Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Bikers, Fire, and Vampires REVIEWING: The Dead Girls' Dance

When I first began this blog, I posted up a review for the first book in the Morganville Vampires series. It's taken me long enough, but I finally bring you the review for the second book. You can follow the following link to read the first review: 
The Morganville Vampires #1: Glass Houses


The Morganville Vampires-Book Two: The Dead Girls' Dance
Author: Rachel Caine
Genre: Horror/Paranormal/YA 
Year of Publication: 2007

The Dead Girls' Dance is the second book in the Morganville Vampires series. I read the first book a couple of years ago. I had so much other reading and college work to do that I never read the next one. I've been wanting to read this one for such a long time! I could always remember the ending of Book One, but not the exact details. Coming into this book I knew the main characters and knew that there were vampires in a Texas town called Morganville. As I read on, I began to remember bits and pieces of the first book and I ultimately ended up enjoying this book a whole lot.

This book continues where Glass Houses left off. There was a fire at the house where the main character Claire is now living and Shane's father has come to town. Then things get crazy. Shane's dad is the leader of a bunch of bikers and he wants nothing more than to kill the vampires that live in Morganville. Shane, Claire, Eve, and Michael find themselves caught up in lots of drama and death and must find a way to keep themselves out of it. This works great until a vampire is killed and Shane is pegged as the murderer. Claire and her friends must find a way to prove Shane's innocence and set things right....or as right as they can be in a town full of vampires. 

The cover is nice. It isn't exceptional however. I'm not sure that it really captures what the book is really all about, but it has a good YA vampire story feel to it. The shades of blue and black are nice. The cover probably won't be the reason why this book is picked up. That will be done mostly by the title and the fact that it is part of a series. Personally I thought the cover for the first book was more mysterious and eye catching. 

I really enjoyed the little tidbits of Texas (mentions of the weather, the Alamo, and chili) and I liked the characters a lot more this time. I finished this book in a day and kept wanting to read it. It kept a pretty consistent forward moving pace. I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series. I have a lot more things to read so I don't know when I'll get to book three. If anyone is particularly wanting me to review more books in this series then I'll gladly put it towards the front of my list. My favorite parts of the book were the moments between Shane and Claire. I liked the romantic tension and there were some really sweet moments included. I also really enjoy the dynamics between characters as well as the emotional bond and tensions between the characters. 

Overall, The Dead Girls' Dance is a fun book that heightens the ante that was presented in the first book. It is a good sequel that leaves lots of room for development in the books to come. In my opinion, this book is a 4. It has good pacing and characters and is written well. It is also pretty straightforward. While this book isn't incredibly exceptional, its worth reading at least once. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Guest Post: The Bumpy Road to Cassie Scot by Christine Amsden

Hey everyone! Just like I promised, I've got a special post to share with you today. Christine Amsden, author of the Cassie Scot series that I've been reviewing for the past two  years has stopped by to bring us how Cassie came to be. This is direct from the writer's pen and I am very thankful that she took the time to share this with all of us. Enjoy!


The Bumpy Road to Cassie Scot

Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective was the easiest, most natural book I ever wrote. It almost seemed to write itself! The entire series felt natural because of the way I identified with and practically channeled the main character, but the challenges grew with each book. The final volume, Stolen Dreams, presented the greatest difficulties. But also, and in my very biased opinion, I rose to the challenges, making each book better than the one before.

Cassie first came to me in a burst of inspiration, and I pushed out the first draft of a book in record time. I did rewrite and heavily revise the book several times based on some astute feedback from beta readers, but even the rewrites were easier than usual. There was a certain energy to each revision, a vitality and a definite sense of purpose. I never tried to rewrite the book without specific feedback and a plan, and I always felt a sense of rightness about the changes I made. The final revision came after I had finished rough drafts of the rest of the series, which gave me the power to make sure I did not contradict myself and that I had set everything up, even if the readers would not yet know the significance of every decision I made.

I usually find beginnings easier than endings, which may be another reason why the first book was the easiest of the four for me to write. It did come to a conclusion (the mystery was solved), but I set up many problems in book one that I didn't have to deal with at the time – I left that for a future version of me to handle.

