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July 30, 2014 / Leslie

Wordless Wednesday: Luna Moth

Luna Moth

Almost wordless: I noticed this unusual looking large green moth hanging from the eaves over my front door. It later dropped down into the one of my flower pots. I turned to google for some answers and found that it is a Luna Moth. The eyespots on the wings are there to confuse potential preditors.

Luna Moth

Apparently this was a female. Yesterday I noticed it had laid eggs on the Begonia leaves. It was probably trying to get to the walnut tree overhead. Walnut is a host plant for the caterpillars. The moth only lives one week, enough time to mate and lay eggs, and then dies. I will try to bring a walnut branch to the eggs for food if they hatch. Yeah, I do stuff like that.

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July 29, 2014 / Leslie

Review – Audiobook: Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? by Dave Eggers

A Rapid Review

YourFathersYour Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? by Dave Eggers

Publisher: Random House Audio | June 2014
Format: Audio Download | 5½ hours | Rating: 5 stars
Audio Listening Level: Easy

The formally daring, brilliantly executed story of one man struggling to make sense of his country, seeking answers the only way he knows how.

Thomas, a young man desperate for answers, kidnaps an old acquaintance, a man who now has a successful career as an astronaut, in an attempt to understand what’s wrong with the world today. The answers he receives only create more questions and set off a cycle of more kidnappings.

Don’t be mislead by the title, this is not a story about religion, although there is a little political ranting. And don’t be put off by the format either. The book is written entirely in dialog, but it works – partly because it’s a short, entertaining book, and partly because the author does such a wonderful job conveying the characters and surroundings without the use of descriptive narrative. It’s thought-provoking, witty and brilliantly constructed; to say more about the plot would ruin the suspense of discovery as the layers of the story unfold.

Audio production:
Read by an ensemble cast: MacLeod Andrews with Mark Deakins, Michelle Gonzalez, John H. Mayer, Kate McGregor-Stewart, Rebecca Lowman, Bruce Turk, and Marc Cashman. The audio production was fantastic. One of my favorites this year. I was so engaged in the dialog that I listened for the entire five-plus hours without stopping. It was performed like a play with each narrator taking on a different character with a distinct voice and range of emotions. The audio version is highly recommended to all listeners.

Audio Sample:

An Under My Apple Tree Rapid Review
Source: Review copy provided by Random House Audio.
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July 28, 2014 / Leslie

Mailbox Monday ~ July 28th

hummingbird mailboxWelcome to Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia of To Be Continued, a place where readers share the books that came in their mailbox during the last week.

After several years of being on tour with different blogs as the monthly host, the Mailbox Monday Blog is now the permanent home for the meme.

Something a little different this week – I have some children’s books. One was a door prize through ArmChair BEA. My new grandniece will be the recipient once I’ve reviewed it. The other children’s book was a purchase at a fundraising event.

New Arrivals


Can I Come Too? by Brian Patten and Nicola Bayley from Peachtree Publishers.
A very small mouse decided she wanted to have a very big adventure.

Remy: A Little Bird With A Big Imagination by Kristin Ludwig
Purchased at fundraising event for No Unwanted Birds.
The story of a rescued bird who imagines his future in his new world.

Wayfaring Stranger by James Lee Burke from Simon & Schuster Audio.
A sprawling thriller drenched with atmosphere and intrigue that takes a young boy from a chance encounter with Bonnie and Clyde to the trenches of World War II and the oil fields along the Texas-Louisiana coast.

Audio Downloads

Enchanted ObjectsPerfect Stranger

Enchanted Objects: Design, Human Desire, and the Internet of Things
by David Rose
from Simon & Schuster Audio.
An MIT Media Lab scientist imagines how everyday objects can intuit our needs and improve our lives.

The Perfect Stranger by Wendy Corsi Staub from Harper Audio.
In New York Times bestselling author Wendy Corsi Staub’s new thriller, one woman finds herself in the crosshairs of a twisted predator who might just be masked behind a familiar screen name .


