The woman who lives in the home beside this nest thinks they’re sharp-shinned hawks, and they seem to have the square tail (Coopers hawks are rounder, apparently) so I’m not inclined to dispute her.
I shot this Monday, at about lunchtime. I had headed out for a fast walk in the sun, aiming vaguely for Hastings Park, when I heard the baby birds crying and saw both parents swooping in, presumably with shredded mice or other delicious take-out. There weren’t a lot of good angles, and for a long time I was just peering through a hole in the foliage, staring up a bird butt and feeling my neck cramp as I waited to see if she’d show her face. I waited long enough, in fact, that I eventually lay down with my zoom pointed at the gap. My primary accomplishment at that point was in not lying on a bee.
Eventually I circled the tree, found some other gaps, and the bird moved into one, allowing me to take this shot. Afterward, I decided I wasn’t quite up to going all the way to the park. So I circled back, grabbed a California roll, and came home.
Today is a holiday here in B.C. I’ve spent the long weekend lying low, doing a bit of teaching, a bit of writing, a bit of walking with Kelly and a lot of reading and resting. There are cold germs in the house, and we don’t want them getting the upper… pseudopod? Along the way, I read Mistress of the Art of Death, by Ariana Franklin, and will probably post about it soon.
Next up in the reading queue will probably be another Adam Nicholson history; I’m ready for some non-fiction. I also want to do some fiddling with my alyxdellamonica.com site in the near; it’s not bad, but I’m not entirely happy with its look, and I want to go trolling for some interesting widgets.
In the meantime and just because, here’s a butterfly.
My father is heading off to China for a couple of years and has heard rumors that photoblogging there doesn’t work so well if one uses Flickr. Anyone been there recently enough to know if this is true?
And speaking of Flickr, I caught a cedar waxwing with its gob open on my way to Italian Tuesday:
On to books: I started reviewing fiction for Tangent, way back in its print day, because I felt as though I had stuck myself in a readerly rut. I wanted an external reason to pick up books I would never hear of, let alone consider reading. And it worked: I discovered a whole wide wonderful range of writers I might not have otherwise heard of: Kurt R.A. Giambiastiani and Peter Watts and Justina Robson and Syne Mitchell, to name a few. I also, of course, read a lot of things that were just okay. And even a few I regretted; that’s the price, right?
Time moves on, needs change and I have been in a place lately where I want total control over my reading choices. So, perhaps not surprisingly, I have really liked the last four books I read. This past weekend I inhaled the newest novel by my latest writer crush: Tana French. Faithful Place is the third of the Dublin Murder Squad books. I had planned to be disciplined, to take my time, but it’s a suspenseful novel. I got up a head of steam and about the time when I meant to put it down, there was a noisy car accident outside our window that eliminated all chance of sleep for another hour. So I gulped it in two sittings, too fast to truly enjoy the nuances. I am already taking a second run at it, from the beginning, savoring every heartbreakingly witty word.
I know I have already raved about French plenty since picking up In The Woods; that I have told you about her prose, which is so sinfully rich that spending time with it seems nigh-adulterous. I’m sure I’ve mentioned that French’s grip on human nature is so sure it’s almost frightening. I may even have admitted to sending her, via her publisher, a whimpering little fan note mentioning that I might die, OMG srsly die I tellya, if she didn’t start cranking out four books a year.
What can I tell you about Faithful Place without spoiling it? All three books absolutely stand alone, first. So jump ahead, if you want, and read this one. I can mention that like a lot of readers, I thought this third novel would be about Sam, the third major player in the In The Woods triangle. Instead, the POV character is Frank, the Undercover guy from The Likeness. A week ago, I was invested in getting a Sam book. Now I don’t even care.
The protagonists of the first two books were fully realized characters, well developed, scarily easy to relate to. As for relating to Frank… well! He’s a child of the Eighties who ran away from a wretched home as soon as he was legally able. He left on foot, carrying only a small bag of clothes and a big sack of child-of-alcoholic issues. He meant to bring a girl named Rosie, too, but she skipped out on him–or so he thought. He left anyway, built a life entirely apart from his origins, and now Rosie’s suitcase has turned up, stuffed up a chimney. Yes, this book really is all about baggage. Anyway the discovery sets his current life and his old one to slam-dancing, and he has no idea how to fit his family into the world he’s been living in for twenty-two years.
There’s one moment, I won’t tell you, but in it Frank realizes something central to his existence–something he had under control, you understand–is not even remotely what he thought it was, and–Oh! It is a wholly individual moment, specific to his family dilemma. I am not sure I’ve ever understood a fictional character’s feelings so well.
I tend to favor beautifully written mysteries that are as much character studies as they are puzzles. In French’s first books, the identity of the killer, while not entirely a side issue, is distinctly less compelling than the detective’s journey. In Faithful Place, French integrates the personal and the homicidal in ways that had me second guessing myself over and over again. I was always pulling for Frank, but when the truth came out, I have to say I really got where the killer was coming from.
The story is part of the Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy spotlight at TOR.COM, and here is a handy index of everything posted so far.
By all rights today’s photo should be of East Vancouver, which is where this story is set. But this shot of Coal Harbor is classic summer Vancouver, in a part of town and from a point of view I don’t get often. It’s also ever so slightly shiny and new because the convention center, in the background, hasn’t been there that long. Even once it was built we couldn’t get near it, because of Olympics-related security. Since the fences came down, you can walk all the way from Canada Place to Stanley Park along the water.
Sunday morning after I hit the cafe for some writing time, Barb and I went for a walk through Coal Harbor to Lost Lagoon, and it was like the wildlife of Coastal B.C. was lining up for us. Here’s a small sample:
After three happy hours in the baking, blazing, sharp-shadow-casting sun, we returned to East Vancouver, where I hooked up with Kelly for coffee and a panini. Afterward, we decided to hit a sale at Cotton Ginny that Faith had mentioned… and it was like the pretty, price-slashed clothes of Vancouver (okay, Burnaby) were lining up for me. I got a couple of allegedly, organic, sustainably farmed, farmer-friendly cotton tops and a pair of jeans, and then we went next door and stocked up on socks for winter. (The socks, I admit, may have been made from baby spandexes whose parents were taken away in the night by very unkind people.)
Then we puttered home, or meant to, and ended up in Tierra del Sol, where the other clothes were waiting. A dress and a cute, cute, CUTE! top later, we were ready to go. Then we heard a cheerful-sounding “I need a hug!” and Lotus was standing behind us. Eeeee!!! Lotus lives in Edmonton now, so her hugs are rare and precious things. She had somewhere to be so we walked her back to the Skytrain station, chattering all the way, and then turned back for what could be counted as my fourth attempt to return home in the six hours since I’d left. This time we made it as far as Falconetti‘s new deck. Kelly had a Caesar and I had an Innis and Gunn; we shared a plate of calimari and all was right with the world.
Then, finally, we went home, so I could wash off the sunscreen and chortle over my photographic treasure. That, and telling you all about it, is what I’m up to now.