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March 31, 2015 / Leslie

Books for Young Readers

Ella by Mallory Kasdan, Illustrations by Marcos Chin

Ella

Publisher: Viking Books | January 2015
Age: 5 – 8 years | 56 pages

This is ELLA. She is six years old. She lives at the Local Hotel. She has a nanny called Manny. He has tattoos for sleeves and he might go in with some guys to buy a grilled cheese truck. Sometimes Ella weaves purses out of Ziploc bags and reclaimed twine. (She is artsy of course.) She has a dog named Stacie and a fish named Rasta and a scooter which is important for getting everywhere she needs to be. Altogether she has been to 62 events including that Hillary Clinton fundraiser. She is NEVER bored. If Ella and Kay Thompson’s Eloise got together for a play date, they would have a very good time indeed.

A charming homage to Eloise, and a delightful update on the classic.

Instead of living at The Plaza, Ella lives at The Local Hotel, and, like Eloise, she is a precocious child who knows everything about the hotel and the people in it; a capable, competent little girl whose upscale, successful mom is often traveling or away from home.

The dialog and humor feel directed towards adults, who will smile when recalling Eloise from their youth, while young children will enjoy the illustrations and the modern-day theme. Much of what happens during Ella’s adventures can be used to spur conversation and lessons with the young readers.

Rating: 4 stars
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Source: Review copy provided by the Tandem Literary.
© 2015 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.
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March 30, 2015 / Leslie

Mailbox Monday ~ March 30th

WelcomeBirdhouseMailbox-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.


Here’s what arrived last week…

New Arrivals

BooksMar30_194538

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson from Little Brown.
The stunning companion to Kate Atkinson’s #1 bestseller Life After Life. Her new novel tells the story of Ursula Todd’s beloved younger brother Teddy–would-be poet, RAF bomber pilot, husband, and father–as he navigates the perils and progress of the 20th century.

Glamourpuss by Sarah Weeks from AmazonVine.
A sassy, delicious picture-book gem from award-winning author Sarah Weeks and Caldecott Medal winner David Small.

Audio Downloads

HausfrauSoThatHappened

Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum from Random House Audio,
A striking debut novel of marriage, fidelity, sex, and morality, featuring a fascinating heroine who struggles to live a life with meaning—“a modern-day Anna Karenina tale.

So That Happened: My Unexpected Life in Hollywood by Jon Cryer from Penguin Audio.
If it can happen in show business, it’s happened to Jon Cryer. Now he’s opening up for the first time and sharing his behind-the-scenes stories in a warmly endearing, sharply observed, and frankly funny look at life in Hollywood.

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Still time to enter the giveaway for…

TuskThe Tusk That Did the Damage by Tania James

A tour de force set in South India that plumbs the moral complexities of the ivory trade through the eyes of a poacher, a documentary filmmaker, and, in a feat of audacious imagination, an infamous elephant known as the Gravedigger.

Enter on or before April 8th. US and Canada only.

How was your week?

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© 2015 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.
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March 28, 2015 / Leslie

Winner: The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson

Thank you to everyone that stopped by to enter the giveaway last week for a copy of The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson.

 

Winner: Liene

TheBookseller
 
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March 27, 2015 / Leslie

The Tusk That Did the Damage {Review & Giveaway}

TuskThe Tusk That Did the Damage
by Tania James
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Knopf | March 2015
Format: Paperback | 240 pages
Rating: 4 of 5

About the Book

“A tour de force set in South India that plumbs the moral complexities of the ivory trade through the eyes of a poacher, a documentary filmmaker, and, in a feat of audacious imagination, an infamous elephant known as the Gravedigger.”

The main character of the novel is a rogue elephant known as Gravedigger—so named because he buries his victims after he kills them. Gravedigger was barely a few years old when he was orphaned by poachers who attacked his clan and killed his mother. He was captured and eventually sold as labor to the lumber trade, then again as transportation, and again as ‘entertainment’ in a traveling show. But he has now escaped; he cannot forget the years of mistreatment and is seeking revenge on humans.

The story is told from three alternating points of view. In addition to the elephant, there is a reluctant poacher whose cousin was killed by Gravedigger, and two students filming a documentary about a veterinarian who works to reunite baby elephants with their mothers, despite the fact that it is thought elephants will reject their young after contact with humans.

More Thoughts

This is one of the more original books I’ve read in the past year.

The story slowly builds as the reader begins to empathize with the characters and each of their situations. Regular readers here will find it no surprise that almost immediately I sympathized with the elephant and his various plights, and that this was my favorite section of the narrative. The other two points of view were not as compelling which, for me, made the story feel a little choppy. However, that did not hinder me from the enjoying the book.

Although this is a short novel, it touches on some heavy subjects and controversial topics—the ivory trade, poaching, corruption, mistreatment of animals—and the different points of view are important to the story when taken in its entirety. The three storylines do eventually merge into an ending that will not make everyone happy, but will resonate with the reader for quite a while; overall, a memorable novel.

