Friday, August 30, 2013

Wild Reading: Shark Trouble

Welcome to my second Wild Reading! I've been able to do some really good reading lately and I'm rather proud of myself for staying on top of not only my reading, but my book reviewing posts on this blog. I've not been able to stay this consistent with it in a long time. I just finished another book and this post is to tell you all about it. Hopefully I can be just as consistent with the rest.

Today's review is of a non-fiction book involving *insert Jaws theme here* SHARKS!!!!


Shark Trouble
Author: Peter Benchley
Rating: 4.5/5

Shark TroubleI stumbled across this book when I was strolling through the library. It had 3 things going for it that ultimately led me to pick it up. 1) I have a strange fascination with sharks. 2) It was written by Peter Benchley who wrote Jaws. I have 2 other books by him that I have not yet read but plan to. I read Jaws and while it wasn't the best book ever and though I preferred the movie adaptation, I wanted to see what else he had to say about sharks. 3) My library card had just one slot left and this was the one I wanted to pick up most. (It was a hard choice between Shark Trouble and The Odyssey of KP2, but I ended up picking up KP2 on my next trip. A review for that will follow in a few weeks.)

Shark Trouble is a short, quick read full of interesting information regarding not only sharks, but the ocean overall as well. It is divided into 15 chapters, which are divided into 3 parts. Its very handy to pace yourself when reading. Provides good stopping points while still covering plenty of pages (for those of you who need pacing while reading).  It starts off with the introduction of course, going over what he will discuss. Then starts with a very interesting story, spread out in 3 sections of the first part. I was hooked on this story and wanted to see what would happen. He also talks about what we actually know about sharks (very little) and discusses a bit of how Jaws came to be. I found that rather interesting and very surprising. The next part talks about some different types of sharks and how to swim safely in the sea. This I found exceptionally good. I don't go to the beach very often, but when I do I'm always concerned about having some sort of accident. Reading this book and hearing about the different things to look out for will definitely help me to enjoy myself more and be more confident the next time I have a vacation and find myself by the ocean. Finally, Benchley mentions other animals besides sharks that you should be careful for when out in the ocean and the dangers they can present.

Overall, I found this book really enjoyable and informative. I feel like I have a better understanding of certain oceanic aspects. I especially liked the personal stories that Benchley included from his own experience as a certified diver. I was surprised to find that he, his wife, their daughter and two sons were all certified divers. One son was certified by the age of 10. As I live in the desert, I do not know many divers, nor have I ever been diving myself. I have considered it many times but never really thought I would do it. It seems rather terrifying and I think I would find myself much more comfortable snorkeling (always with caution of course for those other creatures mentioned). I was stunned to hear all the stories and especially the ones that involved his family. Those were really neat. He had a lot of cool and interesting experiences.

Among the extra creatures he mentions are moray eels (I finally found out why they open and close their mouths as often as they do!) Whenever I would see one in an aquarium I noticed they would repeatedly open and close their mouths and it looked rather curious. Why do they that? Now I know and I'm glad I do! Within the pages of this book you will also find orcas, barracudas, rays and squid. There's even a story I found kinda funny about a dolphin he happened to encounter somewhere. It was so horrible but too out there of a story for me not to laugh. He survived so its ok.

This book is definitely worth a read, if only for chapter 8 (regarding swimming safety). The table of contents is very well outlined and I'm actually finding it to be extremely helpful as I'm writing this review. I rarely use the table of contents when I read books, but this one is very well done and convenient. I feel like I learned more by reading this book and I feel like diving could actually be fun, given you stay observant, respect the ocean and its creatures, and be prepared for anything to happen. I still wouldn't do it just yet though.

