Showing posts from August, 2017

61 Hours by Lee Child: A review

Continuing with my Summer of Reading Mysteries, I picked up a Jack Reacher novel. As one who is dedicated to reading series books in order, I thought I was doing that, reading the fourth book in the series. Turns out this is actually the fourteenth book. Oops! Oh, well. It didn't really seem to matter. The plot of this one did not depend on having read previous books. In fact, Lee Child managed to reprise information about Reacher's past and why he's on the road as a part of the plot, so no harm, no foul. Reacher has paid the driver of a tour bus, out of Seattle, to come aboard with a church group of elderly citizens who have unaccountably decided to visit South Dakota in the dead of winter. That fact alone may be the most far-fetched part of this plot. Before they can reach their destination, their bus swerves to miss a car in a fierce blizzard outside the little town of Bolton, and leaves the road, ending up in a ditch. There is no other traffic and no help in si

My Harvey

The worst hurricane event that I have personally experienced was Hurricane Ike in 2008 . What made it so bad was that we got the devastating hurricane winds in addition to the flooding. Actually, the flooding wasn't so bad, but the winds were terrifying. The night that it hit was the longest night of my life as I listened to the howling winds and the groans of the live oaks in my front yard as they bent with the wind to let it pass. I wondered if the live oaks would survive and if our roof would survive. When the wet gray dawn came, the trees were still there; my roof was still more or less intact. Our electricity was out and would stay out for a few days, and one tree had lost one large limb, but the trees still stood tall and proud and so did we, not quite as tall or proud but still upright. The worst flooding event I've personally experienced was in 1994 from a storm that didn't even have a name. It was caused by a confluence of different meteorological events that

Confound the science

Sitting here at my computer, watching the rain from Hurricane (now Tropical Storm) Harvey come down for the fourth day in a row and remembering that just days before our president had rolled back President Obama's flood standards for infrastructures , I can only wonder at the long-term effects of his spiteful acts.  Then I saw this parody that my daughter posted on Facebook. Bitter humor, but it expresses perfectly what is happening. It may be Houston that is drowning today, but tomorrow, without laws to protect us, it could be anywhere in America. 

Y is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton: A review

We're coming to the end of Sue Grafton's alphabet mystery series; only Z to go after this one. I've been reading these books since the start, way back in the early '80s, and it's been an uneven ride as it often is with long-running series, but I've stuck with it because that's what I do and because I have a vast reservoir of affection for Grafton's Kinsey Millhone. In this one, Grafton again takes us back to the '80s when Kinsey was in her 30s. She gives us a two-pronged mystery. One prong involves the psychopathic serial killer from the last book and the other takes us back ten years to 1979 and a group of the most obnoxious and unlikable teenagers you are ever likely to encounter. The psychopathic killer from the X book is still on the loose and is a threat to society and to Kinsey who tried to put him away, as well as to two women who were formerly in his life. He's come back to Santa Teresa to try to tie up all those dangling loose en

Poetry Sunday: The Hurricane

I guess it is pretty evident what is on my mind this week! As the rain buckets down outside, reminding us that Hurricane Harvey isn't finished with us yet, I went looking for something that would express the experience. After all, is there anything that poets will not turn into poetry?  The Hurricane by William Cullen Bryant Lord of the winds! I feel thee nigh, I know thy breath in the burning sky! And I wait, with a thrill in every vein, For the coming of the hurricane!   And lo! on the wing of the heavy gales, Through the boundless arch of heaven he sails; Silent and slow, and terribly strong, The mighty shadow is borne along, Like the dark eternity to come; While the world below, dismayed and dumb, Through the calm of the thick hot atmosphere Looks up at its gloomy folds with fear.   They darken fast; and the golden blaze Of the sun is quenched in the lurid haze, And he sends through the shade a funeral ray-- A glare that is neither night nor day, A beam

