Sunday, December 28, 2014

Love and Drowning

Sometimes I like to trawl through Buzzfeed Books.  Their content is hit or miss, but I like the articles they pull together with 20 books for cranky people, or 5 books to read before the movie comes out, or any combination of various numbers of books that meet various off-the-wall conditions.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that Buzzfeed recently had an article called "20 Under 40 Debut Writers You Need to Be Reading."  I added quite a few to my "books to look for" shelf in Goodreads.  Then, as I was in the local library for an unrelated reason, I saw one sitting there on the new arrivals shelf, just waiting to be checked out.

This book is set in the U.S. Virgin Islands, both before and after the islands become a U.S. territory.  I have had a bit of an interest in Caribbean literature after visiting the DR and reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, so this book fit right into that groove and pulled me out of making a final push toward finishing my 2014 Challenge books.

This is mostly the story of two sisters, but it's also about how Virgin Island society changes as tourists, cars, TVs, and American-style racism show up on the islands.

There's a strong mystical bent to the story.  People move between myth and supernatural activities and normal day-to-day life without much comment.  Annette, the main character, has a wonderful, strong, unique voice.  She and her sister Eeona are elemental.  They take action based on urges, compulsions, and fate, despite rational thought warning them away.  Annette speaks and thinks in a strange English, she makes the words bend to her.

I am not whole-heartedly endorsing Land because I am not sure I understand a major facet of the book, the thematic element that blends together and confuses familial and romantic love.  

Final Call:

That being said, I do recommend this book, strongly.  The author does a wonderful job of capturing the relationship between people and their homelands.  At catching racial nuances.  She weaves a spell and its worth getting caught up in it.  At the end, I actually missed being in a place I have never physically been!


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Fevre Dream

This is George R.R. Martin, of Game of Thrones fame, but well before he became a household name.  And let me tell you, this book is like a really really quick version of Game of Thrones.

First, the basics of the story are really engaging.  The setting is a knock out.  You meet a lot of interesting characters, and a lot of intriguing action occurs.  And then.  And then.

The plot doesn't go well for the good guys.  They disperse.  They take FOREVER getting their acts together.  When they do get their ducks in a row, their victories are anticlimactic.  Sound familiar?

Actually, it probably doesn't, because Game of Thrones still is not this far along in its development.  After TWENTY YEARS of real life writing time.

At least this is all one volume.  

Final call:


Imagine Mark Twain's Mississippi River, only with vampires.  And Martin is really honing his knack for making you feel uncomfortable in this story.  If you like babies at all, you really should skip a few chapters in the middle altogether.

But in the end, Abner is a great character, Martin has an incredible gift for dialogue, and this is still way better than most. 

Don't Tempt Me

I am still on the fluff train.  Loretta Chase writes romance.  Better romance than a lot of folks, but still romance.  Don't Tempt Me is more or less ridiculous, given its basic plot premise, but the entertainment level is still decent.

This book is basically cotton candy, all fun and no substance.  Don't let that stop you, but don't let it rot your brain, either  :)

Final call:

This may be cheesy romance, but at least its pretty good cheesy romance!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Out of the Easy

As I was still trying to heal from A Discovery of Witches, a friend loaned me this book.  It's a young adult book, technically.

Some of my favorite books are young adult books, so I was game.  And this was really quite a nice read.  Josie's likable, she's quick on her feet, and she has her human moments, too.  The relationship triangle is not at all what you think at first, that's a plus.  

A few problems here and there, like when characters occasionally break out in modern slang despite living in 1950s New Orleans.  And some things are just too pat, like the heroine deciding she just has to go to the university that a random woman in a book store tells her about, despite having never heard of it before.

Final call:

Maaaaybe even four stars.  There's a fair amount of meat here, and a big helping of entertainment.  It'll only take you a few hours to read it, so you might as well get started!   

The bad, the good ...

As I was studying, and when I was still reading for fun, I quickly realized I needed fluff.  I saw Deborah Harkness's A Discover of Witches for like $3 on Amazon and picked it up.

This was a decent book, at first, but it quickly spiraled into insanity.  Really quickly.  In lieu of reciting all the terribleness myself, just go here and read Whitley's review:  Reading With a Vengeance.  It's way more detailed and way more entertaining than anything I could provide.

