Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Treasure Island

Robert Louis Stevenson’s cherished, unforgettable adventure magically captures the thrill of a sea voyage and a treasure hunt through the eyes of its teenage protagonist, Jim Hawkins. Crossing the Atlantic in search of the buried cache, Jim and the ship’s crew must brave the elements and a mutinous charge led by the quintessentially ruthless pirate Long John Silver. Brilliantly conceived and splendidly executed, it is a novel that has seized the imagination of generations of adults and children alike

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Published November 14, 1883 by Cassell and Company
Format: Hardcover; 240 pages
Classics / Adventure / Young Adult
Also By This Author: The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, Kidnapped
Goodreads | Amazon
My Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Thoughts

It probably takes a good blend of ignorance and luck to avoid finding out spoilers for a 134 year old book, but I made it 27 years without knowing anything about Treasure Island, except for the fact that it involved treasure, an island, and it featured pirates. I had never read this book or its synopsis before, nor had I seen any movie adaptations (no, not even the Muppets version). Of course, I had heard of Long John Silver, but I didn’t even know he was a prominent character in this book until he was introduced several chapters in.

Disclaimer: if you are a rarity like me who doesn’t know anything about Treasure Island and would like to keep it that way, you may want to skip down to the “Read this Book if” section, to continue avoiding spoilers :)

I liked not knowing anything about this novel beforehand because that really raised the suspense level for me. I never knew who to trust and I was constantly worried about characters dying. I applaud Robert Lewis Stevenson for romanticizing pirate stories, and I wonder if even he anticipated or expected the influence his novel would continue to have long after his death.

As intrigued as I was by this story for the first four parts, once they arrive on the island and conflicts begin escalating, I started detaching from the story. I think I was put off by Long John Silver’s character. From the very first encounter with him, I didn’t trust him, but there were several times when I wanted to. I remember gasping in shock when the mutiny is uncovered by our narrator halfway through the story, but I always expected Silver to be the villain in disguise. What really confused me was how he could kill several crew members and threaten the lives of the captain and the doctor and still get away scot-free at the end of the book, while the men he persuaded into mutiny were either killed or marooned on Treasure Island.

Maybe I wasn’t reading closely enough? Am I alone in feeling conflicted over the conclusion of Treasure Island? It ruined the ending for me quite a bit, which is why I only gave the book a 3-star rating.

Read This Book If…

…you wish you were a pirate! Or you at least enjoy pirate and/or adventure stories.
…you are fascinated by the way humans (and fictional characters) react when placed in stressful life-and-death situations, especially when profit is involved (if you like Lord of the Flies and similar novels, you will probably appreciate Treasure Island as well).
…you like reading pioneering novels that have birthed entirely new genres.
…you enjoy reading books with reliable narrators, even if the other characters are not as trustworthy.

Final Musings

Since I’ve never seen a single film adaptation of Treasure Island, I have no idea which one is the best. Any recommendations? If you’re reading this, you should know that I am not the biggest Muppets fan, but if that one is generally considered one of the best versions, I will consider watching it :)

The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West

the fill-in boyfriend

When Gia Montgomery’s boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she has to think fast. After all, she’d been telling her friends about him for months now. This was supposed to be the night she proved he existed. So when she sees a cute guy waiting to pick up his sister, she enlists his help. The task is simple: be her fill-in boyfriend—two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies. After that, she can win back the real Bradley.

The problem is that days after prom, it’s not the real Bradley she’s thinking about, but the stand-in. The one whose name she doesn’t even know. But tracking him down doesn’t mean they’re done faking a relationship. Gia owes him a favor and his sister intends to see that he collects: his ex-girlfriend’s graduation party—three hours, zero commitment, a few white lies.

Just when Gia begins to wonder if she could turn her fake boyfriend into a real one, Bradley comes waltzing back into her life, exposing her lie, and threatening to destroy her friendships and her new-found relationship.

The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West
Published May 5, 2015 by HarperTeen
Format: library e-book; 344 pages
Young Adult/Contemporary Romance
Also By This Author: The Distance Between UsOn the FencePivot Point
Goodreads | Author’s Website
My Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Thoughts:

This book is about so much more than I originally expected. Yes, the majority of the plot revolves around the idea of a fill-in boyfriend, but it’s also about losing friends and making new ones, being vulnerable, and ultimately finding yourself. I connected easily with Gia as she tries to become a better person during her senior year of high school. Like so many of us, she feels like an absolute failure before she notices any improvement.

A lot of Gia’s life is centered on her group of best friends: Claire, Laney, and “frenemy” Jules. Seeing how these girls interacted with each other and with their other classmates reminded me of some of the best and worst parts of high school. I really enjoyed the misfit characters that interrupted Gia’s perfectly planned life and changed her perspective on everything.

