Chris' Fish Place

Thoughts on things, mostly books.




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Fight of the Century - Michael Chabon, Ayelet Waldman

Is it too early in the year to say that if you buy one book this year, it should be this one? Yes, I know Mantel’s conclusion is coming out next month, but you should really consider this one.

I first read about in the NYT Book Review. That day, I went out and brought it, mostly because of Marlon James and Victor LaValle (the reviewer really liked those essays). Then I pulled the book down from the shelf and so who else is it in. Jacqueline Woodson. Geraldine Brooks. Neil Gaiman. Salman Rushdie. George Saunders. Jesmyn Ward.

The book is a collection of essays celebrating the ACLU and famous cases. And there really isn’t a bad essay in the bunch. Each author takes a case and the essay is mediation on it. Perhaps the most touching is Woodson’s essay on the Scottsboro Boys. The cases go up to the present day, and the essays are, understandably political. The politics run from the border wall to free speech to the taking of Native American children.

The best essay in the collection is the one by Morgan Parker, which strangely was not mentioned in the NYT Review. I haven’t read Parker before. His essay is the one you want everyone to read. You want to make copies and hand them out on the street. Honesty, read it. It’s just so bloody powerful.


So I am the only one who wants to know what the reading list of famous actors?

A Crime in Holland - Georges Simenon, Siân Reynolds

This was a really good read. Maigret finds himself dealing with Dutch people (the horror!) with the mystery of a dead husband.

The characters are well drawn. Miagret is a pleasure to read and this book looks closely at the pressures of a small community.


The Graveyard Apartment: A Novel - Mariko Koike, Deborah Boliver Boehm

I live down the street from a graveyard. It has foxes. I walk there at least once a week. But not at night.

This book does not tie everything up with a neat bow, but it is creepy and slowly builds up the horror. It was a fun read.

Death bed confession or something

By Night in Chile - Chris Andrews, Roberto Bolaño

By Night in Chile is part confession, part stream of consciousness, and raises the question of whether or not you can believe what you are told.


At times it is engrossing, but other times frustrating.  

Good collection

Witches, Ghosts & Loups-Garous: Scary Tales from Canada's Ottawa Valley - Joan Finnigan

This is a very nice collection of oral tales from the Ottawa Valley. The tales come from a variety of backgrounds - so there is Quebecoise but also Anglo, Irish, Scots. Finnigan does a god job at capturing the voice. Well done.

Everybody Behaves Badly: The True Story Behind Hemingway's Masterpiece The Sun Also Rises - Lesley M. M. Blume

I am not a huge Hemingway fan, and honesty, I forget the reason I picked this up. But it is a very readable book without any white washing. Blume focuses just as well as those people who surrounded Hemingway as well as Papa himself.

They Talk Different Here - Etienne Toussaint

A very good collection of poetry.  Deals with race and city life.

Skip this

White Ninja - Tiffiny Hall

She's 13? Because she sure does not describe people the way a thirteen year old would. The voice that the story is being told in, does not work.

The Royal Succession (The Accursed Kings, #4) - Maurice Druon

Another good installment.  

Kindle Freebie

If You Were Me and Lived in...Viking Europe (Volume 6) - Carole P. Roman, Mateya Arkova

A pretty good intro into the history of the Vikings.  

Kamouraska - Anne Hébert

The Clio Collective was right about Hebert. This is a good read about a woman, an abusive husband, and a murder.

kindle freebie

Santa Monica Main Street/Venice - Janelle Lassalle

Too much of  a focus on where to eat.


Babies of the Badlands - Kat Socks

The coyotes look more like wolves, but this was cute.  I'm not sure why the correct terms for the mothers are not used.

Kindle Freebie

The Snake Who Wanted To Be A Horse (WantsToBe) - Valerie Harmon, Carol  Stevens
I am conflicted about this book. On one hand, the artwork is great. In general, the story is a good one about problem solving.

However, the ending. Look, I get that it is important to teach people to go by than appearances and to reach for what you want. The thing is that the ending to this book, where a snake does in fact become a horse is, quite frankly, a fail. It comes to close to the idea of "if you are not perfect, just get the work done" theme/idea that appears in so many things. And it is disquieting. To be fair, I doubt the author means for the story to be taken that way, but it feels that way. Don't worry if you are not "x" because there is a way to become "x". Normally, that's fine but when the snake just magically becomes a horse, it smacks of third party help or the idea that if you don't change, you don't want it badly enough (ie. According to the logic of the story, if a person was missing a hand and worked really hard at pretending they had two hands, a new hand would happen) and that is a bit dangerous.

give it a miss.

The Wives  - Tarryn Fisher

The book wants to play with the reader's mind and allows that desire to override anything else. It does start out very strong. But the first big reveal of what happened and its excuse for things does not quite work. It made me think of The Perfect Girlfriend, which handles the unreliable narrator issue far better. Good start, weak middle and horrible finish.

(BTW, I do not usually do this, but I strongly advise against reading this if you cannot have children or suffer from a mental illness).