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Mailbox Monday #504

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what we received:

The Night Stalker by Robert Bryndza from my first Scribbler box.

In the dead of a swelteringly hot summer’s night, Detective Erika Foster is called to a murder scene. The victim, a doctor, is found suffocated in bed. His wrists are bound and his eyes bulging through a clear plastic bag tied tight over his head.

A few days later, another victim is found dead, in exactly the same circumstances. As Erika and her team start digging deeper, they discover a calculated serial killer – stalking their victims before choosing the right moment to strike.

The victims are all single men, with very private lives. Why are their pasts shrouded in secrecy? And what links them to the killer?

As a heat wave descends upon London, Erika will do everything to stop the Night Stalker before the body count rises, even if it means risking her job. But the victims might not be the only ones being watched… Erika’s own life could be on the line.

Sleepover at the Museum by Karen LeFrak, illustrated by David Bucs for review in January.

Imagine spending your birthday at the museum! Join Mason and his friends on their scavenger hunt through all the exhibits that make any natural history museum so special. The perfect birthday gift for museum lovers and adventure-seekers alike!

Mason couldn’t wait to celebrate his birthday with a sleepover at the museum of natural history–his favorite place to visit.

Armed with headlamps for the dark hallways, a map, and a list of clues, Mason and his two best friends take off on a scavenger hunt through each hall of the museum. But they aren’t just trying to solve the clues. They’re scouting for the best place to spend the night.

Sleeping next to a T. rex in the Hall of Dinosaurs felt too scary. And sleeping with the monarch butterflies would probably tickle. This decision isn’t as easy as Mason thought it would be….

Wherever they end up, the museum at night is the best place for a birthday adventure!

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel from Audible.

An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.

One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur’s chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.

Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten’s arm is a line from Star Trek: “Because survival is insufficient.” But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.

Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.

But Seriously by John McEnroe from Audible.

He is one of the most controversial and beloved athletes in history, a tennis legend and a volcanic, mesmerizing presence. But after reaching the top of his game – what came next? Fifteen years after his international number-one best seller You Cannot Be Serious, John McEnroe is back and ready to talk.

Now the undisputed elder statesman of tennis, McEnroe has won over his critics as a brilliant commentator at the US Open, Wimbledon, and other Grand Slam tournaments – with outspoken views on the modern game, its top players, and the world of 21st-century sport and celebrity. Who are the game’s winners and losers? What’s it like playing guitar onstage with the Rolling Stones, hitting balls with today’s greats, confronting his former on-court nemeses, getting scammed by an international art dealer, and raising a big family while balancing McEnroe-size expectations?

In But Seriously, John McEnroe confronts his demons and reveals his struggle to reinvent himself from champion and tennis legend to father, broadcaster, and author. The result is a richly personal account, blending anecdote and reflection with razor sharp and brutally honest opinions, all in McEnroe’s signature style. This is the sports book of the year: wildly entertaining, very funny, surprisingly touching, and 100 percent McEnroe.

Yuletide Happily Ever Afters: A Merry Little Set of Regency Romances by Jenna Jaxon, Angelina Jameson, Nadine Millard, Tabetha Waite, Annabelle Anders, Anna Bradley, a Kindle freebie.

Christmas is a time of celebration as well as family and friends. Join these six award winning and best selling Regency authors as they share with you the season for romance

Married by Christmas by Jenna Jaxon
After two miserable Seasons, Miss Marianne Covington is determined not to have a third and enlists the help of longtime friend William Stanley to assist her. Will wagers he can find her a husband before Christmas. But when none of the suitors suit, he is ready to do something drastic for the woman who’s become more than just a friend.

The Christmas Wager by Angelina Jameson
Lord Chastain, darling of the gossip sheets, has seven days to turn a lady’s head. Lady Iris, aware of the wager, finds the earl hard to resist. As the pair spend the holidays together, Chastain finds his own head turned and Iris discovers you can’t believe everything you read.

His Yuletide Bride by Nadine Millard
Daniel, Duke of Darthford, had pined for Sarah Starling since her disappearance three years ago. When Daniel and Sarah unexpectedly cross paths again, it’s no surprise that sparks fly once more. Could this Christmas bring two hearts back together, again? And can love truly conquer all?

Twelve Gifts by Christmas by Tabetha Waite
When Lady Philomena Wallace, the Countess of Lipscomb, receives a gift from a secret admirer, she imagines it’s a lark. It isn’t until a stranger from her past abruptly returns that she has to make a choice between a mysterious suitor – and a second chance at love.

Hell Hath Frozen Over by Annabelle Anders
The Duchess of Prescott, now a widow, fears she’s experienced all life has to offer. Thomas Findlay, a wealthy industrialist, knows she has not. Can he convince her she has love and passion in her future? And if he does, cans she convince herself to embrace it?

