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October 20, 2014 / Leslie

Mailbox Monday ~ October 20th

CardinalMailboxAutumnWelcome 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 received one audiobook in the mail and two audio downloads last week. I have a lot of yard and garden cleanup to be done this coming week and piles of leaves to rake, so I will get in a lot of audio reading time with my mp3 player.

My Norway Maple tree is producing red leaves this fall. I’ve lived with this tree for 25 years and this is the first time it’s ever turned red – in the past it’s always been golden or yellow. Perhaps it’s the crazy weather, but there are several branches of deep red. They are too pretty to chop up and turn into mulch.

New Arrivals


Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult from Random House Audio.
For more than a decade, Jenna Metcalf has never stopped thinking about her mother, Alice, who mysteriously disappeared in the wake of a tragic accident. Refusing to believe that she would be abandoned as a young child, Jenna searches for her mother regularly online and pores over the pages of Alice’s old journals. A scientist who studied grief among elephants, Alice wrote mostly of her research among the animals she loved, yet Jenna hopes the entries will provide a clue to her mother’s whereabouts.


Audiobook Downloads


From Penguin Audio

The Peripheral by William Gibson
A thrilling new novel about two intertwined futures, from the bestselling author of Neuromancer.

The Perfect Kill by Robert B. Baer
Baer pulls back the curtain on the underbelly of world politics and the quiet murderers who operate on the fringe of our society.

How was your week?

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October 18, 2014 / Leslie

Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon

readathon2014Let the Reading Begin

Many of you are familiar with the Readathon, a twice yearly event which begins today at midnight GMT and continues for 24 hours.

Hundreds of readers are participating and posting on their blogs, twitter, Facebook and Goodreads. There are lots of fun events, mini-challenges and prizes throughout the day and night.

It’s 7 a.m. here in Chicagoland and I’m still waking up, having my coffee and reading through some of the opening posts. This is be my sixth Readathon and I have yet to make a full 24 hours, but it’s always been a great time.

I will be updating this post throughout the Readathon.

Rather than fill my feed with posts that a some of you may not be interested in, I will use this one post for my updates and mini-challenges throughout the day and on twitter at #readathon.


Hour 1 – Introduction

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

I live in the USA in a suburb of Chicago.

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix. This is one of my RIP IX picks and it’s a perfect choice for the Readathon: Only 240 pages, large print, and occasional pages taken up by drawings.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

I’m usually pretty healthy with my snacks and nibble on fruits, veggies, cheese and cereal, but I also have stashed away a bag of Chicago Mix popcorn (a combo of cheese and caramel corn), a Chunky bar and my one remaining Godiva chocolate.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

I love birds! If you’ve been here before, you already know this from my Saturday Weekend Birding posts on birds and nature.

I’ve been blogging for about 10 years and have had a book blog since 2009. I’m an eclectic reader, gardener, bird watcher, amateur photographer and all around nature lover.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today?

Same goal as last year: Read More! I get easily distracted by all the challenges and visiting other blogs.


Hour 2 – Mini Challenge: Coffee or Tea?

Take a picture of your preferred beverage and share on your platform of choice.
[Hosted by Fig and Thistle.]

Coffee wins! I switch to tea in the afternoon and evenings, but for breakfast, coffee rules. #TeamTrollope



Hour 3 – Mini Challenge: Shelfie

Hour3-ReadathonTake a picture aka Shelfie of your shelves.

[Hosted by the book monsters]

I have bookshelves scattered around the house and most of them are neat and organized. This one is in my office and yeah, it exploded!


Hour 4 – Mini Challenge: Quotable Quotes

Comment with a quotation from one of today’s reads.
[Hosted by Bibliophibian Inc.]

This morning I have been listening to You by Carolyn Kepnes. Another one of my RIP IX books it’s a creepy, twisted story narrated by a stalker. The guy works at a bookstore and goes into an hysterical rant about the readers of the new Stephen King book, Doctor Sleep, on release day. It goes on for a few minutes but here’s a sample:

6:08 and the next dude in line is buying the new King and The Shining just to be bold — he calls The Shining a prequel and I want to cut his face — and what an awful world it is out there, Beck. What a miracle that you came in here, so happy, when most of the people who come in are so miserable, everyone except for you and me and Curtis, who holds the door for Mr. Shining and starts with his bullshit.


Hour 5 – Mini Challenge: Book Staging

Stage your book with either something that is on the cover or with something that goes with the book. [Hosted by On the Wings of Books]

For those unfamiliar with Horrorstör, the book design is a parody of an IKEA Catalog.



Hour 8 – Mini Challenge: Show It Off

Take a picture of a book/books from your library you really want to show off – just whatever is special to you! [Hosted by deadbookdarling]

Charlotte’s Web, my first real book. I received it as a birthday gift many years ago. It is now yellowed with age but still has a prominent position on my bookshelf.



