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The Summer Place by Jennifer Weiner: A review

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  If it is summer it must be time for another Jennifer Weiner book and right on schedule, here it is! It's The Summer Place and   it takes place on Cape Cod, of course. The central plot line involves a planned wedding. Twenty-two-year-old Ruby, daughter of Eli and stepdaughter of Sarah, is planning to get married to Gabe in three months. This takes place during the pandemic and everyone is already feeling the strain of so much enforced togetherness during this time. At some points, it seems like this wedding might be the final straw that breaks the family apart.  The matriarch of this family is 80-year-old Veronica, called Ronnie, of course. Ronnie is widowed and is staying at the family beach house on Cape Cod. She is very excited about her granddaughter's wedding, especially the fact that it will bring all the family together one more time. She looks forward to that because when she has them all together, she has something she wants to tell them.  Ronnie was once a popular pu

Mini reviews

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 I'm still trying to catch up after my recent brief vacation and so I take this opportunity to combine reviews of two books. A little background is in order. I was looking around for a new mystery series to read since the authors of the ones that I usually follow are letting me down by not writing fast enough and I discovered Mary Anna Evans. She has a series featuring archaeologist Faye Longchamp. Now, archaeology is an interest of mine. (There was a time when I dreamed of being an archaeologist.) And I do love mysteries so archeological mysteries seemed made to order. I read the first two books in the series back to back. Here are my reviews of them. *~*~*~* Faye Longchamp may be down on her luck but she is determined to hang onto her ancestral home, Joyeuse, a decaying plantation well hidden on an island off the Florida coast. It isn't entirely clear how the house came into her family but Faye's great-great-grandmother, Cally, a newly freed slave barely out of her teens

Poetry Sunday: July by Helen Hunt Jackson

Can it really be July? My garden says yes. The "flowers are withered" and "joys have died." Only the water lilies look fresh and unwilted. But "the white heat pales the skies" and I can't remember when we last had rain. It is unbearable to be outside in the middle of the day. Only in the early morning or late afternoon is it possible to be somewhat comfortable and to enjoy being outdoors. Already I'm longing for October. But first, we must survive the heat of July and August and hope for some reprieve in September.  July by Helen Hunt Jackson Some flowers are withered and some joys have died; The garden reeks with an East Indian scent From beds where gillyflowers stand weak and spent; The white heat pales the skies from side to side; But in still lakes and rivers, cool, content, Like starry blooms on a new firmament, White lilies float and regally abide. In vain the cruel skies their hot rays shed; The lily does not feel their brazen glare. In vain

This week in birds - #507

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  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : We watched a group of Canada Geese enjoy a graze along the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway in Mississippi during our recent road trip. *~*~*~* Discussing the recent Supreme Court ruling regarding the Environmental Protection Agency's authority, my husband commented that they are trying to kill us all. Based on this as well as some of their other actions, one could definitely get that idea. *~*~*~* The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in its duties of setting policies on energy infrastructure and market rules, rates, and standards has a big role to play in supporting affordability and the transition to cleaner energy. *~*~*~* Climate change clearly plays a part in many extreme weather events around the world, but social factors also should not be discounted. *~*~*~* A second bison attack on a male tourist who got too close was recorded at Yellowstone National Park this week. And then before the ink was dry on th

The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill: A review

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  This book features a story within a story which made it (sometimes) confusing for me to follow.  The library in the title is the Boston Public Library which is where one of the book's characters, Australian thriller writer Hannah Tigone, sets her story. We never really meet Hannah except through the emails addressed to her by someone named Leo. Leo is apparently an aspiring writer himself and a fan of Hannah's. He reads her manuscript and offers her suggestions, as any good editor would, about her language and the plot of her novel. Leo's emails come at the end of each chapter of Hannah's manuscript. Those chapters almost always end on a cliffhanger. The story within the story, i.e. Hannah's manuscript, has an Australian woman named Winifred, aka Freddie, living in Boston on a scholarship. The book opens with her sitting at a table at the BPL with three strangers when they are shocked by a scream. The authorities tell everyone to remain in place while they sort ou