Boughs of Folly by Anna Bradley
He’s a scandalous rake who needs a respectable wife. She’s a notorious actress who was once a lady. Will they give in to the passion between them, or will it take a Christmas miracle to bring them together?

What did you receive?

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 9 CDs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, narrated by Kirsten Potter, opens with the on stage demise of Arthur Leander, a famous actor who has a number of wives and feels disconnected from his own son. While a few of the characters are connected with Leander, those connections really don’t matter in the grand scheme of the novel, and many of the tertiary characters met at the beginning die weeks into the epidemic after his death. Mandel may be using the distance from the characters to create a sense that who lives and dies is random and without purpose, but it’s a blunt instrument that leaves little room for connection between the reader and the characters that have adventures in the book.

The Traveling Symphony is the most intriguing with its odd cast of characters and Kirsten Raymonde’s tattoo from Star Trek: “Because survival is insufficient.” She was present on stage as Leander died, and her life since the epidemic is one she would rather not have endured, though she maintains her spirits. As these cast members, for that’s how they are portrayed, deal with the aftermath of civilization, it’s a wonder that any art or creativity remains, especially when there are men like the Prophet willing to engage in bigamy with young girls and spout nonsense to their people about being the chosen ones — so long as they obey him.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, narrated by Kirsten Potter, was a 2014 National Book Award Finalist that wowed many, but I felt a bit distant from the action and the characters. While I enjoyed this story and the vignettes and the back and forth between the present and the past in this post-apocalyptic story, Mandel kept me at too far a distance from her characters. She’s attempting to comment on the need for something more than just survival when disaster strikes and how to do it, but much of it is lost in the mire.  Like the traveling artists that take to the pop-up cities and towns after the Georgia Flu kills 99% of the population, readers will feel like they don’t get a deep feel for the places visited or the people they spend time with.  The stories are interesting and kept my attention, but there was too much time spent wondering where it was all going and what the point was.

RATING: Couplet

About the Author:

Emily St. John Mandel was born and raised on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada. She studied contemporary dance at the School of Toronto Dance Theatre and lived briefly in Montreal before relocating to New York.

Her fourth novel, Station Eleven, is forthcoming in September 2014. All three of her previous novels—Last Night in Montreal, The Singer’s Gun, and The Lola Quartet—were Indie Next Picks, and The Singer’s Gun was the 2014 winner of the Prix Mystere de la Critique in France. Her short fiction and essays have been anthologized in numerous collections, including Best American Mystery Stories 2013. She is a staff writer for The Millions. She lives in New York City with her husband.

Mailbox Monday #168

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch. This month’s host is Diary of an Eccentric.

Kristi of The Story Siren continues to sponsor her In My Mailbox meme.

Both of these memes allow bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received this week:

1.  Made Priceless: A Few Things Money Can’t Buy edited by H.L. Hix, which I received from Hix since I am a contributor.

Made Priceless presents snapshots of objects that their holders treasure: a 1950s swivel rocker, a fortune-cookie fortune that reads “The rubber bands are heading in the right direction” a marble with a world map painted on it, a bread-baking pan, a bar of soap, crocheted doilies, a masonry trowel… Each object has its own story, each its own meaning. The book’s contributors include artists, a banker, a retired career military officer, secretaries, a pilot, stay-at-home mothers, students, professors, and others, each with a testament in praise of something priceless. The result is a remarkable collection that honors what money can’t buy, and celebrates the extraordinary significance in an ordinary things.

2. Restoration by Olaf Olafsson, which the Literate Housewife passed on to me. Thanks so much!

Having grown up in an exclusive circle of wealthy British ex-pats in Florence in the 1920s, Alice Orsini shocks everyone when she marries the son of a minor Italian landowner and begins restoring San Martino, a crumbling villa in Tuscany, to its former glory. But after years of hard work, filling the acres with orchards, livestock, and farmhands, Alice’s growing restlessness pulls her into the heady social swirl of wartime Rome and a reckless affair that will have devastating consequences.

Her indiscretion is noticed by careful eyes—those of Robert Marshall, a renowned dealer of renaissance art. In exchange for his silence, he demands Alice hide a priceless Caravaggio, a national treasure that he has sold to the Germans, at San Martino. As the front creeps toward Tuscany, sending a wave of orphans, refugees, and wounded Allies to San Martino, Alice trusts that the painting she’s hiding will keep the Germans at bay. What she doesn’t know is the truth about a brilliant young artist she harbors named KristÍn, a prodigy who can restore any painting, and whose secrets may ruin them all.

Trapped between loyalists and resistors, cruel German forces and Allied troops, Alice and KristÍn must withstand the destruction of everything around them while painfully confronting the consequences of their past mistakes.

