Chris' Fish Place

Thoughts on things, mostly books.




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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.


Geeky F@b 5 Vol 1: It's Not Rocket Science - Ryan Jampole, Liz Lareau, Lucy Lareau

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley.


                After finishing this book, I turned to my brother who teaches science and told him to get a copy.  Do I need to say anything else?




                Okay, this book is about five girls who become friends because they are all a bit geeky, smart, and most seem to want to go into STEM fields. I say most because Lucy is unsure, but it is made clear that being unsure is okay. They are not just science nerds.  They have other interests as well (such as fashion and singing), and they know history.   They go to a school named after Amelia Earhart after all.


                The group is diverse, as anyone can see from the cover, and last names included Martinez and Kumar.  One girl is even adopted.  While parents are very much in the background, suggests are made about the parents – A.J.’s father, for instance, works in robotics.  While none of the girls is physically disabled, family members are.


                The plot of the story centers around fixing the school’s playground as well as dealing with stupid boys who believe girls can’t be coders.  The playground plot is interesting because one of the girls, Lucy, blames herself for it being closed to students.  Her friends refuse to buy into that train of thought and are supportive of her.


                There is also a cat called Hubble.  He talks like a cat.  There is also a bit end that gives more information about the famous women mentioned in the book. 


  Additionally, at a time where women who either act or like Star Wars are being targeted by “fanboys”, it is nice to read a book where the girls like Star Wars.


                Highly recommended.

A good read but

Bound for Canaan: The Epic Story of the Underground Railroad, America's First Civil Rights Movement - Fergus M. Bordewich

Okay, so if you are interested in American History, you should read this history of the Underground Railroad, that even covers escape by sea.  The book is very readable and engaging.  


The but comes from the scare bit about women.  This is somewhat understandable as more men fled than women (and there reasons for this.  Check out the excellent Ar'nt a Woman, for instance).  But the focus, despite the cover, is one men and with the exceptation of Tubman, women are only generally discussed as helpers.  The author mentions women in a good way a couple times prior to Tubman, but never, ever goes into thier stories the way he does the men's.


Still worth reading.

Canada and American Civil War

Blood and Daring: How Canada Fought the American Civil War and Forged a Nation - John Boyko

This books looks at the effects of the American Civil War on Canada, and how Canada took part in the American Civil War.  The chapters each deal with one event, starting from the case of a fugitve slave to the development of Canada as a nation.  Some of the chapters are interesting, some of them not so much.  

Well worth reading but

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War - Karen Abbott
This is a very readable book about four women during the American Civil War. Abbott choses two women from the Union and two from the Confedracy. Why these four is somewhat unclear - perhaps the least well known is Elizabeth van Lew or Emma Edmonds. Belle Boyd and Rose Greenhow are more well known.

And I think that is the what stops this book from being a five star. It is unclear why these four women - is it to bring little known stories to the fore, okay but Belle Boyd is not obscure (and if you have been to the Spy Museum then you know Greenhow). There is also the question of when a story might be BS. I am not saying that Abbott is making anything up - she isn't and everything is endnoted. But some of Belle Boyd's stories are not entirely verifable, and at times, it appears that Abbott takes her word as fact, something that is disproved when you look at the endnote. This stands out because Abbott is a little more in text doubting of Emma Edmonds (there is a debate about how accurate Edmonds's tale is), and one wonders why it is that Boyd seems to get more belief (at least until you look at the endnotes).

Additionally, there is little about the women's lives prior to the outbreak of the Civil War. For instance, I am currently reading Blood and Daring: How Canada Fought the American Civil War and Forged a Nation which also includes a chapter that deals with Emma Edmonds. In that chapter, the author notes that the man Edmonds meets again in the US was also the man who helped her flee her father. This is something that Abbott does not note in the body of her text. Abbott also does not note in her text what happened to Mary Jane, Elizabeth Van Lew's servant. MJ was a black woman who worked as spy. She spied on Jefferson Davis. It is possible that the historical record does not give us this infromation, but that should be noted in the text and not a footnote.

Still, this is a very enjoyable read.


