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August 3, 2015 / Leslie

Mailbox Monday ~ August 3rd

Butterfly-PinkFlower_Mailbox56392Welcome 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.


Wow, August already. Time to slow down and enjoy the rest of the summer. I think back to when I was a kid and remember summer holidays stretching on for what seemed like forever. I know it’s just perception, but the older I get the more time feels like it flies by.

Here’s what arrived last week . . .

Print Books

BooksAug3_142756
Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica from St. Martin’s Press.
A chance encounter sparks an unrelenting web of lies in this stunning new psychological thriller from national bestselling author Mary Kubica.

Fear of Dying by Erica Jong from St.Martin’s Press.
Fear of Dying is a daring and delightful look at what it really takes to be human and female in the 21st century. Wildly funny and searingly honest, it is a story for everyone who has ever been shaken and changed by love.

How was your week?

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August 2, 2015 / Leslie

Giveaway Winner – Summer Secrets by Jane Green

Thank you to everyone that stopped by to enter the giveaways last few weeks. The winner was selected using random.org and has been notified by email.

Summer Secrets

by Jane Green

SummerSecrets

Winner: Jennifer

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© 2015 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.
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August 1, 2015 / Leslie

Armada by Ernest Cline

ArmadaA Rapid Review

Publisher: Random House Audio | July 2015
Format: AudioBook | 12 hours | Rating: 4½ stars
Audio Listening Level: Easy

Zack Lightman is daydreaming through another dull math class when the hightech dropship lands in his school’s courtyard–and when the men in the dark suits and sunglasses leap out of the ship and start calling his name, he’s sure he’s still dreaming. But the dream is all too real; the people of earth need him.

As Zack soon discovers, the videogame he’s been playing obsessively for years isn’t just a game; it’s part of a massive, top-secret government training program, designed to teach gamers the skills they’ll need to defend earth from a possible alien invasion. And now . . . that invasion is coming.

This was a fun read with loads of 80s and 90s pop cultural references–movies, television, books, and videogames–most of it sci-fi and perfect for the geek in me. Plus lots of music references and tunes from the past that are now playing in my head.

The plot revolves around a government conspiracy. Secretly, they have been training young people to fight an upcoming alien invasion using video games, and the technology we think of as science fiction actually exists. Think of it as The Last Star Fighter meets Ender’s Game, plus a little Galaxy Quest. I am not the first reviewer to mention this, and the author himself makes many, many references to sci-fi movies. And that’s part of the fun.

The pace is fast, there is lots of action, and the cultural references kept me laughing and nodding and thinking this was so impossible and yet so entertaining. And at the same time wondering, what if this were true? This is the stuff the X-Files was made of. As much as I enjoyed the story, at times it got bogged down in the video game descriptions. I enjoy an occasional video games, I still do, but I never got into the war strategy games; instead I played the single shooter types like Wolfenstein 3D and Cosmo’s Cosmic Adventure. Yes, I’m old.

One doesn’t need to be a science fiction fan, geek, or gamer to enjoy this book. The same goes for Cline’s first book, Ready Player One, an all-time favorite of mine.

Audio production:
The narration was performed by Wil Wheaton. He made the book and the characters come alive. The pacing, the action, the voices–just perfect. I don’t think I would have enjoyed this as much in print. The combination of a superb narrator and a story that is easy to follow (a linear storyline that takes place in one day in the near future) makes audio a good choice for listeners of all levels.

[Audio Sample on SoundCloud.]An Under My Apple Tree Rapid Review

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Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
© 2015 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.
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July 29, 2015 / Leslie

Wordless Wednesday: Monarch Caterpillar Hatchling

Monarch Caterpillar Hatchling

Almost wordless: Monarch Butterflies visited the wildflower garden last weekend. I checked the Milkweed a few days later and found a very tiny hatchling on the underside of a leaf, about 2 or 3mm long.

Monarch Caterpillar Hatchling

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More Wordless Wednesday. © 2015 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.
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July 27, 2015 / Leslie

Mailbox Monday ~ July 27th

Butterfly-PinkFlower_Mailbox56392Welcome 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.


I’ve been in a bit of a writing slump the past couple of weeks. I have lots to say but the words are getting stuck in my head. I hate when that happens! Perhaps there were just too many July distractions this month.

A couple of print books arrived last week . . .

New Arrivals

BooksJuly27_192957

Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin from LibraryThing.
Shocking, intense, and utterly original, Black-Eyed Susans is a dazzling psychological thriller, seamlessly weaving past and present in a searing tale of a young woman whose harrowing memories remain in a field of flowers—as a killer makes a chilling return to his garden.

Not Black and White by G.A. Beller from Tandem Literary. This was a surprise arrival, but does sound interesting since I know a lot about Chicago politics.
A fictional account of many of the events that led to the meteoric rise of a local charismatic street politician to become America’s first African-American president, and the downfall and imprisonment of two consecutive governors in the State of Illinois, along with several of their most trusted advisors and cohorts.