After that travesty, I sought refuge in one of my favorite authors, Cherie Priest.  I knew Priest's latest book is the start of a new series.  Maplecroft is Lizzie Borden's story, if Lizzie had to deal with Cthulhu.

I was not at all aware that this was Priest's homage to H.P. Lovecraft, but that ended up being a pleasant surprise.  You know, this isn't my absolute most favorite of her works, but she is just one of those authors that you can trust to deliver a good story that's written well.  

Final call:

A Discover of Witches

This book literally does not make sense.  Any sense. At all.  This is my first one star review!


And this book will revive your faith in storytelling.  Choose this one, in a heartbeat.  How on earth is Harkness more well-known???

Monday, November 17, 2014


So let's talk David Mitchell.  Despite some stiff competition, he is probably my favorite author.  He has six books out (including one just released!), and now I have read three of them.  

The other two under my belt are Ghostwritten and Cloud Atlas.  These books read like two facets of one very large story.  And then I read a recent interview with Mitchell where he admitted his works not only share supporting characters - they are probably all telling the same story.

Anyway, Mitchell is known for wacky narrative structures and extreme feats of imagination, and  that absolutely describes Number9Dream, even though the end effect is very different from his usual.  If he has a usual.  

Instead of trotting through space and time in disjointed but connected narratives,  Number9Dream  stays in one person's viewpoint (well, not really, but kind of).  We follow Eiji, a young Japanese man searching Tokyo for a father he's never met and dealing with the death of his twin sister and abandonment by his mother.  Eiji takes a lot of detours and has some definitely imaginary adventures on his journey.  Coincidences and obvious plot devices abound.  He falls in love.  He comes to terms with the trauma in his life.

But one of the questions in the end is, "just how much of the plot actually a happened, versus being imagined by Eiji?"  I believe that it is all in his head.  Really.  Eiji, the name, is explained twice in the text as meaning "incant" and "world."  I think he's making it up, the entire thing.  

A lot of the criticisms people have about the book, I think, don't apply if this is true.  People are seeing a hack plot with too much crazy stuff and a not-quite-right view of Japanese culture.  I say that it's Eiji's voice that is responsible for the plot "problems" and the outsider-looking-in view of Tokyo.  I think Eiji's been in Kagoshima thinking his way out of his problems the entire book, using his manga and video games to fuel his fantasies.

Then there's the 5th part of this book, A Study of Tales.  Who else would juxtapose Eiji's quest with stories about a talking goat, a sentient hen, and a primordial man to frame up questions about authorship, agency, and the meaning of life and death.  You just can't get this stuff anywhere else.

Number9Dream left me feeling many things, but most of all, at a loss.  However, there is at least one point in any David Mitchell book (and often many, many points) where you get a particular feeling, one of being extremely far-sighted.  You start to see the entirety of life and how it works much more clearly than you normally do, and the day-to-day begins to seem very myopic but also the only chance we have to make any kind of difference.

And that is why I love his books.

Final call:
This actually isn't my very favorite work of his, but he's still head and shoulders above the crowd.

Monday, October 13, 2014

New camera

It happens to be in my phone, but still. 

I took advantage of its panoramic mode to capture the River bridges yesterday.  I think it did pretty well!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Functional Jewels

One of Columbia's little quirks is that it's home to the National Watch & Clock Museum, a Smithsonian affiliate with a huge collection of time-telling inventions.  Yesterday, my watch aficionado cousin and his wife were in town for a visit, so of course this was on our itinerary.  Here's a small collection of watch faces.  The colors and varied designs caught my eye.

But mostly, I found myself drawn to the pocket watches.  Small but full of detail, functional but beautiful designs.  Sandy asked me which one I'd choose, if I had to pick one.  She was joking, but I actually had an answer, it's this one!

Or this one, or the next one, or maybe the one after that.  Really, any of them would be fine :)

I can't say that I'm particularly interested in watches over any other subject matter, but I love antiques and these definitely qualify under that clause :)  I really do enjoy the craftsmanship and ornate styles - they just don't make them like this anymore.    

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Shipping News

I veered off-challenge for my last read, and stayed off for this one.  As I've said before, I need some lighter reading right now than what a lot of my 2014 Challenge books can offer, so I picked this out of one of my many book piles because it's a self-proclaimed "literary page turner."


