animals/Books/book review/fiction/net galley/crime fiction
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Hawks kill – does the sky?

A Killing Sky by Andy Strada

A Netgalley review

This is no.6 in the PI series about Frank Pavlicek and his sidekick Toronto.

I found that there were lots of different elements in this story with lots of clues but also lots of hidden motives that you don’t discover until some way into the book/story. I did really enjoy the story and the style of the writing and shall read more. I give it 4 stars.

As it happens the author -Strada – is a falconer and so he makes his detective Pavlicek one too. The detective’s hawk is called Armistead and is a red-tailed hawk. Not a familiar type of hawk to us British so I needed to look it up. Note the pun on the title here with hawks flying down to kill from the sky…

It seems that as is common with hawks, the female is the larger bird and that it mates with a tiercel – which means 1/3 in old French as the male is 1/3 of the size of the female.

In the book several types of hawks or birds of prey are mentioned and here is a short list – I hope I haven’t missed any: Info and photos mainly from http://www.britishfalconersclub.co.uk/

Red tailed hawk: The Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) is a bird of prey, one of three species colloquially known in the United States as the “chickenhawk, It is one of the largest members of the genus Buteo in North America, typically weighing from 690 to 1600 grams (1.5 to 3.5 pounds) and measuring 45–65 cm (18 to 26 in) in length, with a wingspan from 110 to 145 cm (43 to 57 in). The Red-tailed Hawk displays sexual dimorphism in size, with females averaging about 25% heavier than males.red-tailed-hawk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goshawk: The Northern Goshawk (pronounced /ˈɡɒs.hɔːk/, from Old English gōsheafoc, “goose-hawk”), Accipiter gentilis, is a medium-large bird of prey in the family Accipitridae. The Goshawk has long been the favourite hunting bird here in the UK. The Goshawks from southern and central Europe tend to be smaller in size and flying weight than birds from areas like Finland and Russia.goshawk

 

 

 

 

 

Peregrine: Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), also known as the Peregrine, and historically as the “Duck Hawk” in North America, is a cosmopolitan bird of prey in the family Falconidae. It is a large, crow-sized falcon, with a blue-gray back, barred white underparts, and a black head and “moustache”. It can reach speeds over 320 km/h (200 mph) in a stoop, making it one of the fastest creatures on the planet. As is common with bird-eating raptors, the female is much bigger than the male.peregrine

 

 

 

Gyrfalcon: The Gyrfalcon (pronounced /ˈdʒɜrfɔːlkən/ or /ˈdʒɜrfælkən/; also spelled gerfalcon) Falco rusticolus is the largest of the falcon species. gyr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eagle: eagle

 

American eagles of course are wonderful large birds. I have been lucky enough to see them myself in Florida when I went to the space shuttle area and they were perching on almost every post..

 

Sharp-skinned hawk: sharp skin

sharp-shinned_hawk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Woodland Accipiters: Within the Accipitridae family, the Eurasian sparrowhawk is a member of the large genus Accipiter, which consists of small to medium-sized woodland hawks. Most of the Old World members of the genus are called sparrowhawks or goshawks. sparrowhawk

 

 

 

 

Sparrowhawks will kill small birds as well as pigeons etc and often live in urban areas as do peregrines now. We have had a sparrowhawk nesting for many years two roads across from me, and my university was one of the first places in London that peregrines were spotted nesting on a window ledge on a tower block.

Now there was also mention of Saratoga water which also intrigued me. but in fact it turned out to be just a brand of spring water…

The age of the writing / writer was unfortunately shown when there mention of technology after all floppy disks have never been compatible with cell phones and certainly not a pocket sized cell phone. Maybe he was referring to stick drives? Or the very small types of hard drive storage that can be hidden in key fobs and so on. No computer – except those in museums still have floppy drives! And also file deletion is never really complete as our computer hackers/experts in retrieval will tell you. This is why so many firms who delete incriminating emails find themselves in court when those files are actually retrieved.

In youth we learn, in age we understand  Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach was an Austrian who has many famous quotes.

Nationality: Austrian
Type: Novelist
Born: September 13, 1830
Died: March 12, 1916

 

 

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gardens/flowers/Random and interesting items
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Gardens and New England: is a lawn a garden?

