Showing posts from October, 2018

Melmoth by Sarah Perry: A review

This is a ghost story. Or, perhaps more properly, it's a story of the undead. Not vampires. No, this undead persona does not suck the life's blood of those still fully alive; she is merely an observer. She bears witness to all the cruelty and violence of which humanity is capable and, in her continued existence, we see the toll that such witness-bearing takes. Melmoth is a character from a gothic masterpiece called Melmoth the Wanderer, written in 1820 by Charles Maturin. In that work, Melmoth was a man. Others have written tales since that featured the character but always as a man. Perry updated the myth, changing the central character to a woman and including various folklore and Christian images. I loved Perry's last book, The Essex Serpent , and I came to this one expecting to love it, but I found that I didn't. At least not immediately. I found it hard to get into at first, I think, primarily because the central character, Helen Franklin, is a bit of a ciphe

Halloween horror in modern America

There's the phony, made-up horrors:    Hat tip to Daily Kos . And then there are the real horrors that have become an everyday staple of life in modern America. Tried to break into an African-American church in Jeffersontown, Kentucky, in order to kill worshipers. When that didn't work, he went to the local Kroger's and shot and killed an elderly African-American couple who were shopping there, telling a white shopper, "Whites don't kill whites." Left: Attempted to assassinate with bombs numerous prominent Democrats including two former presidents and media critics of the president who, in his rallies, frequently praises those who commit political violence. Right: Went to a synagogue in Pittsburg during the Saturday service and murdered eleven people because he had been riled up by the president and his propaganda arm, Fox News, about an "invading caravan" of refugees entering the country, allegedly abetted by a Jewish group whic

Quietly in Their Sleep by Donna Leon: A review

Commissario Guido Brunetti of the Venetian police is approached by a young woman who looks familiar but whom he can't quite place and who wants to tell him about what she fears has been happening at a nursing home where she recently worked. Only after she identifies herself does he realize that she was a nun who once cared for his mother at the nursing home where she is a patient. She had subsequently left that nursing home and worked at another, the one about which she is reporting to him. But then she grew disillusioned with life as a nun and left the Order to take up a secular life. She's no longer dressed in a nun's habit which is why he didn't recognize her. What the young woman reports to Brunetti is her concern about the deaths of some of her former patients. Their deaths were somewhat unexpected and she believes they may have been helped along. All of the individuals were wealthy and she believes they may have been influenced to make their wills in favor of

Poetry Sunday: Halloween in the Anthropocene, 2015

In a few days, we'll be celebrating Halloween with parties and festivals, costumes and candy. "Trick or treat!" This poem by Craig Santos Perez contrasts that happy kitschy holiday spirit with some of the real atrocities that are all too much a part of our real world and the time in which we live, the Anthropocene epoch. From Poetry Magazine's analysis of the poem : Perez toggles between blissful American play and abusive foreign labor, between carefree and careworn children, between—more horrifyingly—live children and dead. Black boys, “enslaved by supply chains” rather than literal chains, carry “bags of cacao,” raw material for the treats the Disney princess begs for. Her costume, like most Americans’ clothes, is the product of “brown girls” at risk of perishing in sweatshops. The ninja-wannabes are relying on a stereotype of real Asians, some of whom make the “toys and tech” that Western children adore. A “chain” of cause-and-effect links the barbarities of

This week in birds - #326

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : Yellow-rumped Warbler image courtesy of Yellow-rumped Warblers are making their way back to our area to spend the winter. They are always welcome winter visitors and fun to have around. *~*~*~* Many species of small songbirds, like the warblers, attempt to make their way across the Gulf of Mexico on spring and fall migration. Many don't make it. Those that do, research has shown, are generally the ones with more fat packed on to their bodies . Wind direction and strength is also a major factor. Those that leave on days when they have prevailing tailwinds are more likely to make it to the other side of the water. *~*~*~* The water that those birds pass over in their migrations contain some of the most active areas of off-shore oil drilling platforms and the inevitable spills that come with them. One of those spills has been continuing now for fourteen long years! The platform, owned by

Did you vote?

So, did you vote? No, not in that election - in the one about books.  As you probably know, PBS has been conducting a poll over the last six months to determine America's favorite book. I confess I did not vote in that particular election. ( But I have cast my vote in the midterms and you should, too! )  More than four million people did participate in the poll, however, and this week PBS announced the results: America's favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird .  On reflection, I guess I'm not too surprised. The book has had a lot of good PR over the years, plus it had that really good movie starring Gregory Peck going for it. I think a lot of people are probably a lot more familiar with the book because of that movie - perhaps even more than have actually read the book. Anyway, the public has spoken and now we know. Interestingly, four of the top five books on the list of 100 were written by women; namely, in addition to Harper Lee, Diana Gabaldon for her Outland