Really, this is an odd duck.  (Might one say, a gammy bird?!?)  The beginning, set in the northeastern United States, is very different from the remaining 85%, set in Newfoundland.  I enjoyed the conceit of relating the chapters to different kinds of knots, Proulx doesn't seem to take it too seriously and that's good.

The hearts and souls of the story are the tough Newfoundlanders that Quoyle meets - and eventually becomes one of.  The lifestyle is already hard, and economic opportunity is dwindling.  Traditional skills are dying along with the fisheries.  The physical environment is unforgiving, dreary, astoundingly beautiful, and violent in turns.  The setting and atmosphere is a knockout.

Proulx's writing style here is unique.  It's not 100% grounded in realism.  People are named Petal and Bunny and Wavey.  Houses become symbols and highly unlikely things that verge on the supernatural occur.  The sentences are choppy and may be meant to mimic the speech patterns of the locals.  Her way of turning a phrase is fantastic.  There is a lot of out and out humor, but also more than a few heart-breaking tales.

I was a little disenchanted, close to the end, with the way the story was heading.  Nothing seemed to resolve.  Then, in the last 50 pages or so, it won my heart over.  Really, you just want to spend more time with the characters, listen to them talk.  I love books like this, ones that look at a rural or folk culture and see its depth and soul, along with the warts, and ones that look at what people can do when even a smidge of kindness is shown to them.

Final Call:

This is probably actually a four and a half, but what the hey.  The book's spirit and style tips it up to five.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Midnight Crossroads

Oh, Charlaine.  We have a long history and I do still like you, but this book is just off.  Midnight Crossroad is the first in a new trilogy.  I knew it was part of a series, but not one so short, so I expected more of a full arc in this installment.

Midnight is a small town in Texas, and every one of the dozen or so folks who live there has something strange going on.  Manfred, the main character, is from the Harper Connolly books, and we soon find out that Bobo has connections to Harris's Shakespeare books.  And there's a vampire and possibly a shapeshifter.  So there is a lot going for Midnight Crossroad.  

But it ended up being messy.  Manfred's psychic skills are very much a minor factor, and it feels like a missed opportunity.  The story doesn't go where you think it will.  It really doesn't go anywhere.  The "big" climax deflates and doesn't resolve in this book.  It also has nothing to do with the murder that drives the plot.  The killer is revealed, though, and his fate leaves you feeling morally antsy.  I'm not even going to get into the cat.  

The writing itself seemed super-simplistic.  The last half of the book was marginally better, but the first chapters read like they were written for ESL students or adults just learning to read.  Fiji crossed the street.  Like usual, there was no traffic.  She was wearing a brown skirt.  She opened the door to the restaurant.  See Spot run.  Look at Jane go.  Just very basic sentence structures and characterizations.

And the names, Good Lord, the names.  Manfred, Bobo, Creek, Fiji. Lemuel. Madonna.Teacher.  So many were so hokey that they detracted from the story for me.  Although, there are Lemuels in my family tree, so I'm okay if one makes a come back!    

Then every once in a while, Charlaine would sneak in a sharp observation or a crafty little sentence that reminded me why I enjoy her books in the first place.  She's great at writing regular folks, even if she does use one-dimensional thugs and white supremacists for her bad guys.  But I'm not sure the pain is worth the gain in Midnight Crossroad.   

Final Call:
If you like Charlaine Harris, this might be worth the few hours it will take for you to read it.  Otherwise, eh.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Little Stranger

Sarah Waters ended up with three books in this year's challenge, and I have already read Fingersmith.  Because she is one of the most readable authors left, and so much of my mental energy is being diverted, and my time for pleasure reading is virtually nil,  I picked up The Little Stranger.


This isn't Victorian-era Sarah Waters, but it is still very much rooted in her strengths.  Emotional tension, uncomfortable moments, plots that will never work out happily ever after, ambivalence about absolutely every character.  Not a single one is completely sympathetic, and there is no obvious bad guy.

You have the actual horrors of the time period.  The great halls of England falling to pieces as the great families don't have the money for upkeep and servants.  The awkwardness of upper class families  trying to maintain their social status while selling off their land and possessions to survive.  The trauma the World Wars inflicted on England.  And then pair those real, historical problems with the horrors of a house that seems to want to kill its residents - a family who is far from perfect but doesn't deserve their fates.