I think that this book would be very good for anyone who likes sharks, the ocean, diving and is interested in learning more about each thing. Those who enjoy personal stories especially. Also, anyone who is curious about any of those things could pry get a lot from it. Or, if you just wanna be taken away to the ocean for a little while. I found myself feeling rather far away from my bed while reading this book. Came very close to just diving into the water for a quick swim when I realized I was still on dryland far away from large bodies of water. For a little extra fun, google "Jenny Haniver." I had never heard of these before, and I don't much like the concept overall, but it was definitely strange and I learned something new.

I can't give it a 5 because it didn't have that little something extra that I can't explain, but that some books have; also I think there could've been a lot more added into this book. I would've liked a few more stories and tips on diving in shark areas, but I suppose that what he covered is enough to satisfy me for now. If anything I could look for another book on that particular topic instead. However, I did enjoy it a whole lot making it more than a 4.  Therefore, I'd say Shark Trouble is a 4.5.

Enjoyable and informative, Shark Trouble is worth a glance. There are a lot of parts in this book that I will remember for a while.

Thanks for reading this review, another will be coming soon!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

What's Up With Sam? #2: Updates and Life

Hey there! This is Sam. I haven't done another What's Up With Sam? post in a while....but alas, this one I am not using as a way to link fun stuff. Sorry. This What's Up With Sam? is literally to tell you what's going on with me and how it may affect you, my readers.

I did not put up a book review this past week. If you didn't notice....well now you know.

As to the why I didn't post a review this week....I usually post on mondays. Its the easiest day to post things. Within the next few weeks this may change. For those who don't know, I am in college. This fall begins my second year, my Sophomore year. School begins next monday, the 26th of August. Whoopee! Due to my schedule being awesome, I start class early in the morning and continue until about 6:30ish This is the same for wednesdays and fridays are half days. I have no school tuesday or thursday.

I still have lots of reviews lined up from books I've been reading over the summer. So luckily, this semester I can keep my blog going instead of dropping it like I did the past 2 semesters. However, I will pry post up stuff on Tuesdays or Thursdays instead since those will be my slower study days when I can quickly pop in and out to toss something up here.

This past Monday I was rather busy. I had to pay tuition dues and for those who don't know, I am vice president of an organization at the university I attend. I had an officer meeting and that took up some time. By the time I finished everything I had to do, I just didn't think posting a review this week would be wise. I'm still trying to finish up some other books too! I have a couple more to finish before I go on a mild reading pause. Studying is a requirement and that means less fun reading time. Maybe just a chapter a night....that might work.

I was considering posting on Sundays but.....Sunday isn't the right day for blog posting. And besides, I'd already have a bad start on it this week. This Sunday is my birthday and I refuse to do any posting on the day I turn 19. It's not happening. As fun as it is, I have other fun to be had that day.

SO there's the reasons for upcoming changes and possible reasons for a lack of posts in the future. I might forget to do one because I have a Latin test or something. I'm really looking forward to this semester and maybe I'll find out some cool stuff to share with you about a topic I have in class or maybe I'll learn some cool new stuff about the university that I can share. That's always fun.

Thanks for understanding how all this stuff works and how life intervenes. You'll still be getting posts....that I can assure you. I've planned it so I should have enough book reviews written to last me until the end of the semester. I took great reading advantage of my summer.

New review will be up next week I hope. So until then, have a great week!

Monday, August 12, 2013

GN Review: The Amazing Spider-Man: Lizard: No Turning Back

What a mouthful that title is....Hi there! Welcome back to another review here at The Real World According To Sam! I've been going through books like crazy, so here comes yet another. Today's review is of a Graphic Novel (GN). It features not only one of my absolute favorite superheros, but also one of my top favorite villains EVER! THE LIZARD!!!!!!

Hmm...perhaps I should start with a little bit of background for those of you unfamiliar with the world of Spider-Man. In high school, Peter Parker gets bit by a spider and gets superpowers. In college he has a professor by the name of Dr. Curt Conners. Dr. Conners is missing an arm and was experimenting with lizard DNA to see if the regenerative properties they had could apply to humans, testing his formula on himself. It backfired and he became The Lizard. He has varied between himself and The Lizard on many occassions; saved by one formula and an accident leads to him turning back or something. Dr. Conners is one of the characters I feel the most sympathy towards and also one of the most fascinating villains I am familiar with.

