March 31, 2015

Treasure Island ~ A Book Review

Treasure Island
Book By Robert Louis Stevenson
Review by Janelle A. Spiers

“It was Silver's voice, and before I had heard a dozen words, I would not have shown myself for all the world. I lay there, trembling and listening, in the extreme of fear and curiosity, for, in those dozen words, I understood that the lives of all the honest men aboard depended on me alone.” ~ Treasure Island

“One more step, Mr. Hands,’ said I, ‘and I'll blow your brains out! Dead men don't bite, you know,’ I added with a chuckle.” ~ Treasure Island

WARNING:  Please be aware that if you continue reading this Book Review, you may be subject to reading spoilers and or secrets of the original book.  However, all attempts shall be made to hide the crucial points, in the event that this review encourages you to read this book.  Any information divulged will be deemed by the author of this review necessary to the review, or, not capable of ruining any major surprise. 

Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson, has made a lasting impact on children’s fiction. From dark and frightening travellers to swash buckling pirates, Stevenson left us a thrilling tale that has inspired children of all ages since its first publishing.  Fanciful images of the uncouth Billy Bones, the shocking conversations of Long John Silver’s parrot, and the breath-taking danger young Jim Hawkins finds himself facing gives only one explanation: Treasure Island is indeed a treasure.
            Pirates, mutineers, and thieves make a book a tricky place to include a lot of moral guidance, but there are some pieces of gold to be found.  The main character is taught to be very respectful to his elders and especially thoughtful of his mother.  There is also a great amount of trust and betrayal swindled amongst the characters, but when it comes to the young hero, he is completely loyal to his word.  When Jim Hawkins swears to a pirate that he will not try to escape, he holds true to that, even though he had a perfect opportunity.
            When a drunken sailor stumbles into the Admiral Benbow Inn and tells young Jim Hawkins to keep an eye out for a man with one leg, life becomes a bit out of the ordinary for the innkeeper’s son.  Jim keeps a sharp eye out for a one-legged man, but instead, an old blind man appears.  Shortly after, following a quick and deadly duel, old Billy Bones is left dead in the inn and no one to claim his belongings. Jim finds a treasure map in the old man’s sea chest, and after securing the help of some wise friends, they all set off to find the treasure.  There’s one big problem, however; the one-legged cook aboard Jim’s ship may be hiding a secret that will cost the brave young character and his friends their lives.
            Jim Hawkins is the noble main character of Treasure Island, and it is he who tells the story in a first person narrative.  He is described as a boy, and though his age is never mentioned, he is probably a young teen.  With a lot of brain and brawn for his young age, he manages to save the majority of the loyal crew from mutineers, but he never boasts about his bravery or success.
            Long John Silver is the primary antagonist of this gripping pirate novel.  As he hobbles about on a crutch, with a talking parrot on his shoulder, he appears to be a pleasant cook for the ship’s kitchen.  However, he has a mutinous, greedy mind, and when he tries to take over the ship from the captain, his true colors are revealed.  He is possibly the most dynamic character of the book, because he doesn’t often get furiously angry, as most pirates seem to do.  He keeps a cool, even head, carries out his plan with deadly precision, and can almost be kind and caring to young Jim.
            The writing quality of Treasure Island is very fine.  Robert Louis Stevenson wrote the narrative simply and boyishly, as if a young lad were indeed recounting his adventures.  There are some pieces, which could be hard to understand, due to the archaic English that Stevenson used.  When characters talk, however, that’s when the real struggle begins.  Stevenson wrote his characters dialogue exactly as they might have spoken it in real life, and so when reading the pirates or uneducated people, the language is hard to understand, because it is not written nicely.  The well-to-do Englishmen are easy to follow, but for anyone else, it can be hard to know exactly what is being said.
            Robert Louis Stevenson was born on November 13, 1850, an only child to his parents.  Stevenson was often very sickly in his childhood and his illness continued until his death.  He was raised as a Christian, since his father was a preacher, but at a young age, Stevenson abandoned his early doctrine and became an atheist.  He published Treasure Island on May 23, 1883. Previously, it had been published periodically in a journal for children.  After years of writing, marriage, and traveling, Stevenson finally died in 1894, on December 4th.  It is suspected that he died of a cerebral hemorrhage.
            Considering the piracy side of Treasure Island, the story is fairly clean.  There’s very little swearing, which is quite a pleasant surprise, and there is no romance or hint of intimate relationships.  Perhaps the only mature content would be the amount of death.  Quite a few characters die, either from sickness, wounds, or murder, however none of the deaths are graphic or overly morbid.  Some sensitive readers may not enjoy the story, but for young, adventure-loving readers, it should be safe.
            Another stroke of genius that Stevenson used was the complete congruency of his characters, plot, and writing style. Though it’s not a very long story, Treasure Island is completely consistent in character development over the course of the story.  The same is true for his well-executed plot line and writing style.
            From the cozy Admiral Benbow Inn, to the mysterious Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson left the world with one of the most familiar children’s fiction books in history.  His colorful tale of adventure, gold, and pirates have inspired many other people to follow in his legacy and write similarly.  Treasure Island is a book that will awaken the fading imagination and bring life, intrigue, and mystery back into the heart of any reader, young, or old.

