Showing posts from June, 2017

Hunting Shadows by Charles Todd: A review

I've been working my way through this historical mystery series for a few years now and the trip has mostly been enjoyable. But the previous book, Proof of Guilt , which I read last summer, was a big disappointment to me and nearly put me off. I haven't felt the desire to get back to the series since until a few days ago. Looking for my next book to read I came across Charles Todd's name and decided, why not? I'm glad I decided to give him another chance because this one was a winner. It is 1920 and memories of the First World War are still fresh. Many of the veterans of that war bear wounds, both physical and mental, that are yet to heal. Among the sufferers of psychological wounds is Inspector Ian Rutledge of Scotland Yard. He does his best to keep his PTSD, or shell shock as it was then called, hidden.  Rutledge is sent to Cambridgeshire, the Fen Country, to investigate two murders. The first was a former soldier who was shot while attending a society wedding

Wednesday in the garden: Purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea)

The purple coneflowers are blooming. These members of the sunflower, or Asteraceae , family can grow up to four feet tall, but the tallest of mine are around three feet. They are native to North America, where they can be found growing wild in the eastern to central parts of the continent. They grow in moist to dry prairies and open wooded areas and bloom from early to late summer. There are many cultivated varieties of the plant and although they are referred to in general as purple coneflowers, they also come in other colors, including red and white, but purple still seems to be the most popular color. The generic name comes from the Greek word, ekhinos, meaning hedgehog. It is descriptive of the spiny central part of the flower which you can see in this close-up. Echinacea is widely used in folk and herbal medicine. Many people swear by its efficacy in the treatment of various illnesses from the common cold to cancer. There have been several scientific studies done on pr

Tuesday Tidbits

I get most of my news these days from trusted sources on the web. I've given up on broadcast "journalism" with its reliance on punditry and its false equivalence. When I run across an article that I want to read but don't have time for, or don't want to take the time for at the moment, I send it to my reading file for later perusal. Today I am clearing out my reading file. Here is some of what I've been reading and thinking about lately. You may discern a pattern... ~~~ Our president is a liar. This is a verifiable fact. (You remember facts? "A thing that is indisputably the case," says the dictionary.)  People have actually taken the time and effort to verify it. People like David Leonhardt and Stuart A. Thompson who, last Friday, published a definitive list of the man's lies since his inauguration in January. It is mind-boggling. The Toronto Star also has been keeping track of his lies and they calculate that he has told an average

Shadow Prey by John Sandford: A review

My considered opinion is that Minneapolis detective Lucas Davenport is a jerk. He's one of those guys who sees himself as a gift to women of all shapes, sizes, and kinds. He excuses his behavior as a Lothario by saying that he just LOVES women. And so he moves back and forth among a gaggle of women giving them the precious gift of himself and, quite often, his sperm.  He has a more or less steady girlfriend with whom he has a child, but when a NYPD lieutenant comes to Minneapolis to assist in the investigation of a series of killings that may be related to one that occurred in New York, he just can't help pursuing her and eventually falling into bed with her, in spite of the fact that she is married and has two teenage children.  He's supposed to be in the "intelligence" section of the Minneapolis police department and yet he drives around town in his Porsche in order to meet with his contacts. Not exactly the discrete behavior one might expect from one in s

Poetry Sunday: More Than Enough

Summer is officially with us now, although it arrived unofficially where I live several weeks ago. And with summer comes a wealth of blossoms and berries and seeds: "Season of joy for the bee. The green will never again be so green, so purely and lushly new..." I think Marge Piercy has caught the spirit of summer, the spirit of plenty, perfectly.  More Than Enough by Marge Piercy Related Poem Content Details The first lily of June opens its red mouth.  All over the sand road where we walk  multiflora rose climbs trees cascading  white or pink blossoms, simple, intense  the scene drifting like colored mist.  The arrowhead is spreading its creamy  clumps of flower and the blackberries  are blooming in the thickets. Season of  joy for the bee. The green will never  again be so green, so purely and lushly  new, grass lifting its wheaty seedheads  into the wind. Rich fresh wine  of June, we stagger into you smeared  with pollen, ov

