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August 14, 2014 / Leslie

Review – Audiobook: Life Drawing by Robin Black

A Rapid Review

Life DrawingLife Drawing by Robin Black

Publisher: Random House Audio | July, 2014
Format: Audio Download | 10 hours | Rating: 5 stars
Audio Listening Level: Intermediate

In Life Drawing, her gorgeously written first novel, Robin Black unfolds a fierce, honest, and moving portrait of a woman, and of a couple’s life—the betrayals and intimacies, the needs and regrets, the secrets that sustain love and the ones that threaten to destroy it.

Augusta and Owen have moved to a secluded house in the country, far from friends and family. They are trying to rebuild their relationship which had fractured after an admission of infidelity. They also feel the solitude will rekindle their creative abilities: Gus is an artist and Owen a writer. But it doesn’t work out as planned, and tragically, Owen is dead.

The story is told in the first person as Gus reflects back on her relationship with Owen and the events of the past few years leading up to Owen’s death. The characters, while not always likable, are complex, well-defined and often relatable. It’s an emotional journey, and as I became drawn into their lives I wanted them to fix their relationship, at times forgetting that, from the opening paragraph, we already know the ending.

Audio production:
The narration was performed by Cassandra Campbell, with a captivating range of emotion and voice. I enjoy her work so much that I was drawn to this book simply because she was reading it. And in the process I discovered a new author and a beautifully written novel.

Audio Sample:

An Under My Apple Tree Rapid Review
Source: Review copy provided by Random House Audio.
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August 13, 2014 / Leslie

Wordless Wednesday: Hummingbird Clearwing

Hummingbird Clearwing

Almost wordless: This is actually a moth that mimics a hummingbird. They are almost always in motion, making it difficult to see the detail on their wings; but this one had stopped for a rest.

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August 11, 2014 / Leslie

Mailbox Monday ~ August 11th

SunflowerMailbox-sml_IMG_2937_edited-2Welcome 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.

My mailbox was busy last week with an assortment print books and one audiobook. I was really excited to receive an advance copy of Horrorstör – it just sounds so clever; nevermind the actual horror of spending the night in a haunted Ikea-like store!

New Arrivals


Personal (Jack Reacher #19) by Lee Child from LibraryThing.
A breathtaking new thriller featuring the world’s most beloved vigilante hero, Jack Reacher.

First Impressions by Charlie Lovett from Viking.
Charlie Lovett first delighted readers with his New York Times bestselling debut, The Bookman’s Tale. Now, Lovett weaves another brilliantly imagined mystery featuring one of English literature’s most popular and beloved authors: Jane Austen.

The Devil in the Marshalsea by Antonia Hodgson. A win from Book Club Buzz.
A twisting mystery, a dazzling evocation of early 18th Century London, The Devil in the Marshalsea is a thrilling debut novel full of intrigue and suspense.


Zac and Mia by A.J. Betts from HMH Books.
Winner of the 2012 Australian Text Prize. The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this tough and tender young adult novel that’s a lot about love (and a little about cancer).

Landline by Rainbow Rowell from Amazon Vine.
From the New York Times bestselling author of Eleanor & Park and Fangirl, comes a hilarious, heart-wrenching take on love, marriage, and magic phones.

Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix from Quirk Books.
A traditional haunted house story in a contemporary setting (and full of current fears), Horrorstör comes conveniently packaged in the form of a retail catalog, complete with illustrations of ready-to-assemble furniture and other, more sinister accessories. We promise you’ve never seen anything quite like it!

How was your week?

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August 8, 2014 / Leslie

Cooking From the Garden: Fried Squash Blossoms

Since August 8th is National Zucchini Day, otherwise known as Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day, I’m featuring a recipe that uses zucchini blossoms. Any large squash blossoms will work, but the zucchini flowers are the tastiest and least fragile.

Freshly Picked Squash Blossoms


When my garden is at peak production, it’s not unusual to find a dozen flowers on the zucchini and squash plants every morning. They are best picked early in the day, before the flowers close, and cook them that same day. I find they will last overnight in the crisper if stored in a vented plastic bag. The blossoms above are from green and yellow zucchini and squash vines.

When picking the flowers, watch out for bees, they will often get drunk on the nectar and fall asleep in the flowers. And only pick the male flowers, unless you don’t want more squash. Seriously, there are male and female flowers. The male flower sits on a long, slender stem. Most flowers are male. The female flower will be attached to a tiny squash plant and have a large pistil in the center of the flower.