Here is one of the latest Spidey-Lizard encounters!

The Amazing Spider-Man: Lizard: No Turning Back
Writer: Dan Slott
Penciler: Giuseppe Camuncoli + Mario del Pennino
Rating: 4/5

This was one of the ones I picked up from the library a couple weeks ago. I am a sucker for good graphic novels and this once caught my attention because it focused on The Lizard. The cover was so dark and catching, I couldn't resist. 

In this GN, Peter Parker appears to be older and a bit more...edgy than I'm used to. Let me talk a bit about how Peter Parker is here. The Peter Parker I know is the high school/college student trying to figure out how to fit Spider-Man together with all the other hectic things in life he is responsible for. The Peter Parker I have always known has dark brownish hair. Here, he looks a bit....blondish. Perhaps its just the light and angle of the images, but that threw me off a bit. Peter Parker didn't look like Peter Parker. I didn't know it was Peter until somebody called the character I was looking at by the same name. The body shape wasn't what I'm used to his being (was pretty bulky) and I can't tell if he's in college or if this is later in life.

Peter feels bad about so many people being dead and he vows that no one will die when he is around. Pretty impossible vow overall. Mary Jane owns a nightclub and decides to throw Peter a party. But Peter gets a call from a cop and has to leave to see what's going on. Dr. Michael Morbius (living vampire) dug up the grave of one Billy Connors (Dr. Connors son) and needs to be apprehended. He is working at a lab, run by a scientist guy (Modell) Peter knows and has probably worked with at some point. Morbius however, is working on a cure for The Lizard who is at large in the sewer. Morbius and Spidey team up to see if the cure will work.

The rest that ensues is crazy Lizard mayhem. The Lizard persona has taken over Conners and havoc is being wreaked. Somebody is stealing blueprints from the lab and before you know it Morbius has lost control and his hunger has taken over. Spidey has to save the day, as usual.

This GN is really crazy. It goes beyond the Lizard we've seen in the past and pushes his limits. Please welcome The Lizard 2.0. Just kidding, 2.0 Lizard would probably be a bunch of robotic versions... which might actually be pretty neat. Ok, let me shut off my imagination enough to get through this review.

Spider-Man: Lizard: No Turning Back
The images are pretty cool, but none of them top the cover. Geez, its so dark and disconcerting. The storyline is pretty intriguing and the action never stops. Peter Parker is really starting to feel like he's getting out of hand though. He's losing it...not in the way that he's losing his spidey touch, but in the way that he's just losing who he was and everything he stood for. Things are spinning out of control and it feels like he's trying to achieve a kind of....control over things that isn't possible. He's pushing extremes and I'm pretty sure that if he doesn't sort himself out soon, he'll be close to reaching the Dark Side of the Force like Anakin or something.

 Lizard: No Turning Back is quick, but definitely not breezy. This is not a feel-good happy ending GN, but then, when is Spider-Man ever completely off the hook with everything hunky-dory? Pretty much never, in my experience. The action is there and there's lots of adrenaline going as the GN progresses. Another successful Spider-Man adventure.

At the end of the main feature is another Spider-Man adventure. Untold Tales of Spider-Man #9, written by Kurt Busiek, penciler Ron Frenz. This one is an older adventure...the cover of it shows it as being May '96, which seems accurate based on the art style. Here we get Spider-Man, the Lizard, and Batwing. I had never heard of Batwing until now. Apparently he is some kid that ended up mutating into a big bat somhow. He has sharp fangs, bat wings and reddish pink eyes. Still has his brown hair and is completely skin color. Even has the bat talons on his feet to match. Here's the deal: Spidey was going to take him to see Doc Connor (who is human and has already been changed from being the Lizard), in the hopes that Doc Connors can fix up a formula to change Batwing back to normal. Doc Connors does, but he ends up having yet another accident. The formula was based on the one that changed him into the Lizard, so when he gets a cut and some of the formula slips into it, he changes back. That's when all the action begins.