3. The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel, which came from LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

Gavin Sasaki is a promising young journalist in New York City, until he’s fired in disgrace following a series of unforgivable lapses in his work. It’s early 2009, and the world has gone dark very quickly; the economic collapse has turned an era that magazine headlines once heralded as the second gilded age into something that more closely resembles the Great Depression. The last thing Gavin wants to do is return to his hometown of Sebastian, Florida, but he’s drifting toward bankruptcy and is in no position to refuse when he’s offered a job by his sister, Eilo, a real estate broker who deals in foreclosed homes.

Eilo recently paid a visit to a home that had a ten-year-old child in it, a child who looks very much like Gavin and who has the same last name as Gavin’s high school girlfriend Anna, whom Gavin last saw a decade ago. Gavin—a former jazz musician, a reluctant broker of foreclosed properties, obsessed with film noir and private detectives—begins his own private investigation in an effort to track down Anna and their apparent daughter who have been on the run all these years from a drug dealer from whom Anna stole $121,000.

What did you receive?

Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel

Emily St. John Mandel’s Last Night in Montreal, a debut novel, reads like sketched notes in a private investigator’s notebook. With chapters that alternate between the past and present and a variety of characters, readers will feel like they are investigating a child abduction case, while garnering a better understand of human motives and emotions.

“She’d been disappearing for so long that she didn’t know how to stay.” (Page 9 of the uncorrected proof)

Lilia Albert is abducted by her father, and as they move around the United States in and out of hotels, her sense of home is vanquished. She no longer knows how to stop and settle into a “normal” life. As an adult she continues to move from place to place, carrying with her the only photograph from her past that she has–a Polaroid of her and a waitress. Lilia is a complex character, her emotions deep below the surface, and she meets a variety of people along the way–Eli, an art gallery salesman working on his thesis; Erica, a girl from Chicago with blue hair; and Michaela, an exotic dancer and part-time tightrope walker from Montreal.

“She came out all dressed in black, as she almost always did, and carrying the three pieces of plate that had fallen off the bed the night before; it was a light shade of blue, and sticky with pomegranate juice.” (Page 2 of the uncorrected proof)

Mandel peppers each chapter with just enough description and information to keep the pages turning, as readers strive to uncover the moment when Lilia’s life changed and why it changed. But this mystery is more than what happens to Lilia, it’s about how an obsession can rip apart a private investigator’s family, encourage an ex-lover to step outside his comfort zone, and the myriad ways in which humans react to disturbing events from the past.

“Lilia’s childhood memories took place mostly in parks and public libraries and motel rooms, and in a seemingly endless series of cars. Mirage: she used to see water in the desert. In the heat of the day it pooled on the highway, and the horizon broke into shards of white. There was a map folded on the dashboard, but it was fading steadily under the barrage of light; Lilia was supposed to be the navigator but entire states were dissolving into pinkish sepia, the lines of highways fading to gray. The names of certain cities were indistinct now along the fold, all the borders were vanishing.” (Page 7 of the uncorrected proof)

Readers will itch to reach the resolution of this abduction case, not only to discover why Lilia’s father took her from her mother and brother, but also to see Lilia recover many of her earlier memories settled behind the dust kicked up by her continuous travels. The one minor drawback could be the chapters featuring the private detective and his obsessive pursuit of Lilia and her father even when he no longer desires their capture; these chapters dispel some of the suspense built up in previous chapters. However, Eli, Michaela, and Lilia’s story lines twist and mingle throughout the novel, and Mandel does well shifting between points of view. Last Night in Montreal is not a typical mystery, but still satisfying.

About the Author:
Emily St. John Mandel was born on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada, in 1979. She studied dance at The School of Toronto Dance Theatre and lived briefly in Montreal before relocating to New York. She lives in Brooklyn.

Check out this video for her book.

If you missed Emily’s guest post on Savvy Verse & Wit about her writing space, please check it out, here.

Also Reviewed By:

Violet Crush
Bookfoolery and Babble
Care’s Online Book Club
Everyday I Write the Book
She Is Too Fond of Books 
Musings of a Bookish Kitty 

Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel

Emily St. John Mandel’s Last Night in Montreal, a debut novel, reads like sketched notes in a private investigator’s notebook. With chapters that alternate between the past and present and a variety of characters, readers will feel like they are investigating a child abduction case, while garnering a better understand of human motives and emotions.

“She’d been disappearing for so long that she didn’t know how to stay.” (Page 9 of the uncorrected proof)

Lilia Albert is abducted by her father, and as they move around the United States in and out of hotels, her sense of home is vanquished. She no longer knows how to stop and settle into a “normal” life. As an adult she continues to move from place to place, carrying with her the only photograph from her past that she has–a Polaroid of her and a waitress. Lilia is a complex character, her emotions deep below the surface, and she meets a variety of people along the way–Eli, an art gallery salesman working on his thesis; Erica, a girl from Chicago with blue hair; and Michaela, an exotic dancer and part-time tightrope walker from Montreal.