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Win A Copy …SummerSecrets

Summer Secrets by Jane Green

Jane Green delivers her second blockbuster novel of 2015, a story of one woman struggling to right the wrongs of her past, with even more complications in the present.

Enter on or before August 1st. US addresses only.

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© 2015 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.
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July 25, 2015 / Leslie

Likers, Haters, and Manipulators at the Bottom of the Web – A Book Review

ReadingTheCommentsReading the Comments
by Joseph M Reagle

Genre: Non-Fiction
Publisher: MIT Press | April 2015
Format: Hardcover | 225 pages
Rating: 4 of 5

From the Publisher

Online comment can be informative or misleading, entertaining or maddening. Haters and manipulators often seem to monopolize the conversation. Some comments are off-topic, or even topic-less. In this book, Joseph Reagle urges us to read the comments. Conversations “on the bottom half of the Internet,” he argues, can tell us much about human nature and social behavior.

 

My Thoughts

More than just about comments, this book explores online discussion in many different forms. From the beginning of the internet and the early days of flame wars on usenet, to today’s many, many ways to express our opinions – blog comments, product reviews, Facebook posts, tweets, etc – commentary on the web affects us every time we log on.

Because I’m an avid reviewer, not only of books but also products, I was quite interested in what the author had to say about us. He researched various sites such as Amazon, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List (does pay for membership system make it more reliable?), and Yelp to name a few, and discusses his findings in several chapters. He also touched on Goodreads, the book review site, and talked about the authors vs reviewers war a few years ago–I’m sure many of the book bloggers remember that.

I can’t say I was shocked to find out there are fake reviews, but I was surprised at the lengths people will go to to buy five-star reviews and manipulate the ratings. There is an entire industry set up around it. And there is good reason why. Research has found that people do read reviews and act on them, and the earlier reviews with more likes tend to have more weight.

The book is written in a text-book format (as I would expect from MIT Press, so no surprises there). Despite the style, I found it very interesting, informative, and able to hold my attention. I mention this because many books today aimed at a more general audience provide graphs, illustrations, sidebars, and fun facts and figures to keep the reader’s attention from wandering. The author does sprinkle a few of his favorite cartoons, many from xkcd.com, among the text in each chapter. But mostly this is a more scholarly book, although still very readable and occasionally even humorous.

At about 200 pages long, the book packs in a lot of well-researched and annotated information. It is sure to appeal to those who like detail, facts and figures, but still contains a lot of good information for general reader.

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Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
© 2015 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.
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July 24, 2015 / Leslie

Friday Book Feature and Giveaway

Summer Secrets by Jane Green

I’m sure many of you have a summer reading list. Mine is an informal pile of books on my desk calling out to me to “choose me next”. And that brings me to today’s feature, Jane Green’s newest release, Summer Secrets, the next book on my summer must-read list.

Courtesy of the publicist, I have one copy to give away to a reader with a US mailing address.

About the Book

SummerSecretsSummer Secrets

by Jane Green
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: June 2015
Format: Hardcopy | 308 pages

Jane Green delivers her second blockbuster novel of 2015, a story of one woman struggling to right the wrongs of her past, with even more complications in the present.

June, 1998: At twenty seven, Catherine Coombs, also known as Cat, is struggling. She lives in London, works as a journalist, and parties hard. Her lunchtimes consist of several glasses of wine at the bar downstairs in the office, her evenings much the same, swigging the free booze and eating the free food at a different launch or party every night. When she discovers the identity of the father she never knew she had, it sends her into a spiral. She makes mistakes that cost her the budding friendship of the only women who have ever welcomed her. And nothing is ever the same after that.

June, 2014: Cat has finally come to the end of herself. She no longer drinks. She wants to make amends to those she has hurt. Her quest takes her to Nantucket, to the gorgeous summer community where the women she once called family still live. Despite her sins, will they welcome her again? What Cat doesn’t realize is that these women, her real father’s daughters, have secrets of their own. As the past collides with the present, Cat must confront the darkest things in her own life and uncover the depths of someone’s need for revenge.

About the Author

Jane Green is the author of seventeen novels, including fifteen New York Times Bestsellers, including her latest, Summer Secrets. Previous novels have included The Beach House, Second Chance, Jemima J, and Tempting Fate.

A former feature writer for the Daily Express in the UK, Green took a leap of faith when she left in 1996 to freelance and work on a novel. Seven months later, there was a bidding war for her first book, Straight Talking, the saga of a single career girl looking for the right man. The novel was an immediate top-ten bestseller in England, and Green was an overnight success.

More Information

Twitter | Pinterest | Website | Facebook | Goodreads

Giveaway Information

Courtesy of the publicist, I have one copy of Summer Secrets to give away to a reader with a US mailing address. To enter, fill out the form below on or before midnight, Saturday, August 1st. The winner will be chosen in a random drawing and notified by email.

 

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© 2015 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.
Source: Giveaway provided by Tandem Literary.
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