Midday Snack



Hour 12 – Mini Challenge: Books and Leaves

Choose some picture books (for kids or adults) from your own home and take a picture.
[Hosted by Stacy's Books]



Hour 16 – Mini Challenge: Pet Parade

Share a photo of your pet. [Hosted by Estella's Revenge]

This is Charlie the Lovebird. She’s my reading and blogging buddy. Usually she sits on my shoulder but here she decided to take a nap on the keyboard.



Hour 21

That’s it for me. Time for a few hours sleep and I’ll be back in the morning with a wrap-up post.


End of Event Meme

Which hour was most daunting for you?
Sometime around 11pm – about Hour 17 – I dozed off. The couch was a bit too comfy. A cup of black tea and a croissant provided some energy and I made it to Hour 21.

Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
I don’t think I could generalize because everyone’s tastes are so different. I choose creepy books from my RIP IX pile and no trouble staying engaged. I never read as much as I would like because I enjoy spending time on the challenges!

Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
Nope, nothing I can think of right now. The organizers and everyone involved did a fantastic job.

What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
The mini-challenges were fun and creative. Although I didn’t get to spend time on the Goodreads group – I kept forgetting it was there – I liked having multiple places readers could gather and post.

How many books did you read?
Three. I finished one and am still reading the other two.

What were the names of the books you read?
You by Carolyn Kepnes
Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix
In the Blood by Lisa Unger

Which book did you enjoy most?
I liked all of them but if I must choose – Horrorstör.

Which did you enjoy least?
I liked all of them.

If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
I wasn’t a cheerleader but I do want to send thanks to the awesome folks that did stop by and cheer me on.

How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
This was my sixth Read-a-thon. I would definitely participate again as a reader and possibly as a mini-challenge host.

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October 17, 2014 / Leslie

Easy Gourmet: Awesome Recipes Anyone Can Cook

Easy GourmetEasy Gourmet by Stephanie Le

Publisher: Page Street Publishing | Sept 2014
Format: Paperback | 240 pages
Rating: 5 of 5

About the Book:

Stephanie Le, creator of I am a Food Blog, has written her first cookbook, Easy Gourmet. Her gorgeous mouth-watering photography, strong friendly voice, and incredibly delicious recipes come together in this easy-to-follow cookbook that belongs in every kitchen.

Beautifully depicting the foods we all want to be cooking and eating, Easy Gourmet is full of updated modern twists on your favorite classics like Chicken and Waffles, Maple-Glazed Duck, Miso Cod and Quinoa, and Sriracha Hot Wings.

My Thoughts:

Easy Gourmet is designed with the busy cook in mind with simple, yet unique, dishes. I admit, I was attracted by the word ‘easy’ in the title because the word ‘gourmet’ usually scares me away. But here I found recipes that even new cooks will appreciate. The easy-to-follow directions are accompanied by full-page, mouth-watering photos. The book is very functional with a binding created so that the pages lie flat – an important feature that way too many cookbook publishers fail to consider.

Each recipe is complete on one page and includes a description, a little background info from the author, a list of ingredients with measurements in english and metric, and step-by-step instructions. The opposite page contains a beautiful, full-color photo of the finished dish.

One caveat: A little planning ahead may be necessary. Not all of the required ingredients will be on your pantry shelf; however, I don’t expect to find them there if I am making a gourmet-style dish. Most, though, should be easy to find in major shopping markets. For example, the French Onion Grilled Cheese calls for Gruyère cheese which is not currently in my refrigerator but I know my grocery store stocks it. Many of the dishes call for fresh herbs, micro greens or Arugula which will need to be obtained shortly before preparing the dish..

The recipes are grouped into sections: Breakfast, Pasta & Rice, Meats, Seafood, Vegetables, Soups & Stews, Sandwiches, Snacks, and Dessert. The book also includes a short introduction by the author plus an alphabetical index in the back.

A Quick Peek Inside:

French Onion Grilled Cheese

This take on grilled cheese sounds delicious and I will be making it as soon as I pick up some Gruyère Cheese.
French Onion Grilled Cheese

Rosemary Potatoes

Rosemary Potatoes are one of my favorite side dishes. I grow Rosemary and often add it to roasted potatoes, but I can never get them crispy like in a restaurant. Now I know what I was doing wrong: boil them first and rough up the edges before roasting. Simple and effective.

Rosemary Potatoes

A Look Inside

For those who want to get an additional peek at the book before buying, there is a nice selection of breakfast recipe samples, photos and a look at the entire index of recipes using the Look Inside feature. The Carrot Cake Pancakes sound fantastic and will be breakfast in my house very soon.

All-in-all, this is a worthy addition to my cookbook shelf.


wkendcookingThis post is linked to Weekend Cooking, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.
Participation is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs.