(Based on a rating system entirely made up of pros and cons, I judge by different categories to ensure that the reader of this review can aptly choose if this book is an appropriate for themselves or others.)

Theme ~ Positive! (For excellent topics that are meaningful and applicable to life.)
Plot Line ~ Positive! (Memorable and exciting for all aged readers)
Characters ~ Positive! (Very memorable and extremely consistent)
Writing Quality ~ Negative! (For some difficulty, especially in dialogue)
Mature Content ~ Positive! (Topics should be suitable for a young or sensitive audience.)
Congruency ~ Positive! (For extreme consistency in plot, characters, and quality)

The total score for Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson is 5 out of a possible 6 positive points.

March 26, 2015

Happy Birthday, Robert Frost!

Robert Frost is one of my favorite poets, and as his birthday happens to fall today, I thought he needed a post of his own.  Happy Birthday, Robert Frost!

“In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on.”  
“Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired.”  
“Some say the world will end in fire,Some say in ice.From what I've tasted of desire,I hold with those who favor fire. But if it had to perish twiceI think I know enough of hateTo say that for destruction iceIs also greatAnd would suffice.” 
“If we couldn't laugh we would all go insane.” 
“Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.”
“Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can't, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it.” 
“Happiness makes up in height for what it lacks in length.” 
“Nature's first green is gold,Her hardest hue to hold.Her early leaf's a flower;But only so an hour.Then leaf subsides to leaf.So Eden sank to grief,So dawn goes down to day.Nothing gold can stay.”   
“Don't ever take a fence down until you know why it was put up.”

March 19, 2015

Across Such Stormy Waters

Across a pool of liquid glass
I know my sailor sails the sea
He, my man, and I, his lass,
I wait for him to come to me
Across a pool of liquid glass.

Across that distant rolling dune
I know my sailor thinks of me
His briny heart, it sings the tune
Of our distant lover's-song
Across that distant rolling dune.

Across a mirror of shining sun
I know my sailor feels the chill
Regardless of the Warming One,
There's a tempest, cold and shrill
Across a mirror of shining sun.

Across the waves of ocean
My heart pines for my man
His ship, forever in motion,
Leaves me far away on land
Across the waves of ocean. 

Across such stormy waters
My heart shall brave the gale.
The only children left are daughters;
The race of sailors soon will fail
Across such stormy waters.

Across a pool of liquid glass
I know my sailor thinks of me
He, my man, and I, his lass,
I wait for him to come to me
Across a pool of liquid glass.

March 17, 2015

Fruit of the Spirit: Love

Every Tuesday night, a group of six happy teenagers and one beautiful mamma sit together studying their underlined, well-loved Bibles, eating small goodies, and laughing as loud as a hurricane.  I can't help but sharing some of the ideas I've heard and written down; such youthful wisdom and genuine interest in the passage makes for a wonderful swirl of prose.

God's love should be enjoyed...
The Fruit of the Spirit Study: Love

~ God's love is so big

"He is jealous for me/ He loves like a hurricane, I am a sea/ Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy..." How He Loves, John Mark McMillan 

His love eclipses the entire world, and is so large that He sweeps us away in His might and glory.  However, He bends down to hold our hands, draws us close, and let's us breathe deeply in His magnificent splendor. 

~ Love can be small acts of kindness

There is a story shared about a kind uncle, who always takes the time to make a birthday special and enjoyable. With little presentations of thoughtfulness and affection, he takes the time to shower a little love out into the world. 

~ Human love is thin and easily broken, but God's love holds fast

The idea of love being necessary for every human. It is desired by all; the crux of human desire.  But when we try to share such love, it becomes selfish. We are like eggshell lovers; thin and brittle, easily broken, small and impossible. God's love is the solid rock on which we need to stand; firm and solid, impossible to break, large and so possible.  And, then if God is Love, then God is what we need the most.

~ Sacrificial love does not mean death

Another story is shared of a young girl, dying and sick. The doctor needed blood from a relative to help her, but in that particular country, to give blood was to give life. The healthy family refused to save the girl by giving blood, instead they offered a sick, old woman, whose life was nearly faded, anyway.  The doctor, with compassionate fury, ordered the nurse to draw his own blood, in order to save the child. He gave his "life" to save the girl; love means giving life for another, but not necessarily to the extent of death.

~ Love is putting others first

Like the little things and the sacrifices, love is to put everyone else above yourself. If we love ourselves above other people, then we are the selfish lovers, with thin and cracking love. If we dedicate ourselves to the other people around us, then we are helping to pick up the stones of God's love and pass them about, making our own hearts and love all the stronger. 

