Monday, December 23, 2013

Winter Special: The Snow is Turning Red This Winter!!!! Reviewing: Undead & Unfed

Hello and welcome to my first ever Winter Special here at The Real World According To Sam!!! Today I've got a double feature. The first book, is the debut novel of an author. The second is for the sequel. Based on preference, you can read both, but be forewarned that reading the second review may give away some parts of the first book. I wipe my hands of any distraught you may cause yourself by reading more than you want to. There will be a division between the two and a between space, from there on out, you just gotta scroll down to the very bottom for concluding remarks and skip over Review #2 if you wish.

Let's get started!!!!

Author: Kirsty McKay
Genre: YA Paranormal
Year of Publication: 2012

There is a major zombie craze that's been occurring over the past 5 or so years now. It's still going pretty strong with shows such as The Walking Dead or movies like World War Z (I've seen neither of those by the way). I've read my share of zombie books, not a whole bunch, but an okay amount. Let it be known that I'm not a huge fan of zombies, but occasionally I do enjoy a horrifying thrill or 3. 

Obviously, since I've brought up zombies, this book has something to do with that topic doesn't it? Indeed it does.

I won Undead through a contest on Facebook hosted by This Is Teen. The deal was this: write a caption for the cover of the book, you get prizes if you're picked. My caption ("This winter, the snow is turning red.") was a runner up, so I was sent a free copy of Undead. I was incredibly excited and had to put it off to read library books. However, I thought now was as good a time to read it as any, since I have down time from college and the winter chill has come. So here we are!!! I was also tipped off by a friend that there was going to be a sequel. I waited so I could just tackle both if I chose to. 

So what is Undead even about??
Undead is the story of Roberta and 3 of her classmates from school: Alice, Pete, and Smitty. Things take a turn for the worse when their bus stops in a small town on their way back from a school ski trip. Everyone but Roberta and Smitty get off the bus. Next thing you know, pretty much everyone is dead. Or are they? Alice, Pete, Smitty, and Roberta aren't really friends, but they come closer together in their own way in order to survive. Their classmates and teachers, among others, are coming back from the dead, and they're VERY hungry. There are secrets that will be unveiled and lots of zombie mayhem on the long road ahead. 

There are a few characters in this book, but Smitty, Roberta, Alice, and Pete are the main ones. They are the characters that we see most of and get to know best. They're well developed, but there's still a lot we don't know. Aside from Bobby (Roberta), you don't know much about the others' families. The thing I like best about this group of heroes and heroines, is the face that they're all so dissimilar. Bobby is a down to earth girl who has lost her father and might have some issues with her mother. Alice is the girl who always looks amazing and is so stuck up that she would love to stay away from anyone who could damage her reputation unless she has no choice whatsoever. She always has nasty remarks at the ready, gaining her the nickname of Malice, as dubbed by Smitty. Pete is the geek. He knows navigation and random skills that come in handy. However, he is socially challenged. Smitty is the typical bad boy. To me, he's like the John Bender  (Breakfast Club character) of contemporary teen zombie adventures. He has a devil-may-care attitude and a witty retort for everything. He isn't afraid to take charge, but his pride can get in the way sometimes. Overall, I really like these characters and I REALLY want to read more involving them. I'm so attached. I read this book in two days and I'm ridiculously hooked. 

To be honest, this is your typical zombie book. Group stops, people turn into zombies, hell breaks loose, group must find a way to survive and see if there's anyway to stop the zombies from doing anymore harm. There's a lot of suspense and the characters really help to constantly keep the pace moving quick. I like the general premise, but the real charm is in the execution. At the core, most zombie stories are generally the same, so any stories from here on out really have to have something more, or just good writing. 

I actually really loved the setting of the book. It's desolate and exotic at the same time. The characters are from England and they were skiing in Scotland. Scotland is where they get stuck. They're in a small, isolated town, its wintertime, there's ice and snow and there is a castle. All of these things make the book really fun to read. I loved the settings. The details are good enough to paint the scenes, but not too many to be tiresome and drag the story to a crawl. Major props to Mrs. McKay for a well done job in this category.