It wasn't until I first drafted Secrets and Lies that I came up with a plan for the rest of the series. Before then I had some vague notions and themes, but the cliffhanger ending to Secrets and Lies was as much a surprise to me as it was to my readers! Yet that cliffhanger ending sets the tone for the final two books. Secrets and Lies was a book of discovery for me. I refined my characters, learned new things about the bigger magical world, and decided what the rest of the series would look like. The biggest challenge in Secrets and Lies was balancing the mystery with all the personal and magical discoveries being made. Some of the lessons I learned while writing this book led to a major revision of book one. But the growing pains took place while writing book two.

Mind Games was the most difficult of the four books to draft for two reasons. First, I was writing from the first person point of view of a character who was being subtly manipulated by mind magic. I wanted this to be absolutely obvious to the reader from page one, but at the same time I needed to convince the reader of Cassie's struggle with this truth. Second, I strayed from the series' primary love interest, Evan, and I found it very difficult to write romantic scenes between Cassie and another man. Even knowing it would be temporary, even knowing Cassie was partly being manipulated, and even knowing that Cassie needed this test of character, I still felt like I was cheating on Evan when I wrote certain scenes. Strangely enough, though, the final version of Mind Games is closer to its first draft form than any other book in the series. I made few revisions, none of them major, which leads me to the most challenging volume …

Stolen Dreams is not the book I first wrote. It wasn't even originally called Stolen Dreams, it was called Dreamer. But regardless of what I ended up calling it, there exists (somewhere on my hard drive) a rough draft of a book that I originally intended to conclude the series which has almost nothing whatsoever in common with the book I'll be releasing this summer. I think I reused one scene, then revised it heavily.

Ground-up rewrites are rare, and there is only one reason to do it: A fundamental flaw in the spirit of the story. That first draft was not about what it should have been about: it challenged Cassie in all the wrong ways, it broke an important theme I had been building all along, and it reverted to genre cliches that the series had, up until then, avoided.

Whew!

I went to a book signing/Q&A with Jim Butcher in the summer of 2011. He had just put out Cold Days (which turned out to be my least favorite of the Dresden Files books – I have bad luck with books I get signed by authors). But during that Q&A, I had an epiphany. Someone asked him when and how The Dresden Files would end. Jim gave his usual not-entirely-joking answer about the length of the series depending upon whether his kids decided to go to grad school, but then he said something else about endings. He said (and I'm obviously paraphrasing) that by the time a series is over, the main character should be uniquely qualified to overcome the final hurtle.

I had a lightbulb moment. It wasn't a warm, glowy sort of lightbulb moment because I knew instantly that I had to toss an entire draft in the trash (metaphorically speaking – I never throw anything away).

Cassie has no magical powers. In my first draft, I had her facing a challenge that any of the people around her with magical powers would have been far better able to handle. She wasn't just not uniquely qualified to handle it, she was probably the least qualified person to handle it! But I had fallen into the same trap Cassie fell into Рthinking she needed to be able to compete with powerful sorcerers in a magical world in order to be worthwhile. And actually, I think the series as a whole is stronger because I started to fall into that trap with her. In the final book, she and I both had an important lesson to learn. Specifically, that being a hero isn't about overpowering or outwitting the biggest, baddest bad guy (the fantasy clich̩), it's about using your strengths to solve the problems you are uniquely qualified to handle.


I don't want to spoil Stolen Dreams for you, but I am so excited by the conclusion to this series. Stolen Dreams is more than a mystery – it's personal. The feud between the Scots and the Blackwoods takes center stage and when it erupts, people Cassie and Evan love get hurt and even die. Cassie is uniquely qualified to put an end to this feud and to solve an interwoven mystery, and she still does not need magic to do it! 

Please check out the reviews for the entire series and other guest post from the release of Book Three Mind Games linked here: 

Cassie Scot: Paranormal Detective
Cassie Scot #2: Secrets and Lies


This concludes another post here at The Real World According To Sam. See you for the next post. Hopefully I can get one up next week as usual, if not then for sure the week after that. School keeps a girl busy!!! Thanks for reading. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Family, Love and Magic REVIEWING: Stolen Dreams

Hi everyone!

It's been a while and I must admit that I have been super busy. That is why my posts have become a tiny bit more sporadic and not as consistent as they've been before. This is what happens when you honor 4 classes, take 5 total classes, decide to start working out weekly, and become president of an active campus organization, while trying to maintain time with family and a relatively social life. Luckily, I have certain things that MUST be done here, including this post, which is part of a several month long event...celebrating the release of the final book in the Cassie Scot series. If you've kept up with me, you know that I've already reviewed the past 3 books in the series. We have finally come to the end. I would like to give a very big thank you to Christine Amsden for giving me the opportunity to review every book in the series. Let it be known that just because I got the book for free, doesn't mean that my review is swayed in any way. Book and movie reviews are all HONEST. Now we need to get started.