TaniaJamesAbout the Author

Tania James is the author of the novel Atlas of Unknowns and the short-story collection Aerogrammes. Her fiction has appeared in Boston Review, Granta, Guernica, One Story, A Public Space, and The Kenyon Review. She lives in Washington, DC.

For More Info: Amazon | Goodreads | Author’s Webpage

Giveaway – US and Canada

Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy of The Tusk That Did the Damage 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 April 8th. 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.

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For a list of tour stops click HERE.

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Source: Review copy from TLC Book Tours
© 2015 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.
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March 25, 2015 / Leslie

Wordless Wednesday: Mister Bluebird

Bluebird

Almost wordless: The Bluebirds are already claiming territory for nesting season. This little guy was perched near one of the nestboxes at Cantigny Golf Course.

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More Wordless Wednesday. © 2015 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.
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March 23, 2015 / Leslie

Mailbox Monday ~ March 23rd

WelcomeBirdhouseMailbox-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.


 
A few new arrivals this week… along with yet another few inches of snow. Gardening, flowers, and veggies feel like they are still a million miles away. The robins and cardinals are singing their mating songs despite the nasty weather, so there is hope for spring arriving sometime soon.

New Arrivals

BooksMar23_175255

Genuine Sweet by Faith Harkey from AmazonVine.
Twelve-year-old Genuine Sweet, of tiny Sass, Georgia, can grant any wish . . . except her own. It’s a peculiar predicament, considering how much she could use a few wishes. New friends help Genuine give her family a boost–and then she takes her gift global!

Miramont’s Ghost by Elizabeth Hall, a win from 100 Pages A Day.
Miramont Castle, built in 1897 and mysteriously abandoned three years later, is home to many secrets. Only one person knows the truth: Adrienne Beauvier, granddaughter of the Comte de Challembelles and cousin to the man who built the castle.

Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own by Kate Bolick from Crown Books.
“Whom to marry, and when will it happen—these two questions define every woman’s existence.” So begins Spinster, a revelatory and slyly erudite look at the pleasures and possibilities of remaining single. Using her own experiences as a starting point, journalist and cultural critic Kate Bolick invites us into her carefully considered, passionately lived life, weaving together the past and present to examine why­ she—along with over 100 million American women, whose ranks keep growing—remains unmarried.

TheBooksellerStill time to enter the giveaway for The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson…

A provocative and hauntingly powerful debut novel reminiscent of Sliding Doors, The Bookseller follows a woman in the 1960s who must reconcile her reality with the tantalizing alternate world of her dreams.

Enter on or before March 25th. Continental US addresses only.

How was your week?

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© 2015 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.
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March 20, 2015 / Leslie

Review – Audiobook: Mort[e] by Robert Repino

MorteMort[e]
by Robert Repino
Narrated by Bronson Pinchot

Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Blackstone Audio | January 2015
Format: Audio Download, 11 hours
Audio Listening Level: Intermediate

From the Publisher

The war with no name has begun; its goal, human extinction. The instigator of this war is the Colony, a race of intelligent ants who, for thousands of years, have been silently building an army that will forever eradicate the destructive, oppressive humans. Under the Colony’s watchful eye, this utopia will be free of the humans penchant for violence, exploitation, and religious superstition. The final step in the Colony’s war effort is the transformation of surface animals into high-functioning two-legged beings who will rise up and kill their masters.

About the Story

The book began as an engaging science fiction novel: animals are transformed by a hormone and become self-aware, rising up against oppressive masters; unfortunately we hear little from beloved pets that are treated as family members by their ‘owners’, and only from the ‘slave’ animals. The uprising was instigated by the ants and the other animals blindly follow along. There was a mysterious weapon, or maybe it’s a virus, or maybe it’s something else. In the end, we do find out, but along the way the plot got a little confusing, and sadly I struggled to stay involved.

Thoughts

I was hoping this would be like Watership Down, but it was not. The book is described as “A genre-busting postapocalyptic first novel, a page-turning adventure channeling “Animal Farm” as imagined by Cormac McCarthy”; and true, there are similarities. Animals are no longer acting like animals, but rather as angry humans. But Animal Farm was teaching a lesson, something I struggled to find in this novel.

The story is told through the eyes of Mort[e], a former house cat and now a fighter in the war against humans. Morte is also searching for a dog named Sheba who ran off before she could become self-aware. Everyone tells him she is most likely dead, but he persists in his quest to find her. I found that part of the story, and Mort’s compassion and concern for Sheba, most engaging.

One of the things I didn’t like was the violence. I don’t mind a little of it, after all I do enjoy Stephen King horror novels, but I wasn’t expecting such graphic detail—or maybe because it was animals and former pets. Another was the religious symbolism which was prevalent throughout the second half of the story.

The book did have an interesting premise and lots of action, and I really wanted to like it, but in the end it fell a little flat for me.

Audio production

The book was read by Bronson Pinchot who brought the characters to life. Mort was not that well-developed, and yet the narration made him seem real and more complex. The audio was nicely performed; my problem was following the plot.

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Source: Review copy
© 2015 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.
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