Chris' Fish Place

Thoughts on things, mostly books.




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Kindle Edition

JLA: A League of One - Christopher Moeller

The Kindle edition of this also had two extra stories, very sci-fi almost Transformers/Pacific Rimish.  Didn't like those.  (Grim, you might).


But the cover and title story - Wonder Woman vs a dragon was great!  Especially in regards to WW's character and how hard she works to be who she is.  Wonderful.


Out in Sept

The Piranhas - Roberto Saviano, Anthony Shuggar

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley


                There is a tendency to romanticize the mob.  Whether it is the fault of The Godfather movies or something more else, many people feel a certain affection for the mob.  Perhaps it is a sense of loyalty or of family. Who knows?  It is mostly a love for violence and mayhem, for instance in Scarface.


                But that’s all Hollywood.


                There are certain things that buck the trend – say The Wire, which is about drug dealers but also about the culture that allows them to exist and how policing is not the solution.  There’s Saviano’s Gomorrah, a book which earned him a target on his back, but that also demolishes any romance for the mob and forces people to confront the truth (this is also true of the movie and tv series that the book produced).


                Saviano’s latest mob book, The Piranhas, is one of those novels supposedly based in true events.  I’m not sure; I don’t know enough about Italy and the mob to say so.


                However, if the fourth season of The Wire is the best because it looks at how a failing school system sets up its students for failure, then Saviano’s book does the same thing for Italy.  The story follows a group of boys, led by Nicolas, who want to become Camorra bosses.  In part, this is a result of the steady diet of media they consume, and in part, it is because of what they see every day, who controls everything, and how everything in their world works.  They can become like some of the fathers, but the boys do not seem to view those men as real men, but as simply weak.


                And that something these boys cannot be seen as, for they want to be in the ones in the private room.


                What the book then chronicles aren’t the corrupting of the innocent, but how a presence of crime combined with social media and status lead a group of boys to become, not so much men, but young people with guns.  The boys can’t be corrupted because that happen long ago, and nothing different is really shown to them.  If it isn’t the Camorra controlling something it’s the better neighborhoods or towns controlling something, acting like the Camorra without the official illegality.  Even the teachers are in on it, for that is simply life.  Those that do not join, simply do not anything really.


                It is a bleak novel, a harsh novel, and one without a true hero.  The reader cannot root for, isn’t suppose to root for, any of the young boys who despite their bravo are still boys.  Still, at times, think the Camorra is simply as it is in the movies (which do make for the truly funny passages of the novel), yet who do have a degree of flare and intelligence needed to pull things off.


                Yet, we need novels like this, in the bleakness, because we need to confront what is wrong in society and why we glorify criminals who don’t really have that many redeeming features and whose actions murder innocence and hope.  At least we need to, if we want to break the cycle.  It is violent but it does not celebrate violence the way that many movies do.  No, it is far more personal  than that.

Part of Summer Reading Goals

The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case: Race, Law, and Justice in the Reconstruction Era - Michael A. Ross

Ross looks at a once famous case that has been largely forgotten by people today. A kidnapping of a young child who is later found with a black Creole. In discussing the case, Ross shows how Reconstruction, racism, and changing times influenced the case and its outcome. A very interesting and engrossing read. 

This was a nice surprise

Princess Princess Ever After - Katie O'Neill

This is the right type of cute. Two princesses who want to more than simply princesses. It's wonderful, it's brillant. It has a chubby dragon and a cookie-loving unicorn. It is perfect. 

If this had been the first of his I read, I wouldn't have read any others

Snow - Orhan Pamuk, Maureen Freely

I'm mixed about this book. On one hand, I love the political look. On the other hand, I am so tired of books where the female characters are simply seen as symbols by the men in the story.

But the politics. That was awesome.

Not like the Lies book, but damn good

Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism - James W. Loewen

Loewen's book is a must read for anyone who lives in the United States. While lacking the more informal format and tone of his books about historic places and textbooks, Sundown towns sheds light on a little known and little acknowledged evil in America's past and current life. 

This book is more of a formal study , which is understandable because Loewen is in part agruing that Sundown Towns existed. His points about neighborhoods and subarbs are equally valid. While he uses harsh (racist) language, it is when he quoets from sources and is used to not hid what happened. So he doesn't do it with a thrill or to be simply transgressive. If we are to have a conversation about race and crime and cities, this book is a must read.