Bayou Book Thief by Ellen Byron: A review

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This is one of the two audiobooks that I listened to on my recent road trip. It is the first in a cozy mystery series set in New Orleans. The protagonist is a twenty-eight-year-old widow named Ricki James. Ricki was born in New Orleans but was living in Los Angeles with her husband, a stunt performer until he died during one of his stunts. Then she learned that her boss was a criminal. Her world seemed to be collapsing around her and so she headed home to the city of her birth to start over. Ricki's hobby was collecting vintage cookbooks, and looking for a way to support herself, she decided to turn that hobby into a paying job. She would open a gift shop in the home turned museum of Genevieve Charbonnet, who had had one of the finest restaurants in the city before her death. At first, everything goes pretty smoothly for Ricki in her new position but then she makes the distressing discovery that there is a thief among her colleagues. Then, even more distressingly, in the process of

Poetry Sunday: The Breezes of June by Paul Hamilton Hayne

The soft breezes of a late June afternoon are much appreciated as I sit in the swing on my patio at the end of the day. It's the best time of day to venture out just now. Then, or else the early morning. Only a very foolish person would spend much time outside in the mid-day heat. Either a foolish person or one whose job requires him/her to endure the triple-digit temperatures. Those who must earn their living under this brutal June sky have my sympathy and concern.  If we make it through the heat of the day, those late afternoon "sweet and soft" breezes that whisper through the leaves of the trees are our reward. But if June comes, can July and August be far behind? It doesn't bear thinking about! The Breezes of June by Paul Hamilton Hayne   On! sweet and soft, Returning oft, As oft they pass benignly, The warm June breezes come and go, Through golden rounds of murmurous flow, At length to sigh, Wax faint and die, Far down the panting primrose sky, Divinely! Though s

This week in birds - #506

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  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : My beautyberries are a favorite with American Robins as well as many other birds that visit my yard. *~*~*~* The big environmental story of the week was the devastating earthquake in Afghanistan that killed more than 1,000 people and injured at least 1,600. Intense relief efforts are underway in the region. *~*~*~* In Iran this week, on the first day of summer temperatures in the city of Abadan soared to a scorching 126 degrees Fahrenheit . *~*~*~* Wildfires were much in the news this week. A fast-moving wildfire in New Jersey threatened to become the state's biggest fire in fifteen years. In New Mexico, a government-prescribed burn got out of control and became the state's largest recorded wildfire. The Forest Service admitted that it had failed to adequately account for the effects of climate change in starting the blaze. *~*~*~* The southwestern United States is baking under record levels of heat . The t

Love and Saffron by Kim Fay: A review

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This is the story of a friendship between two women, told in their letters to each other over the years. It's a friendship based on the love of food and the good life. It begins with a gift of saffron. Twenty-seven-year-old Joan Bergstrom lives in Los Angeles and has just started writing for the food section of the newspaper there. Imogene Fortier is fifty-nine years old and lives on Camano Island outside of Seattle. She writes a monthly column for a Pacific Northwest magazine. Joan is a fan of Imogene's columns and she writes her a fan letter, enclosing a gift of saffron. Their friendship blossoms through their exchange of letters in the 1960s, as they discuss world events like the Cuban missile crisis and the assassination of President Kennedy in addition to the everyday events of their own lives. This is a short novel, only about 200 pages. I listened to it as an audiobook during a recent road trip. It was a quick read and kept us entertained for a couple of hours. Imogene (

