the darker it got. Impatience resulted in Trump’s orange-blond hair color."

19% in and

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House - Michael Wolff

(FYI: if you want to reblog or cite, go right ahead).



For those of you wondering about Fire & Fury, here are some highlights from the first four chapters:


Trump didn't like Bolton because of the facial hair


Sloopy Steve uses the word Perisa correctly (I was shocked)


It seems like Trump has a man crush on Rupert Muderoch. This has Bannon upset.


Alies said that Trump "sucks up and shits down" for Putin


Everyone in Trump's campign thought he was going to lose, including him - he didn't even want to fund his campign.


It all the Mercers fault.


Preibus refused to leave Penn Station for two hours when he had a meeting with Trump.

Trump only made it to amendment four in the COnsitution.


Muderoch thinks Trump is stupid


Trump speaks about himself in third person


Trump likes to seduce his friends wives, even in front of his friends.


Christie aka Krispy Kreme tried to explain how a tranistion team and funding works. This got Trump annoyed because he didn't care. He just wanted the money.


Ann Coulter told Trump not to hire his kids


Wolff goes after the media as well


Trump did not have fun at his big day and was fighting with his wife. He thought the Obamas were arrognant.



He has pics of his inauguration "crowd" in the White House


The CIA employees had no idea what Trump was talking about, and one of Trump's staffers corrected him but he didn't hear her.


Jared is heartbroken that Bannon broke up with him.

Out Feb 2018, Pre-order now, seriously.

The Belles - Dhonielle Clayton

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley


                We are constantly told that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that is because there is some truth to the statement.  Tastes are different after all.  But the only time that phrase is trotted out on a regular basis is when talking to someone who is not the standard of beauty (or even okay looks) in society.  A bit too heavy, a bit too skinny (less common I know), a nose that is a bit wrong. 


                Society and people can be cruel to those who don’t met or even care to met beauty standards, ever changing beauty standards too.   While currently, body shape might be a consistent, hair styles, dress styles, make-up, and such always seem to be changing. 


                And the people judged most harshly for not meeting such standards due tend to be women.  This isn’t to say that men (and boys) don’t feel the pressure to.  But can you name me a movie where an overweight, unattractive woman got the hot stud?  Or how about that version of Beauty and the Beast where the beast female?


                Still waiting.


                In part, this is because girls and women are bombarded with images from the start.  As much as you love Disney movies, you have to acknowledge the princess mostly look like and barely have room for a stomach.  Want a lower percentage, look at how many are not white.  Do the same for pretty much any tv show, movie, or even singer.


                Hell, the dancers on any dance show have been called fat by some jackass because they actually have hips.


                We have ads that depict young girls dressing as adults.  Not playing dress up but actually dress like they have double ds.  We have clothes for young girls that say things like future trophy wife.


                Clayton attacks society and culture’s obsession with beauty head on in this book.


                The Belles takes place in a world where everyone is born grey.  Th expectations to this seem to be the Belles, women (seemingly always women) have power.  They are basically plastic surgeons who use magic (surgery is still painful, just done by magic).  Every three years, a group of Belles is introduced to the court and then sent to severe the royal family and various houses.  Camellia, as well as most of her five sisters, aspires to be the Royal favorite, to severe the royal family. 


                Hence the story starts.


                At first, the novel seems to be standard YA.  Cameilla is the most powerful of the current crop of Belles, she is a bit rebellious, and her closest rival is her closest friend.  Of course, their friendship suffers in the competition to be the Royal Favorite.  At the beginning, the only Belle that truly stands out besides Camellia who is telling the story, is her fellow Belle Edel who seems to have the most spirit.


                But then Clayton does something that is absolutely brilliant.  Usually in many YA and even in adult books, the heroine who tells the story is practically perfect.  Clayton doesn’t do this.  It’s true that Camellia is clueless in some places about her behavior, but the reader is aware of this.  Clayton does this so well, so in part of the story is the mystery and part of it is rooting Camellia on to be a better person.  Such change fits the character because there are flashes of it in the very beginning of the story.


                This is also true about the world building which in the beginning seems a little confusing, but this is in part because of the Belles’ sheltered existence.  Many times, both Camellia and the reader experience something for the first time.  While the world is run by the idea of beauty, it is also a relatively open world – gay marriage, for instance, does seem to be allowed.  At times, too, Camellia is aware of the different classes and different issues outside of her privilege position.


                Slowly, she awakens to what her position really is.  At first, one wonders if the Belles are really priestesses, but very quickly the parallels to slavery are shown, and Clayton does not really pull any punches with this connection.  She may not be as direct as Whitehead’s Underground Railroad, but the point and setting are far different.  Yet, Clayton does seem to draw in much in reference to actual historic slavery.


                Another thing that send out in this book is the use of color.  Everyone is born grey, and the skin color of a person can change.   And before I go any farther in this paragraph, I need to point out a few things.  One, I am a white woman who is overweight.  Two, I never paid that much attention to people on the covers books until I became friends with Fountain Pen Diva on Goodreads.  It would be fair to say that she woke me from my privilege and got me to notice how few people of color are on covers (she didn’t have to get me to notice how few people of color are in books as well, at least as the central figure). It was because her that I noticed this book.  Clayton’s characters run the gamut of skin color, yet it is a legitimately varied existence.  It isn’t like the all-white New York that seems to exist in so many forms of media.  Camellia isn’t the only Belle (or central character) with dark skin, and all skin color, except grey, is shown to be equally admired and desirable by society. Clayton’s book is one of the few where I have seen this, Max Gladstone’s Craft books are another (maybe I am reading the wrong books).   In many ways, this detail made me think of Coates’ comments about race. 


                Looks and race all in one book?  And done well, too.  Seriously, Clayton needs to win some awards by the end of the year.  I give bonus points to Disney and Freeform for publishing this.  And it passes the Bechdel test.  This isn’t to say there isn’t a love triangle, but the ladies have more important things to worry about, like that mysterious crying.


                Is The Belles a perfect book?  No.  I had some questions – for instance if the ruling line is matrilineal, then wouldn’t the Queen have lovers in addition to or even instead of the king – and the beginning of the book is a little slow, but with some very good, brave narrative choices.  Still, despite the flaws, the book is quietly brilliant and stays with reader. 


                And I find myself waiting for a second book in a YA series.            

General update

Mark Shields compared Orange to a "rabid teste fly".


My mom says to wait for Orange to make a boner (I cannot deal with this statement this morning).


Orange said he is a "stable genius".


On the good news side, my book bunker is complete.  I have coffee, tea, and chocolate as well.


And booze.

A look at more than a crime

People Who Eat Darkness: The True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished from the Streets of Tokyo--and the Evil That Swallowed Her Up - Richard Lloyd Parry

Parry's book looks at the murder of a young British hostess, but also at the cultures that led to such a murder as well as the effect of the murder on the family.  In many cases, it is easy to find a side a champion, at least in terms of a family that is broken (the victim's parents were divorced).  It is to Parry's credit that he doesn't take sides, that he takes a step and examines the role fo media and how people view survivors.