Chris' Fish Place

Thoughts on things, mostly books.




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Prequels are better to be honest.

Legend of the Scarlet Blades - Saverio Tenuta

I liked the prequels to this series much better. The disabled hero is great, and the artwork is wonderful. There is something about the story that doesn't grab me.

Should read for a good take on sex workers

Playing the Whore: The Work of Sex Work - Melissa Gira Grant

I'm glad I read this book. I'm not sure what my view about prostitution is. I do wish that Grant had more than ancedotal evidence ( and to be fair, she acknowledges her somewhat limited viewpoint). But Grant does have some very good points about how we should see sex workers and how shaming and policing are used to enforce feel good policies that might do more harm than good. If you are interested in the topic, you should read this book, simply for the reframing discussion about how to view sex workers.

Nice collection

A Wild Swan: And Other Tales - Michael Cunningham

Michael Cunningham’s collection of short stories draws on more than one magical tale. The title story is, obviously a reference to the twelve swans and deals with the prince who is left with one wing. However, the collection runs far deeper than that.

Fairy tales show us what is in terms of what could have been. They teach or show truths in ways that are easier to deal with. Cunningham knows this, and he knows what drives us to read the gossip stories. His first story, “Dis. Enchant” illustrates this.

While the twelve swans story is the title story and deals with the after, the best stories are “Ever/After” and “Steadfast: Tin”. Both deal with marriage and idea of what happy ever after means. Another powerful and haunting story is Cunningham’s adaption of “The Monkey’s Paw”. Of a more, what if feel is “Jacked” about Jack the Giant Killer and “Little Man” which is about a certain spinner. “Poisoned” puts a new spin on sexual play.

The stories work because Cunningham focus on that after, which in many cases is the most potentially disturbing parts of the story, but they can also be the hopeful and profound. Like these stories in this collection.


C*cky Neighbor - Fettucine Holliday C*cky Author - Fettucine Holliday

In case you have missed the lovely Linda Hilton's posts about #cockygate, here's a brief run-down.  Some indie romance "writer" trademarked the word cocky because she has a series that has titles like Cocky Shitburger, Cocky Dick, and Cocky Douchebag.  Okay, those aren't actually titles but just pick a job and put the wordy cocky in front it.  Apparently they are part of the cocker family or something.  I guess Latrine was already taken.  


So said Cocky Ass writer then sent out cease and desist emails to other authors, threatening legal action unless titles of books were changed. I suppose next she is going to trademark the word "honey" and then "damp".    Needless to say, said "writer" has been taken to the woodhouse in a metaphorical sense.  The Romance Writers of America group is already doing or planning legal action.



Now, I don't read much romance.  I have plenty (as I see it) romance books on my shelves, and sometimes I read very bad kindle erotica because it makes me feel better about myself (yes, I'm getting help for that).  What romance books I do own are because they were either written by friends, they survived my break with the romance genre, or because a friend reccomended them.  It also helps if they have magic in them.  One thing, I haven't really understand is the snobbery about romance.  I mean, what is James friggin Bond really?  It's just a male romance story but since it was written by a guy with wang for other guys with wangs, it is deemed "literary".  A board defination of the term romance includes writers such as Austen and Dumas.    Is it true that all romance is good?  Of course, not.  But then, not all books are good so that's like normal.


As a person who does not read much romance but who knows that the trademarking of cocky was a dumbass, stuck up, greedy bitch of a move, I wanted to support writers who would be effected.  But I don't read much romance, and can be somewhat picky.


Luckily, I found these books written by the famous pasta Fettucine.  Now, the books are short and 2.99.  I'm cheap when it comes it kindle books.  I mean, why pay three books for a book by pasta?  If it is an author you know, that's something else, but pasta?  But part of the procceeds will be donated to funds to help authors, so it is for a good cause.


And the books are so funny.  Honesty, it is 3 bucks per book well spent.


Each book mocks not only the trademarking of the word cocky but also the writting style of sub-par "erotic" romance kindle books.  There are comments about convient organasms, a bird that says pussy, and lines like :


"I tongue my tongue against his tongue, tonguing him real nice. "




" [he] has thick, muscular thighs like a Russian Olympian who cheated with drugs."




"I’d like to ride that Roman Emperor nose until I’m squawking harder than my cockatoo."

Out Aug 1, 2018

Grandghost - Nancy Springer

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley.


                Beverly is not Mrs. Fletcher.  This is not Cabot Cove.  The dead body isn’t freshly dead.


