Chris' Fish Place

Thoughts on things, mostly books.




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Spells, Swords, and Storms: Short Stories - Nicole J. Sainsbury

Disclaimer: The author sent me a copy of the book in exchange for a fair and honest review.  We are GR friends, though I didn't realize she had published until the offer.


                Spells, Swords, and Storms is a three-story collection, one story for each word in the title.  The first story, “Spellbound” is a pretty story about a love spell.  Sainsbury plays with the idea of what happens after the love spell works and love is gained.   It’s a delicate balancing job to write a story like this, especially when a reader factors in the questions of will.  It is to Sainsbury’s credit that she handles the balancing act just fine.  The sense of guilt, love, and shame that Jenna feels are palatable.


                “Aislinn’s Raven” is the second story, and draws on the knights surrounding King Arthur.  In fact, this story has been on my TBR shelf.  While it is a good story, it is the weakest of the three.  The story centers around Gareth, filling in his backstory, in particular where he would learn such skill at arms if his mother kept him tied to her skirts (as the story goes).  While the central protagonists are well drawn (Gareth and his teachers), their opposites are not, at least not in the same way.  The theme of a class of culture and powers is interesting and the description of time and setting is well done.  However, one villain’s behavior doesn’t fully make sense.   Perhaps this is all to do with bullies being “piss and wind”, but something more is hinted at, making the ending a bit too open ended.  The reader wants a sequel and a bit more answers.


                The best story is the last, “Winter Flood” which isn’t so much a fantasy, as a study of growing up and grief.  Rachel, a college student, suffers a break up with her long-term boyfriend, and meets someone who is strangely familiar.  While not, technically, the fantasy that the other stories are, it contains, at its heart, a quiet and beautiful magic.  In some ways, it reminded me of Jim C Hines’ Goldfish Dreams – a more quiet, real story that is fantastic in tone and deals with real life and serious real-life problems directly.


                All three stories deal with the theme of friendship, loyalty, and love.  All feature strong women, though strong in different ways.   Each story also focuses on questions of love and loyalty.  They are not overly sentimental and quite magical.

Acts of Vanishing: A Novel - Fredrik T. Olsson

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley


This is more of a guy book.


This does not mean it is a bad book. It’s just more male oriented than female.


William Sandberg has a few problems, the least of which is the fact that he has lost his job. The most pressuring is that the lights have gone out in Stockholm and no one knows why. This also concerns his wife Christina Sandberg and his daughter, Sara.


Yet, the book focuses greatly on William’s reactions to certain things, and there are a few places where Christina’s reactions would also be called for. But no one is really talking to each other because of family drama. You know how it is. But Olsson makes the family drama believable so it does work. The family must solve an international conspiracy and save Stockholm from a black out where nothing works. (Though I was wondering about back up generators, nothing is said about hospitals for instance).


The best parts of the book are the descriptions of a powerless Stockholm during nighttime. Quite honesty, the power that Olsson has in describing the various reactions and dangers when the lights go out. The family drama is less interesting. In part this is because Sara serves as little more than a plot point, a push as it were. Yet, both William and Christina are real characters, and while William and his reactions take center stage (to be fair, it his series), Christina is not a maiden in distress. It would make a good movie and is a good thrilling read.

Currently free on Kindle

Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet Book 1 - Ta-Nehisi Coates, Brian Stelfreeze

Free for kindle, at least in the US

There are a bunch of Amazoncrossing published books being offered for free.

Izuna Series Review

Izuna Vol. 1: Kamigakushi - Saverio Tenuta, Bruno Letizia, Carlita Lupatelli Izuna Vol. 2: Yamibushi - Saverio Tenuta, Bruno Letizia, Carlita Lupatelli

I picked up the first book in this comic series because of the cover.  Then after reading it, quickly brought the second.  


Izuna is about the magic wolves in a Japanese forest (the wolves with antlers), and how the pack changes when a human looking girl is birthed into thier pack.  There are also kitsune and other spirits.


It is very like, but not a copy, of Princess Monoke.  Part of it is the discovery of Aki to find her place in the word.  It's true the insta love is a bit too insta love, but she saves the guy as opposed to the common other way around.  


Nice lovely comic with great artwork.  Additionally, where there is female nudity, it is not done for teasing or for male readers to look at boobs.

Out May 8. 2018

Milk!: A 10,000-Year Food Fracas - Mark Kurlansky

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley


                I have to have milk with breakfast unless I am getting breakfast at work.  But at home, a glass milk, cold milk, and then coffee.  I need that nice cool glass of milk.


                But I didn’t know much about milk until I read this book.


                Kurlansky’s book is a tour of milk in history, but also a tour of yogurt, cheese, and ice cream. 


                And it has recipes!


                Kurlansky starts with ancient history, exploring when milking first developed as well as pointing out that being lactose intolerant is actually the biological norm and those of us who aren’t are freaks.  He also notes the belief that where the milk came from was important – in short, there was a reason why Zeus couldn’t keep it in his tunic.  There are interesting discussions about whether milk was a meat and why butter stinker is an insult.


                I also learned that aurochsen is the correct plural for more than one auroch.


                The book doesn’t just focus on Europe and America.  In fact, Asia (and not just India) gets much attention.  Perhaps the Southern hemisphere doesn’t get as much attention, though Australia gets covered.


                What is most interesting is how Kurlansky shows how certain debates keep recurring, for instance breast-feeding, which he links to the idea of men trying to control women’s bodies.  This makes sense when you think about it, not only in terms of child rearing but also in terms of what a woman can do.  The bit about the sexy milkmaid also makes sense too, come to think of it.


                There are few weak points in the book.  The one that sticks out the most are the cow illustrations.  Now, look, the illustrations are far, far better than what I could do, but in general even though the drawings are of different breeds of cows, the illustrations are pretty interchangeable.  Still, far better than what I could do.