“She came out all dressed in black, as she almost always did, and carrying the three pieces of plate that had fallen off the bed the night before; it was a light shade of blue, and sticky with pomegranate juice.” (Page 2 of the uncorrected proof)

Mandel peppers each chapter with just enough description and information to keep the pages turning, as readers strive to uncover the moment when Lilia’s life changed and why it changed. But this mystery is more than what happens to Lilia, it’s about how an obsession can rip apart a private investigator’s family, encourage an ex-lover to step outside his comfort zone, and the myriad ways in which humans react to disturbing events from the past.

“Lilia’s childhood memories took place mostly in parks and public libraries and motel rooms, and in a seemingly endless series of cars. Mirage: she used to see water in the desert. In the heat of the day it pooled on the highway, and the horizon broke into shards of white. There was a map folded on the dashboard, but it was fading steadily under the barrage of light; Lilia was supposed to be the navigator but entire states were dissolving into pinkish sepia, the lines of highways fading to gray. The names of certain cities were indistinct now along the fold, all the borders were vanishing.” (Page 7 of the uncorrected proof)

Readers will itch to reach the resolution of this abduction case, not only to discover why Lilia’s father took her from her mother and brother, but also to see Lilia recover many of her earlier memories settled behind the dust kicked up by her continuous travels. The one minor drawback could be the chapters featuring the private detective and his obsessive pursuit of Lilia and her father even when he no longer desires their capture; these chapters dispel some of the suspense built up in previous chapters. However, Eli, Michaela, and Lilia’s story lines twist and mingle throughout the novel, and Mandel does well shifting between points of view. Last Night in Montreal is not a typical mystery, but still satisfying.

About the Author:
Emily St. John Mandel was born on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada, in 1979. She studied dance at The School of Toronto Dance Theatre and lived briefly in Montreal before relocating to New York. She lives in Brooklyn.

Check out this video for her book.

If you missed Emily’s guest post on Savvy Verse & Wit about her writing space, please check it out, here.

Also Reviewed By:

Violet Crush
Bookfoolery and Babble
Care’s Online Book Club
Everyday I Write the Book
She Is Too Fond of Books 
Musings of a Bookish Kitty 

Guest Post: Emily St. John Mandel, Author of Last Night in Montreal

Emily St. John Mandel, author of Last Night in Montreal, was kind enough to take time out of her schedule to share with us her writing space. She even included some great shots from her space for this tour.

Without further ado, here’s Emily and her writing space.


I do most of my writing in a small white room, typically with at
least one cat on my desk. I’ve thought about repainting (the room, not the cat), because off-white is pretty unadventurous, but I’m typically paralyzed by indecision when I visit paint stores and I have to admit, there’s something restful about the pallor of the room.

There’s a small desk and a wooden chair, a lamp, two bookshelves and two filing cabinets, a lot of books, and several uncontained avalanches of loose-leaf paper. Above my desk there’s a window; when I’m working I can’t see much above the air conditioner, just sky and a neighbor’s ancient TV antenna, but if I stand up there’s a landscape of Brooklyn rooftops and fire escapes. The room’s very quiet. There are neighbors who play bad music in a garden below the window on Sundays, but that’s what noise-blocking headphones are for.

There are photographs on the walls—street and subway photography from New York, Rome, and Montreal—and also two images from Google Maps that I find particularly gorgeous; both are satellite images of the north coast of Russia, improbable greens and deep blues and frozen lakes like silver mirrors. They remind me of stained glass. There’s also a particularly nice letter from my agent, which I keep on the wall for encouragement purposes; a poster for La Femme Nikita; and the most famous section from Raymond Chandler’s essay The Simple Art of Murder written out on a piece of scrap paper (“In everything that can be called art there is a quality of redemption . . . ”)

Just above my desk there are innumerable little scraps of paper taped to the wall, containing notes of varying depth and legibility related to whatever project I’m presently working on. This is because my note-taking system isn’t particularly organized or actually even really a system, and there’s always some risk of losing whatever idea just occurred to me (see paragraph 2: “avalanches of loose-leaf paper”) if I don’t immediately stick it on the wall in front of my face.

I’ll occasionally become desperate for a change of scene and go work in the living room by the windows, looking down over the avenue four stories below, or I’ll go out and lose myself for a while with a stack of manuscript pages in the pleasant din of a local café. But this room is my oasis, and I spend a shocking percentage of my life working between these four walls with the door closed.

Thanks again to Emily for sharing with us her writing space. Stay tuned tomorrow for my review of Last Night in Montreal.

Until then, check out this video and this post by Emily at Powell’s Books.

Don’t forget my current giveaways:

2-year Blogiversary

Secrets to Happiness