Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Late November GBBD

I know I'm very late for this month's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, but I do have a good excuse.  We've been away, visiting Daughter and Son-in-law in Texas, and by the time we got back home, this is what was left of any blooms I might have had before:

 It was a very chilly 12 degrees when we arrived home late Tuesday night; not even the pansies like it this cold!

We had a beautiful fall that lasted longer than usual, with the first killing frost not arriving until October 30.  But winter has definitely arrived early this year.  Late last week the temperatures dipped well below the November normal, and the snow and wind blew.  Thankfully, though, we had only a dusting of snow, not the avalanche of snow that fell on the Northeast.

 It seems there were very few places in the U.S. that escaped the polar vortex this past week.  Even in Dallas--no sitting by the pool on this trip, and no excursions to the Dallas Arboretum this time.  But we had a good visit nonetheless, and since Daughter and Son-in-law are expecting their first child in early January, I know there will be many more trips to Texas coming up soon.

With the holidays coming up, I am actually glad that garden work is done for the year.  And once they are over, I know that I will be soon be spending cold winter nights planning once again for that elusive "perfect" garden.

Thanks to our hostess Carol for sponsoring Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day every month.  And since I know I won't be posting for at least another week, I want to wish you all . . .

A Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Book Review Club: V. I. is Back!

"Oh." The syllable is a soft cry of ecstasy.  She has never seen colors like those on the floor, red running into orange, yellow, green.  The purple is so rich, like grape juice, she wants to jump into it.  When she runs over to look, the colors disappear.  Her mouth rounds with bafflement: she thought Frau Herschel had painted the rainbow on the floor . . . In later years, Martina remembers none of [the rest of this experience].  She remembers only the rainbow on the floor, and the discovery that the cut glass in the nursery windows created it.

A little girl's discovery of prisms in 1913 Vienna seems like an odd way for the latest V. I. Warshawski novel to begin, since the tough-talking, persistent P.I. usually is embroiled in some kind of corruption in Chicago while solving a case.  But when she receives a call from her long-time friend Dr. Lotty Herschel to help a patient of hers in distress,  Vic soon finds herself in an investigation that involves almost as much research in the University library as in skirmishes with various bad guys.

Judy Binder, a hopeless drug addict, is not only Lotty's patient, but she is also the daughter of someone Lotty knew as a child refugee in London during WWII, so she feels especially duty-bound to help her.  Judy's desperate phone call that someone is trying to kill her leads Vic to a meth house downstate where she discovers a rotting corpse in a cornfield but no sign of Judy.

With few clues to help her, Vic goes to the home of Judy's mother, Kitty, a strange and paranoid woman, who like Lotty, escaped the Holocaust years ago.  There Vic discovers that Judy's son Martin is also missing, and Kitty hires her to find him.  Martin's mother and grandmother may have problems, but it turns out that he is also the great-grandson of Martina, a brilliant physicist forced to work on top-secret research on the atomic bomb by the Nazis.  Martin has inherited her gift for science.

What starts out as a hunt for two missing persons turns into a complex case for Vic, as she goes up against low-life drug dealers, the CEO of a major technology firm, and even Homeland Security. How a meth house, the Nazis' work on an atomic bomb, and research into cutting-edge technology today all relate to a single crime sounds implausible, but Paretsky ties all the subplots together in a logical and satisfying ending.

V.I. Warshawski has been around for 30 years, and I hope she's around for many, many more.  Unlike Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone--of whom I'm also a fan--who has been stuck in the 1980's for a whole series, V. I. has aged with time.  Now in her 50's, she may be a little slower and take longer to heal from the injuries she always seems to receive in her investigations, but she can still hold her own with anyone who tries to confront her.

I somehow managed to escape taking a single physics course during my school days, an omission I really don't care to remedy.  But despite my ignorance on this subject, the important role physics plays in Critical Mass didn't distract or confuse me in the least.  Paretsky has obviously done her research, but doesn't expect either Warshawski or the reader to understand complex scientific principles.  Rather, she presents Martina's and Martin's desire to understand the "harmonies" in nature and knowing how all the pieces fit together in a way that is makes us admire them.  I imagine that their fascination with natural laws isn't really that different from a gardener's or naturalist's fascination with a bee enjoying pollen.

I've read all the books in the Warshawski series, and I have to say that Sara Paretsky just gets better and better.  The plots have become more complex and deal with some timely issues.  V. I. may have mellowed a bit over the years, but she's still the best female P. I. in fiction today

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@Barrie Summy

Disclaimer:  I received no compensation of any kind for this review, and as always, I review only books I like.  I bought my own copy of Critical Mass, but being frugal I waited impatiently until it came out in paperback.

Note:  The photos here have nothing to do with this post; they are just a few pictures I like that I've taken recently.  For more photos of fall color in my area, see my previous post.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Farewell, October

Every year at this time I think of one of my favorite poems:
Nature’s first green is gold,  
Her hardest hue to hold. 
Her early leaf’s a flower; 
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
Robert Frost

Although it's true that "Nothing gold can stay," it certainly is beautiful while it lasts.  The month of October started out gloomy and rainy, but the last few weeks of the month made up for it with warm, sunny days that highlighted the colors of autumn.  Above, the old hackberry tree at the end of my yard doesn't look like much the rest of the year, but its golden leaves shine in the fall, especially backed by the orangey-gold maples of my neighbors.

The old oak tree's leaves gradually turn brown, but its grand stature makes up for any lack of color.

Warm autumn days are meant to be enjoyed, and so we found ourselves one sunny afternoon visiting the local forest preserve with youngest grandson and Sophie in tow.

A rare moment of stillness for Sophie, who preferred to pull me along while she tracked squirrel and other strange scents.  Taking photos with my phone while she tugged at the leash wasn't easy.

Meanwhile, Grandpa and Grandson looked for fish.

Except for this lone canoeist, we seemed to have the park to ourselves.

Driving through town the last few weeks, I often wished I had brought my camera.  Our small town really is a blaze of oranges, golds and reds this time of year.

The not-so-pretty side, though, is also revealed in fall.

Trees aren't the only plants providing splashes of color this fall.  Here, Japanese Blood Grass provides a vivid shade of red at the Nursing Home Garden where I volunteer.

Next to the Blood Grass, a variety of Muhly Grass hardy in our zone 5B adds some airy color.

Back at home, I am greeted by the brightest red of all as I drive into our lane, provided by three large burning bushes.

Viburnum 'Cardinal Candy' still hasn't provided any "candy" for the birds, but its leaves are beginning to make an impact.

The small Serviceberry shows promises of beautiful autumns to come.

'Little Henry' Itea has started its fall transformation.

There are still some colorful blooms as well--the 'Radsunny' Knockout rose appreciates the cooler temperatures.

A not-so-welcome plant even gets in on the color act (poison ivy!).

My favorite tree each fall has to be the maple in the center of our yard.  Like Cinderella donning her ballgown, it begins its transformation at the top, slowing adding color downward each day.  This was taken on October 14.

By October 23, leaves at the top had turned a blazing orange.

Full view, Oct. 23.

A week later, the change is complete.  Today, most of the leaves are still clinging to the branches, but strong winds yesterday blew off a few,  and conveniently for me, blew away almost all the leaves on the ground!

"So dawn goes down to day..." Thursday's dawn brought the first killing frost of the season.

Though the frost brought an end to all but a few hardy annuals, I will not "sink to grief"--this was one of the latest frosts in my memory.  

And despite the poem's theme, there is still some gold in my garden--Amsonia Hubrichtii is one of the prettiest perennials for fall.   

Farewell, October--you were beautiful!