Wordless Wednesday: Bordered Patch with marigolds


As the Crow Flies by Craig Johnson: A review

Needing a bridge, something that wouldn't tax my brain too much, to take me between more serious readings, I turned to Craig Johnson's Walt Longmire series. I don't mean to denigrate Johnson's writing. He's very entertaining and he writes with a light touch and a lot of sardonic Western humor. Sometimes that is exactly what a reader needs and this was one of those times. As the Crow Flies is the eighth book in the series. Having read the first seven in order, I was ready to see where Walt's and Henry Standing Bear's adventures would take them this time. I was amused to learn that their latest caper was as wedding planners. Walt's daughter, Cady, is getting married in two weeks at the time that the novel begins, and Walt and Henry have been tasked with securing a venue and making the plans. Things are not going swimmingly. Cady wants to get married on the Reservation and Henry believed he had reserved the site for the occasion, but then the per

The Witch Elm by Tana French: A review

Wow! That woman can write! Not that this was a new discovery. After all, I had read all of Tana French's six previous books, each  of them a part of the "Dublin Murder Squad" series. There's not a bad book among them and I had been looking forward to number seven. I was disappointed when I read a few months ago that her next book would be a stand-alone mystery, not part of the series. I needn't have worried.  In The Witch Elm , Tana French has surpassed herself, in my opinion. I think this is her best book yet. And although it doesn't have the members of the Dublin Murder Squad as characters and narrators, it does feature some Dublin police detectives as integral parts of the plot. Our narrator here is one Toby Hennessy. He is the public relations handler for a small Dublin art gallery. He is a young man who has built his life on his ability to charm his way into and out of situations. The first sentence of his narrative is, "I've

Poetry Sunday: Sonnet 73 by William Shakespeare

Was there any subject that William Shakespeare never addressed poetically? Well, there probably is, but his appetite for topics was pretty omnivorous. That is certainly true when it came to anything in Nature. And here he addresses the season of autumn and the seasons of his own life. Who but Shakespeare would think to describe the naked or almost naked boughs of trees in autumn as "bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang" and compare the season to "That time of year thou mayst in me behold"? There's a reason why he was the one and only Shakespeare! Sonnet 73: That time of year thou mayst in me behold by William Shakespeare That time of year thou mayst in me behold When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang Upon those boughs which shake against the cold, Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang. In me thou see'st the twilight of such day As after sunset fadeth in the west, Which by and by black night doth take away, Death&

This week in birds - #325

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : Savannah Sparrow photographed at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf Coast of southeast Texas.  *~*~*~* The devastating red tide that continues to affect Florida's coast is now having an impact on the fall migration of birds. Shorebirds like Ruddy Turnstones , Sanderlings , and Red Knots are turning up sick because of it. *~*~*~* The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has issued its outlook for the winter .  Because of a likely El Niño, which is the episodic warming of the eastern and central tropical Pacific Ocean, NOAA is predicting above average amounts of precipitation along the southern tier of the United States, creeping up the East Coast through the Mid-Atlantic. This could mean heavier snowfalls, depending on the strength of the  El Niño system. *~*~*~* How do scientists know that human activity is affecting the global climate? Here's a short review of some

Wordless Wednesday: Black Swallowtail on lantana


IQ by Joe Ide: A review

I recently read a review of Joe Ide's (pronounced ee-day ) just published new entry in this series and was intrigued by it. I wanted to read it, but the reviewer cautioned me that I really needed to start with the first book and read them in the order published. Rats! Well, the good news is that I don't have to go back to 1984 and read thirty books in order to get to the one I actually wanted to read. No, the first book, IQ , was published just two years ago and the latest one is the third in the series. It seemed doable. And that's how I came to be introduced to Isaiah Quintabe - IQ. Isaiah is an African-American man from one of Los Angeles' toughest neighborhoods. He lost both of his parents when he was quite young and he was raised by an older brother, Marcus, whom he idolized.  Marcus was a jack-of-all-trades and a young man of great integrity and a high moral standard and he set about teaching all of that to his younger brother. Isaiah was a prodigy, posse

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - October 2018

Happy Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day and welcome to my zone 9a garden here in Southeast Texas. Maybe you'll already visited our host blog, May Dreams Gardens , and seen some of the wonderful gardens that are participating this month. Bloom Day here brought us temperatures in the high 50 degrees Fahrenheit for the first time since spring. Maybe our long, hot summer is truly over. Or perhaps it will return tomorrow for such is our changeable weather. But what's blooming, you say? Well, here are some of my October flowers.    Duranta erecta , aka golden dewdrop.  October means chrysanthemums, of course.  And more chrysanthemums. Hamelia patens , aka Mexican firebush or hummingbird bush, is at its best in October.  And so is the coral vine. 'Pinball' gomphrena hasn't paused in its blooming since early summer. Porterweed, the weird little flowers of which are greatly loved by butterflies and bees.  Yellow cestrum. Crossvine