                Needless to say, Beverly is not having a good day.  She isn’t sure about her income and then there is a skeleton in her backyard.


                Springer’s mystery isn’t so much a mystery as opposed to a novel about family, community, and belief.  It is about how first impressions can be both wrong and right, as well as defining what family is.


                It should be noted that the mystery does deal with child abuse.


                The story also deals with how society views older women, in particular those who are not traditional, and how much of the time they are written off as crazy cranks.


                It is refreshing book too because the central characters are all women who are not discussing boyfriends or husbands.  They are not in competition with each other, and, at the very least, they respect each other.  This more than makes up for the somewhat obvious mystery of the skeleton as well as the low key creepy factor.


                The use of art in the book is well done.  Not only in the terms of it being Beverly’s chosen profession but also in the lives of her daughters.  Her daughters are one of the best things about the book, concerned but not bitchy.  What Springer gives us is a family, a true family with squabbles, but those of all families. 

Out June 30, 2018

Suspect Citizens: What 20 Million Traffic Stops Tell Us about Policing and Race - Frank R. Baumgartner, Derek A. Epp, Kelsey Shoub

Disclaimer: ARC via Cambridge University Press and Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.


                Recently, during a commute, I overheard a conversation between two men.  They were debating stop and frisk policies as well as road checkpoints/spot checks.  The first man, Adam let’s call him, said that he didn’t understand why people would be upset about a pat down or a road stop.  After all, if you didn’t do anything wrong, you have nothing to fear.  His companion, let’s call him Bert, responded with how many times he had been pulled over because he had been a young black male in a car that police believed should be out of his price range. Bert joined the army right after high school, he said, and could afford to drive such vehicles.  His fellow soldiers who were white did not get stopped.  Adam volleyed back with well, he had been profiled when he had been pulled over, and then was forced to admit that he had been speeding.


                Then I got off the train.  I’ll leave you to figure out which person was black and which white.


                Reading books like Suspect Citizens for people before having the above conversation with anyone.


                It should be noted that the work of Baumgarther, Epp, and Shoub focuses on one state, North Carolina, but considering what the presentation and analysis of the data prove that getting pulled over when “driving while black” is really a thing.  Not that everyone in the United States didn’t know this, but let’s be honest, odds are you know at least one person who says that it isn’t true.  The authors note that part of the reason for this book is so that people who are not black can approach dialogue about police and race with compassion and knowledge. 


                I find books like this difficult to rate.  It is a study.  There is a great deal of data being presented to the reader.  At times, such use of numbers can be dull, but the writers don’t present information dully.  Furthermore, connections are made to wide problems (like low voter turn our).  The book isn’t entirely negatively.  It also takes the time to go into great detail about the history of the law that triggered the correction of the data as including the full law in an appendix.  Attention is given to the history of pulling a car over and the difference between reasons for a driver being pulled over.


                There is something information about the pulling over of Hispanic and Native Americans, but the focus is on African Americans. 


                The book closes with some personal stories of those that have been pulled over.  The stories include various outcomes but are very powerful.


                Highly recommended.

Free Audio book (US at least) until 9th

American Pharoah: The Untold Story of the Triple Crown Winner's Legendary Rise - Joe Drape

So Audible is offering the above for free until the 9th because the horse Audible placed 3rd.  Offer is here

Out June 30

Imagining Shakespeare's Wife: The Afterlife of Anne Hathaway - Katherine West Scheil

Disclaimer: ARC via Cambridge University Press and Netgalley.  Read in exchange for a fair review.


                I have some deal breakers when it comes to the books I read.  I am not fond, sometimes even hate, books where the eldest sibling is by default the bad one.  I am fond of wives being blamed for their husbands porking anything that moves.  I judge Shakespeare biographies by how the writer treats Anne Hathaway.


                No, you fool, not the actress.


                Shakespeare’s wife.


                A few years, Germaine Greer published Shakespeare’s Wife, a biography/study of Anne Hathaway.  In large part, Greer’s book seemed to be a rebuttal to Stephen Greenblatt’s harsh attack on Hathaway in his Will in the World.  Katherine West Scheil’s book, Imagining Shakespeare’s Wife, also takes Greenblatt to task, but Scheil’s purpose to look at how the image or reputation of Shakespeare’s wife reflects on the period in which a work is published.


                While Scheil does seem partial to Anne, the beginning of the book, dealing with the known facts of Hathaway’s life is fair.  Scheil remembers that there is no way we can do for sure what exactly happened between the Shakespeares.  She presents the facts, she presents the debates, but she keeps her view out and lets the reader reach a decision, if the reader wants to.  The rest of the book deals largely with how people at various times have viewed Anne Hathaway.  As Scheil notes, many times writers have made their Anne Hathaway as opposed to writing about the real Hathaway.