I enjoyed the ending of The Fill-In Boyfriend because not everything is completely resolved. Some relationships were still messy and there were some unanswered questions, which made the ending more realistic, in my opinion. Sometimes I prefer a clean, “happily ever after” ending, but honestly, those books are usually more forgettable. When novels wrap up and leave a few minor ends unresolved, I tend to hold on to the story for a while after I’ve finished it, mulling it over and analyzing how it connects to my own reality. The Fill-In Boyfriend has had me reflecting on high school and the friendships that have dissolved or endured over the years.

Read This Book If…

…you like seeing characters get caught in their mistakes (and lies) and having to make amends.
…you’ve ever been a misfit.
…you enjoy venting your feelings through fictional characters (there are a few scenes involving angry screaming and throwing rocks).
…you’re looking to read a contemporary YA romance that is surprisingly more than surface-deep.

“We rarely find a depth by looking inside of ourselves for it. Depth is found in what we can learn from the people and things around us. Everyone, everything, has a story, Gia. When you learn those stories, you learn experiences that fill you up, that expand your understanding. You add layers to your soul.”

Final Musings:

One thing Gia focuses on in The Fill-In Boyfriend is being a better person. She fails, a lot, but it reminded me that self-improvement is a life-long journey and not an over-night process. Although it makes me extremely anxious when fictional characters act like compulsive liars (seriously, I have a major problem with second-hand guilt and embarrassment), seeing how Gia reacted to the consequences of her decisions made up for that.

This book was recommended to me by a couple of friends, and even though I had previously tried reading Kasie West’s The Distance Between Us (and put it down after a quarter of the way through), I’m glad I gave The Fill-In Boyfriend a chance because it’s been one of the best books I’ve read so far this year.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan’s life. Having missed her flight, she’s stuck at JFK airport and late to her father’s second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon-to-be stepmother Hadley’s never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport’s cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he’s British, and he’s sitting in her row.

A long night on the plane passes in the blink of an eye, and Hadley and Oliver lose track of each other in the airport chaos upon arrival. Can fate intervene to bring them together once more?

Quirks of timing play out in this romantic and cinematic novel about family connections, second chances, and first loves. Set over a twenty-four-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver’s story will make you believe that true love finds you when you’re least expecting it.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith
Published January 2, 2012 by Poppy
Young Adult, Contemporary Romance
Format: Hardcover; library checkout; 236 pages
Also By This Author: Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between, This is What Happy Looks Like, The Geography of You and Me
Goodreads Amazon Author’s Website
My Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Thoughts:

So I’m officially a fan of Jennifer E. Smith now. This is the second book of hers I’ve read in two months that I really, really enjoyed. I guess I should probably give The Geography of You and Me another chance. Maybe I’ll like it better now ;)

About the book…
Yes, it’s a contemporary romance, but surprisingly that wasn’t the deepest part about this novel, and I wouldn’t say it was my favorite part, either. Hadley, our main character is going through a difficult period with her dad after her parents’ divorce. In fact, the only reason Hadley meets Oliver is because she’s flying over to London for her father’s wedding, something she’s dreading.

I totally understand why Hadley’s mad at and hurt by her father, too. He kind of skipped out on Hadley and her mom by moving to England and then having an affair with his now-fiancé. But each chapter Hadley confronts a memory or fear about her father that causes her to reflect on the deterioration of their relationship and what she wishes it would be like, and meeting Oliver at the airport on the way to London is what forces her to do that. Along the way she develops feelings for Oliver, but in my opinion this novel is less about falling in love and more about restoring relationships. There’s one heartwarming chapter in particular that really tugged at my feelings, but I don’t want to say anything more about it to avoid spoilers!

Read This Book If…

…you love stories about reconciliations.
…you enjoy novels that touch on darker emotions, such as grief, hate, heartbreak, and unforgiveness.
…you like characters who make you laugh (Oliver is an adorable dork).
…you like reading books about parent-child relationships.

“In the end, it’s not the changes that will break your heart; it’s that tug of familiarity.”

Final Musings

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight is definitely a re-readable book for me! I loved Hadley and Oliver and the journey they take together. They reminded me that being a teenager is tough and that everyone has complicated relationships with their parents, but that’s not a reason to give up on them because of a falling-out. And on a lighter note, Oliver and Hadley were adorable together! There were several moments in this book that gave me “heart eyes” :)

Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend (Broken Hearts #1) by Katie Finn

brokenhearts

Gemma had her summer all planned out, but it takes a sharp turn when she gets dumped and finds herself back in the Hamptons after a five-year absence.

Being there puts her at risk of bumping into Hallie, her former best friends (that is, before Gemma ruined her life). But people don’t hold grudges forever. Do they?

