Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Vintage Vision: Pirates, Ships, and Treasure REVIEWING Treasure Island

Hi there! Welcome back to The Real World According To Sam. Today's post is yet another classic (I've been reading quite a few of them lately) and's VINTAGE VISION time!!

I have been trying to read this book for years now. I would constantly pick it up as a kid, read a couple chapters, and then end up reading something else and not finish this one, then it'd be time to return it to the library. We ended up buying it when I was in middle school and took it with me to a TAKS test to read when I finished. That didn't happen however because someone stole it on that very same day. On one of our many trips to the local library, I saw it again and decided it was finally time to read it, once and for all. Here we are at long last:

Treasure Island
Author: Robert Louis Stevenson
Genre: Classic Adventure
Year of Publication: 1883

Treasure Island is a classic adventure story that has been around for over a century. It is a story about a young boy named Jim Hawkins who finds himself in possession of a map that leads to treasure. He ends up on a ship, with a crew who turn out to be pirates, all on their way to find the buried treasure of Captain Flint, their previous captain. They are mutinous and under the leadership of Long John Silver, the ship's cook who appears to be rather friendly and an overall good man until his true colors are shown. Jim, Captain Smollett and Squire Trelawney have to find a way to get the best of the pirates, get the treasure, and get back to jolly old England. 

Treasure Island
This book has to be one of the most referenced books I know. I am a huge fan of Disney's Treasure Planet, a space version of this novel. I also love the use of the story in The Pagemaster. It was those movies that made me want to read it so bad. Now that I've read it, I'm almost a little disappointed. I'm not going to lie: I was expecting a lot more. That's not to say it was a bad book. I'm intrigued by pirates and won't pass up a good swashbuckling story on the high seas very often. That being said, this book is very slow and not as adventurous as I'd hoped or as it has been made out to be by various media. I understand that it was written at a much different time. This book came before the invention of the television and people probably had more patience back then. Treasure Island is a good way to escape, but it won't make you grip your seat in anticipation of much. Its not highly suspenseful. 

One thing I noticed was the constant description of the ship and what is done or needed to be done on it. Now, I don't mean ship duties, like swabbing the deck or sitting up in the crow's nest, I mean that ship terminology was used quite a bit and if you don't know the parts of a ship, you might get a little lost. I live in a desert and I've been on one steamboat and a few ferries. I've never sailed long term or taken tours on old galleons. I can imagine a standard ship, but start saying bowline, bulwarks and coxswains, and its decently easy to get lost if I hadn't been able to keep a reference image pointing every part out for me. Maybe back when it was written people knew more about this kind of thing, but I sure don't, and I doubt very many modern readers do. The ironic thing is that a similar technique is used in Jules Verne's novels. He includes oodles of abstract information about geological features, rocks, marine organisms and submarines....yet it isn't as disruptive as here in Treasure Island. I think I would assign this issue to writing style. Overall, the style is pretty simplistic. You follow Jim's narrated adventure and he tells you how it goes down, in a very straightforward manner. Once I get something like that, I expect everything to be consistent. Then out of nowhere come these naval terms and I'm forced to pause and get my bearings. In Verne's novels, its all pretty complex so its almost expected for the reader to be given large amounts of jargon,....but Verne's complexities are explained. The submarine is explained and so are the geological aspects. With Treasure Island, I was not prepared for being left to fend for myself, expected to know every element of an old time ship. I know starboard from port and I know how a ship generally works, as well as what some parts are, but not all of them. Perhaps this is more of a fault on me and my personal experience than the book itself, but it did turn me off quite a bit as I was reading. 

The other issue I had was the lack of piratical adventure. Because of the straightforward style and attempt at simplicity, there isn't very much suspenseful detail or action. I would've really liked some of that because I feel like it would've really enhanced the experience. Now I know that if I want something like that, I should just watch Treasure Planet

That's not to say the book isn't good though! Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it. It was mildly entertaining and I'm not AT ALL upset that I read it. I'm glad I did and that I was finally able to get through it. I've been waiting for a long time to accomplish this. Ultimately though, the expectation I had was not met and Treasure Island is an average classic, in my opinion. I almost wish I had no expectation coming in, but at the same time, it wouldn't have changed the pacing or the lack of true suspense. The hunt for the treasure wasn't nearly as impressive as I felt it should have been. It happened rather quickly and was over just as soon as it had begun. That was a major disappointment. I feel like this should have been a really big point in the book and it was just glossed over. It was TOO simple and straightforward. These pirates have been waiting a long time to get the treasure and for it to happen the way it did was not at all satisfying. There were no booby traps or hard times locating the treasure. Captain Flint is made out to be this really bad guy, yet he wasn't evil, only harsh and fearsome. None of this comes out within the actual details and plot of the story. If he was so protective of his treasure and if he was such a fearsome captain, he should have had booby traps in place and it should have been near impossible to locate, even with the map. The map should just make it a bit easier to get bearings. I mean, the book is called TREASURE Island. I personally thought that there should be a larger focus and emphasis on all the occurrences that involved treasure and being on this particular island. Its a good book, but it definitely isn't the greatest pirate book or the greatest classic written. There is a lot that could have been improved on to make it a more enticing and satisfying story. 