                This starts, in part, Scheil notes with the romance of the Anne Hathaway Cottage – which, to be frank, you can understand the romance part because it is absolutely beautiful.  Scheil notes that the one time owner and tour guide of the house, Mary Baker, had connections to the Hathaways and was, in part, making sure of her family’s connection to the Bard of Avon.  My guess is that Mary Baker was getting a bit pissed off about all the people standing on Anne Hathaway’s grave to get a better look at her husbands.  Taking about wiping their feet on the woman.


                ON the other hand, Scheil notes that the anti-Anne venom was set by Malone whose biography of Shakespeare was one of the earliest.  She even ties Malone’s view of Anne to his proving the Ireland forgeries as fakes.  We then tour other early biographies and fictional accounts, all of which even the non-fiction, seem to be proto-fanfiction if not outright fanfiction.


                The analysis is best when looking at recent authors, though she doesn’t fully account Peter Ackroyd’s unwillingness to admit to certain sexual misconduct on the part of his heroes – she acknowledges Ackroyd’s seeming blindness of a sexual relationship between the Shakespeares before marriage as willful disregard of the time of their daughter’s birth, but Ackroyd also contorts himself in regards to Dickens extra-marital life as well.  Scheil doesn’t pull punches, and if you, like me, were luke- warm to Greenblatt, Scheil aims and hits torpedoes at him.


                Hence I love her.


                It is a bit of surprise that Greer’s book doesn’t get more coverage.  The response, in many cases unfair and overly harsh, is noted, but Scheil gives little speculation why – is it due to sexism or how someone suggest that Hathaway might have been worthy (or over worthy) of our Shakespeare?  Additionally, she doesn’t ponders some of the more reaching claims of Greer, which also fall into the realm of this book.  Greer’s book is a must read, but surely some of her conclusions were also influenced by feminist views.  It seems strange not to discuss this year.


                The most horrifying aspect of the back is the discussion of the modern historical romance novels and movies (such as Shakespeare in Love).  This is not because of Scheil’s writing, but of some of the response of readers and movie viewers as well as the writers who have a tendency to either write Anne of as Shrew who deserves to have her husband cheat on her (common) to an Anne who embodies the traditional good wife that young female reader should aim to be (less common).  There is some hope, though.  Scheil covers more recent works that are fairer to Anne in terms of fiction.  Her book about Hathaway will also add to your must read shelf, if you are a Shakespeare fan.


                Considering the mutability of Shakespeare the man, it is hardly surprising that Anne Hathaway has become a channel on which writers sail their version of Shakespeare – family man, unhappy husband, child of nature.  It is too Scheil’s credit that while she presents and discusses these myriad Annes, she always keeps the reader aware of the true Anne, the one who we cannot know, who is impossible to know, but who deserves to be acknowledged simply because she is human.


Highly recommended.

So this happened.

Michelle Wolf

                Truth be told, I really hadn’t heard of Michelle Wolf until my twitter feed exploded.  Apparently, Michelle Wolf was mean to Sarah Huckabee Sanders at the White House Correspondents Dinner.  But isn’t that a roast, so she must have said something really bad.


                So, I watch the monologue.  The whole thing.  Honesty, I didn’t really find it all that funny, but then I think comedy has never been the same since Blackadder stopped being filmed.


                I’m sorry, did I miss something?  This is what Wolf said about Huckabee Sanders:


"I'm a little starstruck," Wolf began. "I love you as Aunt Lydia in The Handmaid's Tale."

                                    . . . . . .

"I actually really like Sarah. I think she’s very resourceful," Wolf said, setting up her next jab. "She burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies."

"I'm never really sure what to call Sarah Huckabee Sanders," Wolf continued. "Is it Sarah Sanders? Is it Sarah Huckabee Sanders? Is it Cousin Huckabee? Is it Auntie Huckabee Sanders? Like, what's Uncle Tom but for white women who disappoint other white women?"  (qtd in Jensen)


The only way that the above an attack on Huckabee Sanders’ looks is if you see a comparison to Ann Dowd’s looks as an insult.  If you do, doesn’t that say quite a bit about you more than Michelle Wolf?   Incidentally, the comparison is to the character of Aunt Lydia, who Aunt Lydia is and what she does as opposed to what she looks like.  To understand the reference, it helps if you have read the book or, at the very least, watched the HULU series.