This week in birds - #269

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : These White Ibises were searching for a meal in a swampy area at Brazos Bend State Park. That swampy area most likely has a lot more water in it today. *~*~*~* The biggest environmental story of the week is happening all around me as I type. Hurricane Harvey made landfall as a category 4 near Rockport yesterday evening and dumped rain over a wide area of Southeast Texas overnight. The flooding and devastation caused by the storm is expected to be substantial, but of course we won't know the full extent for several days. Harvey is projected to stall and sit over our heads for a few days. Our rain gauge showed that we got 3.25" of rain overnight, but some areas of Houston got as much as six, while areas farther south probably got even more. Migration is well underway and there has been a steady stream of hummingbirds through my yard this week.  Gulf hurricanes are just one of the challenges that fall m

The Late Show by Michael Connelly: A review

Harry Bosch is now well into his second - and mandatory - retirement from the LAPD. How will Michael Connelly continue his writing of police procedurals about that flawed agency without his main man? The answer, of course, is to create a new and younger detective whose exploits we can follow, maybe for many years to come. Enter  Renée Ballard .   Ballard is a thirty-something veteran detective with the LAPD. She is from Hawaii originally, but had been brought to California to live with her grandmother after the death of her father in a surfing accident and the abdication of parenthood by her mother. She has a degree in journalism and worked briefly as a journalist before finding her calling with the police. She's had a checkered career with the LAPD, not because of a lack of ability, dedication, and character, but because she is a rocker of the boat. Five years before, while she was working in Homicide, Ballard filed a sexual harassment complaint against her lieutenant, Rob

The darkening of 2017

There have been many dark days so far in 2017, but today is the day when the firmament finally aligns with human experience and even the sun will hide its face in shame. This map shows where the eclipse will be total and where it will be only partial in the United States. I'm in that lower 50% area so my sun will not go completely dark. Even at 50% though it should be an impressive event. Image from The Guardian .  Yes, that is what you think it is - the "moon" is covering the sun. 

Poetry Sunday: That Sacred Closet When You Sweep

I've spent the past week clearing out closets, sorting things to donate or pass on to others and filling trash bags with items which no longer have any use to me, if they ever did. It's a task that I try to do once a year and it always surprises me that, even though I cleaned that closet a few months ago, here it is filled to the rafters once again. So, closets have been much on my mind, and when I went looking for a poem to feature this week, what should I find but this weird little verse by Emily Dickinson. It seems that she is speaking metaphorically, not of an actual closet but of the closet of "Memory" and she urges us to sweep carefully, reverentially. One can see that it might not be such a good idea to toss memories in the trash like so much refuse. I tried to be a lot more ruthless in my sorting of the closets, but there, too, I found lots of memories - pictures, mementoes of my daughters' childhoods, and of my own and my husband's and even of o

This week in birds - #268

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : Rock Wren , photographed at Big Bend National Park. *~*~*~* Here's a somewhat unexpected story: It seems that birding is becoming more popular among millennials ! That is a hopeful sign for the future. *~*~*~* In a less hopeful vein, The Guardian has a story about how college-educated young conservationists are having a hard time finding paying jobs and many are giving up and turning to other professions. *~*~*~* The average temperature of the contiguous 48 United States in July was the 10th warmest in 123 years of record-keeping . In addition, the year-to-date (January - July) is the second warmest on record. In July, there were significant climate events in some parts of the country, with much above average temperatures in parts of the West, Mid-Atlantic, and Southeast and above average precipitation in the Southwest, Midwest, and Northeast. *~*~*~* The Eurasian Curlew , native

The English Assassin by Daniel Silva: A review

Summer seems the perfect time for reading mysteries and thrillers. As the summer doldrums set in - as they definitely have in my neck of the woods - we need something to stir the blood a bit and make the heart race. Thriller/mysteries seem just the ticket for that. With that thought in mind, I turned to the second book in Daniel Silva's Gabriel Allon series. I had read the first book in that series,  The Kill Artist ,  last summer, just over a year ago. I was impressed enough to put the series on my reading list and so here I sit, The English Assassin in hand. Gabriel Allon, for those who may be unaware, is an Israeli art restorer who lives in Cornwall, England. Restoring art is his day job but he also has a second and secret life as an agent of the Israeli government. As such, he is, from time to time, called into service on special assignments. His secret life has cost him much. Most notably, it cost him the life of his baby son whose body was blown to bits by a car bomb

It's a mad, mad, mad world

Mad magazine gets it right and speaks (screams) for all of us.

