Monday, November 7, 2011

Mailbox Monday (11-07-11 edition)

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Mailbox Monday is now hosted monthly by a different blog. Here is the official blog of Mailbox Monday.  Here is what I received over the last couple of weeks:

Little Black Dress by Susan McBride
Won from 2 Kids and Tired Books

Two sisters whose lives seemed forever intertwined are torn apart when a magical little black dress gives each one a glimpse of an unavoidable future.

Antonia Ashton has worked hard to build a thriving career and a committed relationship, but she realizes her life has gone off-track. Forced to return home to Blue Hills when her mother, Evie, suffers a massive stroke, Toni finds the old Victorian where she grew up as crammed full of secrets as it is with clutter. 

Now she must put her mother’s house in order—and uncover long-buried truths about Evie and her aunt, Anna, who vanished fifty years earlier on the eve of her wedding. By shedding light on the past, Toni illuminates her own mistakes and learns the most unexpected things about love, magic, and a little black dress with the power to break hearts...and mend them. 

Ivan and Misha: A Novel in Stories by Michael Alenyikov
Won from Take Me Away

In lvan and Misha, Michael Alenyikov portrays the complexities of love, sexuality, and the bonds of family with boldness and lyric sensitivity. As the Soviet Union collapses, two young brothers are whisked away from Kiev by their father to start lite anew in America. The intricately linked stories in this powerful debut, set in New York City at the turn of the millennium, swirl about the uneasy bond between fraternal twins, Ivan and Misha, devoted brothers who could not be more different: Bipolar Ivan, like their father, is a natural seducer, a gambler who always has a scheme afoot between fares in his cab and stints in Bellevue. Misha struggles to create a sense of family with his quixotic boyfriend. Smith, his wildly unpredictable brother, and their father, Lyov ("Call me Louie!"), marooned in Brighton Beach yet ever the ladies' man. Father and sons are each haunted by the death of Sonya, a wife to Lyov, a mother to his sons. An evocative and frank exploration of identity, loss, dislocation, and desire, Ivan and Misha marks the arrival of a uniquely gifted voice in American fiction.

The Legacy by Katherine Webb
Won from Peeking Between the Pages

When they were children, Erica Calcott and her sister, Beth, spent their summer holidays at Storton Manor. Now, following the death of their grandmother, they have returned to the grand, imposing house in Wiltshire, England. Unable to stem the tide of childhood memories that arise as she sorts through her grandmother’s belongings, Erica thinks back to the summer her cousin Henry vanished mysteriously from the estate, an event that tore their family to pieces. It is time, she believes, to lay the past to rest, bring her sister some peace, and finally solve the mystery of her cousin’s disappearance.

But sifting through remnants of a bygone time is bringing a secret family history to light—one that stretches back over a century, to a beautiful society heiress in Oklahoma, a haunting, savage land across the ocean. And as past and present converge, Erica and Beth must come to terms with two shocking acts of betrayal . . . and the heartbreaking legacy they left behind.

Because of You by Cathy Maxwell
Received for review from Joan Schulhafer Publishing and Media Consulting

Is a reckless rogue worthy of the love of an innocent enchantress?

Pretty Samantha Northrup knows it is her duty to marry—but the chaste English vicar’s daughter secretly desires to be swept off her feet by a man whose kisses leave her breathless. And when a seductive stranger arrives at her door one stormy night, Samantha’s neat and orderly life is turned upside down—especially when she finds herself in a most compromising position . . . and is forced to marry a man she barely knows!

Samantha is unaware that her mystery bridegroom is Yale Carderock, the dashing, disinherited rakehell son of a duke, banished by his father years before. Now Lord Yale has returned—wealthier but only somewhat reformed—and he is bewitched by his lovely new bride’s awakening sensuality and innocent fire. But can this marriage of convenience be something more . . . and can a confirmed cad and society outcast truly change his ways enough to merit the lady’s tender love?

