Things We Lost to the Water by Eric Nguyen: A review

  Eric Nguyen's debut novel, Things We Lost to the Water , covers thirty years of a Vietnamese family's history, beginning in the chaos of 1975 in Vietnam when so many were desperate to leave the country in the wake of the Communist takeover and ending in New Orleans in 2005 in the chaos after Hurricane Katrina. The thirty years encompass this family's transition from being strangers in a strange land to being Americans. It is, in a sense, the story of all of us. Huong and her husband had planned to leave Vietnam with their young son, Tuan, on one of the boats carrying refugees. At the last minute, when Huong and Tuan were already in the boat, her husband could not bring himself to get on board. (His reticence is related to his experience with water which is explained late in the book.) Huong is panicked to leave him behind but must keep her son safe. What she has not told her husband is that she is carrying another child. The pregnant Huong and Tuan survive their terrible

A World on the Wing: The Global Odyssey of Migratory Birds by Scott Weidensaul: A review

  My favorite of all the books that I read in 2020 was Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy. It was a novel about the amazing migratory flight of the Arctic Tern and of one woman's obsession with it. Scott Weidensaul's book is the nonfiction version of that and many other birds' migration stories and of the scientists and dedicated amateurs who track and study those migrations to better understand and protect the birds. Weidensaul is a naturalist and an active field researcher himself and he also offers his commentary and insights. We know that the numbers of songbirds, shorebirds, waterfowl, and raptors have all plummeted in recent years. The study of their migrations offers some clues as to why this is happening.  Studying bird migration also offers us a panoply of almost miraculous stories. There are the tiny Ruby-throated Hummingbirds that cross the Gulf of Mexico in a single nonstop flight. Then there are Whimbrels that nest in the Canadian Arctic and in the fall travel

Poetry Sunday: Possum Crossing by Nikki Giovanni

Wildlife crossings are an excellent idea whose time has come. They are very popular wherever they have been installed. They are essentially designated wildlife highways that allow animals to safely cross busy highways. They save countless animal lives. But what about all those smaller highways and byways and country roads that most of us travel? There are no designated passages there but animals still cross those roads. And so it is up to us humans who share the roads with them to try to keep them safe, to drive at a reasonable speed that will allow us to stop in time to avoid adding to the roadkill toll. Be advised, therefore, that I do brake for possums and raccoons and armadillos and turtles and snakes and the occasional butterfly and any other living thing that crosses my path. Nikki Giovanni would, too.   Possum Crossing by Nikki Giovanni Backing out the driveway the car lights cast an eerie glow in the morning fog centering on movement in the rain slick street Hitting brakes I a

This week in birds - #455

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment :  This ubiquitous (on the Texas coast anyway) Laughing Gull is enjoying the late afternoon sun on a Rockport pier. *~*~*~* First of all, happy Juneteenth, now a federal holiday. It has been a state holiday in Texas for more than forty years. We are happy to share it with the rest of the country. *~*~*~* It seems to be the zombie that just will not die: A federal judge in Louisiana has ruled that the Biden administration cannot pause new leases for drilling oil and gas on public lands. This includes the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Global warming be damned! There is no word yet as to whether the decision will be appealed. Congressional Democrats are planning to move forward with legislative efforts to limit drilling on public lands. *~*~*~* As the state swelters in a heatwave, the Electric (un)Reliability Council of Texas has urged customers to conserve energy , turn thermostats up and delay washing and dryin

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith: A review

Patricia Highsmith - yet another famous writer that I've never bothered to read even though she's been recommended to me numerous times over the years. Well, time to rectify that omission starting with The Talented Mr. Ripley . Tom Ripley is a fascinating literary character. His persona has been adopted and adapted by various other writers and filmmakers since he was introduced by his creator in 1955. I confess I haven't seen any of the films either, yet I felt that I knew him even before I picked up this book. The character has long since passed into society's consciousness and his story is well known even by those of us who have not personally encountered him. At this point, a summary of that story seems almost superfluous.   The first thing to be said about Tom is that he is a sociopath. A charming sociopath to be sure but totally cold-blooded and lacking in empathy. He is someone who thinks nothing of committing murder when it suits his purpose. He arrives in Manhat

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - June 2021

(Linking to May Dreams Gardens .)  Happy June Bloom Day! Since last month's Bloom Day, my zone 9a garden here in Southeast Texas has seen a lot of rain. During one twelve-day period, it rained every day. And not just light showers but real gully-washers. And then it stopped and the 90+ degree F weather started and everything dried out. Today the high temperature is forecast to be 98. Now we need rain again. All that rain sure encouraged the weeds in my garden but the May showers also brought flowers and quite a lot of them. Portulaca blooming in a pot on the patio table. Just before the rains started, I had transplanted zinnias. The poor little plants were completely beaten up by the heavy rains and they still look rather battered. But they are blooming! Here's the yellow variety. And the orange one. The summer phlox is in bloom. I wish you could smell the wonderful scent. The purple echinacea is just starting to bloom. There's quite a bit of variety in the shades of purple

Earthlings by Sayaka Murata: A review

  I frankly don't have a clue how to sum up this strange little book or how to rate it. I was fully on board with the plot for about three-quarters of the book and completely sympathetic to the protagonist, Natsuki. Then in the last quarter, the plot really began to go off the rails for me. No spoilers here but I found the ending to be a bridge too far and the writer lost me with it. But first, let's concentrate on the positive three-quarters. Natsuki is nine years old when we meet her and she is a complete misfit. She has an older sister who is the favorite of her parents, especially her mother. The mother is psychologically, emotionally, and physically abusive to Natsuki. The child cannot do anything right in her eyes. The father seems to be a bit of a cipher. He really doesn't take much interest in his children. He certainly does not defend Natsuki. Natsuki's "best friend" is a plush toy hedgehog that she imagines comes from a far planet with an unpronounce