If it is the smoky eyeshadow bit, that isn’t it attacking Huckabee Sanders’ looks, it is attacking her lying and the lying of the Trump administration.


            Now, it’s true, pretty much all politicians lie - intentionally, by omission, whatever.  I will even concede that sometimes a lie is called for – you don’t want to spill important details.  But, let’s be real.  This president and his cult lie on a regular basis, even about things they don’t need to lie about.  We can debate the semantics – is it intentional or not, but Wolf just called a spade, a spade.  She called a liar, a liar.  She didn’t mention weight, looks, or anything.  Just eyeshadow.  She didn’t say the eyeshadow was ugly.  What’s the problem?  Hell, if you want to get upset about what Wolf said, how about what she said about Ivanka – how she is pretty smelly diaper bag? Is it because of the word pretty and how it allows people to see beyond looks to something else?


            At best, the horrified responses indicate an inability to look at criticism or roasting of a woman as anything other than a comment upon that woman’s looks.  Isn’t that sexism?  The horrified responses suggest that a comparison to Aunt Lydia rests solely on looks and that Ann Dowd as Aunt Lydia is ugly – isn’t that insulting to Ann Dowd?  And, folks, Aunt Lydia on the show is many things – ugly in terms of looks isn’t one of them.  Why was it okay for other people to go after Chris Christie’s looks (fat jokes) or for Wolf to compare Pence to Anderson Cooper (poor Cooper) but the eye shadow line was a bit too far?




            It is also interesting because we have a president who has insulted, repeatedly, the previous president and his wife (and his children),a president who has called women he hates ugly, a president who has contributed to hate speech, a president who retweets racist tweets, a president who called a sitting member of Congress a stripper, a president who was represented at the dinner by his Press Secretary who treats the press with disrespect and who lies on an almost daily basis, whether or not she truly wants to lie is beside the point.  He couldn’t attend because he had to go the Nuremberg Rally in another Washington.


            The attacks on Michelle Wolf simply look like at they are – sexism and re-enforcement of male superiority.  Men are allowed to be critical and mock, but women, nope can’t have that the responses to Wolf are saying.  Heaven forbid, a woman actually is critical and not nice.


            In which case, and quoting Mona Eltahawy, those people coming for Michelle Wolf, you can “fuck off kitten”.





Work Cited

Jensen, Erin.  “White House Correspondents Dinner: Michelle Wolf obliterates Sarah Huckabee   

            Sanders”.  USA Today.  29 April 2018.  Web.  29 April 2018.

2666 Streaming

2666 - Natasha Wimmer, Roberto Bolaño

There was a stage production of 2666.  Can see it here for free for the next two years.

A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership - James Comey

I didn’t intend to this buy this book, but all of a sudden, I wanted to read it.  Maybe because I felt sorry for Comey.  I know, he gets fired but a book deal, and I feel sorry for him.  But while I wasn’t happy with his announcements about Clinton’s emails during the election cycle, I also felt he was caught between two options, neither of which was good.  While the announcements undoubtedly had an effect, he wasn’t the cause of the loss, especially when looking at the sexist treatment of her in the news.  I didn’t vote for Trump, and I am a registered independent.  And, yes, I voted for Clinton and walked in my local Women’s March (as did Comey’s wife and daughters).


                In terms of writing, Comey’s book isn’t bad.  It isn’t great, but the tone is easy and he doesn’t make you want to run screaming for the hills or throw it up against a wall.  He uses “a lot” a bit too much for my taste.  There are some flashes of humor.  He is fair towards Clinton, admitting that of the people he chronicles in the book, she is the one he never met, and she has/had good reason to avoid meeting him. 


                But you don’t want to hear about that do you?


                There isn’t much about Comey’s private life here, though it is quite clear he deeply loves and admires his wife, he also loves his children (and in fact, he and his wife lost a child).  He details some of his time before working for the Bush and Obama administration.  The focus is on his service, in varying functions, for three presidents.


                What is clear is that of the three presidents Comey served, Trump is by far the worse and in Comey’s (and my) view unfit for office.  Bush, he respects but sees as flawed in some areas.  Comey really admires Obama, though he does offer one critique, and holds Obama up as the ideal leader because of his ability to listen, truly listen, his principles, and his courtesy.


                Trump doesn’t have anyone of that, and Bush’s humor was a bit crueller than Obama’s.  Much has been made about Comey’s remarks about Trump, but it should be noted that the Bush administration, not necessarily Bush himself but those under him, don’t look to good.