On a recent visit to New England I looked especially for what I could see people were growing in their gardens – being that kind of nosy person as I am when it comes to gardens..

Admittedly it was a particularly cold winter and spring was only just arriving – indeed we were told by a native that the snow had only just melted on his drive, but the range of plants seemed remarkably small.

There were lots of magnolias but only 3 varieties – soulangeana, a few nigra and white stellata. And there are some 200 plus varieties possible! Some varieties actually come from the US – mostly grandiflora – the ones that have shiny leaves, are non-deciduous and flower in the summer on a sunny wall site,; and the others mostly from South America. Though in a woodland garden my envy grew very green indeed as I spied several yellow magnolias in flower.

This is a standing gripe of mine – I once saw a yellow magnolia in flower at Kew and ever since wanted one for myself. Normally I don’t like yellow flowers much but I set my P1030253 magnolia-yellow-river P1030241heart on a yellow magnolia.

When we reconfigured our front garden I set out to buy one for it. I had just the right space for a nice mid-sized tree. I scoured the Internet, asked Kew and the RHS – who did sell one but it wasn’t in stock and… In the end a Cornish nursery who specialised in rarer shrubs and from whom I had bought our pink ceanothus shrubs came up with one. A light yellow but still… we waited and it didn’t flower. But it was young and so another spring came round and lo one bud appeared, but a creamy white flower appeared… it’s young, next year maybe it will be yellow. Next spring came and more buds appeared, yes it was going to flower well. Lovely flowers opened but still pale cream. Yellow River wasn’t living up to its name at all! Could I encourage better yellow I asked the RHS? No, was the reply… and then, to cap it all, the nursery I had bought my tree from sent me a new catalogue with about a dozen yellow varieties to choose from! Ugh…

Our Yellow River is not quite as yellow as in this picture though… the other two magnolias are ours as they flowered this year.

So what else was growing in these New England gardens? Some small dwarf rhododendrons in purple, and  one bright pink, no other colours despite many rhododendrons originating in the US. Lots of forsythia. Cherry trees. Judas trees. Daffodils – in standard sizes and colours – dwarfs, no whites no frills. A few tulips. Some grape hyacinth. A few pansies. And grass. Acres of grass. And yet more grass. No hedges with plots running into each other both in front of houses and in their back ‘yards’ or gardens.  Sometimes some scrubby woodland but no woodland flowers.

We learnt what happens at the back from a friend who had lived in his house for over 20 years – since it was built in fact and yet he had only just started his first garden – the rest was grass – yes 5 acres of it. He had planted 3 small cherries and a small flower bed round his front door and was very proud of it as his neigh ours had nothing like it. Yet he had a stream running through the end of his garden which we would have loved to landscape.

We passed a few nurseries on the roads and they did seem very small and with few plants on display and really felt, that despite the winter temperatures – our friends said that they claimed that only conifers would grow – they had not explored the potential. It is true that my favourite winter clematis would not grow there but surely they could do better.

So here is where I started researching what they could have grown – looking initially at clematis of course.  And then some others out of interest and to complement. I will be writing a special article about clematis in the US for a journal so I need not to pre-publish here…

The USA Horticultural Society publishes a zonal map of the USA which indicates what zone a place is in terms of hardiness of plants. This is very important as many plants will not survive very low winter or very high summer temperatures.  There is both a heat zone map and a hardiness map to look at.  So when purchasing a plant you need to consider both extremes.  So for instance if you look at the hardiness rating you can purchase for Boston many of the same clematis as I have in my garden eg Westerplatte and Polish Spirit. For New York it is trickier as it will depend on where you are in the NY area, but generally it is the warmest rating similar to Boston where -15 C  is the lowest temperature likely.

Now in our own garden we have had these types of winter temperatures occasionally so we could expect most clematis to survive the winters. However, as many people will have realised this summer, it is the heat and lack of water that can affect clematis, many of mine have had very short flowering seasons and have shrivelled up seedheads and started losing leaves without enough rain (here in my area of London we have missed just about every rain cloud in the last 2 months..).