Guilt Trip Giveaway – Sill time to enter

NiceGuiltTripWin a copy of Have a Nice Guilt Trip plus the previous four books.

Lisa Scottoline and her daughter, Francesca Serritella, have teamed up to bring their hilarious and witty perspective on the everyday life as mother and daughter in their weekly essays which you can find in their latest collection, Have a Nice Guilt Trip, released this week by St. Martin’s Press.

To enter, fill out the form. Continental US addresses only by 8/3.

How was your week?

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July 26, 2014 / Leslie

Weekend Birding: Growing Sunflower Seeds

Volunteer Sunflowers


I have a bird feeder filled with sunflowers seeds that I leave up year-round. Birds are messy and often seeds are spilled to the ground or carried away and dropped. Every spring I find lots of little sunflower plants sprouting up in my yard and garden.


Growing conditions must have been perfect this year because my garden is filled with sunflowers. Some I left right where they sprouted, others I moved to different locations, and still others I pulled out. They are all volunteers and they are all different. Some are short with a single, large flower, others have multiple smaller flowers, and still others are giant-sized, reaching high into the sky.


The flower in the first photo popped up next to my mailbox and grew four feet tall. Others sprouted along the fence in a small group and made a pretty border. The one above is in my wildflower garden. It has many branches, is over eight feet tall and perhaps is still growing!

Ripening Seed Head


As the the sunflower seeds ripen, the yellow petals begin to fall off, the inner flowers shrivel, and the seed heads swell and turn downward. This flower is a black oil sunflower. I also have plants with the striped sunflower seeds, but I never know which they are until harvest.

Goldfinches love sunflower seeds

Goldfinch on Sunflower

And speaking of harvesting the seeds, some birds can’t wait! Goldfinches will pick the seeds for me and feed themselves. I also plant coneflower and coreopsis for them, but they love the sunflower seeds the most. Their beaks are perfectly suited to opening the shells, but right now the shells are still soft and haven’t had a chance to dry out and harden.

Goldfinch on Sunflower

A few interesting notes:
Goldfinches are vegetarians and only eat seeds. If they do eat an insect it’s probably by accident. Also, they do not build their nests until summer, when seeds are available to feed their young, while insect-eating birds start their nests in March or April, as soon as the bugs appear. And because goldfinches are vegetarians, they are not a species subject to cowbird parasitism. A cowbird nestling needs a diet of insects and will not survive in a goldfinch nest where it will only be fed seeds.


Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Melinda of West Metro Mommy. Visit her blog to see more great photos.

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July 24, 2014 / Leslie

Review – Audiobook: The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair

HarryQuebertThe Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair
by Joël Dicker
Narrated by Pierce Cravens

Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publish Date: May 2014
Format: Audio Download | 18 hours
Audio Listening Level: Intermediate – Difficult
Rating: 4½ of 5

From the Publisher:

The #1 internationally bestselling thriller, and ingenious book within a book, about the disappearance of a 15-year-old New Hampshire girl and, thirty years later, a young American writer’s determination to clear his mentor’s name—and find the inspiration for his next bestseller.

My Thoughts:

In 1975, fifteen-year-old Nola Kellergan disappears. Thirty years later, her body is found buried in famous novelist Harry Quebert’s garden. While he admits he had an illicit affair with the young girl, he denies having anything to do with her death, and claims he has been waiting all these years for her to return. Marcus Goldman, a protégé of Harry’s who is currently suffering from writer’s block and badly in need of inspiration, is determined to solve the mystery of who killed Nola and clear his mentor’s name.

This is a very clever story about two books: The book Marcus is currently writing about Harry and the ongoing murder investigation, and a fictional best-seller Harry wrote 30 years ago that was a thinly disguised version of his secret affair with Nola.