In a lot of reviews I saw, people were angry because the ending is ambiguous.  But, it isn't, at least I don't think so.  Throughout the book, you try to work out the root of the "evil" happenings in Hundreds Hall, and you really aren't sure.  But by the end, there's only one source left, and he shares his name with the father of electromagnetism.  At that point, it's holy obvious poltergeist, Batman.

Other people complained that it wasn't very scary.  I think that depends on how you like your horror.  I found very little gore, but plenty of out and out creepiness. I tend to think the best horror comes out of authors like this, who weave it subtly in to everyday life.  Particularly at the beginning, where everything seems mundane, and then insanity emerges in small doses and doesn't let go.

Final Call:
Waters is just a great author and you should read this.  Maybe around Halloween, I wish I had waited.  It's the perfect mood for a dreary fall day.

Whirlwind Labor Day

Soooooooo, I'm studying hard for a big test in November, and that has cut down on my blogging time.  But I am popping in to share some pictures from our Labor Day weekend getaway.

We decided to explore Pennsylvania's northern tier of counties: Tioga, Potter, and McKean, and even a smidge of Warren.  Our first stop was PA's "Grand Canyon," the Pine Creek Gorge.  This is a view from Leonard Harrison State Park.  We hiked the Turkey Path down to the bottom of the gorge, where a nice rail trail runs.

Despite some rain early on, we decided the next day to go ahead and try to see for Kinzua Bridge.  The rain stopped right as we parked!  Kinzua was one of the tallest railroad bridges in the nation, until a tornado destroyed two thirds of it in 2003.  Now you can walk out on the remaining part, where they have installed glass panels in the bridge decking.

I'm really glad we got to see this.  You don't normally encounter destruction on that scale.  Something we read said that when the bridge was rebuilt with steel in the 1900s, the engineers kept the 1800s-era iron bolts that held the bridge to the concrete supports.  It's the bolts that failed.

We camped at a place called Austin Dam Memorial Park.  It's a quirky place completely run by volunteers and I am blown away by how much they have been able to accomplish.  The story of the place is sad.  In 1909, a lumber mill constructed a large dam to power their works.  Two years later, after heavy rain, the dam gave way and destroyed the mill and most of the town of Austin.  At least 78 people died, often whole families.  The park memorializes the disaster and contains the ruined pieces of the dam.  This picture doesn't do justice to their size.

On our way home on Monday, we stopped at Stevenson Dam State Park for one amazing view, and then at Hyner View State Park for another:

Hangliders use Hyner View as a take-off spot, and we were fortunate to get there right before one took the plunge.  The river below is the West Branch of the Susquehanna.

Friday, August 8, 2014

A peculiar crop in the garden

One thing I noticed in the backyard, sometime in early July, is that a bumper crop of spiders ripened up!  Webs here and there and everywhere.

I am no fan of spiders when they are in my house with me.  But I don't mind them out of doors and minding their own business.

About three years ago, I found my first backyard garden spider.  Since then, about midsummer, I find one or two.  This year, though, this year, I have four.  These are strangely pretty orb weavers and can get rather large for comfort.

And funnily enough, three of them are living in the same little clump of irises.  That's how I got the pictures, their webs are practically on top of each other.

The largest one had a bumblebee in her web a few days ago.  I'm afraid I might find a small child next!  :)

Friday, August 1, 2014

Quote Storm: The God of Small Things and The Book of Evidence

I haven't done a quote post in a while, and The God of Small Things definitely deserves one, so I might as well take care of two books with one post.

For The God of Small Things:

She had forgotten just how damp the monsoon air in Ayemenem could be. Swollen cupboards creaked. Locked windows burst open. Books got soft and wavy between their covers. Strange insects appeared like ideas in the evenings and burned themselves on dim forty-watt bulbs.


Estha had always been a quiet child, so no one could pinpoint with any degree of accuracy exactly when (the year, if not the month or day) he had stopped talking.  Stopped talking, altogether, that is. The fact is that there wasn't an "exactly when." It had been a gradual winding down and closing shop. 


