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November 21, 2014 / Leslie

Books for Young Readers

The Cat, the Dog, Little Red, the Exploding Eggs, the Wolf, and Grandma

by Diane Fox, Illustrations by Christyan FoxCatDogLittleRed

Publisher: Scholastic Press | August 2014
Age: Preschool – 3rd Grade | 32 pages

A comical twist on “Little Red Riding Hood” told by Cat and Dog!

Cat is telling a story… or tries to anyway. Dog keeps interrupting Cat with questions. He’s not really paying attention and keeps adding his own comments and interpretation of the story. In the end, Dog is a little confused:

So let’s see if I have this right. The Red Hood is on her way to help an old lady when she meets the Wolfman. He has an evil plan. He likes to dress up in girls’ clothes and eat people. He and Red have a big battle and Red’s father puts an end to Wolfie.

Children who are familiar with the Little Red Riding Hood will be laughing at the absurdity of taking a fairy tale literally as I was. But even those who don’t know the tale, or are too young to understand the misinterpretation, will enjoy the interaction between Cat and Dog.

This is not a picture book but it does have cute comic book style sketches on every page along with the text, which is also in comic style above the head of the character that is speaking. There is also a little lesson in the story about not interrupting and paying attention to others and delivered with a fun dose of humor. And maybe a lesson there for adults too!

Rating: 3½ stars
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Source: Review copy provided by the publisher through AmazonVine.
© 2014 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.
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November 20, 2014 / Leslie

Review: The Pocket Wife by Susan Crawford

Pocket WifeThe Pocket Wife
by Susan Crawford

Genre: Mystery
Publisher: William Morrow
Publish Date: March 17, 2015
Format: Hardcover | 384 pages
Rating: 4 of 5

From the Publisher

Dana Catrell is horrified to learn she was the last person to see her neighbor Celia alive. Suffering from a devastating mania, a result of her bipolar disorder, Dana finds that there are troubling holes in her memory, including what happened on the afternoon of Celia’s death. As evidence starts to point in her direction, Dana struggles to clear her name before her own demons win out.

About the Story

Dana’s neighbor and friend, Celia, has been murdered and Dana is a suspect. But Dana, who suffers from bipolar disorder, hasn’t been taking her medicine, resulting in manic episodes. And there are so many things now that she can’t remember.

For Dana, the day Celia died is all a blur. Could she have killed Celia? They had too much to drink that afternoon, and then there was an argument, and that photo – did Celia really show her a photo of her husband with another woman? And now the threatening notes – or did she write them to herself? Is someone lurking outside her house, watching her? Does someone want to kill her too?

My Thoughts

Using multiple points of view and written in the third person, the reader experiences both the confusion and jumbled thoughts of Dana, a very unreliable narrator, and Jack Moss, the level-headed detective assigned to solve the case. There are plenty of potential suspects and interesting characters including Dana’s unlikable and uncaring husband, a neighbor obsessed with his volunteer job as the head of the neighborhood watch, and even Celia’s own husband, to keep the pages turning on this fast-paced, tightly-framed mystery.

Multiple plot twists divert suspicion among the characters and keep the reader on edge. And although new information is routinely uncovered, we keep coming back to Dana in her manic, frenzied and confused state as she tries to remember what happened and make things clear in her clouded mind. The ending went in a direction I wasn’t expecting, but it was an acceptable twist in an enjoyable debut novel.

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Source: Review copy provided by the publisher and Amazon Vine.
© 2014 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.
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November 19, 2014 / Leslie

Wordless Wednesday: Gone for the Winter

Chipmunk

Almost wordless: A few weeks ago these little guys were all over my yard gathering up spilled seed under the bird feeders. Now it’s a frozen wasteland outside and the chipmunks are hibernating under my deck.

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More Wordless Wednesday. © 2014 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.
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November 18, 2014 / Leslie

Audiobook: The Children Act by Ian McEwan

A Rapid Review

ChildrenActThe Children Act by Ian McEwan

Publisher: Recorded Books | September 2014
Format: Audio CD | 6¼ hours | Rating: 3 stars
Audio Listening Level: Intermediate

In The Children Act, 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).

This character driven novel centers around two events – High Court judge Fiona’s crumbling marriage and a court decision she must make on the fate of a minor child who needs a life-saving blood transfusion against the wishes of his family. While this sounded like a story I would be interested in, ultimately I found it difficult to relate to, or care about, most of the characters. Try as I might, I could not get involved in this story.