#2 in Otherworld Re-read

Stolen - Kelley Armstrong


I'm re-reading this series this summer. This second volume is a good installment, especially with woman who do things as opposed to wait for things to be done. I forgot how young Savannah was when she first appeared. The realization of how age makes me dislike the 

Adam and Savannah pairing. Still, that's my personal dislike. I enjoyed the introduction of Paige and of the women working together. Quite fun.


Old ReviewElena, to me at least, is the most engaging of Armstrong's characters. She is nicely flawed, not annoying, and has a sense of humor. While there are flaws in the book (Armstrong's writing here isn't as polished as it is in the later books), Stolen is a fun read. I enjoy the fact that Elena is NOT a classic beauty and really loved her comments about bust and waist size. Also enjoyable is the fact that Elena is not strictly rescued

Pink Horse is She-Ra's, but the black horse is Black Beauty (made in China)
Pink Horse is She-Ra's, but the black horse is Black Beauty (made in China)
Breyer Black Beauty Set - Black Beauty and Duchess
Breyer Black Beauty Set - Black Beauty and Duchess
Black Beauty Set - Ginger and Merrylegs
Black Beauty Set - Ginger and Merrylegs
Black Beauty
Black Beauty

Any others you want to see?

King of the Wind Set - Lath, Roxana, Sham.
King of the Wind Set - Lath, Roxana, Sham.
Sham and Lady Roxana
Sham and Lady Roxana

I collect model horses, and because Linda loves King of the Wind, I'm posting these pics.  Breyer King of the Wind Models.  The set was released when the movie based on the book came out.

Out in Oct

Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom - David W. Blight

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley

We like, want, our heroes to be uncompleted, to always be heroic and constant while in the spotlight, and to leave that spotlight before they change politics or ideals. We want to remember Lincoln as the great emancipator not as the man who at one point wanted all freed slaves to return to Africa, a place they had never seen. That ruins the image of martyr Lincoln. We have the same feeling of many of our heroes, including Frederick Douglass.

Who despite what some people think is, in fact, dead. Perhaps the memory of Douglass is doing great things in a symbolical sense, but the actual man is long dust.

For most people, Douglass is the man who escaped slavery and publicly spoke out against it. Some people even confuse him with Henry “Box” Brown. Many students read Douglass either his Autobiography, or perhaps more commonly, the selection detailing his learning to read. The drawback to the commonly used selection is that it is many times the student’s only reading of Douglass, who sometimes some students think is a woman who is having sex with her mistress.

People today have heard of Douglass, but they don’t know of Frederick Douglass.

David W. Blight corrects that in his massive, though it does not read that way, new biography of Douglass.

Perhaps the hardest part of any Douglass biography is the reconstruction of his early life. This isn’t because of a lack of memoirs, but a surfeit of them, including subtle but important differences. Did he ask to be taught or did Sophia Auld teach him because of her own idea? A combination of both perhaps? Blight’s reconstructing of Douglass’s early life makes it clear when there is a question about what happened, where Douglass himself differs or where scholars raise questions. He does not choose sides; he deals with facts and context. A refreshing thing.

It is also something that he uses when dealing with Douglass’s relationship to his first wife Anna Murray, a free black woman who played a central role in Douglass’s escaping slavery. Murray was illiterate, not stupid, but illiterate as common for many people than. She and Douglass married soon after his escape, and they stayed married until her death. She birthed his children, she gave him a home to return to. Sadly, we do not know what she thought about her husband, about his relationship with the white women who would stay at her house, or about his feelings towards her for she is left out of his writing – much of interior family life seems to be. Blight, it seems, is slightly frustrated by this mystery of Anna Murray, and in the beginning, it almost seems like he is being, not condescending or dismissive, but almost shrugging off, not an accurate description but close. As the biography progress, however, you become grateful and happy that Blight does not presume to know what Anna Murray would think. He does suggest authors that try to channel her, but Blight keeps her presence as a real woman, almost shaking his head at Douglass’s silence. It helps that he keeps Douglass’s second wife, Helen Pitts, off page for much of the time as well.

Blight’s depiction of Douglass is within the context of his time and dealing with those who see contradictions and problems in who Douglass was – such as his expansionist tendencies, his view on Native Americans. Blight presents an imperfect human, as all humans are, but presents him with understanding and a feeling of fascination that are easily transmitted to the reader.


Who else is on Listy and Librarything?  (if you don't mind sharing)


My Librarything profile.


I'm on Listy as ChrisEthier

Updates - WARNING Racist TERMS

Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism - James W. Loewen

So I'm reading this and are going to try post updates.  Racist Lang. below


















Last Warning


Apparently Anna, Illinois (a town) stands fr "Ain't No Niggers Allowed"


Sundown Towns - white only towns  (usually no African Americans but also  in some places no Chinese or Hispanics, Jews).