He was exasperated because he didn't know what that look meant. He put it somewhere between indifference and despair. He didn't know that in some places, like the country that Rahel had come from, various kinds of despair competed for primacy. And that personal despair could never be desperate enough. That something happened when personal turmoil dropped by at the wayside shrine of the vast, violent, circling, driving, ridiculous, insane, unfeasible, public turmoil of a nation. That Big God howled like a hot wind, and demanded obeisance. Then Small God (cozy and contained, private and limited) came away cauterized, laughing numbly at his own temerity. Inured by the confirmation of his own inconsequence, he became resilient and truly indifferent. Nothing mattered much. Nothing much mattered. And the less it mattered, the less it mattered.  It was never important enough. Because Worse Things had happened. In the country that she came from, poised forever between the terror of war and the horror of peace, Worse Things kept happening.


Insanity hovered close at hand, like an eager waiter at an expensive restaurant (lighting cigarettes, refilling glasses).


He walked on water. Perhaps. But could He have swum on land?


Ammu wondered at the transparency of that kiss.  It was a clear-as-glass kiss. Unclouded by passion or desire - that pair of dogs that sleep so soundly inside children, waiting for them to grow up. It was a kiss that demanded no kiss-back.

And from The Book of Evidence:

It was that abstracted, mildly dissatisfied air which first drew my attention to her. She was not nice, she was not good. She suited me.


We understood each other, yes, but that did not mean we knew each other, or wanted to. How would we have maintained that unselfconscious grace that was so important to us both, if we had not also maintained the essential secretness of our inner selves?


It is just that I do not believe that such moments mean anything - or any other moments, for that matter. They have significance, apparently. They may even have value of some sort. But they do not mean anything.


I have never really gotten used to being on this earth.  Sometimes I think our presence here is due to a cosmic blunder, that we were meant for another planet altogether, with other arrangements, and other laws, and other, grimmer skies. I try to imagine it, our true place, off on the far side of the galaxy, whirling and whirling. And the ones who were meant for here, are they out there, baffled and homesick, like us? No, they would have become extinct long ago. how could they survive, these gentle earthlings, in a world that was made to contain us?


The question is wrong, that's the trouble. It assumes that actions are determined by volition, deliberate thought, a careful weighing-up of facts, all that puppet-show twitching which passes for consciousness.


Monday morning. Ah, Monday morning. The ashen light, the noise, the sense of pointless but compulsory haste. I think it will be Monday morning when I am received in Hell.


The Book of Evidence

When the cover of a book describes it as "an astonishing, disturbing little novel that might have been coughed up from hell" you do start to wonder what you're getting into.

But for the most part, The Book of Evidence is a psychological study that looks at evil and how society addresses it.  And this look - accomplished by living inside the head of a nut case who ends up committing a murder - makes for an uncomfortable read.  You realize very quickly that the narrator is a pompous self-centered delusional windbag and you don't want to spend time with him but that's the only way to get to the end.

All that notwithstanding, this is a great book.  The author can run circles around the English language. He has the greatest descriptions of light and mood.  And questioning that inner dead space in all of us.  Haven't we all wanted to stop playing by the rules of society at some point?  Well, Freddie just does, and unsurprisingly, things don't go well for him.  And then he tries to figure out how to make it up and - dare we say, shows a glimmer of humanity after all?

Final call:

Some folks compare Banville to Nabokov because of the unlikeable first person narrators. Banville is far more approachable - give him a chance.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Beasts of the field

I was visiting my parents this weekend, and we decided to go to the farm and look for red-headed woodpeckers.  We did see at least one, maybe two, but the chances for photos were slim.

What we did see were the two four-footed beasts who are common in the fields:  deer and cows.  And what's more, they were being cute.

This fawn crossed the field despite our presence, looking for Mom.  It bleated once, and Mom responded.  Once they were reunited, we saw them off and on at the edges of the clearing, wanting to eat but also stay out of the sun (and out of view of the weird people), I suppose.

When we first arrived, all of the cattle were in the shade of some trees at one edge of the field.  When we left, they had moved up and across, toward their sources of water.  I've always been amused by the way a herd will just decide it's time to move, change fields, go on a ramble, etc.  

One cow, "Ol' Number 2," really took her water seriously, hopping right into the spring and getting her fill.