I really liked this book. I got hooked instantly. This I credit to the excellent chemistry between all the characters. They just fit together well and mesh in a great way. Smitty is such a puzzle to me sometimes. At first, you can't really tell what he's after, or which girl. Yes, there is a dash of romance tossed into the mix. Yes, I absolutely love it. Honestly, I almost wanted more of that added in. I was eating it up like crazy!!! That's the part I wanted most of. I also liked all the supporting characters. From Lily and Cam to Grace, Michael, and Shaq...and Bobby's mom when she decided to pop up. This book is fun and thrilling. I was super excited to read book 2 after this because McKay decided to leave a cliffhanger of sorts that I'm never fond of. It's good for suspense, but it annoys the heck out of me because I want what comes next almost immediately.  For zombie mayhem, romantic moments, and ever pushing adventure, I give Undead a 4 out of 5.

Okay, once more, if you do NOT want to know anything about book 2 and what happens, DO NOT read on from here. Just skip all the way down to finish the review and comment, or just leave now. You can always come back to read the second one after you finish the first or both books. 


Author: Kirsty McKay
Genre: YA Paranormal
Year of Publication: 2013

Unfed is the killer sequel to UNDEAD. I'm not even kidding, that's what it says directly on the cover, see for yourself!! My dad liked calling this one "my blood book" and when I mentioned that it was because there were zombies everywhere, he said it looked more like a slasher movie type of book full of people killing. But seriously, it's just a bunch of zombie mayhem. I'm not super into bloody stuff, but this was a pretty fun book and to be honest I found the cover and blood smatters of the first couple pages intriguing. Unfed is just as much of a roller coaster as Undead was. There are still zombies everywhere and we still have pretty much all the same characters that we became attached to in Book 1. Where's Smitty? Well, within a chapter or two, we discover that the bus from book 1 had an accident and only 4 people survived. But rest assured everyone!!! Smitty isn't dead. I don't know if that counts as a spoiler, because if Smitty was dead, I wouldn't have even have liked this book as much. Based on other reviews I've read, others wouldn't have either, or at least wouldn't be as pleased with the book. We all just love Smitty and Bobby's chemistry that much. 

Basically, Bobby and the other 3 I mentioned before are in a hospital and soon enough, all zombie mayhem breaks out yet again. All of Scotland is under quarantine and our heroes must find a way to reach safety based on clues left by Bobby's mom who we are told didn't survive the bus incident by Martha, an employee at the hospital. That's basically the long and short of the book. Bobby has to find Smitty and try to get to freedom safely, escaping zombies all along the way. 

The characters are still oodles of fun to read about. Russ wasn't bad overall. I'd say he was pretty well developed. To me, he was rather predictable though. I saw what was coming long before it happened. However, I don't know whether that's just good insight on my part or if that was a blatant ploy by McKay. I would've liked that to have been played a bit differently. Much more subtle overall so I'm not guessing correctly before half the book is even over. I guess having gone on the adventure with Smitty, Pete, Alice and Bobby just makes me even more suspicious of things. 

The setting is still pretty neat. It was fun to see everyone running from place to place trying to escape zombies and helicopters. All of the scenes were well written. I could easily picture everything that was happening and where. That's been a consistent positive with both books. 

I also like all the twists and turns, but I believe that if McKay is going to keep doing things like that, she needs to get these books done quicker. There is definitely going to be a book 3, because there was no real closure as to what happens with Xanthro or anything. However, there is no set release date and upon checking McKay's Facebook page, there's nothing about a third book. She's working on something else. While its commendable that she's still writing, I'm sure she already has a steady fan following for these books and THIS is what we want to keep seeing for now. Until I get closure, I'm not gonna stop wanting her to write up book 3 already, or however many it takes to finally get some answers. Also, at one point she introduced a zombie cow and goat, but never took this to its utmost potential!! What if Bobby had run into a zombie bear?? What would she do then? How about running into a zombie dog when they ran into that one town? That would've been super interesting! I say, don't introduce zombie animals unless you're actually gonna use them to their full potential, otherwise its a tool that wasn't wisely used in my opinion. 