The one thing I can say that I don't really like about this one is....the way the Lizard is illustrated. I get that this was a pretty long time ago but he doesn't look fearsome. His snout is not at all the proper length. Thats what bothers me. The snout is too short to have any sort of menacing quality.......snout aside, its fun and enjoyable. At first I thought it was just a bad shadow, but it turned out to be just a super short, not very good looking snout. Perhaps I'm too picky about my reptilian beings, but I know that they could've done better on it.

What I did like a lot was seeing the cover variations for each dividing segment (for those unfamiliar with comics...each one is a short part of a big story and these GNs are basically volumes with 3-4 of these short stories. Each one is numbered and is separated from the one preceding it by an image. One solid image without words. Usually Marvel includes the ones that were possibilities and are really good.) I like seeing the variations a lot. Some of them look pretty sick. These all had some sort of Lizard deal so I liked them a whole lot.

A quick, action filled read, The Amazing Spider-Man: Lizard: No Turning Back is best for those familiar with the story of Spider-Man and the Lizard. New audiences who've not experienced Spider-Man before would probably get lost in all that is going on.

This concludes another review, thanks for reading and remember, "With great power, comes great responsibility."

Monday, August 5, 2013

Book Review: Godzilla

Hello and welcome to another review at The Real World According To Sam! Today's book is a movie novelizaton. It was based upon the screenplay for a movie. I really enjoy reading movie novelization and watching the movies to see how well a job was done in transferring action on the big screen to words on a page.


Based on Screenplay written by: Dean Devlin & Roland Emmerich
Novelization by: Stephen Molstad
Rating: 4/5

Godzilla Novelization
I really don't know where to start with this review. Godzilla = huge lizard terrorizing large cities. Although, I find that, in order to keep accuracy, I must adapt a habit from the book and state that it isn't Godzilla, it's Gojira. Some reporter in the story butchered a japanese mythological dragon's name (the original Japanese film from 1954 was actually titled Gojira, and it was later dubbed Godzilla----probably when brought to American audiences, but I don't know for sure). But for originality's sake, let's just call it Gojira. 

The beginning....a submarine sinks after being attacked and having some of the outer sheeting ripped through. The markings, upon further examination, appear to be claw marks. Isn't that impossible though? There's nothing that could cause reptilian claw marks THAT big. Yes, it is reptilian.

Enter Nick Tatopoulos, the 'worm-guy.' A biologist, enviromentalist hired by a nuclear inspection company and taken away from studying earthworms at Chernobyl by the US government.  What could be more important than studying the effects of nuclear radiation on earthworms? Oh nothing, except perhaps the effects of nuclear radiation on a lizard that has now grown to ginormous proportions that is on its way to the United States.  Nick was a very good character in my opinion. He is the one who relays the whole account of the Gojira incident to the reader. He actually communicates with the reader through the pages, saying all he's left out and how much self control he excersized to remove all of his rants on protecting the environment. These comments from him just show more of the kind of character he is. He is a bit outspoken, but makes himself heard when he needs to. He doesn't have a very glamorous life, but he loves what he does.

A great cast of characters await readers. Audrey, the girl-next-door type who decides to grow a backbone and take matters into her own hands. Animal, the cameraman who just never quits or leaves his tape behind. Caiman, the guy you just gotta hate for his compensation, lack of stature leads to a big head to make up for it. Lucy, Audrey's friend and Animal's wife, just as tenacious and fiery as a stereotypical New Yorker. Hick, the military guy in charge of most of the operation. O'Neal, a soldier and Hick's scapegoat for everything that could go wrong as the bearer of bad news.

