Thursday, August 27, 2015

Summer Reading

Seeing as my homeschool group begins tomorrow, I guess it's time to publish that summer reading book list I mentioned earlier. My definition of summer is-- "the block of time from when I finish one grade and start another", which makes for an extensive list of books. We take long summer breaks:) 

I've included my reviews I posted on Goodreads, but I'd be impressed if anybody actually reads all of them:) And, of course, these are organized by when I read them.

Oh, and one last thing, please excuse the varying font sizes. I don't know what was going wrong! 

Messenger by Lois Lowry Rating: 4 stars

The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall Rating: 4 stars

The Penderwicks. The family has drifted in and out of my reading list starting at the age of four(ish) when I couldn’t read, but listened to a ton of books on audio. I picked the first Penderwicks book up, and I’ve been a fan ever since. Later, age six, we listened to the first book again as a family on the drive up to Alaska. And then a year and a half ago(or something along those lines) I re-discovered them while browsing through our library’s shelf of audio books: The Penderwicks at Point Mouette. And so, I read that, and then the second book, and then the first book(for at least the third time), and now The Penderwicks in Spring. 
So, as you could imagine, expectations floated high. And, although it came very close this latest installment fell a little short. Why? Well, there’s a couple reasons:
1. The Penderwicks(and Nick) appear, for lack of a better word, snobbish, at times. Take Jeffrey’s parents, Batty’s last music teacher, or worst of all- Oliver. After not initially failing to be quite as polite as I hoped they would be to the poor guy, Jane proceeds to write rude stories about him, even after he left her life completely. Maybe I’m just too picky, but Oliver never did anything malicious to deserve this treatment. The characters fall short of loving their enemies, including annoying boyfriends who like to pretend they know everything there is to know about movies. :)
2. In The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, Jane and Skye swap assignments ending in disaster. When Mr. Penderwick(who by the way is an awesome fictional dad) finds out, he tells them to never do so again. Implying, or so I thought, that cheating on school behind your parents back doesn’t pay. However, the issue arises here, yet again. The solution? Compromise! Jane types up Batty’s book reports she writes orally, while Ben guards outside her bedroom door to ensure the parents don’t find out. This aggravates me, even though it is only a small part of the story, because honesty would’ve paid off so much better. In fact, why wouldn’t the Penderwick parents approve of Jane typing up Batty’s reports? And if they didn’t, shouldn’t Jane and Batty question whether carrying out the plan is a good idea at all? 
Okay, enough complaining, because the truth is, I still really enjoyed it. Positive elements?
1. Latin Phrases- This being my second year of serious Latin study, I’m finally starting to understand some of Mr. Penderwick’s spontaneous Latin references. Whoohoo! The Latin conjugations and stacks of flashcards have finally payed off. ;)
2. Music and Doctor Who- Always love characters who share common interests. 
3. Characters- Because, seriously, where would the series be without Jeanne Birdsall’s incredible character development? I could go on forever about her characters but for now I’ll just mention my excitement over: the arrival of a new young Penderwick, Nick(a recent favorite Penderwick character), and watching Batty grow up.

Mattimeo by Brian Jacques Rating: 3 stars

Eh... Redwall was SO much better and this one stretched for SO many pages... I wanted to like it... But, hey, well done on Slagar's history, I'll give you that! :)
Favorite Character: Basil Stag Hare("A Redwall feast, wot?") 
The Moorchild by Eloise Jarvis McGraw Rating: 3 stars

The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood Rating: 4 stars

No. I won't do it. 
Last summer my life was interrupted by the infamous Series of Unfortunate Events, and once the series was over life did resumed, but feeling a little strange. Hilarious, but the ending was so unsatisfying! I do plan to read until at least the next book in The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, and re-evaluate whether I'm ready to enter such suspense and depression again. *winks*
But, having said all that(and I was more than partially joking), the series holds promise and might be better written than a Series of Unfortunate Events, which is a plus! 
Favorite Character: Penelope
 The Book of Three by Alexander Lloyd Rating: 4 stars

This is what I've been looking for. A fantasy like LotR.