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus: A review

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  Abiogenesis. It's a word that describes a theory that life arose from simplistic, non-life forms. The heroine of Lessons in Chemistry is an expert on the subject.  Her name is Elizabeth Zott and she is a scientist. She is a female scientist who has the misfortune to be practicing her profession in the 1960s, a most unenlightened decade when men were men and women were mostly decorative. An accomplished woman scientist was definitely an anomaly to which the world scarcely knew how to react. She had the respect and the love of her fellow scientist, Calvin Evans. Calvin was a kindred spirit on every level. He was an expert rower and that was his passion outside of work. It was a passion that Elizabeth shared. Soon, she became another passion of his and together they made a daughter, Madeline. But an unfortunate accident took Calvin from Elizabeth and from his unborn daughter. Elizabeth had little use for a kitchen and so she converted hers into something for which she did have a us

A Botanist's Guide to Parties and Poisons by Kate Khavari: A review

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  First off, I must confess that I finished reading this book several days before I left town on my recent trip and so much has happened since then that I really find it hard to recall a lot about the plot. You might gather from that that it didn't make a lasting impression on me and you would be right in that conclusion. At the time that I finished it, I rated it as a three-star read which means that it was not terrible but not great. It was basically mediocre. I read somewhere that this was the writer's second novel, but I can only find this one listed under her name, so I'm assuming that it was, in fact, her first. She is a Texas writer, living in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  The time is 1923 and the place is London. Our protagonist, Saffron Erleigh, is a botanist at University College London. In this position, she is following in the footsteps of her late father. She is an assistant to Dr. Maxwell who is very supportive of her career ambitions. It's important that s

Mini reviews

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I'm going to be on the road for the next several days but before I leave I thought I would give you mini-reviews of a couple of books that I've recently read because who knows what I'll be able to remember about them by the time that I return! *~*~*~* Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel This is a science fiction book that has action taking place over a couple of centuries beginning in 1912. In that year, Edwin St. Andrew has been exiled from polite society in England because he had the audacity to make some ill-considered remarks at a dinner party. Edwin was eighteen years old at the time and likely had no understanding of the possible consequences of such remarks in the society in which he lived.  The family's solution to this embarrassment was to send him to Canada. He travels by steamship but when he arrives in the Canadian wilderness, he unaccountably hears a violin playing in an airship terminal ! What could this possibly mean? Why, Edwin, it appears you ha

Poetry Sunday: June Thunder by Louis MacNeice

How I long to hear June thunder and see the catharsis of a cleansing downpour. But it is dry, dry, dry here. We haven't had rain in weeks and there is none in the offing that I can see. Nevertheless, a person can dream... June Thunder by Louis MacNeice The Junes were free and full, driving through tiny Roads, the mudguards brushing the cowparsley, Through fields of mustard and under boldly embattled Mays and chestnuts Or between beeches verdurous and voluptuous Or where broom and gorse beflagged the chalkland-- All the flare and gusto of the unenduring Joys of a season Now returned but I note as more appropriate To the maturer mood impending thunder With an indigo sky and the garden hushed except for The treetops moving. Then the curtains in my room blow suddenly inward, The shrubbery rustles, birds fly heavily homeward, The white flowers fade to nothing on the trees and rain comes Down like a dropscene. Now there comes catharsis, the cleansing downpour Breaking the blossoms of our

This week in birds - #505

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A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment :  An American Robin cools off from the 100-degree heat in our birdbath. *~*~*~* Wind energy may finally be coming into its own as a potential source of renewable energy.  *~*~*~* Meanwhile, President Biden has ordered emergency measures to boost crucial supplies to U.S. solar manufacturers and declared a two-year exemption for tariffs on solar panels from Southeast Asia.  *~*~*~* Well, this is not good news: Researchers have found tiny plastics in freshly fallen snow in Antarctica for the first time. These plastics can be toxic to animals and plants.  *~*~*~* Plastic waste is not all wasted. Innovative ways to reuse the waste are being implemented all around the world.  *~*~*~* In the Southwest, deaths from extreme heat are mounting and in Arizona, emergency services are attempting to prepare to deal with temperatures in excess of 110 Fahrenheit.    *~*~*~* The extreme heat is making things worse in Salt Lake City whe