Bought for myself from Barnes and Noble:

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

Audrey Niffenegger's spectacularly compelling second novel opens with a letter that alters the fate of every character. Julia and Valentina Poole are semi-normal American twenty-year-olds with seemingly little interest in college or finding jobs. Their attachment to one another is intense. One morning the mailman delivers a thick envelope to their house in the suburbs of Chicago. From a London solicitor, the enclosed letter informs Valentina and Julia that their English aunt Elspeth Noblin, whom they never knew, has died of cancer and left them her London apartment. There are two conditions to this inheritance: that they live in it for a year before they sell it and that their parents not enter it. Julia and Valentina are twins. So were the estranged Elspeth and Edie, their mother.

The girls move to Elspeth's flat, which borders the vast and ornate Highgate Cemetery, where Christina Rossetti, George Eliot, Radclyffe Hall, Stella Gibbons and Karl Marx are buried. Julia and Valentina come to know the living residents of their building. There is Martin, a brilliant and charming crossword-puzzle setter suffering from crippling obsessive compulsive disorder; Marijke, Martin's devoted but trapped wife; and Robert, Elspeth's elusive lover, a scholar of the cemetery. As the girls become embroiled in the fraying lives of their aunt's neighbors, they also discover that much is still alive in Highgate, including - perhaps - their aunt.

Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

Lily Casey Smith, this novel's feisty Texas protagonist, is a frontier teacher, a rancher, a rodeo rider, a poker player, and bootlegger. In Half Broke Horses, she survives droughts, tornados, floods, poverty, and whatever else fate can throw against her. Based on author Jeannette Walls's grandmother, Lily is a plausible character because she has a voice that synchronizes with her history. This novel lives up to the still gathering acclaim for Walls's novel The Glass Castle.

Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way by Dan Buettner

What makes us happy? It's not wealth, youth, beauty, or intelligence, says Dan Buettner. In fact, most of us have the keys within our grasp. Circling the globe to study the world's happiest populations, Buettner has spotted several common principles that can unlock the doors to true contentment with our lives.

Working with leading researchers, Buettner identifies the happiest region on each of four continents. He explores why these populations say they are happier than anyone else, and what they can teach the rest of us about finding contentment. His conclusions debunk some commonly believed myths: Are people who have children happier than those who don't? Not necessarily—in Western societies, parenthood actually makes the happiness level drop. Is gender equality a factor? Are the world's happiest places to be found on tropical islands with beautiful beaches? You may be surprised at what Buettner's research indicates.

Unraveling the story of each "hotspot" like a good mystery, Buettner reveals how he discovered each location and then travels to meet folks who embody each particular brand of happiness. He introduces content, thriving people in Denmark, in Singapore, in northeastern Mexico, and in a composite "happiest place in America." In addition, he interviews economists, psychologists, sociologists, politicians, writers, and other experts to get at what contributes to each region's happiness.

Buettner's findings result in a credible, cross-cultural formula and a practical plan to help us stack the deck for happiness and get more satisfaction out of life. According to Buettner's advisory team, the average person can control about forty percent of his or her individual happiness by optimizing life choices. These aren't unreasonable demands on a person's lifestyle, and they often require only slight changes. They fall into three categories that make up the way we live our lives: the food we eat, the way we exercise, and the social networks we foster. It's all about nourishing the body and the spirit. Heeding the secrets of the world's happiness all-stars can help us make the right choices to find more contentment in our own lives and learn how to thrive.

The Accidental Vegetarian by Simon Rimmer

When Simon Rimmer bought a small vegetarian restaurant, he had no idea how to cook. Armed with two cookbooks and heaps of enthusiasm, he and a friend created the best vegetarian restaurant in Manchester, famous for its unusual food and lovely atmosphere. A confirmed meat eater, Simon had to rethink his cooking and has created vegetarian recipes to please even the most dedicated carnivore. This book is a collection of some of his recipes that are quick to prepare but totally delicious. From his more exotic fusion creations to good old favourites. The Accidental Vegetarian will kill the lentil and sandal image of vegetarianism forever!

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