However, it just may be a little too similar to Lord of the Rings. Without reading one complaining Goodreads user's review on the similarities, I may not have noticed, but now that I have the un-original pieces stood out. 
And, I love that it's based on Welsh mythology, I'm going to research that more thoroughly now. :) 
Favorite Character: Eilownwy
The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander Rating: 4 stars

Miss Hickory by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey Rating: 3 stars

I debated between two and three stars, but settled on three for the author's writing style and cute characters. All the same, the story was quite boring, besides the last few pages which were weird, and almost disturbing. I don't see myself finishing this story(or even starting it, for that matter) if it weren't for my goal to read all the Newbery Winners. Favorite Character: Miss Hickory, herself :) 
Rose in Bloom by Louisa May Alcott Rating: 3 stars

Fun read. Folded between the covers, a reader might find relatable, likable characters, an intriguing setting(the 1800's), and memorable scenes. But, coming from the author of Little Women and Little Men, I suppose I was hoping for a little more. I guessed who Rose would marry and even one death a few pages before it happened. That's not terrible, it's just not outstanding. So, though while in my opinion Rose in Bloom is better than the book it follows, Eight Cousins, it simply earned a good rating. Nothing more.
Favorite Character: Mac

The Story of Eli Whitney by Jean Lee Latham Rating: 3 stars

Under the Lilacs by Louisa May Alcott Rating: 3 stars

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu Rating: 4 stars

Based on the Hans Christen Andersen Fairy tale, "The Snow Queen", this story held some potential. We've all read modern re-tellings or twists of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, etc. But, how about an obscure lesser-known work on a mirror shard embedded in a boy's eye causing him to see the world differently? And that, my fellow readers, is what this story is about. I'd read the original story years ago and then again fairly recently after Frozen came out(which BTW is inspired by "The Snow Queen"). The original story- well, it's kind of weird. So I was interested to see where Anne Ursu would take a modern retelling. And, she did pretty well. I haven't been so excited about a young adult book in a long time. Many YA novels include characters' disrespect towards adults/authority. "Breadcrumbs" didn't escape this stereo-type altogether. It couldn't without lacking character development. The author accepts that kids often dislike grownups(particularly their teachers), but subtly hints maybe they shouldn't. Maybe adults aren't so bad after all, she hints. To quote Cinderella, "Just because it's done doesn't mean it should be done." And then, on top of that, she adds an adult readers just can't help liking. He's a great character. :) But, one of my favorite elements was her book references which she sprinkled generously throughout the pages. I succesfully managed to "get" most of them, much to my amusement and delight. Favorite Character: Hazel
The Castle of Llyr by Alexander Lloyd Rating: 5 stars

 The Nine Tailors by Dorothy Sayers Rating: 3 stars

Wellllll, the writing style is the bestest(*grins*) I'll say that, no surprise the author was part of the Inklings(which produced Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, and other such classics). But, she let the story drag in parts, and included mild(though a bit frequent!) language. Agatha Christie is better.
On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by C. S. Lewis Rating: 4 stars

I felt conflicted between four or five stars, but settled on 4 for-- 1). a tad bit weaker character development than I was hoping 2). one or two words the author used which weren't bad in themselves, but made me wonder if he couldn't think of an alternative after awhile. But, other than that, I was impressed with the author's skill in wielding words, well-developed setting, and good sense of humor. Favorite Character: Peet

Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis Rating: 4 stars

The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo Rating: 3 stars

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne Rating: 4 stars

I read "The Scarlet Lettrer" for a summer school assignment. The story follows Hester Prynne, a woman who is tormented by the scarlet letter sewn on her dress, a punishment chosen by the Puritan leaders of her town. 
The writing style called for serious concentration, but was so pretty I still enjoyed it. 
Besides the required re-read later this school year, "The Scarlet Letter" is a book I hope to give a re-read someday, and will remember it as a challenging, thought-provoking story. Favorite Character: Mister Dimmesdale 
The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley Rating: 2 stars

