Once upon a time, I earned a Master's Degree in Literature and was a Professor of Literature and Composition. I had a wonderful time writing my Master's Thesis about Children's and Young Adult Literature, and I considered earning a Ph.D. so that I could continue to pursue the written word, including British, American, Latin American and other Global Literatures, Children's and Young Adult Literature, all types of genres and occasionally even poetry. But life takes you in unexpected directions, and so now I am working for a non-profit agency (you can read about that on my other blog, A Little Bit of Wonder). Although my job keeps me too busy to post as many book reviews as I would like, Recommended Reading is a place where I can continue to share my literary discoveries and knowledge as time allows.

Please note that I post reviews for books that I recommend reading, just like the blog title says. This means that I typically won't post a review for a book that I completely dislike. This isn't because I shy away from making negative comments, but rather because I don't want to waste your time or mine (I won't even bother to finish a book if it's not any good). For more on this, see the explanation of my Rating System.)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

In My Mailbox: A Little Something Extra for my Six Books in Six Weeks Challenge…

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme where book bloggers show off the novels that they have purchased/received (not necessarily in the mail literally) over the last week. This way, we can share our bookish excitement with each other even before we get a chance to read and review the novels… because we all get a little geeked about new books, don’t we?

This meme was started by The Story Siren in order to give extra exposure to the books that bloggers have recently acquired, and has spread to over two hundred participating blogs – so if you visit The Story Siren’s weekly entry, you can find links to everyone’s acquisitions.

This week, I bought a little something that I came across when I was researching my Six Books From Another Country in Six Weeks Reading Challenge, which is actually slated to begin this week. I will be reading six (maybe even seven) Aussie Y.A. Novels – but as I was looking around for novels from other countries, I discovered the novel Mistik Lake (by Canadian author Martha Brooks). I tried to restrain myself, but I had to buy it. I also caved in and bought several novels for the Y.A. Historical Fiction Challenge that I am doing this year. So here are the goodies from my mailbox:

Mistik Lake by Martha Brooks: In 1981, three teenagers died while joyriding on frozen Mistik Lake in Manitoba. Sally was the sole survivor, and haunted by the tragedy, she becomes an alcoholic. But although she has experienced so much pain in Manitoba, Sally and her family continue to spend summer vacations there. Even after Sally leaves her husband and daughters for a filmmaker, then suddenly dies, the devastated family returns again to the cottage on Mistik Lake that Sally’s Aunt Gloria owns. The story apparently alternates between Sally's Aunt Gloria, Sally's oldest daughter Odella during different stages of her life, and Odella's boyfriend Jimmy. Odella leans on Jimmy and the inter-connectivity of the Mistik Lake community as she tries to cope with her mother’s past and sudden death.

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson: At the end of the 18th century, Washington D.C. had not yet become the capital of the United States, and Philadelphia was still functioning as the hub of the new nation. Anderson’s work of historical fiction is based on an actual epidemic of yellow fever that ripped through the city during the summer of 1793, wiping out 10 percent of the city's population in three months. The novel focuses on 16-year-old Mattie Cook, whose mother and grandfather own a popular coffee house on High Street. When her mother dies in the epidemic, Mattie and her grandfather must flee the city; they later return to the deserted town to find their former cook working with the African Free Society, a group who visited and assisted the sick, saving many lives during the epidemic. The novel paints a picture of both the sweeping historical landscape – with Washington and Jefferson’s presence in Philadelphia giving the historical scene extra significance – and the more intimate story of Mattie’s coming-of-age.

The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell: This is one of those books that I should have read as a child, but didn’t for some reason… Everyone that I knew in elementary school read it, but survival stories didn’t appeal to me at the time, and it sounds primarily like a survival story:

“Far off the coast of California looms the island of San Nicholas. Dolphins flash in the blue waters around it, sea otters play in the vast kelp beds, cormorants roost on its crags, and sea elephants loll on the stony beaches. Here, in the early 1800s, according to history, an Indian girl sent eighteen years alone, and this beautiful novel is her story… Karana had to contend with the ferocious pack of wild dogs that had killed her younger brother, constantly guard against the Aleutian sea otter hunters, and maintain a precarious food supply, even when it meant battling an octopus.”

After escaping the over-crowded urban environment of the D.C. suburbs, I’m a lot more into the whole idea of going out and kum-ba-yah-ing with just my own self in nature, so I’m really looking forward to reading the novel now. I’m especially pleased that I found and ordered a special “gift” edition of the novel, with absolutely gorgeous illustrations. (I will have to scan a post a couple when I review the novel...) This is a beautiful hardcover book – and less than $16 on Amazon, people!

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi: Another novel that I should have read when I was a child – and I don’t even remember why I avoided this one. Perhaps simply because everyone else was reading it; I was a stubborn child sometimes. Or it might have been because it was billed as “a breakthrough seafaring adventure,” which sounds pretty corny and like it wouldn’t have suited my girlish sensibilities at the time. But I recently read The Woods Runner by Gary Paulsen and loved it, so I’m willing to pick up a few more of these wilderness adventure-type novels. I’m looking forward to reading about Charlotte’s transformation from “prim schoolgirl” to crewmember of the Seahawk on her 1832 transatlantic crossing. It sounds as though the novel is a little bit fantastic: Charlotte is charged with murder and sentenced to be hanged before the trip is over, but ends up in command of the Seahawk by the time it reaches its destination.” I might find that hard to swallow, but even so, I’m looking forward to giving this beloved children’s novel a try.

Anybody else get anything in their mailbox for a reading challenge? What about historical fiction?

Oh, and an extra little plug: check out my review for Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, which I posted yesterday. This is one of my favorite novels of all time and I am particularly pleased with my write-up. Enjoy!


  1. Awesome mailbox, girl! I remember loving The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle back in school...I should totally read it again! I hope you enjoy all your new books :)

  2. I remember reading Fever in elementary and love it! Hope you do too :)

  3. Blue Dolphins is great! I haven't read True Confessions but I love Avi! Great books to look forward to!


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