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April 10, 2017 / Leslie

Mailbox Monday ~ April 10th

Welcome 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.


Another good week for books . . .

New Arrivals

Cocoa Beach by Beatriz Williams from by William Morrow
The author of A Certain Age transports readers to sunny Florida in this lush and enthralling historical novel—an enchanting blend of love, suspense, betrayal, and redemption set among the rum runners and scoundrels of Prohibition-era Cocoa Beach.

Heartthrobs: A History of Women and Desire by Carol Dyhouse by Oxford University Press.
From dreams of Prince Charming or dashing military heroes, to the lure of dark strangers and vampire lovers; from rock stars and rebels to soulmates, dependable family types or simply good companions, female fantasies about men tell us as much about the history of women as about masculine icons.

Shadow Man by Alan Drew from Random House.
What Dennis Lehane does for Boston, Alan Drew does for Southern California in this gritty thriller about an idyllic community rocked by a serial killer—and a dark secret.

Where Dead Men Meet by Mark Mills from Blackstone Audio.
From the author of the bestselling Savage Garden, and set against a terrific backdrop of Europe on the cusp of the Second World War, this is a compelling novel, rich in adventure, espionage, secrets, and lies.

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April 8, 2017 / Leslie

Review: Celine by Peter Heller

A Rapid Review

Publisher: Random House Audio | March 2017
Format: Audio Download | 11½ hours | Rating: 3½ stars
Audio Listening Level: Easy – Intermediate

The story of Celine, an elegant, aristocratic private eye who specializes in reuniting families, trying to make amends for a loss in her own past.

What’s it about . . .
Celine is a private eye who specializes in tracking down missing persons. Gabriella is searching for her father, a National Geographic photographer, who was thought to have been killed by a grizzly bear, although no body was ever recovered. Celine, a complex, feisty woman now in her 80s, is very selective about the cases she takes, but agrees to help Gabriella.

What did I think . . .
I would call this a mystery, but not a typical who-done-it. The story is very literary and beautifully written, and the mystery itself takes a back seat to the life story of Celine. Using frequent jumps back in time, we alternate between the past and the present to learn about Celine’s backstory. Celine is the most developed character, and while we do learn a little about Gabriella, I would have liked more.

While I enjoyed the story, I didn’t like it as much as one of the author’s previous books, The Dog Stars, but maybe I have set the bar too high. I loved Dog Stars and it is a favorite of mine. The writing is what made this novel especially enjoyable. Descriptive scenes, particularly Yellowstone Park, were captivating.

By the end of the novel, the mystery is solved and Gabriella has her answers: Perhaps a little too neatly, but an ending that should satisfy most. But there are still many unanswered questions about Celine. Perhaps a sequel?

Audio production
The audio was read by Kimberly Farr. Using a fair amount of emotion, smooth pacing, and appropriate inflection made this a pleasant book to listen to.

The audio format is a good choice for both experienced listeners and those new to the format. The story is easy to follow even with the jumps back and forth in time.

Audio Sample:

An Under My Apple Tree Rapid Review
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Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
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April 3, 2017 / Leslie

Mailbox Monday ~ April 3rd

Welcome 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.


 
Another good week for books . . . much nicer than finding bills in the mailbox!

New Arrivals

The Forbidden Garden by Ellen Herrick from by William Morrow Paperbacks
At the nursery she runs with her sisters on the New England coast, Sorrel Sparrow has honed her rare gift for nurturing plants and flowers. Now that reputation, and a stroke of good timing, lands Sorrel an unexpected opportunity: reviving a long-dormant Shakespearean garden on an English country estate.

Rigor Mortis by Richard F. Harris from Basic Books.
How Sloppy Science Creates Worthless Cures, Crushes Hope, and Wastes Billions

Ten Dead Comedians by Fred Van Lente from Quirk Books.
A darkly clever take on Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None and other classics of the genre, Ten Dead Comedians is a marvel of literary ventriloquism, with hilarious comic monologues in the voice of every suspect. It’s also an ingeniously plotted puzzler with a twist you’ll never see coming!

The Breakdown by B.A. Paris from St. Martin’s Press.
Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside—the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. . .

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March 29, 2017 / Leslie

Wordless Wednesday: Orchid

Almost wordless: Despite my neglect, my orchid is blooming again this year.

