Summer Readings | mini reviews

In mid May I got the urge to read lots of books.

This always comes around at the end of spring or the beginning of summer, when the trees are bursting with green, the sky is blue, and the air is filled with possibilities of things to do. (I promise that wasn’t supposed to rhyme.)

Only this year summer came overnight and suddenly it was too hot to do much outside for long, and we’re all stuck at home because of you-know-what. 

So there was no way to drive to the library, cart down aisles grabbing books of shelves at a rate of a couple per minute, and transport the DIY leaning tower of Pisa to the self check-out where you proceed to juggle them with receipts and library cards and baskets, while the unamused librarians eye me from over the rim of their glasses and from behind their information desk, and the poor little high school summer volunteer watches me with wide eyes of awe and I’m suddenly the traveling circus performance that everyone is watching on this hot afternoon in the dark belly of a lazy library lobby.

That was out of the question.

So I told myself I would read all the books I own that I haven’t gotten finished but all the non fiction about politics/living was getting to my head and all I could think was ThIs Is NoT hELpiNg mY lAcK of HuMan InteRaCtiOn.

I have decided that it’s easier to read those books one chapter at a time. Not in one sitting.

Likewise, poetry is a delicacy to be savored, not stuffed down my throat.

So, I logged into my library’s website, picked out some books, took the list to my mom and she helped me download them to my kindle (because apparently you have to have an Amazon account to do that). Then later on my friend and I started swapping books between our personal libraries.

Here’s my thoughts on six of the books I ended up reading.

Pay Attention, Carter Jones, Gary D. Schmidt: Ahh he does it yet again. Gary Schmidt is a genius, my friends. Unique and personable first person POV, realistic struggles presented in raw ways, fresh come-of-age plot, amazing characters, gorgeous friendships of all types, weaving one “thing” to tie it all together (here the sport of Cricket) drawing from the great classics, and just generally wholesome and overall inviting to readers. Can I just say I absolutely Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick? I want a butler. Why can’t I have a butler?

Not my favorite of Gary Schmidt novels, but definitely high up there, holding out as a solid third place.

After that one I was craving more Gary Schmidt so I moved on to Lizzie Bright and the Buckminister Boy.

Wow, this one started off the same as typical Gary Schmidt and then suddenly felt darker and just… brutal? A friend’s mom (the two people who most graciously bettered my life by introducing me to Gary Schmidt and then actually convincing me to read his books) suggested this specific one after I finished writing 51 and the daughter read it and then I suddenly got the reputation of liking very serious books that might or might not end tragically? 

That was a long confusing sentence but the point is that my friend doesn’t like this book very much because of the ending, but her mom loves this book, and I am still up in the air. I think I didn’t understand what I was getting myself into – not truly. I mean Gary Schmidt deals with but genocide? A community’s destruction? Murder? Religious figures using religion and authority to hide their ulterior motives and deeds?

Not to get me wrong, it was so, so good even as it is heartbreaking. Just… wow let me stand in shock and numbly say “ouch” on a really deep level. 

Also may I point out that it’s actually based off of a true story about Malaga Island in Maine. Let’s let that sink in for a moment. 

The Night Gardener, Jonathan Auxier: Wow this one was surprisingly creepy for a kid’s book (his bio makes sense now “strange stories for strange children”). It’s about a brother and sister immigrating from Ireland to England to look for work as they wait for their parents to finish tying up business elsewhere. They find jobs at a creepy old mansion that has a very creepy looking tree out in front, where a dysfunctional family (who look creepy) lives all alone or at least that’s what everyone says. Only every night they hear footsteps through the halls and every morning the girl has to scrub mud prints from the floors. The characters and their development are pretty simple and straightforward because this is middle grade, but the chilling vibes and the ending were on point.  

What the Night Sings, Vesper Stamper: I heard good things about this book, and thought it was interesting as it focused on what many holocaust novels don’t focus on: the healing of Jews after the war’s end. But I was so sad it didn’t make an astounding impression on me and feel like it could have been a lot more powerful. It was written with a simple style, which was charming in its own right, but the characters’ development and depth was disappointing. (I also thought that it seemed to be targeting a younger audience than some of the later content that was thrown in was curved for….? Though honestly I don’t remember a whole lot about that at this point.) I did think the story behind the novel was really cool. It started as an illustrative assignment at art school and then later Vesper Stamper expanded her companion short story into a novel. She used ink wash, white gouache, and graphite then toned the pictures digitally. I enjoyed seeing her style. 