                The other weak part is the almost lack of science.  But this seems to be because different studies contradict each other.  Yet, one did want a little more scientific fact, if possible, about the contradicting claims.  To be fair, Kurlansky is brutally honest about how a dairy farm works.


                These flaws aside, the book is charming.  You can learn all sorts of facts about ice cream, milk, and ice cream.


                Did I say ice cream twice?


                For instance, the inventor of the hand cranked ice cream maker (Nancy Johnson) and the where the soda fountain was invented, and the fact that Philadelphia is “a city that liked to brand its food”.  The focus on ice cream is more on the idea and popularity, with more detail given to smaller businesses than bigger ones such Breyers.


                I haven’t tried any of the recipes, though many of them do look quite good and yummy.

Star Trek Boldly Go #11-15

Star Trek: Boldly Go, Vol. 2 - Mike Johnson, Tony Shasteen

The Boldly comic series picks up after the latest Star Trek (Kelvin) movie.  In these issues, the crew is still splintered with Kirk, Sulu, and McCoy on a ship, Scotty working on the new Enterprise, and Spock and Uhura on New Vulcan.  I'm not sure where Chekhov is.


The strongest issues are 11 and 12, which is one storyline.  It brings back a couple characters from the first run of the Kelvin Star Trek run.  It was nice to see the characters again, and if the story was workmanlike, it was at least entertaining.


Issues 13-15 are part of an ongoing stor that is not concluded.  It is another Mirror Universe story, so female Kirk returns.  This isn't bad in and of itself, but it also feels repeatitve.  I get the wonder of the mirror universe, the what ifs are great ideas.  But in some ways, it always feels like "we don't know what else to do here, so let's trot it out again".  I can understand the slow, very slow, process of bring the crew back together, espeically when the comics are tied closely to the films, one of the reasons why Chekhov isn't fully addressed.  Still, it could have been better.  

Young Sherlock Holmes Adventures - Drew Castalia, Huw-J., J.L. Straw, Owen Jollands

This is not like the movie, but it doesn't really claim to be outside of the title reference. Sherlock is a bit of a jerk, and quite frankly, you want him to get smacked. Additionally, the sole female character is told she is useless and then objectified, though some very passing reference is made to Ganesh

Imprinted (Magic ex Libris) - Jim C. Hines

The story's focus is Jenata, but the other characters do make brief appearances.  Hines does a good job writing a young girl who is struggling to solve a mystery as well as come to terms with her trauma.

Watson and Holmes - A Study In Black - Karl Bollers, Justin Gabrie, Rick Leonardi, Larry Stroman

I enjoyed this better than the BBC Sherlock in terms of it being a contempory Sherlock. It equals Elementary in terms of dealing with modern problems in a real world as opposed to the Whoish feel of the BBC series. Also Bollers is better with the women charactes - Lestrade's counterpoint is Stroud, a woman for instance.  The issue is a real world issue as opposed to some grand conspricy that doesn't quite fit.  It's closer to Doyle's stories.

Beneath the Mountain: A Novel - Luca D'Andrea

Jan 2018 My Book Box selection.

D'Andrea does a very good job with setting and atmosphere. It's just that the women are either virgins or whores, soley there to be a plot point for the men in the book. The narrator's wife does not have a full fledged conversation with him until half way in, and seems solely there to be servicing the main character, who does not fly as an American. What American would describe his friend's face as being bruised so it looked like the Scottish flag? And the big reveal makes no sense on so many different levels.

In some ways what Hillbilly Elegy should have been

Flat Broke with Two Goats: A Memoir of Appalachia - Jennifer McGaha

My Book Box selection Jan 2018.

Honesty, I would not have picked up this book on my own, but I am so glad that My Book Box chose it. Funny, brutally, honest, and wonderful. For the record, the back of the book is slightly misleading as Merle is not the first goat.

Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools - Monique W. Morris

An important book and a rather useful as well. Morris details the reason why young Black women do not graduate school and why they are expelled at high rates. She also highlights ways to deal with the problem - part of it is shift in culture. The book includes a question and answer secton which is most useful

Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America - Gilbert King

This is not a biography of Thurgood Marshall. In many ways, it is a study of one case during the years after WW II and before Brown. King includes infromation about other cases, showcasing that there are names we should know besides Till.

King also looks at all the players in the Groveland and in particular, the effect of Marshall upon them. In many ways, that is the most intersting part of the book

That Sleep of Death: A Sam Wiseman Mystery - Richard King

There is way too much telling going on. You have two book lovers, and we are told what their conversation is about not shown. Furthermore, why would you keep referring to your friend and business partner by both her first and last name? King captures Montreal well, but that doesn't make up for the other issues


Murder Strikes Pink - Josephine Pullein-Thompson

Like most girls, I first encountered the Pullein-Thompson sisters by reading one of their horse books. In my case, it was the bound volume of Black Beauty’s Family, which is criminally underrated and includes a better horse in WWI story than Warhorse. The BBF was so good that years later when as an adult, I received two other collections by sisters from friend who was saying, “I know they are kid books, but”, I interrupted with, “awesome”. I wasn’t aware that they had written adult novels until this book was offered free for kindle (Endeavour press is awesome).

Murder Strikes Pink is a mystery about the death of a wealthy and waspy show jumper owner who no one seems to like and everyone seems to be in some fear of. The cast of characters is pretty standard for any British mystery. It has a Midsomer Murders type of appeal. 

There is so disquiet and gloss over. Honesty, one problem is a bit too easily solved. Yet, it has the small English village charm of a Christie. What Pullein-Thompson gets much credit for her is her use of characters – no one is perfect and everyone is really human.