Catch up on my Cassie Scot reviews by following these links:
Cassie Scot Paranormal Detective (#1)
Cassie Scot #2: Secrets and Lies
Cassie Scot #3: Mind Games
Mind Games: Exclusive Interview with Evan Blackwood

Stolen Dreams: A Cassie Scot Novel
Author: Christine Amsden
Genre: Fantasy/New Adult/Paranormal
Publication Date: October 15, 2014

    I have been following Cassie's adventures since the beginning and it has finally come to this. The last book, which I reviewed back in May, left a lot of things open and I was hurting to get back into the town of Eagle Rock. I was excited and tense and wanted nothing more that to see what happened next. Stolen Dreams starts right where Mind Games left off. I was ridiculously excited to find out that book 4 was finally available to reviewers. 

I'm sure that we all know by now that I'm going to take a brief moment to discuss the cover, as usual. Covers are very important and I'd like to think that I have a rather deep appreciation for art. I've been rather fond of the covers for this series and I don't feel the least bit disappointed about getting to see this one on my shelf (The artist is Ural Akyuz if anyone is wondering). I like the warmth of the main colors and that we get to see Evan again. If you've read my previous review and guest post you know that I really like Evan. He is a fascinating character that I just haven't been able to get enough of. I don't know how Cassie manages to refuse him the way she does (actually I do, but I like to ignore her reasons sometimes). It's nice to see the main two characters together and the magic barrier adds a bit of edge that is thrilling. I was really excited to dig into this book and the cover just made my curiosity boil over. 


Getting into the actual book, the premise is this: Cassie returns from Pennsylvania to find out that sides have been chosen and the Scots are ready to fight the Blackwoods. Her dad and Evan's have always hated each other, but things have gone farther than they ever have before. Cassie doesn't want anyone to fight and so she seeks help from a seer. When the seer (Evan Blackwood's grandmother) sees her own death and it comes from Cassie's father, Evan's dad kills him. Or does he? Evan and Cassie have to team up and find out what is going on and many twists are coming. All of this tension piles on top of all the anger and pain that Evan and Cassie already have between them. This is where it all ends!

This book sent me on a rollercoaster. I didn't know where I was going, how far things were going to go, or what to expect most of the time. That is the way I like books to leave me....breathless and wanting more. I read this book almost in one sitting. I took a break while I was at school and while waiting for a meeting and for my ride to come, I read it. I sat in one of the main buildings and just read and read. If I have to be honest, I cried and whimpered and read in a feverish manner. It is pretty rare that a book will make me cry. The last one that made me cry was Beastly (review for that to come later). I think I cried about three times over the course of this book. It was THAT good.

I still love all the characters. There aren't very many new ones. Most of the characters we already know and care for. Others are just kind of there. Still there are one or two that we may feel great disdain for. Ultimately, that isn't what makes the book so good. The characters are consistent and as usual, in my opinion, Cassie and Evan are still the best of all. The plot is what makes the book so enjoyable. There are so many twists and turns, so many unexpected things, starting with the death of Cassie's father (this isn't a spoiler since it's on the back cover anyway). The tension between the Scots and Blackwoods is high and you can definitely feel it. Things are not black and white at all. There are overlapping issues and no direct path that is correct. Not to mention all the stress that Cassie has to deal with. She is still struggling to find out her feelings for Evan, to keep her family together, to handle Alexander Dupris, a man who has caused more than enough trouble, and the investigation to find out what or who really killed her father. There is also the little issue of her cousin Jason, some vampires, and her friends' pregnancies to be concerned about. My favorite plot line however, still has to be the tension between Evan and Cassie. Never have I ever wanted a couple to get together as badly as I wanted Evan and Cassie to. There is just something about them that belongs together. I was in anguish over what would happen. I like all the ways in which their relationship has been made complicated. Cassie really wants nothing to do with him anymore and I don't blame her one bit. The tensions are super high and as usual, Evan just never gives up. He doesn't make the smartest choices all the time, but I don't think I could find it in me to really hate him or want him to fail in his efforts to make Cassie his own (in a loving way, not just a dominating power thing like so many others have wanted). There are even more struggles for the two of them and it was so invigorating to experience. I won't say what happens but I will say that I cried more than I should have considering this is all just fiction. I really felt like my heart has been tearing, being fixing, and torn all over again over the course of these four books. 