My Dad and my Uncle both asked me about the hail I had pictures of in one of my Las Vegas posts.  It must have been a sign.  I didn't know at the time that we would see hail again, today!  

Severe thunderstorms have been working their way through the area for the last couple of hours, and we had about five minutes where decent-sized hail stones rained down on our town.

What a weekend!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The God of Small Things

So here's a Booker prize winner.  I had a copy at one point, I know I did.  But it wandered away, and I only recently found another copy at a really awesome used bookstore in Dayton, OH.  I said I'd read this for my 2014 challenge if I could find it, and well, here's my review.

This is quite a counterpoint to A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry.  Written about the same time but set 10 years earlier in a different part of India.  A wildly different form of writing - playful, experimental, toying with the sounds of words, and injecting the rhythm of Malayalam into English.

Where Mistry's story lets the characters' humanity shine through, Roy uses artistry.

The plot is a fairly hackneyed set-up - an affair between castes - but the resulting consequences dwell on big questions.  How responsible are children for the results of their actions?  Even when they've been manipulated?  How do unbending social constructs protect and destroy individuals?  What motivates people either to fall in line or rebel against their given roles?  How have modern political systems grafted themselves on to cultures that greatly predate them?  

She also provides an almost incidental but damning critique of Western-driven cultural tourism.

Many parts of the book seem trippy or dream-like, but this is because much of it is told from the viewpoint of children.  Not precisely in their words, but in their style of perception.

Final Call:

In the end, this one ended up being one of my all-time favorites, much in the same way The English Patient  has.  One of the few books I would gladly reread.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Outside Las Vegas: Mount Charleston & Red Rock Canyon

When we left Corn Creek, we drove up into the Mount Charleston area.  A road follows Lee Canyon up into the higher reaches of the mountain.  We were above 8,000 feet when we turned around due to some interesting weather ...

This was hail!  And the temperature plunged down to 40 degrees!  We were starting to get worried about dents in our rental car, so down the mountain we went.

On to the third destination of the day: Red Rock Canyon.  Here, the weather was a very nice 80 degrees.  This is a gorgeous little place, lots of stratigraphy!

 The main attraction is a loop road that leads to quite a few hiking opportunities in and around various rock formations.

Here's one of the denizens of the area, some kind of extra-pointy lizard. 

And every once in a while I remember my camera has a timer function when we're near something to sit it on :)

So we had a really nice day, with a 60 degree swing in weather to boot.  On the bird front, I was able to see white-throated swifts in Red Rock Canyon, which were another life bird for the trip!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Outside Las Vegas - Corn Creek Station

On the last day of our trip to Vegas, we explored the area around the city.  We visited Corn Creek Station, which is part of Desert National Wildlife Refuge; Lee Canyon, which is on Mount Charleston, and Red Rock Canyon, which is just west of the cushy Vegas suburb of Summerlin.

We have been to Corn Creek before.  At least five years ago, before the current and very nice visitor's center was constructed.  Right outside the visitor's center, three or four small birds were working over a small shrub.  The picture isn't super impressive, but I am including it because this is the first time I have seen Verdin!

Corn Creek is a literal oasis.  Several springs emerge here and support far more vegetation and wildlife than the surrounding desert.  One of the springs has been cemented into a pool.  Many birds were enjoying this feature.

As we walked around the area, Justin asked me if roadrunners lived here.  I told him I no idea.  And then, within 15 minutes, we saw one!  And the weirdest part of all is that it was at the top of a tree (roadrunners are not graceful fliers, or tree climbers, as it happens).   

Corn Creek has a gorgeous setting, nestled between very desolate-looking mountain ranges.  Temperatures were approaching 100 degrees while we were there, but the path offered some shade and just the sound of water made it seem cooler.  

Part of the original settlement at Corn Creek included an orchard, and a few of the trees are still around (you can sort of see it behind the cement pool in the picture above).  In particular, a peach tree was full of overripe fruit, that attracted a continual parade of feathered critters.  

Those included this female Lesser Goldfinch, and the brilliantly-colored male Bullock's Oriole.

According to my records, this is my "life" Bullock's Oriole.  And I also saw life Black-Chinned Hummingbird and Gambel's Quail but did not get photographs.  Although I swear up and down that we saw Gambel's Quail in New Mexico, it just must have not made it on my list.