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March 27, 2017 / Leslie

Mailbox Monday ~ March 27th

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.


 
Happy Monday! I’ve been reading but not doing a lot of writing, so there are a bunch of reviews to catch up on. Perhaps it’s a touch of spring fever, but I’ve had the urge to throw open the windows, clean up the house and garden, and start planting veggies.

Last week was a great week for new books. Earlier this month, HarperCollins hosted an online preview of some of their upcoming summer titles from a variety of imprints, and I was lucky enough to win a tote filled with the books featured by William Morrow Paperbacks.

New Arrivals

From William Morrow Paperbacks

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
Two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.

The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor
The New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Came Home turns the clock back one hundred years to a time when two young girls from Cottingley, Yorkshire, convinced the world that they had done the impossible and photographed fairies in their garden. Now, in her newest novel, international bestseller Hazel Gaynor reimagines their story.

The Daughters of Ireland by Santa Montefiore
International sensation Santa Montefiore presents the second book in her romantic and unforgettable Deverill Chronicles trilogy, which follows three Irish women through the decades of the twentieth century.

My Sister’s Bones by Nuala Ellwood
A psychological thriller about a war reporter who returns to her childhood home after her mother’s death but becomes convinced that all is not well in the house next door—but is what she’s seeing real or a symptom of the trauma she suffered in Syria?

Goodnight From London by Jennifer Robson
A lush historical novel that tells the fascinating story of Ruby Sutton, an ambitious American journalist who moves to London in 1940 to report on the Second World War, and to start a new life an ocean away from her past.

The Marriage Bureau: The True Story of How Two Matchmakers Arranged Love in Wartime London by Penrose Halson
A riveting glimpse of life and love during and after World War II—a heart-warming, touching, and thoroughly absorbing true story of a world gone by.

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March 25, 2017 / Leslie

Is it Spring Yet?

I ask this question every year. It seems like the minute the calendar says it’s spring, the cold, and sometimes even snow, returns. So I take my cues from the local wildlife. Yesterday I saw a chipmunk in the backyard, birds have been singing, and the winter flocks of robins have broken up and they are scouting the area for nesting spots.

Is the American Robin a harbinger of spring?

Does the first sighting of a robin in the northern states mean spring is here? Maybe, but maybe not.

In the autumn robins typically gather into flocks and vanish from the backyards. Northerners assume they migrate south to warmer climates and move back in the spring, but in recent decades their behavior has changed.

Don’t Robins Migrate?

Robins from the northernmost parts of the US and Canada do move south. Forty years ago it was rare to see a robin during the winter in Illinois, but in the past few decades sightings have become more common. Robins have been routinely observed during the Audubon Christmas bird counts and I often see them in groups when out walking on the nature trails.

American Robin

What has changed?

Birds don’t migrate because of the cold, they leave when food supplies are scarce. Migration is risky, and if birds can avoid making a long trip into unfamiliar territory, they will stay local or move short distances. The short answer to what has changed for the robin is the availability of food.

In the summer robins eat insects and worms, in the winter they eat berries. The explosion of buckthorn, honeysuckle and other invasive fruit bearing shrubs has allowed more birds to remain in northern climates than ever before.

We don’t know if the robins we see in the winter are the same ones that were here during the summer. They could be flocks from Minnesota or Canada, and my Illinois robins may have gone to Missouri. Then again, they may be the same robins that are here in the summer.

Where did we see robins this winter?

I generated the map below using eBird to show where robins have been observed from December 2016 through February 2017. The darker the color, the higher the frequency of sightings.

Clicking on the image will take you to the real-time map. It is interactive and you can zoom in for a closer look at the locations. You can also change the date range at the top of the page to compare this to sighting in previous years.

eBird generated map of robin sightings from December 2016 to February 2017.

What is eBird?

eBird is a real-time online checklist program. Birders and citizen scientists enter their observations into the eBird database. Reports and maps can be generated for individual bird species showing their abundance and distribution at a point in time.

So, Is the Robin A Harbinger of Spring?

Depending on where you live, the sight of a robin may still mean spring is near. For me, when I see them scouting my yard in pairs and arguing over nesting territory, spring has truly arrived.

© 2017 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.
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March 22, 2017 / Leslie

Wordless Wednesday: Smile!

Almost wordless: Someone was having fun!

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