Racial relations improved after the Civil War, but worsened from 1890s - 1930s.  ( this is also borne out by the book The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case by Micahel A Ross).


1890s-1930s - Nadir of Race relations, term coined by Rayford Logan


1901-1929 (1973 for South) - Congress totally white.  After the Civil War there were African American men elected until 1901.


South had/has fewer Sundown towns - Lowen contends that this is due to wanting African Americans to do the dirty work - such as housekeeping.

Long but really worth reading

I subscribe to the TLS, New York Review of Books, and the London Review of Books.  Every so often I consider dropping my subscription to the London Review, even though Marina Warner writes in it every so often.  But then they throw down something just fucking great.  This link will take you to the recent essay (very long essay) about the Grenfall Fall that occured last year (the high raise fire where 72 people died).  It is not an easy read in terms of the subject material, so if you are having one of those bad days that I know many of us on here sometimes get, you might not want to read it.  However, it is honesty one of the most compelling, interesting, and well-written things I have read all year.  If you decide to read it, you might want to take a break or two while reading.  


But damn, it is good.

The Hate U Give - Angie Thomas

Re-read remarks

I re-read this because I am teaching this. My first review stands, but let me add something. Like many teachers, I noticed what my students are doing when I walk into a classroom. Usually, it's everyone looking at thier cell phones. But yesterday, I walked in and most of the class was reading this book, and most of the class is ahead of where they need to be. That's something special. Thank you, Angie Thomas.

Older Review
It’s Obsidian Blue’s fault I read this book now. It is. I was, still am, advocating this for my book club, but it wouldn’t be until the end of the year because we are booked till October.

Yeah so, but after Blue wrote a glowing review, I knew I had to read because if Blue really loves something, it means that I will really love it.

Yeah, so, all those reviews about how this is the book of the year, how this is the book that everyone should read this year, all those reviews are right.

Starr is from the “ghetto” but because her parents want the best for her and her brothers, so she and her brothers attend a fancy prep school about 45-60 minutes away. In her home neighborhood, she is known basically as her father’s daughter who works at his store.

She is two people prep school Starr and neighborhood Starr.

And then what happens to often happens. A friend is shot by a police officer. An unarmed friend is shot by a white police officer. Starr’s worlds collide in ways that are expected and not so much.

Look, I’m white so what Starr experiences is something I never experienced and never will experience. Yes, all teens have that dichotomy, but there is a vast different between the standard two persona teen and two personas for simple survival sake, so my view of reality is different, but this book feels real. I have taught Starr’s parents. My friend teaches Starr’s classmates.

The amount of detail in this engrossing read is great. It is Starr’s growing knowledge about those around here, in all her places – not only her classmates but her family and friends as well. There is the case of Maya, Kenya, and Chris – who quite frankly comes across as a wonderful. Starr’s father is a former gang member, but her uncle is a detective. There is the conflict of a desire or need for a better and/or safer life and to do right by your birth place. There is a good bit about cycles and the need to break them, about being trapped in a place where every choice is bad.

And it is to Thomas’ credit that fairy tale ending isn’t there, at least not wholly (you could argue that a certain facet of a fairy tale ending is present). The ending feels real, Starr’s voice is real, there is not a false step here at all.

The book isn’t anti-police – after all there is Starr’s uncle. Additionally, it isn’t racist against white people. There’s not only Chris, but his parents (not central characters but their part in the end works), there are also several white friends of Starr who are her friends. The question of her boyfriend at the end of the book isn’t so much questioning as teasing (honestly, it happens all the time).

Part of Civil War Summer Reading

This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War - Drew Gilpin Faust

While the sub-title of the book indicates the focus on the Civil War, much of what Faust illustates can be applied to how cheaply we seem to hold life these days. And no, I'm not talking soley about inner city violence, but mass shootings, terrorist attacks. You name it. Because, the book is about how society's view to death changed radically during the Civil War.

Faust's book is divided into chapters, each named with a facet of death. She details the original view of death in the society of the time, but then how that changed with the war - not only in terms of how the army dealt with the bodies of the wounded, but also how individuals dealt with the missing loved ones. It is an enthralling and distrubing read that is a needed one. 

French Revolutions was better

Gironimo!: Riding the Very Terrible 1914 Tour of Italy - Tim Moore

There is something funny about an honest, out of shape guy writing a book about trying to ride the Tour of Italy route from 1914.  It's a fun read.