This week in birds - #261

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : Eastern Kingbird photographed at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. *~*~*~* June 19-25 is designated as National Pollinator Week , in honor of those hard-working animals that pollinate over 75% of flowering plants and nearly 75% of our crops. Pollinators include hummingbirds, bats, bees, beetles, butterflies, and flies that carry pollen from one plant to another as they collect nectar. The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation has lots of good information about invertebrate pollinators and how members of the public, and gardeners in particular, can help them. *~*~*~* In the absence of leadership from Washington, many states and cities are doing their part to try to pick up the slack in the fight to slow and control human-caused climate change. Four cities are at the forefront : New York City, Houston, Miami, and San Francisco. You'll note that all of these cities are on a coast and must deal w

Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002 by David Sedaris: A review

If you are planning a road trip this summer and need an audio book to entertain you along the way, I can strongly recommend David Sedaris' latest. It is a compilation of excerpts from diaries that he has kept for twenty-five years, from 1977-2002. In his introduction to the book, Sedaris outlines the difference between the kind of diary that a person imagines s/he will keep and the kind that a person actually keeps. One imagines, he says, that one will address topics of great import, such as political and social injustice, but what one ends up writing about is petty things - "questioning fondue or describing those ferrets you couldn't afford." The Sedaris diaries are very personal. The only political or national issue included in them is the attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11/01, an event which he watched on TV in Paris. Other than that, he regales us with tales of his experiences with hitchhiking around the country and about his relationships with his va

The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos: A review

This book won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1990 and was a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction of 1989. Incredibly, it was the FIRST Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winner by a Hispanic writer. Oscar Hijuelos was born in the United States to Cuban immigrant parents and, in this book, he excavates Cuban history, especially Cuban musical history, to tell a story of a family and the culture from which they came. Latin music was all the rage in mid-twentieth century America and many practitioners of the art of the habanera, the rumba, and the mambo followed the trendy vogue from Cuba to America to seek their fortunes. Among these immigrants were the brothers Castillo, Cesar and Nestor. They arrived in New York City in 1949. Cesar was a dashing songster with a passionate quivering baritone voice and the good looks to capture the hearts of his female listeners. Nestor was quiet and introspective with a touch of melancholy in his soul. The melancholy was a result of his lo

Wednesday in the garden: Milk and wine lilies

While I was out of town for several days, my milk and wine lilies started blooming. I came home to find that I had missed the first flush of flowers, but a few of the plants still had blooms and there are more on the way. Milk and wine lilies are so called for a fairly obvious reason - the color of the flowers is a milky white with a wine red stripe. This lily is from the crinum family and is one of the most common plants found in old southern gardens and sometimes in old southern cemeteries. They became popular around the turn of the twentieth century and were widely grown at that time. One reason for their popularity, other than their beauty, is that they are tough as old boots and virtually impossible to kill. They grow well in a variety of soils, thrive on neglect, and tend to multiply to the point of becoming almost obnoxious. There are about 130 varieties of crinums and they are natives primarily of the tropics and of South Africa. I grow four different kinds in my garden

A pre-Bloom Day look at the garden

I will be on the road later this week and away from my garden on June 15, or Bloom Day as it is known to garden bloggers around the world, so here is a pre-Bloom Day look at what's blooming in my garden this month. It's almost summer and the summer phlox is in bloom. There are lots of white blooms in the garden this month. They help to bring a note of coolness to my hot garden space. There's almond verbena with its wonderful scent. Too bad I don't have smell-a-blog. The white crinums are blooming. And so is the white 'Texas Star' swamp hibiscus. And the datura, sometimes called devil's trumpet or moonflower. But here's the real moonflower, and, yes, it's still blooming, too.  The beautyberry bloom is not much to look at; the real attraction is the colorful berries that come later. This pretty little white flower is blooming in my wildflower bed. I'm not sure what it is called, but I think