So what could you grow in New England to supplement these few I saw…

Here are a few suggestions:

“Star magnolia is well known for its resistance to winter cold and grows well in USDA zones 4 through 8. Saucer varieties (M. x soulangeana) are also popular magnolia tree owing to their prolific flowering displays; they too are cold hardy and can be planted in USDA zones 4 through 9. In areas susceptible to late frosts, select the later-blooming cultivars “Lennei” or “Alexandrina.” Magnolia hybrids such as “Betty,” “Pinkie” and “Ricki,” created by crossing M. liliiflora with M. stellata, display cold resistance to USDA zone 5, and are also later bloomers, making them less susceptible to late frost damage. If you are set on planting a Southern magnolia (M. grandiflora) in a colder region, “Bracken’s Brown Beauty” is cold-hardy variety.” http://homeguides.sfgate.com/magnolia-trees-cold-temperature-65541.html

I have tried to find a clearer list of plants but mostly the sites just say to ‘look at the plant label’ in the nursery and I have tried search the US Horticultural Society too – interestingly they do not list a national clematis society so perhaps this is a plant that does not grown well on a national scale – or there is not a great deal of interest in it. All that I have managed to dredge up so far is a list of when you can expect the first frost in the year – and they are remarkably specific dates! Eg if you live in Baltimore you can expect your first frost on the 17th of November,  but if you live in Charleston  it will be on the 10th of December, but it will be the 11th if you live in Houston! Such specificity….

So failing in any details available from the USA itself I fall back on the RHS who have provided us with a hardiness rating for plants which goes down to minus 20. Not enough for all of the US but works in the UK!

So here are some plants that will survive -20: Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’, selections of Potentilla fruticosa, Erica carnea and Calluna vulgaris cultivars. Ginkgo biloba, Hosta, Lilium, Polemonium caeruleum, and Viburnum × burkwoodii are also likely to survive most cold temperatures.

My final search was in the plant finder offered by the RHS where I searched for the most cold, drought and wind resistant plants and found 149 that they could recommend – a lot were shrubby of course eg Berberis or from the pinus family but they also recommended some Geraniums, Lychnis, Japanese anemones, achillea, ferns, certain grasses eg stipa, papavers, aquilegia and campanula, and of course we must be reminded that tulips will not flower unless they are cold when in the bulb.

So what could you grow in the heat? The heat zone is defined as the number of days the area receives on average more than 30C. Boston and New York are around 100 days or 3 months plus.

Cold and heat together are tricky for plants of course but you can water and prepare plants for both through good planting, mulching and cold protection with sacking let alone fleece or a greenhouse! Don’t forget shading from the sun as this can help too. And check the micro-climates in your garden – we have at least three plus a frost passage n ours which means we plant differently in different areas and have now created a shaded passageway as well.

You can then look up for heat resistant plants of course and I would strongly recommend learning from nature here California and go to the stunning https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruth_Bancroft_Garden botanical garden in Walnut Creek and just see what you can grown in near drought conditions. When I visited I actually met Ruth very briefly as she was pottering around in the garden. We were taken around by a very knowledgeable docent and loved every minute of our visit. And as a result we grow several Agaves and Aloes in our hot spot and they are doing really well…agave

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Books/book review/fiction/Romance/net galley/Random and interesting items
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Wedding fever is an illness for sure

Bride without a groom

by

Amy Lynch

3 stars.

Netgalley review

I really don’t get this obsession with the perfect wedding day that small girls plan from childhood. Is it a US phenomenon? Does it happen in the UK? It certainly didn’t in my childhood.

In fact I didn’t plan marriage at all – until I went to university and then decided that the late 30s was best but definitely not until then. Sure enough I was just 22 when I actually married!

But, I insisted on no meringue dress. No big wedding hair – I put my own hair into 6 big rollers to create ringlets. No coronet and no veil – just a big floppy hat and cream and lilac Victorian style dress.P1000674 modd2

I don’t remember ever reading a Bride magazine and certainly I didn’t lust after an engagement ring. So this whole topic wasn’t of any interest to me.

That said, you begin to feel very sorry for the heroine with her obsession that was fed by TV and celebrity culture fetish. And the competition that arises to have the ‘best’ wedding ever. And to marry when your friends marry. And to have a designer wedding dress eg by Vera Wang. And to compete on cakes and rings and then there are those wedding fairs.

The cost of a wedding in the UK is now running at around £21,000 and many couples are living together and having children whilst waiting to save up for this and the big blow-out honeymoon (We had a weekend in Hastings as I was due to have an operation on the Monday and couldn’t fly, so Paris was cancelled).