Another cool thing that was in this book that hasn't been in the others is the exploration Cassie begins with her dreams. Dreaming isn't exactly the kind of "magic" anyone thinks of in Eagle Rock. Her father doesn't believe it is worth any time or a kind of magic at all. Abigail, Evan's grandmother, takes Cassie as her apprentice and encourages her to start trying to make sense of what she dreams about. I liked this aspect because I really wasn't expecting it, but it gave Cassie something of her own to focus on. She doesn't have magic, but she has a chance to do something for herself that no one else can do or take from her. I thought it was very cool (especially the dreams about a certain someone that made me blush and squeal in delight because it helped me keep hoping). Right when you think the book will slow down and give you respite, it just keeps throwing things out there and holding you captive. I never wanted it to end, and now that the series is over, I really don't know what I'm supposed to do. I'm almost hopeful that we'll get to see Cassie again at a later time, even if it isn't likely or planned at the moment. I haven't had enough of these characters and the setting. I want more and more and more. Looks like I have to move on though....or I could restart the series all over again!!!  

Anyhow, I think I've gone on long enough. I love the book, I love the series. These are books that I highly recommend to anyone who loves magic, a dash of romance, and suspense. There is definitely something special in these books and I hope that more people read them because they are such a delight. This is one of those books that would be great as a movie if Hollywood actually knew how to adapt books in the first place. Knowing the industry, they would ruin it and any movie would never be better than the one that resides in my mind. However, it MUST be noted that I did see this book as a movie in my mind while reading. I don't know if I've ever mentioned this sensation before, but it is absolutely crucial for me to be able to do that in order to really enjoy a book. I have to be able to see it in my mind. That is when it feels real and takes me over. I might go further into this because I know I haven't mentioned it in any of my past reviews and it is so crucial for me as a reader to experience. It is how I know a book is indeed amazing. Also by the way I talk about them. Clearly this book is A+ because I can't seem to stop talking about it or thinking about it. I will NEVER EVER EVER forget Cassie or Evan and the Scot family. They will forever be my friends and they will always feel like actual people I met in real life. That is the real magic that Amsden has given to her readers. I'm honestly really sad that it's over now. 

Stolen Dreams, the fourth book in the Cassie Scot series, is without doubt a 5 out of 5. I am very happy that I own it and can read it over and over again...or just skip to my favorite spots whenever I feel like it. I highly recommend that you all purchase it when it comes out. I don't think you would regret it in the least (and if you did, you could just send it to me because I would not complain about having a second or third copy for coffee table display and to carry around when I go out). I am very much considering purchasing Mrs. Amsden's other books to see if they are just as wonderful as this series was and I greatly look forward to whatever project she has planned for the future. This concludes a review here at The Real World According To Sam, please come back on Wednesday for an exclusive guest post from Christine Amsden!!!! Thanks for reading!


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Book Review: Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Hello! This is Sam and you have found yourself at The Real World According To Sam, where I bring you book and movie reviews and random things that strike my fancy. Today I will be discussing a book that has been rather popular the past few years. It was made into a movie, as were a couple of its sequel novels, and was a #1 New York Times Bestseller. I have seen the movie, just read the book, so now let's talk.

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Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Author: Jeff Kinney
Rating: 3/5

Ok. I'm sure a lot of us have heard of this book by now. Published in 2007, Diary of a Wimpy Kid has humor, kids, and middle school. Besides that, it has illustrations and the pages actually look like diary, excuse me JOURNAL (sorry Greg), pages with handwriting.


Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, #1)

Greg Heffley is the owner of this journal (he refuses to call it a diary because that is NOT what it is). This book covers a year of middle school and is all about Greg's experiences. Greg is,....pretty average I guess. I think his biggest problem is that he grew up with his brother Roderick as a role model. That's a definite recipe for disaster. Roderick loves to pull pranks on Greg, has a rock band, has been known to possess a dirty magazine, music with those Parental Advisory labels and he's just not all that intelligent to boot. Naturally, learning lessons and being tormented by Roderick, Greg isn't likely to be a stellar, over achieving student. However, Greg isn't stupid. Its pretty obvious that he can be pretty smart when he applies himself, but a lot of times he just misses the mark and a lot of times, the point. Greg has so many different mishaps during the school year. He has a falling out with his best friend (who embarrasses him constantly from his perspective and doesn't always seem to grasp what Greg is doing or really saying at times), is forced to do things he doesn't want to, and just goes through life feeling the way most kids probably do. Misunderstood.