Overall, Unfed was a really fun book. Sure, Smitty was gone for half of it and I wanted to smack him several times when he was there, but in the end, he's still good ole Smitty. I think half the fun was in trying to find him! The book is still quick paced and I'm definitely looking forward to more. I just wish that McKay would've used her ideas to their full potential and work a bit more on her twists because they were a bit obvious. While it can work, I'm not sure that it did all it could. I wasn't even that shocked. I had more of a "Hah!!!! I knew it!!!!!" kind of moment. 

I give Unfed a 3 out of 5. It was good, but it didn't live up to its predecessor. Its still a lot of fun and full of zombie mayhem, but I needed more from it and it needed better execution as a whole. I'll still be waiting anxiously for a third book though. 


This concludes my review of Undead and Unfed. Happy Holidays everyone!!!! 
Thanks for reading!! Come back soon for another review here at The Real World According To Sam.  There are lots more reviews for you all that will be coming up real soon. Join us again for another fun year as we enter 2014!!!! 

*What's the best zombie book or movie you've read or seen? Let me know down in the comments!!! Leave recommendations, ask me to discuss things you're interested in, let me know what you think of my blog*


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Vintage Vision: Fossils, Rocks, and Volcanoes

Hello! Welcome to Vintage Vision at The Real World According To Sam.  Today I'm going to be reviewing a pretty old classic novel that I'm sure a lot of people have heard of. It is one of the more popular classic books (not to mention one of the most adventurous I've ever read). Doc Brown would be really proud right now if he could be reading this review (to understand this reference please watch Back to the Future Part III). Without further ado, let's get to reviewing.


A Journey to the Center of the Earth
Author: Jules Verne
Genre: Science Fiction Classic
Year of Publication: 1864
Rating: 4/5

Journey to the Center of the Earth (Extraordinary Voyages, #3)A Journey to the Center of the Earth  was originally published in 1864 in France, under the title: Voyage au Centre de la Terre. It was later translated many times, which leads me to my first point. The copy I read, was a Reader's Digest copy. I had wanted to look something up about the book and I kept thinking I had something wrong because the names did not match up for the characters. I couldn't for the life of me figure out what the narrator's name was really supposed to be. Then I realized that in the different translations, names may have been altered so the name is whatever the book says and will correspond to the other one. So I'm reading this through Harry's/Henry's perspective (I never found out whether he was Harry or Henry because the professor kept calling him different things and his girlfriend listed what I supposed was his name but it never lined up right). So in a lot of versions his name is Axel...but here it's Harry/Henry. Since his girlfriend called him Henry, that's what I will say that his name is. Also, the professor in my book was Professor Von Hardwigg. in other translations his name is  Professor Lidenbrock. So In my review we have Professor Hardwigg and his nephew Henry. Just to clarify something that could cause great confusion amongst readers of the book.

They call Jules Verne the father of science fiction. Being rather interested in science fiction, it was thought best that I read the classics that "started" the genre. So thanks for picking it up at the library and suggesting it mom. Now how's about we get to talking about the actual book?

A journey to the Center of the Earth is about exactly that. Henry tells the story of how his uncle, a professor, stumbles across a piece of paper with some curious writing that all leads up to a voyage. The paper is deciphered by Henry due to Hardwigg's persistence and ignorance of daily routine things (such as sleep and food). A location is given by Arne Saknussem. Saknussem was an alchemist who had to leave his findings in secret because he didn't end up being the most popular of people. All his works were burned but this piece of paper with Runic writing managed to slip past all notice into a very old volume Professor Hardwigg happens to be reading. The paper basically leads to Mt. Sneffels. A volcano up north. By entering it, you find yourself on a path to the center of the Earth. What madness is this? Everyone knows that as you go further down into the Earth, pressure and heat are increased and you can't possibly reach the center of the Earth. Could all that be wrong? Professor Hardwigg, his nephew Henry and a hired guide Hans, set out on this unbelievably crazy mission.

Henry doesn't believe it possible and doesn't want to go, but he can't just leave his uncle to madness so he goes along. Along the way, he complains a lot....which, with some characters in stories, would be very annoying. However, circumstances permit that he is actually representative of what we as normal human beings would be thinking and wanting to do! So his complaining is fully allowable.