In the end, I liked Treasure Island, but it doesn't appear to reach its full potential as a novel. There were many lacking points and the simplistic style wasn't always highly effective for this particular story. Its a good book that can serve as an escape from the modern world or to get a glimpse into the kind of adventure we don't have too often these days. Its fun, but don't expect a high adrenaline action tale, because that isn't what Treasure Island is. Expect plots, sailing, and simplicity in narration, because that is what you will get. It isn't necessarily a bad thing if that's the kind of book you enjoy or what you need at the moment. I'm giving Treasure Island a 3 out of 5. I love the escapism and the simplicity, but I also yearn for a good pirate tale that will send my imagination into full sail. If you want to read it, but also are not very familiar with ships, make sure you keep a tab open with a diagram, or print one out to stick in the pages until you need to reference it. 

Thanks for reading this review here at The Real World According To Sam. Please come back again soon for more!!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Geese, Landscapes, and Lighthouses: REVIEWING The Snow Goose

The Snow Goose
Author: Paul Gallico
Genre: Classic/Fiction/Folktale
Year of Publication: 1941

The Snow Goose is a story that is relatively short. The copy I read was only 58 pages long, so I guess this could qualify as a short story. It tells the tale of a man who is deformed and, therefore, isn't appealing on the outside. He is an artist who loves everything that is alive. He paints landscapes and he especially has a love for birds. When he was younger, he bought a lighthouse and lived in it. He had a pen where birds who were migrating could stop and stay before continuing on when the seasons changed. The story tells about the friendship he develops with a little girl and a snow goose. The snow goose helps the little girl to see the beauty and kindness within the man, despite his physical appearance. 

The Snow GooseI really enjoyed this story! For starters, it was beautifully written. The book starts off with a great description of the area and the landscape that really takes you away to another place. Even when the characters are finally introduced, the detailed prose continues. The characters were very well developed, even if they only had 58 pages of show time. I was very impressed with how much the author was able to express in such a seemingly small amount of time. The plot is simple, but it packs a lot of meaning and depth. I found that there was a lot of sincerity to the writing. I'm really glad I read this book, even though I honestly only picked it up to begin with because it was so short. It was pleasantly surprising to discover how great a story lies within the brevity. I'm not sure what I expected, but it wasn't what I got. It was so much more than I could have asked for or imagined. I HIGHLY recommend this story to anyone who loves birds and well written prose. It took me less than an hour to read, but I would definitely go back and read it again a couple times if I had the opportunity. It is one of the books that I will always remember. It truly deserves a 5 out of 5. The Snow Goose really tugs at your heart strings and makes you want to open your heart to others. 

Thanks for reading this review, I hope you come back next Wednesday for another, here at The Real World According To Sam. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Bikers, Canada, and Pen Pals: REVIEWING Apart

Author: R. P. MacIntyre & Wendy MacIntyre
Genre: YA 
Year of Publication: 2007

Apart is the story of a 16 year old girl named Jessica and a seventeen year old boy named James Charles MacSween, who just goes by Sween. It is an epistolary novel, which means that it is told in the form of letters (epistolary could also mean notes, e-mails, diary entries, etc.). The two main characters become pen pals when Jessica puts an ad in a newspaper asking if anyone has seen her father. Sween writes back from the other side of Canada saying he thinks he's seen him based on the description. This turns out to be a mistake, but it begins a friendship that both really need. 

ApartI picked up this book because it seemed like it'd be a quick read and the cover was really appealing. It's been a little while since I read an epistolary novel. I liked this book when it started and it was hooking me in, but I couldn't get as into it as I would have liked to. I don't know why, but something kept pushing me back from absolutely loving it. It's definitely not because of the setting. I enjoyed getting to experience Canada through the eyes of Jessica and Sween. This is the first book I've read that takes place in Canada, so it was cool having a new setting from my usual fare. I was connecting really well to the characters at first, but somewhere along the way, I became detached. Jessica lives with her mom and wants to find her father so that her mom will be okay. When her biker dad left, her mom basically fell apart. Tensions are raised in Jessica's situation by her younger brother, Timmy, who is autistic. She has a lot of conflicts trying to be a good caretaker  while trying to achieve her own dreams. She doesn't get along with her father and neither of them really understands the other. Sween is the son of a rich scientist dad whose mom is plantlike towards his father. His father works with plants, so their relationship works well for them. Sween doesn't really like it. He has trouble in school, but it isn't because he is not smart. He says straight up that he has an attitude and that he has a problem with authority. We know that up front. Sween ends up trying to get away from it all several times. He also has a younger sister who he barely understands, but who he begins connecting with as the story progresses. 

This book is really a coming of age story that shows how two teens who live at opposite ends of the same country face similar problems in life, while highlighting how they each react based on their different personalities and backgrounds. It also depicts the way in which this pen pal friendship helps both to get through the conflicts they are faced with. Ultimately though, its a very bittersweet book that just couldn't keep me hooked all the way through. I like the format and the way that the letters slowly unveil different aspects of all the characters involved. I thought the two characters were very distinct, but at some points it felt like they were both trying too hard. Things just feel like they fall apart towards the last quarter of the novel, and maybe that's how its intended to feel. For me though, it just didn't work. This is not one of my favorite books and I'm not sure I would highly recommend it, but it is a good little read for a summer day if you don't have any books that you're pressed or super excited to read. I have to give Apart a 3 out of 5. A plus is that this book really made me want to see if I can find a good travel/road-trip YA book, which isn't a subject that I've read a lot of yet. When one door closes, as they say...or as I'd like to say, when one cover closes, another book opens. 

Thanks for reading this review, come back next Wednesday for more, here at The Real World According To Sam.