                It’s true that Comey does comment on Trump’s tie and hands, and this does cheapen Comey somewhat, though you can understand the desire to sling back.  It should be noted that Comey does debunk the Trump ice cream charge.  The hand aside, Comey’s case against Trump is pretty damning.


                But for me the best part of the book, the most important, and the part that should get far more attention is Comey’s discussion of his time at the FBI during the protests in Fergusson and the killings of young African American men.  Part of this discussion includes the story of a conversation he had with Obama which focus on perspective and how that influences the meaning of language.  The book is worth the cost simply for this chapter where two difference people from two different backgrounds actually talk and listen to each other – becoming wiser in the process. We need more leaders like that, especially when it comes to dealing with race.  This conversation is not something we are going to get with the current president, especially since of this writing Orange Man has yet to twitter the name James Shaw Jr, a young man who believes that he is not a hero simply because he was trying to save himself when he also saved others.  Considering that Mr. Shaw is black and the killer was white, we pretty much have Trump’s view on race right there, don’t we?


                What is interesting, and a comment on gender in politics in particular and society in gender, is he comments on the behavior of Lynch and Yates during the Clinton email issue during the campaign.  He knows that the women are honorable and doesn’t think they were doing anything wrong or shady.  He respects both women.  Yet, he notes that he didn’t/doesn’t understand some of the choices and wording that they used during the camping/Clinton email.  He also makes the same observation about Obama.  Perhaps his confusion is because Yates, Lynch, and Obama knew how the press would play the story simply because of Clinton being female. 

Free in US on Kindle

Testament of Youth - Vera Brittain, Mark Bostridge

The Hachette Book version of Testament is currently free.


Find it Here

10 Free Kindle Books

Amazon is offering these books for free for a week.  Still Waters is good.


This was sOOOO good

Tales from the Haunted South: Dark Tourism and Memories of Slavery from the Civil War Era - Tiya Miles

I love this book.  I love this book.  I love this book.


I should admit that I think I feel about ghosts the same way that Dr Miles does. I love a good ghost story, and in particular, I love ghost folklore. But I try to be aware of what the stories also say about society - both the source society and the current society. I love the work of L.B. Taylor Jr., in part, because he does deal equally with history and folklore. That's where his interest lay, and while a Southern, he doesn't whitewash.

Miles taps into the question of ghost folklore and tourism in the South, in particular, the use of ghost stories about slave to sell tours. She not only digs at the history (or non-history) behind such stories, but looks at how the various places address slavery. IT is a rather enlighting and anger inducing book, but it does make you think and provides you with a reading list.

Miles' passion and prose is so clear and engaging that I want to read everything she has written and will write after reading this good book.



I really loved this book.

Out in June

City of Devils  - Paul French

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley


                Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom opens in 1935 at a club in the city of Shanghai.  Jones is going to met a gangster, and, of course, the shit hits the fan.  It is a Hollywood version of what Shanghai was like during the interwar years. Yet, there is some truth to it.  The city did have Badlands, and there were clubs that not only hired but catered to expatriates from America and Europe.  In his book City of Devils, Paul French presents the truth and while it does involve show girls there is a great more drugs, murder, and the looming threat of war.


                French details Shanghai, in particular Joe Farren and Jack Riley, two men who were sometimes engaged in legal business and sometimes in not so legal business.  Joe Farren started as a Fred Astaire or Vernon Castle type.  Escaping Vienna and touring Asia with his wife and the dance troupe they eventually started.  Farren is the dapper man, the married man with his wife Nellie.  He does resemble, at least in French’s description. 


                Riley is more of a gangster type.  American, blunt, and physical as opposed to dapper.  But not stupid, not stupid at all. His washing up at Shanghai isn’t so much to do with his performance ability. The two men are sometimes partners, sometimes rivals, sometimes enemies.


                In the story of the rise and fall of the two men, French also describes the imploding of Shanghai as an international colony forced upon the Chinese as well as the coming Second World War.  It isn’t just crime that causes the problems but also the Japanese and the shifting of power.


                At points, French introduces newspaper columns and Chinese views on what is occurring – either the view of the white men or the invading Japanese.  It is those bits that are the most moving and wonderful because they move the book beyond a simple history of the underworld.


                French writes with passion and vigor.  His prose is quite engrossing, and he does the best he can with limited sources.  What is most interesting (and hardy lest surprising) is that the women were harder to trace than the men.  It is to French’s credit that he shows the women as more than just molls or enablers.  In fact, a few of them are movers and shakers.


                The book is both engaging and engrossing.