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October 23, 2014 / Leslie

Review – Audiobook: Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little

DearDaughterDear Daughter by Elizabeth Little

Publisher: Penguin Audio | July 2014
Format: Audio Download | 10 hours | Rating: 4 stars
Audio Listening Level: Intermediate

Former “It Girl” Janie Jenkins is acerbic, whip smart, and fresh out of prison. Ten years ago, at the height of her glamour and fame, she was incarcerated for the murder of her mother, a philanthropist best known for her string of rich husbands. Now, released on a technicality, Janie chops off her trademark hair, determined to chase down the one lead she has about her mother’s killer. The only problem? Janie doesn’t know if she’s the one she’s looking for.

Janie was one of the bitchy popular girls, a ‘mean’ girl, and a mostly unlikable character. She was unlikable to me because she was completely unrelatable, but this was one of those books where I didn’t need to like the main character to get swept up in the story.

The writing is crisp and sharp, the dialog often witty, and except for a brief period in the middle of the novel – when Janie first arrives in Adeline, a small, remote town that Janie has reason to believe holds the answer to the mystery of who killed her mother – the story moves along at a quick pace. There were plenty of suspects, motivation and twists to keep me guessing until the unexpected ending.

Audio production:
The audio production was excellent and added another level of entertainment to the book. The story, written in the first person, was narrated by Bonnie Dennison. Interspersed between the chapters were snippets of TMZ Reports, Celebrity News, CNN Breaking News, blog postings, diary entries, etc., which were read in a ‘news media’ voice by Tony Daniels. At one point we are introduced to a lot of characters, and that will require paying a little extra attention (and maybe a rewind or two), but once they are established, it is a fun and easy listen.

An Under My Apple Tree Rapid Review
Source: Review copy provided by Penguin Audio.
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October 22, 2014 / Leslie

Wordless Wednesday: Wild Aster

Wild Aster

Almost wordless: The Wild Aster provided the last burst of color on the prairie with waves of purple flowers. This was taken a few weeks ago. We have since had a light freeze and many of the blooms have dried up now.

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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. Read more…

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

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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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