Dead I Well May Be by Adrian McKinty: A review

So Michael Forsythe is an Irish bad boy in the time of "The Troubles". He joined the British army essentially to get out of Northern Ireland but he couldn't stay within the lines prescribed by that estimable organization and kept getting into trouble until finally the army kicked him to the curb.   Back home in Belfast, he continues his bad boy ways and is constantly getting into more trouble until finally he's used up all his chances. With no further prospects in sight, he takes what's on offer - a ticket to America and work with the Irish mafia there. New York here he comes. Michael assures us that he didn't want to go to America and he didn't want to work for Darkey White, the memorably named mafia chieftain, but he had not yet seen his twentieth birthday and what other choices did he have? He had entered the country illegally and so his job options were limited. He settles into his routine with the Darkey White crew. He's a kind of enforcer

Taking a breather

I'm taking a brief respite from blogging in honor of my birthday which happened on Wednesday of this week. This Week in Birds and Poetry Sunday will return next weekend and all my other usual stuff will be back here in a few days.  

The Water Room by Christopher Fowler: A review

The Peculiar Crimes Unit of London's Metropolitan Police handles some very peculiar crimes indeed. For example, in The Water Room , we have the case of an elderly woman who drowns in river water in her basement, but there is no water in the room and no evidence that the body had been moved. How did the woman's dead body, dressed to go out shopping and seated on a chair in her basement,  end up with filthy river water in her throat? That's just the kind of question for which Arthur Bryant and John May thrive on finding answers. Bryant and May are the two cranky, quirky detectives who have been partners for fifty years and who are the very heart and soul of the Peculiar Crimes Unit. It seems only fair since they are very peculiar detectives. In this instance, Bryant intuits that Ruth Singh, the dead woman in the basement, did not die a natural death, and so he and May and other members of their unit set out to prove that a murder has occurred, even though there is no ap

Poetry Sunday: The New Colossus

I've featured it here before, but this poem has been in the news over the past week, the controversy over its meaning exposing a particularly nasty and hate-filled attitude toward immigrants that is red meat to a certain segment of right-wing America.  Emma Lazarus wrote her poem as a contribution to the fund-raising effort for construction of a base for the Statue of Liberty. She wrote the poem on November 2, 1883. The statue was dedicated on October 28, 1886 and Lazarus' poem was later engraved on its base. For generations of Americans since, the two have been symbolic of the country's status as a nation of immigrants and of a welcoming attitude toward those immigrants. This is not a popular concept with our current president and his administration and his avid followers. Just to remind us about what all the fuss is about, here is the simple sonnet that causes such apoplexy among some of our fellow citizens.  The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus Not like the brazen

This week in birds - #267

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : Black-crowned Night Heron fishing from a log at Brazos Bend State Park. These birds are fairly common in wetlands around Southeast Texas, but this year they were recorded breeding in the UK for the first time. Conservationists believe they have been pushed northward by climate change, but also they may have been attracted by the successful restoration of wetlands.  *~*~*~* The annual State of the Birds report focuses on the benefits to birds from the Farm Bill. While providing a crucial safety net for farmers and ranchers, the bill also secures important habitat for more than 100 bird species and is the largest source for funding of conservation on private lands. *~*~*~* What did the first flower on Earth look like? A study suggests that all living flowers ultimately descended from one single ancestor that lived about 140 million years ago. And what did that flower look like? Well, perhaps it was somethin