~ Love is the bond between friends

"A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." ~ Proverbs 17:17

A friend is one with a strong heart and a brother (or sister) is one who will help through any adversity. Who are your loved ones today? Have you loved them at all times possible, and been there for all adversities?

~ We can enjoy God's love

Love one another, as if they were God we were serving. How amazing is that? To love a person, it to love God.  Hate should be avoided at all cost. Also said by a wonderful girl, God's love should be enjoyed. Think of the food we eat and how much enjoyment we have in consuming it; God created this fascination.  It's a product of His love, and we can enjoy it fully.

March 10, 2015

The Ivy Green

The Ivy Green
Charles Dickens
Oh, a dainty plant is the Ivy green,
That creepeth o'er ruins old!
Of right choice food are his meals, I ween,
In his cell so lone and cold.
The wall must be crumbled, the stone decayed,
To pleasure his dainty whim:
And the mouldering dust that years have made
Is a merry meal for him.
Creeping where no life is seen,
A rare old plant is the Ivy green.

Fast he stealeth on, though he wears no wings,
And a staunch old heart has he.
How closely he twineth, how tight he clings
To his friend the huge Oak Tree!
And slyly he traileth along the ground,
And his leaves he gently waves,
As he joyously hugs and crawleth round
The rich mould of dead men's graves.
Creeping where grim death hath been,
A rare old plant is the Ivy green.
Whole ages have fled and their works decayed,
And nations have scattered been;
But the stout old Ivy shall never fade,
From its hale and hearty green.
The brave old plant, in its lonely days,
Shall fatten upon the past:
For the stateliest building man can raise
Is the Ivy's food at last.
Creeping on where time has been,
A rare old plant is the Ivy green.

March 3, 2015

All This For Love

The world is a broken place.

Can you imagine a time when life was perfectly beautiful? We walked about barefoot in the grass, knowing that no stone would hurt us. We danced about in the rain, never getting cold or tired. And we could love with our whole soul, not one part left for ourselves.

But then it was shattered by the atomic bomb of sin and we were chained as slaves to such evil.  The world rocked, the largest earthquake of them all, and buildings collapsed, dreams were crushed, and souls were stained. And it's been like this for millenniums; broken people in a broken world. There is so much destruction, death, decay, and debris; as we try to walk amongst it, we are constantly hurt and cut by the shreds, dragging our heavy chains.

The world is a broken place...
For some, such excruciating pain means to fall to your knees, clutching at your bleeding wounds, cursing the ground you've walked on, cursing whoever made you. Some of those men and women will get up, determined to fight back and lash out in anger and hatred, like the painful cord of a whip. These are the hurting people; with no balm for the pain, they will fight angrily against it.

But others, they won't get up out of the rubble. They'll prostrate themselves in the dust and glass and make no effort to get up again. The ruin and desolation will bury them as they die slowly of their wounds; away from light, life and love. There is no light when you're squeezing your eyes shut, or trapped under the rubble. Where is life when you expect and hope for every day to be your last? And there is no love when you selfishly close the lid of your own coffin, leaving those who cared for you behind to mourn. These are the hopeless people; without hope or care for anything, even themselves.

After all this, there are also those who fall to their knees, crying out to God, "Why, Lord? Why? How could all this happen?"As their wounds bleed and sprains swell, they listen quietly for that still, small voice, but when they are answered, they begin to tremble.

"For Love," it says in the silence, "All this for Love."

And with that, a decision is made, a switch is flipped, and the heart begins to beat again, palpitating with a furious rush. Some rise up from their knees, determined to fight back and lash out in anger and hatred, like the painful cord of a whip, hurting that the God who made them would let such pain hurt them. Some will prostrate themselves in the dust and glass, thinking pitifully, if this pain is love, then why should we live? What choice is there but to die?

But there is another kind of people. There are those that get up off their knees and bind their wounds, set their bones, and stop the bleeding. They push on through the broken world, covered in scars, but filled with hope. There they find light and life and love.  They see light as they look up to the heavens in silent, wide-eyed prayers. They find life as they tell their bodies to keep going, don't give up. And love has been found in the suffering; though they bleed and hurt they do it for love. These are the hopeful; with hope enough for all the world.

How can suffering be a lovely thing? How is all of this for Love? In our broken, sinful souls, we find longing for the love that only God can give us. We all desire to have love, and the Lord is Love in full. Thus, we long for the only true love, but sin has made it painful to overcome. We are trapped by pain, scars, and sin.

When trials come, they will either make or break us. If we are buried or overcome by such pain, we lash out away from the one thing we need most.  But if we turn to the Light of Life, Love will reach down and touch our burdened hearts, lifting off that painful scar of sin. But it will only work if we can muster our courage, strength, and humility to kneel before the Lord, offer up our stained and dirty clothes, and let Him clothe us in His love, unlock our chains, and lift us out of the mud.  Life may not be easier, but we know that we have found our light, life, and love.

"For Love," He says in the silence of our hearts, "All this sorrow, for you to find My Love."