Phantom of the Opera, Gaston Leroux: This book is perfect for an overcast October evening, cup of hot cocoa, a big fuzzy blanket, plus some thunder and lightning, or a roaring fire, or both. Not so much for the middle of summer, but I love the story, the characters, and emotional exploring it does. It also gives me goosebumps every time. Even if it’s summer. Wonderfully followed up by the movie and another bout of listening to the songs over and over again. I love comparing their plot points and endings, though I definitely prefer the book’s conclusion of the story. 

Mr. Popper’s Penguins, Richard and Florence Atwater: I revisited this classic from the earliest years of my childhood to read to my younger sister and once again it charmed me. One can’t help but love the Popper family and their small parade of polite yet mischievous penguins that get in and out of comedic trouble. The only thing was the rushed ending…? How did I not remember how excruciatingly unsatisfactory it is?? All I have to say is that I feel cheated and one can with good reason say, oof.

What did you read this summer? Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them?

~ evelyn ~

21 thoughts on “Summer Readings | mini reviews”

  1. Yesss, Pay Attention, Carter Jones ❤ I'm a huge fan of siblings in books, and Carter's relationship with his sisters was so sweet. I'm also a huge fan of butlers and egg plant cars 🙂
    I haven't read Lizzie Bright and the Buckminister Boy, and I'm not sure whether I want to or not. My sister read it and her reaction was pretty similar to yours, and I don't know if I can handle that kind of heaviness? At least not right now??

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If a book can pull off a realistic sibling relationship I’m in. Carter and his sisters just are literally amazing. Like you said, I agree with it all. 😆
      Ahhh I feel you. It will take me a while to read it again. (:

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Whoa, Lizzie Bright sounds so intense — what time period of Maine did the real story take place in?
    At first I was surprised that the same author who wrote Peter Nimble wrote also wrote a super creepy kid’s book, but then I realized that Peter Nimble was definitely strange and kind of dark too. Oh my oops, I just assumed that you would know what I was talking about. Have you read Jonathan Auxier’s other books?
    Having to stay inside because of you-know-what is the best way I’ve seen this sentence explained.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It took place 1911-1912.
      Ahhh Peter Nimble. It’s been on my tbr list. I’ve heard it’s delightful even if it’s dark and strange. I have not read any of his other books but I certainly want to. Is Peter Nimble the only one by him you’ve read? Did you like it?
      Hahaha thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Okay the cover for What the Night Sings is just GORGEOUS. And I see that I must try a Gary Schmidt novel. I can’t put it off any longer. How would you describe the writing style? I adore coming of age!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Isn’t it lovely?
      And you’re right. You have to. //you actually have to//
      I’d describe his writing style as quirky and winsome, powerful and wholesome. I know you’ll love his books, they’re amazing. (:

      Liked by 1 person

    *hops up and down with happiness*
    I love this post. 😊

    I’ve been wanting to read Pay Attention Carter Jones since it first came out but I just haven’t gotten around to it. Soon, hopefully! I’ve only read two of Gary Schmidts books but I absolutely loved them and I want MOREEEEE because he’s just an incredible writer. (also, if I may ask, which are your top two favorites of his? 😄)

    Oh. My. Lizzie Bright sounds brutal. 😬 I kinda want to read it though. Because morbid books attract me.

    YOU READ THE NIGHT GARDENER!!! Love love love that book. 😊 But you already know that, heehee.

    It’s really disappointing when you want to love a book but it just doesn’t live up to it’s full potential. *sighs* the pain is real, my friend.

    YES! I want to read the Phantom of the Opera! The story line has always intrigued me immensely. It’s high time I get around to reading it. Maybe this fall when the cold winds whisper through the cracks in the wall, and the trees are sad and bare and darkness creeps in silent and foreboding…ahhh, sounds delightful!

    You know, I’ve never actually read Mr. Popper’s Penguins. But I should because it sounds perfectly delightful. Thanks for the warning about the end, because as much as I hate unsatisfactory endings at least now I will be prepared. 😀

    Marvelous post, Evelyn. 10 outta 10!!! 😁


    1. Middle grade is da bessssst

      Oh yeah of course! My favorites are Okay For Now and then The Wednesday Wars. What two have you read??

      Hahaha “morbid books attract me.” That’s strangely relatable. *more nervous laughter*

      YES. You were the one that introduced me to it, so thank you. Thank you very much. 😉 Next Peter Nimble…

      YOU WILL LOVE IT. I know you will. It’s fantastic (and chilling). Also wow you put it into words. That’s exactly the perfect weather for it.

      Awww thanks Eden. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. *squeals* Okay For Now and The Wednesday Wars are the two I read!!! 😍 I love them both so much…honestly some of the best MG I’ve read. They are just so a m a z i n g.

        YOU ARE MOST WELCOME! I’m just so glad you read it. 😊

        EEeep! Can’t wait to read it…I’ll definitely tell you my thoughts when I’m finished!

        Liked by 1 person

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