 I enjoyed it. It was a very fast book to read, took me one night. I want to read the next books in the series and see how much Greg grows. Right now, he's got a lot to learn. Compared to Rowley, Greg sometimes seems like a pretty ungrateful kid (he'd better use that weight set his dad got him because I'm sure it was worth a pretty penny).

It is a pretty humorous book. Greg is.....full of youthful thinking to say the least. He is not exactly a responsible kid to certain extents and he thinks up a lot of those fast-result schemes that kids are known for. Lighthearted and a quick read, Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a nice transition for younger readers to get into longer books. It is also a good introduction to a memoir/journalistic type of style. 

This concludes this review, see you next week!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Critter Critique: The Smile Of A Dolphin

Today's book is non-fiction and it is about animals....so that means I've got a Critter Critique, just for you. This book was also picked up on one of my trips to the local library.

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The Smile of a Dolphin
Remarkable Accounts of Animal Emotions
Edited by: Marc Bekoff
Foreword by: Stephen Jay Gould

The Smile of a Dolphin was published by Discovery Communications, Inc. (Discovery Channel).  Jane Goodall, and many others with successful publications and awards for documentaries and television programming.

The Smile of a Dolphin: Remarkable Accounts of Animal Emotions

This book is full of stunning photographs of a great variety of animals. Each page features a photograph and writing. These passages are each a bit of info and a retelling of an experience. Who are they written by? Some of the leading minds in the field. PhD scientists, founders of various academic programs and foundations, biologists, professors....it goes on and on. About 49 different people and their animal experiences. Science has always been careful of relating animals to emotions. Animals are just animals after all and we can't be anthropomorphizing them. These different accounts though, go to show that there's much more to so many animals than we know. They even suggest that animals show various emotions and reactions towards certain stimuli.

The photographs are beautiful and there's so much information. I was so fascinated with all the experiences these scientists have had. The animals range from different species of dolphins, lizards, dogs, chimpanzees, baboons, whale sharks, rats, elephants, sea lions, guppies, hyenas, mongooses and even snakes. The emotions range from joy to grief to anger in scenarios like social structure, mating and bonding in family groups. There are 4 sections and each section covers one group of emotions. Within each section are 1-2 pages for each experience. So it is very easy to find points to break while reading and to set a good pace. Lots of these experiences made me want to learn more about different animals as well as see what kinds of work the scientists have done. It'd be neat to find some of their award winning documentaries too.
The introduction segment makes it feel very...scientificly geared and for those who have an idea of the way science has treated the possibility of animals having emotions. I thought it came across as too...pretentious? As if the book was planning to go over the heads of laypeople, but once you get down to the reading of the main part, its not difficult to comprehend or understand at all. Their case introduction is just a bit awkward to me. I see what they're trying to say, but overall I find it overdone and way too much. Keep it simple and straightforward please! Readers will love you all the more for it.  

This book is delightful for those who love animals and those who love really good photography. It would make a really nice coffee table book or a great conversation starter. Bringing up one of these experiences could probably open up a whole lot of conversational possibilities for people into animals. I give it a 4 out of 5. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Book Review: Captain Underpants and the Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers

When I was but a little sapling in elementary school, I began a book series that would change my life. Uh.....ok, maybe not THAT much but hey, it was enjoyable and it made me laugh. Every kid should read this series. I am a kid at heart so I still find them to be loads of fun. Hopefully you enjoy this review and decide to start up with it again or give it a shot for the first time. All ages welcome

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So Captain Underpants.....for those not in the know, Captain Underpants started in 1997 with the publishing of the first book, entitled: The Adventures of Captain Underpants. From 1997- 2006, 8 books were published, telling of his many adventures which I shall now list for the fun of writing every long and hilarious title.
  1. The Adventures of Captain Underpants
  2. Captain Underpants and the Attack of the Talking Toilets
  3. Captain Underpants and the Invasion of the Incredibly Naughty Cafeteria Ladies from Outer Space (and the Subsequent Assault of the Equally Evil Lunchroom Zombie Nerds)
  4. Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants
  5. Captain Underpants and the Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman
  6. Captain Underpants and the Big, Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy, Part 1: The Night of the Nasty Nostril Nuggets
  7. Captain Underpants and the Big, Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy, Part 2: The revenge of the Ridiculous Robo-Boogers
  8. Captain Underpants and the Preposterous Plight of the Purple Potty People
The story revolves around 2 kids in elementary school, George Beard and Harold Hutchins. George is the kid with the tie and the flat-top, Harold is the one with the T-shirt and the bad haircut. Remember that now.