"The Outlaws of Sherwood" tells the story of Robin Hood(as one may gather from the title), his group of fellow criminals and their activity as outlaws. Did I like it? Not really. I've always viewed Robin Hood stories from a lighter, more action-packed, happier approach. The author killed who I'd come to think of Robin Hood and his friends. Would I recommend it? No; there are way too many other Robin Hood adaptions out there. I absolutely love Roger Lancelyn Green(who, by the way, was a member of the Inklings!)'s "The Adventures of Robin Hood". So, please, if you're interested in RH, read that. Favorite Character: Much 
Billy Budd, Sailor by Herman Melville Rating: 3 stars

Herman Melville tells the journey and fate of Billy Budd, a young, athletic, and kind sailor press-ganged into the King's navy. He also runs off on a few tangents, but nothing awful(he didn't have much chance in only 85 pg.). I felt bogged down by historical references I was clueless about and the difficult writing style during the beginning, very much enjoyed the middle, and then lapsed back into frustration at the end. I probably wouldn't recommend it to most people for its difficult writing style, but to readers who want a challenge-- go for it! 
Favorite Character: Billy Budd

North! Or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson Rating: 5 stars

Oh, wow! This series is so good! 
I think the best way to describe it is as a cross between Lord of the Rings and A Series of Unfortunate Events. It has the fantasy element of Tolkien, and the humorous, though occasional and subtle gloomy feel of Lemony Snicket. Unlike in a Series of Unfortunate Events, however, the author does impressively well with incorporating hope and avoiding leaving stings untied(the worst part of ASOUE!). 
Other than that, the writing style is beautiful, the character development thorough, the plot-line entertaining, the Christian themes encouraging, and Fangs of Dang terrifying. :DFavorite Character: The Florid Sword 
Heaven to Besty by Maud Hart Lovelace Rating: 4 stars

The first two thirds annoyed me. Betsy was so silly; she lived at parties and spent all of her energy on boys. It drove me nuts. 
But, then the author corrected that in the last third, which was marvelous. I never saw how much I had in common with Betsy(don't you love it when you find characters you can relate to?). 
One reason I loved it so much was the vintage feel. Maud Hart Lovelace wrote it in 1945, but it takes place in 1906. Before iPhones, John Green, and Meghan Trainor. And before internet. If this book had been published yesterday, I would've lost the sense of being taken to a different world and the opportunity to learn a bit of history to boot. :) 
I didn't love it enough to dash off to the library and check out "Betsy in Spite of Herself". I did, however, like it enough to add that to my "someday" list and finish "Heaven to Betsy"(something I seriously considered skipping during the first 2/3).Favorite Character: Betsy

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke Rating: 5 stars

I enjoyed the character development, the quotes to introduce each new chapter, the plot twists, the concept, the book references, almost everything. There were a few strings left untied(particularly concerning Dustfinger), but judging by the synopsis printed on Inkspell's front cover, those will be addressed. I actually don't plan to read Inkspell due to the language I heard was there, but it's nice to know.
What I Didn't Like: 
~The Occasional Mild Language. 
~Although this couldn't really be helped since it was translated from German, the writing style read a tad awkwardly. 
That's about it! Favorite Character: Resa

Books I Read this Summer: 23

Books I Read Last Summer: 44(how did that happen??)

My Favorite Book: Inkheart(probably)

The Longest Book(by number of pages): Inkheart

The Best-Written Book: The Wingfeather Saga(books 1 & 2)

So how about you? Which books have you read this summer?


  1. Ah yes. "The Scarlet Letter." I barely even remember reading that book last year. I remember that it was long, slightly confusing, and that Mom said I didn't need to write a paper on it.

    "The Book Of Three." I haven't even heard of that one, but from what you said about it, I want to find it!

    "Billy Budd." I remember hating that book, even though the version we have is only 80 pages long.

    "Rose in Bloom." Was enjoyable for me, just slower than "Eight Cousins."

    Ok, I'm done now. :)

    1. I did like the Scarlet Letter and Billy Budd, but I didn't LOVE either of them. . .Yeah, the Book of Three is the first of The Chronicles of Prydain. You've probably heard me talking about it!


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