Gemma intends on making amends, but a small case of mistaken identity causes the people she knew years ago—including Hallie and her dreamy brother, Josh—to believe she’s someone else. As though the summer wasn’t complicated enough already.

Filled with summer sun, boys, and friendships gone sour, Katie Finn’s first novel in the Broken Hearts and Revenge series sizzles and delights.

Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend by Katie Finn
Published May 13, 2014 by Feiwel & Friends
Young Adult, Contemporary Romance
Format: Hardcover; 339 pages
Also By This Author: Top 8Revenge, Ice Cream, and Other Things Best Served Cold
Goodreads Amazon Author’s Website
My Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

Thoughts:

If I could summarize this book in one sentence it would say: LYING IS BAD!

Gemma Tucker is a big liar. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I won’t go into too much detail, but when Gemma was 11 she did some really horrible things to a friend she made while vacationing in the Hamptons for the summer. I say horrible without explaining what she did exactly, but trust me, some of these things she did were cruel and had serious, long-term affects. I remember feeling really sad after we finally find out what happened.

Anyway, this book is actually fun, despite some of the sadder/darker backstory. Fast-forward 7 years and now Gemma, recently dumped and back in the Hamptons for the summer, is presented with a chance to “mend” all the wrongs she did…by lying.

Yeah, because that’s not going to end badly.

This book was well-written and the characters weren’t flat or boring. The only reason I didn’t rate this book a little higher is because of the lying. Lie after lie built up to the point that I was stressing out and feeling like was the one lying. (Side note: I have a problem, when it comes to appropriating fictional characters’ feelings as my own, especially guilt or embarrassment. It’s a big problem of mine) But by the time I reached the end of the novel and things took a huge twist, I was ready to read the sequel (which I just received for Christmas!).

Read This Book If…

…you enjoy books about second chances.
…you’re looking for a light but suspenseful read (that may stress you out like it did me!).
…you need a beach book even if it’s not beach season yet!
…you want to start a new series (the final book will be published in May so you wouldn’t have to wait years to read them all!).

Final Musings

If you didn’t know this, Katie Finn is also Morgan Matson, author of some of my favorite Young Adult books, Since You’ve Been Gone and Second Chance SummerBroken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend is a lot different from Matson’s books, but the writing styles and character developments are similar. I enjoyed this book even if 3-stars doesn’t seem like a great rating (it would have been 4-stars if I hadn’t experienced so much second-hand embarrassment).

Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between by Jennifer E. Smith

Hello Goodbye

On the night before they leave for college, Clare and Aidan have only one thing left to do: figure out whether they should stay together or break up. Over the course of twelve hours, they retrace the steps of their relationship, trying to find something in their past that might help them decide what their future should be. The night leads them to family and friends, familiar landmarks and unexpected places, hard truths and surprising revelations. But as the clock winds down and morning approaches, so does their inevitable goodbye. The question is, will it be goodbye for now or goodbye forever?

Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between by Jennifer E. Smith
Published September 1, 2015 by Poppy
Young Adult, Contemporary Romance
Format: Library Checkout; Hardcover; 246 pages
Also By This Author: The Statistical Probability of Love at First SightThis is What Happy Looks LikeThe Geography of You and Me
Goodreads | Amazon | Author’s Website
My Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Thoughts:

I loved this book! Before reading it I was a little skeptical because Jennifer E. Smith’s books tend to be hits or misses for me (I enjoyed This is What Happy Looks Like but I didn’t really care for The Geography of You and Me).

The premise of this book also seemed a little far-fetched: two high school sweethearts spending the last night of summer debating if they should break up or stay together when they head off to different colleges. At first it felt like the author added drama just for the sake of adding drama. But, as I continued reading, I started to see how logical Aidan and Clare’s arguments were at the same time they saw it. I loved growing along with the characters.

Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between was a really entertaining read. Each chapter took place at a different location that held some type of significance to Clare and Aidan. It was almost like following along on someone else’s scavenger hunt.

The characters were very likable and they also felt real. They were awkward, indecisive, and they sometimes said the wrong things and got into bitter arguments. One argument in particular felt like a typical teenage fight: it was heated, a little petty, and both sides refused to back down. I actually really enjoyed seeing that fight play out because it reminded me of my silly fights with friends and boyfriends when I was in high school (but I’m definitely glad to have grown past that stage!).

I think the reason I enjoyed Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between so much was because the characters reminded me of my own experiences and relationships when I was transitioning from high school to college. I had a not so amicable break up with my long-distance boyfriend, I got into arguments with friends over not including them in my life enough, and I definitely went through periods of doubt when it came to my future. I really felt for Clare since she reminded me of myself as a high school senior.