Professor Hardwigg is possessed with reaching the center of the Earth and stops at practically nothing to get there. He gets into these crazy thinking trances and he's so persistent. More than once the words "Mad Man" crossed my mind as I was reading.

Hans is the chill guy who speaks in another language. Only the Professor can understand him fully and converse with him. Henry is left to be given translations, although sometimes, he does manage to understand what Hans says. Hans is the level headed party member who is just along for the ride. He promised to stick around and as long as he gets paid each Saturday, he'll go wherever Hardwigg ("Master") says. His loyalty is actually pretty cool, as is his ability to make the best of all situations. He gets Henry and Hardwigg out of jams more than once. Its pretty cool. He's all stoic and quiet, yet still so handy.

Lots of craziness happens once our 3-member group gets into Mt. Sneffels. They follow pathways, find caverns, have to find a way to locate water, make scientific observations and yes! Even get driven to the point of madness...especially Henry. He has some of he worst episodes in this book, its pretty awesome to read about. This is one of the coolest stories of survival I've ever read. They find the impossible and it never went quite how I thought it would, which is awesome because I really hate being able to predict books sometimes. Just when you think you know everything....WHAM! Forget it, not happening.

The characters aren't the most deep characters ever in writing, to get them its more of the actions they take and the reactions they give to happening events. Hans never has an extended conversation with Henry or Hardwigg, but then, who really cares? He plays his part, as does everyone else. I dig that.

Also, there's a lot of science talk in this book. It may not even be fully accurate (I am not a Ph. D. in geology or mineralogy or any other -logy, so I can't be fully sure---minus the obvious stuff I was taught in school). It is really interesting though. Hardwigg is clearly a smart guy, who knows what he's talking about. It shows. He goes off on these "Professor-esque tangents" where he just rambles on as if he were giving a lecture, and sure it got a bit long sometimes, but its who he is so its all good. I took Geology/Principles of Earth Science this past semester of college and it was pretty cool. I'm taking the second half this coming semester, so I thought it was neat to bridge the summer gap with this book. It held my interest in the subject and will probably help me pay extra good attention so I can see how reality differs from Verne's tale of many years ago. The science in the book can get a little tedious, but it was never enough to make me stop reading at any point. I wanted to know if they ever reached the center and what it would look like if they did.

The cavern with the lake was probably my favorite part. It was super intriguing and descriptive, full of adventure and unknown mystery. Epic, to sum it all up in one word. To get all English class-ish for a moment, A Journey to the Center of the Earth is really just a look at the human condition under extraordinary circumstances. Most stories are just a way of studying the human condition and the effects on it from external stimuli. This book is just that, but fun and adventurous.

I really liked the copy I read. It was kind of old looking. Like a volume you'd find on a scholar's bookshelf. There were also a couple of illustrations within it in an couple of the chapters and those looked really good to me. They were very stylized but so neat and added to my enjoyment of the novel. Also, the chapters weren't very long at all. Some were, but for the most part (it might just be due to the page size in my copy) it was easy to pace myself. At around 44 chapters, A Journey to the Center of the Earth is a very substantial read that doesn't drag on longer than necessary. I was pretty hooked. Its not the most amazing book I've ever read, but its up there with the ones I'd call pretty good books. I would read it again and someday I might have to buy my own copy of it. A nice copy though....hopefully with some illustrations.

Of all classics I've read, this is one of the most straightforward and comprehensible ones a person could read. There's nothing difficult about it beyond the scientific things. The language is pretty easy to read for it being over 100 years old. I wasn't struggling (I don't usually anyway), but I think even your standard high schooler could get through this one without too much hassle. I don't know why schools force students to read stuff like Of Mice and Men in 6th grade, but not books like this. This is definitely way more worthwhile and much more comprehendable. Not to mention way more interesting. Leave in Hamlet and Pride & Prejudice, but add in some of the better classics. The ones we'll actually enjoy, remember and get something significant out of, like imagination, curiosity, and creativity. This would especially be good for any of you parents out there who have kids into science, particularly rocks, geology,  paleontology. This would be a great way to get them into books and to pique their interest in the subject even more. I would even say that science teachers should start doing required readings like this. Could have some really good class discussions and experiments to separate the fiction from the fact.