Farmer’s markets often carry the blossoms, but get there early because they usually go fast, and they are pricey.

Recipe: Fried Squash Blossoms



• 2 dozen squash flowers
• 1½ cups all-purpose flour
• A handful of chopped parsley
• Course salt and ground pepper
• 2 eggs
• Vegetable oil or light olive oil
• Approx one cup of water


FriedBlossoms_IMG_1434Rinse the flowers and remove the pollen stem from the inside. Gently pat dry.

Mix together the flour, parsley, a few pinches of salt and a dash of pepper in a small bowl. In a separate bowl. Lightly beat the two eggs. Add the cup of water and the eggs to the flour mix and whisk until all lumps are gone.

Add about one inches of oil to a skillet and heat.

Dip the flowers one at a time in the batter and cook in batches on medium-high heat for about a minute on each side, or until crisp. Remove and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and serve immediately.

Fried Squash Blossoms

Fried Squash Blossoms

There are many variations of this recipe, and I have posted others that I like, but today I’m making one of the simpler versions using a basic egg, flour and water batter. The last time I made them, I substituted beer for the water and left out the eggs. The flowers can also be stuffed with ricotta cheese and then fried.

They can be served hot or at room temperature, as an appetizer or as part of a meal.

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.

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August 7, 2014 / Leslie

Review – Audiobook: The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

The Good Girl by Mary KubicaThe Good Girl
by Mary Kubica

Genre: Psychological Thriller / Mystery
Publisher: Blackstone Audio | July 2014
Format: Audio Download | 10½ hours | Rating: 5 stars
Audio Listening Level: Easy – Intermediate

From the Publisher:

One night, Mia enters a bar to meet her on-again, off-again boyfriend. But when he doesn’t show, she unwisely leaves with an enigmatic stranger. With his smooth moves and modest wit, at first Colin Thatcher seems like a safe one-night stand. But following Colin home will turn out to be the worst mistake of Mia’s life.

An addictively suspenseful and tautly written thriller, The Good Girl is a compulsive debut that reveals how even in the perfect family, nothing is as it seem

My Thoughts:

The story opens with Mia back at home after being kidnapped and ultimately rescued. She has no memory of what happened. Using alternating points of view – Mia, her mother, the police detective and the kidnapper – and moving back and forth in time, before, during and after the kidnapping, the author reconstructs the events.

While this may sound like it would be complex and difficult to follow, the book is so well-written that I never lost perspective on where we were and who was speaking. The events and revelations are expertly woven together into a well-paced, suspenseful novel that keeps the reader wanting just one more chapter.

Part psychological thriller and part mystery, the plot goes in several unexpected directions as family secrets are revealed and we realize things aren’t as they first appear to be. This is a very character-driven novel. As the author lets us into the minds of the kidnapper and Mia’s mother, we see how events both past and present are shaping their actions. The writing had to be excellent for the kidnapper to become a sympathetic character for me, but that’s exactly what happened.

I initially passed on reading this book because I thought it was about a child kidnapping, and I wasn’t in the mood for another one of those books. The title and cover art are deceptive. Mia is not a “girl”, she is a young working woman, an inner-city teacher; eventually the title makes sense, but not until the end. When I learned that the story was based in Chicago, I decided to give it a try. The Chicago and Midwestern references added another layer for me to enjoy, but this is a great book regardless of the setting.

Audio Production:

Narrators: Lindy Nettleton, Johnny Heller, Tom Taylorson, and Andi Arndt. The audio production uses an ensemble cast with a narrator for each point of view. Each chapter begins by giving the name of the character speaking and the point in time, ‘before’ or ‘after’ the kidnapping. After the first few chapters, I had absolutely no trouble following the changes in point of view or jumps back and forth in time. That’s how well-written this book is – it just flows. The narrators did a fine job, but I was fixated on the story.

Source: Review copy provided by Blackstone Audio through Audiobook Jukebox.
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August 6, 2014 / Leslie

Wordless Wednesday: Monarch Caterpillar

Monarch Caterpillar

Almost wordless: In mid-July I began to notice Monarch Butterflies in my wildflower garden. A few days ago I spotted a Monarch Caterpillar on the Milkweed.

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August 5, 2014 / Leslie

Giveaway Winner: Guilt Trip Giveaway

congratwinner-red-smlThank you to everyone that stopped by to enter this fantastic giveaway.

The winner was selected in a random drawing and has been notified by email.

Guilt Trip Giveaway

Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella

Have a Nice Guilt Trip

Winner: Jennifer Ryder

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