I don’t want to spoil anything, but the ending was perfect! I reread it several times because I loved it that much. Up until the last few chapters I was only going to give this book a 4-star rating, but when I got closer to the end I cried and laughed and completely fell in love with Jennifer E. Smith’s ability to weave all the loose ends together. 5-stars all the way!

Read This Book If…

…you enjoy coming of age stories.
…you’re in the mood to read a book that will make you feel all sorts of emotions: joy, sadness (I cried three times!), suspense (I stayed up until the early hours of the morning to finish this book because I had to know how it ended. That means a lot considering I have a newborn who won’t let me make up for lost sleep during the day!).
…you want to swoon! Aidan and Clare are adorably romantic :)
…you like contemporary romances that are fun but deep-feeling at the same time.

“Maybe the world isn’t full of signs so much as it’s full of people trying to use whatever evidence they can find to convince themselves of what they hope to be true.”

Final Musings

Even though I was hesitant to read this book at first, I’m so glad I gave it a chance because it ended up being one of my favorite reads from 2015. Jennifer E. Smith’s writing style is fun and unique and her characters are very relatable and entertaining. This is definitely the type of book I plan on rereading!

The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things by Ann Aguirre

The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things

Sage Czinski is trying really hard to be perfect. If she manages it, people won’t peer beyond the surface, or ask hard questions about her past. She’s learned to substitute causes for relationships, and it’s working just fine… until Shane Cavendish strolls into her math class. He’s a little antisocial, a lot beautiful, and everything she never knew she always wanted.

Shane Cavendish just wants to be left alone to play guitar and work on his music. He’s got heartbreak and loneliness in his rearview mirror, and this new school represents his last chance. He doesn’t expect to be happy; he only wants to graduate and move on. He never counted on a girl like Sage.

But love doesn’t mend all broken things, and sometimes life has to fall apart before it can be put back together again…

The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things by Ann Aguirre
Published April 7, 2015 by Feiwel & Friends
Young Adult, Contemporary Romance
Format: e-book from Netgalley for review; 334 pages
Also By This Author: Razorland Series, 2B Series
Goodreads | Amazon | Author’s Website

My Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

Thoughts:

I was immediately reeled into the premise of this book: two social outcasts helping each other heal from the past and find confidence in themselves.

Sage was such an easy character to sympathize with. Although she seems a little bristly on the outside, she has an altruistic heart and is the “queen” of acts of kindness. I loved how she posted words of encouragement on the lockers of her classmates. Whenever she noticed someone who could use a little pick-me-up, she would write a small compliment on a post-it-note and attach it to their locker. I wish I had done something like that in high school, but it’s never to late to be encouraging :)

This novel started out really promising for me; it wasn’t hard for me to get right into the story, and the only thing keeping me from giving this novel a higher rating is the pacing of it. After the first quarter of the novel it felt like things were progressing too slowly, and then towards the end of the novel it seemed that whole weeks were skipped over because nothing romantic was happening. I wish that the author had added a subplot to make Sage’s story a little deeper, but this book was still enjoyable.

Read This Book If…

…you love reading stories with positive-thinking, “do good” type characters.
…you enjoy novels about second chances and social misfits.
…you’re looking for a feel-good contemporary romance.
…you want to read a book that will encourage you to be a nicer, more encouraging person.

“If you want something bad enough, you do what it takes to make it happen.”

Final Musings:

This book started off really intriguing! And even though I wish the pacing was a little better, the characters and the major plot points made The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things an enjoyable, feel-good novel that will make you want to start handing out encouraging notes to strangers :)

Soundtrack Saturday: Open Road Summer

openroadsummer

After breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind. . . and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own.

Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts. But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence.

This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking.

Last week I finally got around to reading this debut novel by Emery Lord and I honestly don’t know what took me so long because it was fantastic! I loved how perfectly imperfect the characters were, each one coming from some broken background or situation. Reagan was so easy to relate to, and even during the few scenes where she did something stupid or petty, I couldn’t get mad at her because I realized I’ve behaved similarly before.

The friendship in Open Road Summer is so heartwarming! Lilah and Reagan’s relationship reminded me so much of my high school BFF (side note: it also calls to mind Emily and Sloane’s friendship in Morgan Matson’s Since You’ve Been Gone, another fantastic read).

And the romance is truly swoon-worthy <3

Since Open Road Summer revolves heavily around music and songwriting, it was very easy to make up a soundtrack in my head while reading this book. Erin over at The Hardcover Lover hosts the Soundtrack Saturday meme and since I loved this book so much, I wanted to share my Open Road Summer soundtrack with you all.

Some songs are dedicated to BFFs Reagan and Lilah while others perfectly go along with some of the dialogue and quarrels between Reagan and Matt. (The last song is my fav!)

Just press play and enjoy!

Open Road Summer Soundtrack