What's not to like about this? There's a huge lizard wreaking havoc on New York City, there is potential for a nest full of cute little ravenous lizards, there's a dash of romance blooming from a place where it had gone out years before, and lots of explosions....and a crazy French secret service agent who helps save the day even though nobody is supposed to know it.

Action and explosions and huge asexual lizards, oh my!!! I had a blast reading this book. It isn't super long so its a nice quick bit of fun. I really like creatures that can cause massive damage and destruction (dinosaurs, oversized radioactive lizards, giant worms underground, killer sharks...) and Gojira gave me everything I wanted, except people eating. There's really no nom-noming done by Gojira in regards to people. The food of choice is fish, but its ok considering that I really like fish. Its delicious and I appreciate Gojira's good taste. Give it a shot if you like the movie or are just interested in the story of Gojira. Its awesome to read about big lizards.

I also liked the love story bit they had going in there. It allowed the book to go full-circle and cover everything I require from a story. It wasn't in your face, but it was there enough to make a statement. Props to whoever wrote that into the screenplay. I loved it. Good for saps like me who enjoy those classic movie monsters but want something more than just that in regards to relationships. It didn't feel fake or forced. It felt natural and meant to be. My hat is off to you, romance including person.

Also, I don't know if its just me, but I think that in one of the final paragraphs I sensed a correlation between Mendel Craven and Michael Crichton....I've looked online for something and found absolutely nothing on the matter. I think that towards the end they make a funny and treat Mendel as a sort of, loosely caricatured Michael Crichton. Even the names seem a bit similar in my opinion. Mendel---Michael...Craven-Crichton....Cretaceous-period park...maybe its just me, but that seems like a big heads up hello to Crichton fans, like me. It made me laugh.

Ok, I just recently watched the movie. I don't want to go on and on about that in a separate review so I'll just add a few things in here real quick. The movie is a blast. I really enjoyed it. It isn't very bloody at all, but is still thrilling and lots of fun. I had very few problems with this movie. The score is absolutely beautiful!! Which leads me to the first thing I found a bit awkward. Godzilla finally makes his debut on the screen in his entirety and what do I hear? The prettiest score ever. I loved how it sounded but I'm not sure how well it matched up with what was happening. Big, terrifying lizard finally shows his face and we end up with some sort of wondrous music that would've been better later on, when we get a more sentimental aspect towards the monster...not when we're about to see him attacked and wreaking havoc. But the score is nice, so I can't hate on it too much. The main problem with the movie is the overall lack of character development. The character's come across as less important in comparison to Godzilla. However, in the book, you get a lot more character development going on. There is some in the movie, but not enough to score it high in that category. Having read the book AND watched the movie, I can say I fully enjoyed both since I knew about the characters more before watching it. My only other gripe with this film (and its not a large one anyhow, more like a minor personal qualm) is Godzilla's eye throughout most of the film. Sometimes its just...too hazy to be very fearsome. I like fearsome lizard eyes and the one on the movie cover looked way better than the one in the movie itself. That's on design, not the plot. But still, a better lizard eye would've made me happy. There also wasn't enough of that romance between Tatopoulos and Audrey. I wanted more and I didn't get it which stank because I enjoy a side of romance to go with my destructive creatures and explosions. Makes for an overall good movie, in my opinion.

Overall, Godzilla is a fun movie. It's geared to those who are mostly about the action and movie monsters, but maybe those who are more squeamish and can't take a lot of gore. I enjoyed it and even was sad at the end....I can't help it, I love these creatures in movies (Jaws, Jurassic Park, Tremors, Godzilla). Love them and can't have enough of those movie monsters.

For a good time, watch the movie. Don't go in looking for an in-depth movie full of great characters and character development. Come for the action. Read the book if you want a better grasp of everything overall. If you need the character development, read it and then watch it. It'll work out better for you in the end.

This concludes my review, I hope you enjoyed it.
This is Sam, signing out!