George and Harold attend one of the most horrible, yet totally realistic schools. The teachers are all jerks and the principal is the worst of all. There's no laughing allowed, bad lunches are served and, as usual, creativity and imagination are unwelcomed. George and Harold are FULL of imagination. So much, that they make their own comic books to sell at school. They switch sign letters to make funny messages. They're considered bad kids (especially when they make so many people fall victim to the horrendous, ever terrible.....SQUISHY). For those out of the know regarding squishies, the formula for one is quite simple: ketchup packet + toilet + toilet lid + ketchup packs carefully folded and placed under toilet seat lid + unsuspecting person sitting down and applying pressure to said toilet seat + ketchup spray + victim's legs = successful squishy. And that dear reader is how to initiate and complete a squishy.

Anywho, George and Harold, through a series of successful events leading up to now, hypnotize their principal. Whenever somebody snaps their fingers, he turns into Captain Underpants: defender of innocent, protector of the just, eliminator of evil who goes around bald, with a red curtain cape and nothing on but his underwear. He turns back into the mean old principal when water gets on him...splashed, thrown, accidentally squirted...you get the message.

For 8 books, we readers had the excitement and thrill of many adventures. And then....they stopped. Yes, that's right, out of nowhere they stopped coming. Book 8 concluded openly and there was a picture of the next novel. Which didn't come for another...oh..........6 years!!!! Its an outrage!!! But at least we finally got it.

Happily, ladies and germs, today I bring you a review for the long awaited 9th Epic Novel in the Captain Underpants saga.
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Captain Underpants and the Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers
Author: Dav Pilkey
Genre: Children's/ Humor
Year of Publication: 2012


Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy where do I begin? So for those dedicated readers who've been here for the whole thing, we finally get to find out what happens with George and Harold and Crackers and Sulu. For those who don't.....Crackers is a pterodactyl and Sulu is a bionic hamster. George and Harold were about to be arrested because their evil twins robbed a bank and nobody really noticed that it wasn't the real George and Harold.


Captain Underpants and the Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers (Captain Underpants, #9)But guess who's back? Tippy Tinkletrousers. Wait...who? I don't know anyone by that name. Oh yeah, that's right. Its that one crazy short guy with the hilarious name who made everyone else change their names from book 4! Thereby turning me, Samantha K. King into Snotty Pottybutt. (Every kid who read this went ahead and checked what their name would've been if they were there when Professor Poopypants made everyone change their names....you all know who you are) That would make my sister Stinky Pottybutt....and my boyfriend would be Gidget Pizzabuns. Professor Poopypants has returned, but his name is now Tippy Tinkletrousers (so much better, right?) And this time he isn't make any other people change their names. No, his scheme is much more devious and evil and villainous....he wants to put an end to Captain Underpants.


But of course, as always, Pilkey doesn't just tell you about Tippy wanting to do that and how he goes about it. He has to tell you some other story before getting to the first story introduced. Typical. So we go back in time, 5 years, to see how in the world George and Harold first became friends. Which provides us with bullies, Krupp's nephew and a ghost by the name of Wedgie Magee. All leading up to a little problem later on. Tippy goes back in time, to this very moment and changes one tiny little thing, thereby creating The Banana Creme Pie Paradox. Those very familiar with the paradoxes involved with Time Traveling should know exactly what I'm talking about. All of the events happening in this book, therefore lead us to one of the hugest climactic cliffhangers EVER.
Overall, this book is hilarious (if you can't tell by my previous little summation, then something's up with how you think and you should probably pick up a new sense of humor ASAP). There's so much going on but there's so many laughs and its all pretty easy to follow once you're thrown smack dab into the middle of it. I would give this book a 4 out of 5. Every Captain Underpants fan (even if they've grown up and moved away from books they picked up at the old Scholastic Book Fairs their schools hosted once upon a very long time ago) will want to read this and see what happened after all. Its quite the wild ride, if I do say so myself. If you've never read the series, I suggest you hop on and strap yourself in because it is SO worth the time it takes to read them....maybe an hour or two if you're an average reader, 30 minutes if you're a fast reader and get super into it. Read it.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Jewelers, Parties, and Women! REVIEWING: Breakfast at Tiffany's

I made another outing to the library and picked up 4 more books (not including the 8 I bought at a sale they were having). My sister brought me one that my mom showed her to show me and once I started reading it, there was just no stopping.