On Sale Today (Kiindle US)

King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa - Adam Hochschild

A very disturbing book that puts light on colonialism. Hochschild writers very well; at no point is the book boring nor does it read like a list. Hochschild is also even handed. He doesn't whitewash - good guys have flaws, and he mentions them. Hochschild does make the reader think about how the West sees Africa not only during the colonial period but even today. It is a book everyone in Europe and the United States should read. What I really enjoyed was the fact that Hochschild doesn't just focus on Leopold but on reactions to Leopold. Hochschild shows us what Europeans, Americans, and Africans did to combat Leopold. I enjoyed the unearthing of previously little known heros like Sheppard. I will not ever be able to look at the Stanley and Livingston story the same way ever again. 

It also makes you look at how such myths still survive. Look at History Channel's Expedition Africa, for instance. On that show, one Brit and three Americans followed Stanley's journey, but do their porters get any credit? Not really. I'm suppose to be impressed by the four "explorers". I'm suppose to think one of them is da bomb because he had to eat his dog on one of his expeditions. Why does this make him "da bomb"? (As a totally inappropriate aside, what is it with Brits and tampons? They can't just say tampon; they have to say woman's tampon. Is there a man's tampon, and if so what does it do? And why does woman's tampon sound dirtier than just tampon?). The myths that the History Channel (or the producers) play on are addressed in this book.

King Leopold's Ghost should also be read with Heart of Darkness because Hochschild shows how Conrad responded to what he saw.

Heroines of Mercy Street: The Real Nurses of the Civil War - Pamela D. Toler  PhD

If you have never seen Mercy Street, which aired on PBS, what is wrong with you? 

If you have, read this book. In an very readable book, Dr. Toler has presented the true facts behind the Mercy Street series. Of course, the series was far different, but the real life stories are just as interesting.

Toler does not just look at the hospitals in Washington DC, but other area as well. The only flaw, if flaw it is, is a somewhat brief look at the Confederate nurses, but considering the difference in strucutre and source issues, this isn't that surprising.

Toler's book makes the point that we should know more than the simple history - the ones that are taught in text books - because the nurses during the Civil War are women who should be remembered far more widely.

Lift Your Light a Little Higher: The Story of Stephen Bishop: Slave-Explorer - Heather Henson, Bryan Collier

This children's book is very well done. It details what is known about Stephen Bishop, a slave who conducted tours of Mammoth Caves. Told by him, the author and illustrator cover not only slavery and race laws pre-Civil War, but also do so in a beautiful and lyrical manner. There is a note at the end that details the known facts about Bishop

Two Books about spooks

The Boo! Book - Nathaniel Lachenmeyer, Nicoletta Ceccoli A Very Brave Witch - Alison McGhee, Harry Bliss

These two books are not really scary.  A Brave Witch is about conforting fear and is wonderful because it has two girls.  A Boo! Book deals with what to do if you have a haunted book, and, therefore, should be read by readers everywhere.  Both have nice illustrations.

Travel With Me 1 & 2

Andre the Five Star Cat - Alma Hammond Super Rooster and Wonder Cat - Alma Hammond

I picked up these children's books for free.


There are pretty cool.  Andre is the stronger one (4.5 stars).  The plot is a little more detailed.  I liked the artwork better too.  Super Rooster is basically about animals (which is cool), but there isn't much of a plot.  Both books have facts about either animals or the settings at the end.


Mama for Owen - Marion Dane Bauer

Disclaimer: I picked this up for free on kindle.


It is a wonderful, basically true, story of a baby hippo who has to find a new mama.  The illustrations are wonderful.  The story is cute.  If you have read Jubela (the one about the rhino), it is along the same vein.  Wonderful artwork.


Rose - Meredith Finch

Rose is a young girl who has magic in a land where magic users are hunted down and killed. The land use to have guardians, and our Rose finds out that she is one.

The first female one, too.

That's her Khat on the cover.

In part, this book seems to hint at a power struggle that started with how a king treated his daughter (and I hope what the daughter said is explored later in the series), but it also about finding one's place. The women in the book are strong (though, I do wonder a bit at Rose's clothing choice, a bit. Wouldn't you want pants?).


But it is good epic fantasy.

Primal Waters - Steve Alten

This on sale as a kindle deal of the day.

Ebook sale

Open Road is having a sale.  Several mysteries here


True Crime and horror here