While thoughtful and well-written, I found the story too slow and introspective, and I kept losing focus. Fiona spent much time agonizing over decisions made and not made in both her personal and professional life. This was a short novel so I pushed through it hoping the pace would pick up or I would become more engaged, but that didn’t happen until almost the end. The quality of the writing and the fact that in the final minutes the story redeemed itself, made the book worth finishing; but overall it was not a good fit or a satisfying listen for me.

There are many reviews praising this novel, and I’m sure others will enjoy it much more than I did.

Audio production:
The narrative was expertly read by Lindsay Duncan with the story unfolding in a linear time frame. This should have made it easy for me to follow, but instead I often found myself distracted and needed to go back a few minutes and listen again. This was partly due to the slow, at times cerebral, pacing of the story and partly to my own lack of interest in the characters. Listeners who engage in the story, however, should enjoy the audio.

An Under My Apple Tree Rapid Review
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Source: Review copy provided by the publisher through LibraryThing.
© 2014 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.
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November 17, 2014 / Leslie

Mailbox Monday ~ November 17th

HarvestMailbox-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.


 
Today is a milestone of sorts. Under My Apple Tree began in 2006 with occasional posts and no specific focus – and very few readers. In November 2009 I gave it a purpose – Mostly books and a bit of nature, birds, flowers, food and photography. It was five years ago today that I deleted all the old stuff and started anew.

There have been many changes over the past five years as the blog has developed and grown. But none of this would have been possible without the wonderful community of people who read and comment here everyday. Thanks to everyone who stops by – you are all appreciated.

And now on to the new books…

New Arrivals

Nov17Books_183759

When Books Went to War by Molly Guptill Manning from AmazonVine.
In 1943, the War Department and the publishing industry stepped in with an extraordinary program: 120 million small, lightweight paperbacks, for troops to carry in their pockets and their rucksacks, in every theater of war.

American Spirit by James Rodewald from AmazonVine.
Craft distilling has exploded in the United States in recent years, and this in-depth look at the intrepid characters at the forefront of the liquid revolution will have you rethinking what’s in your liquor cabinet—and possibly your career choice.

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray from AmazonVine.
A Thousand Pieces of You explores a reality where we witness the countless other lives we might lead in an amazingly intricate multiverse, and ask whether, amid infinite possibilities, one love can endure.

The Marauders by Tom Cooper from Crown.
When the BP oil spill devastates the Gulf coast, those who made a living by shrimping find themselves in dire straits. For the oddballs and lowlifes who inhabit the sleepy, working class bayou town of Jeannette, these desperate circumstances serve as the catalyst that pushes them to enact whatever risky schemes they can dream up to reverse their fortunes.
 

New Giveaway

GenesisCodeGenesis Code by Jamie Metzl:

A futuristic thriller that explores the national security implications of the human genetics revolution set in the context of a future US-China rivalry.

Click the image for details.

To enter, fill out the form. US addresses only by midnight 11/22.
 

How was your week?

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© 2014 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.
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November 15, 2014 / Leslie

Audiobook: Big Driver by Stephen King

A Rapid Review

BigDriverBig Driver by Stephen King

Publisher: Simon & Schuster | October 2014
Format: Audio Download | 4½ hours | Rating: 5 stars
Audio Listening Level: Easy

Mystery writer Tess has been supplementing her writing income for years by doing speaking engagements with no problems. But following a last-minute invitation to a book club 60 miles away, she takes a shortcut home with dire consequences.

When Tess’s car gets a flat tire, she accepts help from a man who instead attacks and rapes her, leaving her for dead. Yes, we see this coming, but she’s stuck on a lonely road and in an area with no cell phone service, leaving her few choices.

Big Driver is a classic justice and revenge story with just the right amount of scary to give me the creeps and keep me looking over my shoulder. Being female, this was a horror story for me, but a delightfully satisfying one as Tess saves herself and exacts revenge on her attacker. Who hasn’t taken that leap of faith and then was very thankful when things turned out OK? But in Tess’s case, it didn’t.

If the plot sounds vaguely familiar to some, that’s because this novella was originally published as part of the 2010 anthology, Full Dark, No Stars, and re-released as a tie-in to the recently aired Lifetime movie.

Audio production:
The story was written in the first person and narrated by Jessica Hecht. She uses a wide range of emotion for Tess – at first gentle and timid and eventually the determined and forceful personality Tess becomes. She picked up the pacing as the tension of the story increased, making this an enjoyable, if not somewhat creepy, four and a half hours.

An Under My Apple Tree Rapid Review
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Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
© 2014 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.
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November 12, 2014 / Leslie

Wordless Wednesday: Farewell Autumn

Norway Maple

Almost wordless: My maple tree several weeks ago in the evening light before the Halloween Day storm blew all the leaves away. Now winter has made an early arrival.

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More Wordless Wednesday. © 2014 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.
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