Interestingly, the original novel was written in French by a Swiss author, but is set in the US – in a small town in New Hampshire. While there are a few awkward sentences and odd word choices from the translation, it was not disruptive to the flow of the story. There are lots of short sentences and some choppiness, but it reads fine, like a ‘bestseller’.

The plot is at times convoluted, there are lots of twists and turns, many characters, and an occasionally unreliable narrator, but in the end, a satisfying conclusion. The style of this novel is a little different than what I usually think of in a mystery, but nonetheless, I enjoyed it a lot. Despite the complexity, I had no trouble following the story, which was a concern when I decided to listen to the audiobook.

Audio Production:

The narration was performed by Pierce Cravens. This was my first experience with his narration and I was happy with his performance. With a large cast of characters to keep track of, he was able to create enough variation in voice and tone to keep me alert to changes in who was speaking.

While I found the listening level to be of average difficulty, I rated it intermediate to difficult because of the complexity. I wouldn’t recommend this as a choice for new listeners. Experienced listeners should be able to keep the books, plots and characters clear with a little extra attention.

I listened to much of this book while gardening and trimming hedges. Since gardening is second nature to me, I could devote my full attention to the story. This is the type of book that works well if one can listen in large chunks of time rather than short intervals.

Source: Review copy provided by Penguin Audio.
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July 23, 2014 / Leslie

Wordless Wednesday: The Monarchs Have Arrived

Monarch Butterfly

Almost wordless: Last week there were Monarch Butterflies in my wildflower garden. This one is enjoying the Purple Coneflower. A few of them even landed on the Milkweed, proving that if you plant it, they will come.

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July 22, 2014 / Leslie

Review: The Beekeeper’s Ball by Susan Wiggs

BeekeepersBallThe Beekeeper’s Ball
by Susan Wiggs

Genre: Women’s Fiction
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Publish Date: June 24, 2014
Format: Hardcover | 368 pages
Rating: 4 of 5

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Isabel Johansen, a celebrated chef who grew up in the sleepy Sonoma town of Archangel, is transforming her childhood home into a destination cooking school—a unique place for other dreamers to come and learn the culinary arts.

But Isabel’s carefully ordered plans begin to go awry when swaggering, war-torn journalist Cormac O’Neill arrives to dig up old history. He’s always been better at exposing the lives of others than showing his own closely-guarded heart, but the pleasures of small-town life and the searing sensuality of Isabel’s kitchen coax him into revealing a few truths of his own.

My Thoughts:

In The Apple Orchard, the first book in this series, we are introduced to Bella Vista, an estate in the Sonoma valley, and the family that owns it. The focus of the story was on Tess’s discovery of the family she never knew existed, and an ensuing romance with her grandfather’s banker, Dominic, whom she met at Bella Vista.

Now we return to Bella Vista where Tess’s sister, Isabel, is in the midst of opening a cooking school, while at the same time learning beekeeping, setting up the hives and planning Tess and Dominic’s wedding. To add to the mounting frenzy, a reporter, Cormac O’Neill, will be staying at Bella Vista to interview her grandfather for a book he is writing. Isabel and Mac’s first encounter doesn’t go very well and things get a little tense when Mac is stung by several bees. Despite the incident, there is an undeniable attraction between the two, and immediately the sparks start to fly.

The Beekeeper’s Ball is Isabel’s story intertwined with flashbacks about her grandfather’s experiences as a member of the Dutch resistance during World War II. He recalls the stories as Mac interviews him for the book he is writing. The novel works well as a standalone. It is not necessary to have read the first book; the story is easy to follow and the author provides the background information needed. (However, if you like this book you will enjoy the first one.)

With its beautiful, lush setting, charming atmosphere and descriptive prose, Beekeeper’s Ball is a pleasant, easy read that is more than just a romance novel. It incorporates a compelling historical element woven seamlessly into the present day, where Isabel is restoring Bella Vista, discovering her own identity and falling in love.

I’m already looking forward to the next book in the Bella Vista Chronicles.

Source: Review copy provided by Harlequin MIRA.
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