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher and AmazonVine.
© 2014 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.
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October 15, 2014 / Leslie

Wordless Wednesday: Shaggy Ink Cap Mushrooms

Shaggy Inkcap Mushrooms

Almost wordless: Shaggy Ink Caps were popping out from beneath what I believe is a patch of wild blackberry shoots in the park where I watch birds. These are edible mushrooms, but I forage only with my camera!

Shaggy Inkcap Mushroom

More Wordless Wednesday. © 2014 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.
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October 14, 2014 / Leslie

Review & Giveaway: A Brief Moment of Weightlessness

BriefMomentA Brief Moment of Weightlessness
Stories by Victoria Fish

Genre: Short Stories, Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Mayapple Press | June 2014
Format: Paperback | 132 pages
Rating: 4½ of 5

About the Book:

A Brief Moment of Weightlessness is a collection of short stories that illuminate the beauty and extraordinariness of “ordinary” lives. Each explores the human desire for connectedness and grace.

The stories range from large upheavals to small moments. These illuminating, heartbreaking, poignant, astute stories take on serious issues of death/dying, injury, infidelity, aftermath of war, estrangement and more, but without a sense of gloom that could overwhelm them.

My Thoughts:

A well-crafted short story can have a strong impact on the reader; A Brief Moment of Weightlessness is that type of collection. It is a slim volume of only 130 pages, but each of these eleven stories offers a powerful glimpse into a slice of life of ordinary people.

I enjoyed all of the stories, but one of my favorites was Unleashed.

In Unleashed, Alison, a busy young mother pays a visit to a memory care nursing home as part of a ‘Pet Visiting Program’ with her young son, Thomas, and their dog. As the residents of the home have trouble remembering the details of their lives, or even what day it is, we see in contrast Alison’s preoccupation with her own worries and forgetfulness.

Did I take the chicken out to defrost?
Did I leave the house unlocked for the cleaning lady?
How old was Thomas when he took his first step?

Almost in a panic, Alison then imagines her own son struggling as an old man, 80 years from now. When one of the residents insists Alison is her niece, she decides not to argue with the woman’s version of reality.

What these stories all have in common is their ability to present serious topics in a thoughtful and genuine manner with rich, elegant prose. It was easy to empathize with many of these characters and to feel emotionally connected, something that doesn’t always happen with short stories. Although each story is complete, in the end they will leave the reader wanting more.

About the Author:

In addition to writing short stories, Victoria Fish is pursuing her Masters of Social Work. Her stories have appeared in numerous literary magazines, including Hunger Mountain, Slow Trains, Wild River Review, and Literary Mama. She lives with her husband and three boys in the hills of Vermont. A Brief Moment of Weightlessness is her first book.

For More Info: Publisher | Amazon | Goodreads | Webpage

Giveaway – US and Canada

Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy of A Brief Moment of Weightlessness to give away to a reader with a mailing address in the US or Canada. To enter, fill out the form below on or before October 25th. For an extra entry tweet or blog the giveaway and include the link. I will draw a random winner who will be contacted by email and have 48 hours to respond.


For a list of tour stops click HERE.

Source: Review copy from TLC Book Tours
© 2014 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.
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October 13, 2014 / Leslie

Mailbox Monday ~ October 13th

FloralFallMailbox-smlWelcome 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.


Last week I received mostly audiobooks, which is good since lately I’ve been doing much more listening than reading. I’ve been spending a lot of time working at the computer the past few weeks and my eyes are, apparently, demanding a rest. When I do sit down to read in the evening, I often fall asleep!

I planted a little pumpkin patch at the edge of my garden this summer using the seeds from one of last year’s gourds. I got lots of vines and flowers, but only three little pumpkins.

New Arrivals


The Children Act by Ian McEwan from Recorded Books and LibraryThing.
High Court judge Fiona Maye is buffeted by traumas both work related (religious beliefs stand between a boy and a life-saving blood transfusion) and domestic (Fiona’s husband leaves her after asking for an open marriage).

Hug Machine by Scott Campbell from Simon & Schuster and AmazonVine.
Who have YOU hugged today? Open your arms to this delightfully tender, goofy, and sweet tale.

Audiobook Downloads


From Simon & Schuster Audio

You by Caroline Kepnes.
How far would you go for the perfect love? A young man’s dark obsession with an enigmatic, gorgeous writer leads to murderous consequences in this erotic psychological thriller.

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld.
The Afterworld is a place between the living and the dead and as Lizzie drifts between our world and that of the Afterworld, she discovers that many unsolved – and terrifying – stories need to be reconciled…

Big Driver by Stephen King.
Stephen King’s haunting story about an author of a series of mystery novels who tries to reconcile her old life with her life after a horrific attack and the one thing that can save her: Revenge.

How was your week?

© 2014 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.
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October 12, 2014 / Leslie

Giveaway Winner: Web of Betrayal by Clare F. Price

Thank you to everyone that stopped by to enter the giveaways last week.


Winner: Vicki

Web of Betrayal by Clare Price

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