So the book shows well just how sad it is to get sucked into these ways of thinking. And that even the potential grooms understand that it is no use trying to stop these runaway wedding plans once a female has them in her head.

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Books/book review/fiction/law enforcement/crime fiction/net galley
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Scream Girl Scream

Susannah Screaming by Carolyn Weston

A Netgalley Review

The book from which the TV programme and film ‘Streets of San Francisco’ was derived

I find it interesting that really apart from the occasional mention of triplicate copies and typewriters, how easily this book translates into a modern story. Well crafted stories can stand the test of time, and this is well crafted.

It is a police procedural set, obviously, in San Francisco, around the 1960s with the Haight Ashbury area just setting up shop and parties that take place in strangely decorated homes with funny cigarettes and a distinct lack of forensics – apart from Haight-Ashbury_street,_San_Franciscofingerprints and maybe saliva.

We have the now, common, police partners with different personalities and reactions to crime and criminal behaviours.

We have corruption, bullying and some drugs and guns of course, this being the USA. And little understanding of the hippy scene with its tolerances for what was then considered deviant behaviours by the police and other members of society. Much of it centred around the art and music world. And those wannabes who wanted to be part of this hip world but just a little too old and thus considered as not quite one of the scene.

As a well written story I must give it four and if it had been written today I would have given it more for getting the atmosphere of those times right! However, as it was actually written in this era it certainly echoed the sentiments and is worth reading as somewhat of a classic police procedural that set the target for those that followed.

 

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Random and interesting items/travel/Older women
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Sailing the High Seas on a Queen

On our recent trip to New York and Boston, we travelled  back across the Atlantic on the Grand Circle route – with the Queen Mary II.P1030499

Amazing how you can lose 3500 thousand or so people on a ship such that, except for lunch in the buffet or sitting in the theatre listening to a lecture, it appears (relatively) quiet. With nearly always a place to sit..but limited outlets for your phone or computer. There was a lot of entertainment including lectures, a knitting club, cinema and daily fitness classes plus a mile walk after breakfast round the deck. Think a Warners for adults heritage hotel (see the Art Deco interiors) but bigger with very few children and fewer electric scooters. Though I do confess, I ended up borrowing one of their wheelchairs as the distances were very long when you traversed from end to end in  search of the library at one end and the pool at another and so on…

P1030626 P1030642 P1030627 P1030619 P1030617 P1030649

OUr cabin was initially a challange for the three of us bearing in mind that our daughter slept on a put-u-up sofa –  but enough space – just – needed to be kept tidy, though surprisingly, there were more wardrobes and crucially, more hangers than we had been offered at either hotel which was why we had kept all the hangers that had come back with our washing.

We had a full balcony – not obscured in any way but we never managed to sit on it, despite the three chairs – as the weather was never good enough. We were later told that we should have opted for a window room as this was the same size as the ones with balcony included.. things you learn.

Look how long a corridor was – from end to end of the Queen.

Whilst on board we opted for the Asian Tasting menu on one night which was pretty good and they did manage – just – to rustle up some tofu fror me though clearly this was a challenge for them.

Would we do it again?

Well, it was our first real long distance boat trip – as going up and down the Nile didn’t really count and we were only 60 people that time – and the answer is ‘no’. Not across the Atlantic as it got boring by the end of the trip – only one act in the theatre interested us, and we walked out of the one film that we hadn’t seen as it was so bad. I only once managed to grab a desk in the library – only about 8 of them – so failed to  write anything – the internet was extortionate and so we were out of circulation completely – which is both good and bad; and there are just so many books you can read, which is saying something from me as the weather was such we couldn’t outside much at all and so were stuck in the coffee bar – shame you cry – almost all the time.

Also, the shops stocked stuff we didn’t want to buy! So the only thing we came away with was a fridge magnet and a key ring. They totally failed to sell to us!

However, some – older – women mostly – loved it and not only travelled it both ways without getting off(!!) but also did it every year. Total luxury of course. Silver service for eating, with waiters changing three times a day and always immaculate and sparkling white; lots of staff and dedicated room stewards; and generally speaking everyone was friendly and helpful.

I think we will cruise again, but stick to the rivers – smaller boats and more to see out of the portholes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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