This concludes my review of A Journey to the Center of the Earth, please tune your computer or mobile device in again next week for yet another review here at The Real World According To Sam. Enjoy the rest of your week! 

Friday, December 6, 2013

E.Y.E., Memory Loss, and Powers!!! Reviewing: Waybrooke

Welcome back to The Real World According To Sam!
I am Sam and you have entered my world. Today I bring another HONEST review from an author who asked me to read her book. This is her first ever novel and I'm very honored to have been able to read it.

Author: Julia Barkey
Genre: YA Action/Paranormal/Romance
Year of Publication: 2013

Waybrooke is a YA book by teen author Julia Barkey. The story follows Carrie, a young teen with a mysterious power whose aunt needs her help to aid other teens with various powers. Carrie has a past with a guy who makes an appearance a few chapters in and plays a large role in the overall plot. Carrie soon finds out that not is all as it seems at first. She ends up on the run with the group of teens she was sent to help, in order to avoid getting caught by a mysterious organization known only as E.Y.E.

There are a few main characters, but Carrie is the main one. She is the one the story is focused on and the key to pretty much everything. She's pretty well developed, but I definitely want to see more of her. There are a handful of teens at the beginning and a few of those stick together throughout the whole book. This involves a mind reader and 2 guys whose powers come into play later in the book. All are interesting and I want more of them. They don't feel fully fleshed out yet, but they are well on their way. They are relatable, fun and different from one another.

The plot isn't very original overall, but the way everything comes together is. There aren't many books I've read that feature teens with powers. This is what I would consider a crossover of fun, light, adventurous YA and X-Men. However, this is way less technical and adult oriented than X-Men. I think this is a good start. The characters all have powers, but they aren't revealed immediately which is cool and builds up the reader's curiosity. Their powers are shown only when its really necessary and most useful. Also, at the beginning, they're all ready to get their powers removed. So instead of embracing their gifts, they feel like their burdens and want to just be normal. This makes it an especially good story because the characters have to adjust to who they are and what they can do.

The book has a good pace, but there are several things that need work. First off, there are a lot of loose ends that need to be taken care of in the next book (yes, there's a sequel in the making). For one, I never really got a feel for what E.Y.E. really is. All you know is that they're the bad guys and should be avoided. I couldn't even say what E.Y.E. stands for, and I think that's a bit of a problem. We need to hear a lot more about them soon. I need to know what they want and what they're doing to get that. Is it really evil intention or just a misunderstanding?? Team Rocket wants world domination, Team Magma wants to expand the land, Team Aqua wants to expand the ocean, what does Team E.Y.E. want?

Romantic Aspect: Yeah, this kind of thing exists in this book. I liked it. It isn't in your face, but it isn't super underplayed. I was cheering for one option the whole way. There's one side and then there's the other. One could be fixed, the other could start fresh. To be honest, I wanted the fresh one. You can decide for yourself which angle you prefer. It was interesting and I enjoyed this aspect, but I want it to be developed a little more.

So I have been getting pretty fond of settings lately. I wrote a paper on the setting of a 17th century work for my last English class and the more I think about different books, movies, and games, the more I get fascinated by settings. This setting is okay. Its pretty standard, nothing exceptional, but nothing to majorly dock off points from the story. I'm still trying to figure out what the final setting really looks like. I have an idea of what I'd like for the place E.Y.E. is at to look like, but I'd also like for the author to explore the setting a little bit more when it comes to her writing.

This book is fun and light. It is entertaining and a good read when you just want to read something straightforward. Its YA and is geared towards a teenage audience. It is far from perfect, but its still good and I enjoyed it. It doesn't take very long to read, but it is a wholesomely good story. There are areas that need improvement to be sure. I'd definitely buy this book and I'm very much looking forward to the second book and whatever else the author decides to write and publish.

This concludes my review for today, thanks for reading!!!!!