Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Loggerhead Shrike in Phoenix

Loggerhead shrikes are songbirds that think they're raptors.  Their carnivorous tastes don't just run to insects and spiders.  They also eat lizards, other birds, and small mammals.  They apparently grab prey and slam it against cactus thorns until they die.  Lovely.  

He's sure got pretty markings, though.  

I see loggerhead shrikes mostly on high perches like this saguaro, where they keep watch for their next meal.

 Spotted in April, Estrella Mountain Regional Park.

Note how close the ribs of the saguaro are, like an accordion pushed all the way together.  It's a scary visual reminder of how dry it is.  A saguaro full of water expands and the ribs get farther apart.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

A Happy Bee

I've been posting a few cooler-weather photos here to combat the summer heat.

This was from April:  a happy bee with a fairy duster.   

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

April in Phoenix

It's really hot here, so I figured I'd post some cooler pictures, taken in mid April.  

This is one of the beauties of spring in the Sonoran Desert:  Palo Verde in bloom!

And a close-up:

Monday, July 5, 2021

A Snake Friend on the Trail

 A new friend on the trail:

He was big enough that my first thought was, of course, "rattlesnake!"  And his patterning looks rather diamondback-y, right?

But his face was all wrong: not big enough or triangular enough and no pits between his eye and nostril, like all rattlers:

When I carefully moved around to get a good look at his tail, no rattle:

So, my new friend was a gopher snake!  These big snakes mimic a lot of things about rattlers, not just their patterning and size.  They'll whip their tails around to imitated a rattle.  They'll even puff up their faces to look wider and more rattlesnake-like.  This guy didn't seem threatened by me, however, so I saw no acting.  

I was very happy.  I'd never had a long enough view of a gopher snake in the wild to be sure that's what I was seeing.  And this one was a beauty.  

Seen in April at Estrella Mountain Regional Park in the Phoenix area.  

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The Screaming Hairy Armadillo and 76 Other Animals with Weird, Wild Names, by Matthew Murrie and Steve Murrie

I loved this book, which was aimed at kids but enjoyable for adults 

Great subject matter:  interesting animals and their even more interesting names. 

Short but fascinating descriptions

Brightly colored pages, great illustrations and photos.  Overall a very attractive book, physically.

Scientific and common names, along with great scientific vocabulary, usually defined well within the text.

"Your turn" interactive bits.

Cool appendices, including a glossary, further reading, and the best thing ever:  a weird name generator, where you can create cool names like the frilly jumping lake slug or the headless howling volcano shark. 

Saturday, June 12, 2021

The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett

This was amazing.  It's hard to pinpoint what I thought was so good:  the beautifully drawn characters who drove the plot?  The interesting premise?  The settings and time periods?  The utterly engaging writing?  

I'm not sure.  All I know is that it worked.  It REALLY worked.

The pacing was gentle in that deep, fascinating way that pulls you into the story even when there's not much "exciting" going on.  I don't usually sit and read for 45 minutes or an hour at a stretch anymore.  But I did with this.  

If you're a reader who needs a lot of action, this might not be your favorite book, but if you're a reader like me, you'll love it.

I did question how realistic some of the (major) details were surrounding Reese.  

Overall, highly recommended.  Five stars…and I rarely give 5 stars to novels.

Warning:  some profanity and explicit scenes, but not over the top. 

Friday, May 28, 2021

Making a Story your Own

It's really funny, because I don't read romances very often, but because of a strange set of circumstances, I ended up reading two concurrently.  I just finished, and was amazed at some of the similar details.

In one book, a woman moves from a big city to a small town.  She's accompanied by her mother figure (a grandmother who pretty much raised her) and the nieces and nephews she's just adopted after her sister died.  She's very good at her job and ends up helping save the police force through elaborate outreach and community participation.  The house needs repairs, which the love interest is happy to do.  The love interest is also very good with the newly adopted children.  He happens to be the police chief.  

In the other, a woman moves from the big city to a small town.  She's accompanied by her mother figure (the foster mother who pretty much raised her) and the niece she has just adopted after her sister died.  She's very good at her job and ends up helping save the town through elaborate outreach and community participation.  The house needs repairs, which the love interest is happy to do.  The love interest is also very good with the newly adopted child.  The other main character's love interests happens to be the sheriff.   

And… in the first book, the main character is Daisy and one of her adopted daughters is Grace.  In the second book, the main character is Grace and her adopted daughter is Daisy.


They were published close enough together that I don't see how this could be anything but total coincidence.  

But despite the similarities, these were very different books, so it just goes to show that you can make a premise (or even an entire story) your own.