I'm sure a lot of us have heard of the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's or heard the song by Deep Blue Something. I have also read a series called The Clique, by Lisi Harrison and one of the books is called Bratfest at Tiffany's. However, I had no clue that it was originally a novella written in 1958. I was a tad intrigued when I saw it was a written work and not too long, so I jumped into it. I have only seen the movie once and it seems like it was a very long time ago. This book also included 3 short stories that were written by Truman Capote, but I will not be saying anything about those since the focus for today is Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Please note that I read this classic for fun and will not be going as in depth as I would if I were looking at it from an English Classics study-pick the themes and main points- perspective. I'm not looking for themes or symbolism, I'm just looking for a good book.


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THE BOOK:

Breakfast at Tiffany's
Author:  Truman Capote
Rating: 3.5/5

(I wanted to do the title in a nice Robin's egg blue, to match the Tiffany & Co. boxes, but I didn't have it in the color palette) I began this book and was very lost in the wording. I don't know why but the wording just felt so delicately lined and enchanting. I was losing myself in the world of the book and the characters. Not all the characters are charming, but Miss Golightly certainly is, even if at times she becomes repulsive, to say the least.
 

Breakfast at Tiffany's: A Short Novel and Three StoriesI consider myself to be rather conservative and could've done without all the use of "dyke" particularly from Golightly. With additional "research" I see that I may just be a tad naive in my reading. I didn't get that the unnamed narrator could be indicated as a homosexual..I didn't get that vibe at all. And then now looking back it turns out he is a bit of a gigolo and I hadn't even realized that. I was so lost in the atmosphere of the words that it all just never dawned on me.


All of that aside, I really enjoyed Breakfast at Tiffany's. The words written were pleasant (for the most part) and I got hooked enough to where I finished it in just a few hours. Golightly is quite the character. Can't say good or bad really, my opinion of her has varied a lot. The least I can say is that she's unforgettable. She definitely has her quirks to be sure.

So I suppose that by now you all are wondering what in the world this book is even about. The story opens with the narrator meeting with a man he knew and they begin to talk. The name Holly Golightly comes up and I really started wondering who she is and what the big deal was. I still don't know what the big deal about her is, but she is definitely interesting. The book basically just recounts the acquaintance the narrator had of Ms. Golightly. We learn how their interactions were and why the book is called Breakfast at Tiffany's in the first place. I'm sure a lot of us are familiar with the Tiffany & Co. They're pretty well known for being a classy and expensive place, but who could ever forget the really pretty color of their boxes? Here is the link to their store: Tiffany & Co.  Tiffany & Co. has been selling jewelry and other items to people since 1837.

Overall, I'd say Breakfast at Tiffany's is a rather good read. I'd probably have to read it again in a few years to get it all. I would have liked to give it a 4, unfortunately overall I can't give it the extra point, but going down to a 3 underrates the writing I so enjoyed and the fervor with which I read. A 3.5 will have to suffice as a middle compromise.

It is quick to read, not too lengthy in the least. Miss Golightly is also a character ingrained in American Literature who people should be familiar with if they know anything of American lit. Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and Holden Caulfield are a couple others. These are characters well worth getting to know. Each has their quirks that make them just as unique as every other person alive.
--------------------------------------------------------------

Movie Comparison

After watching the movie, I don't feel like I could talk about it by itself enough to consider it reviewed so I'll just skip ahead to the comparison bit between the movie and book. Also, I'm just going to keep it short and sweet this time around since I still have a couple of short stories I need to get to.

The movie and book have different endings and the movie was made cleaner than the book. The nameless narrator from the book has a name now and it is now more romantic and sweet than the book. There is less vulgarity than in the book too. The ending for the book is completely open and leaves the reader to make decisions for themselves. Definitely leaves you thinking and considering. Overall, it just depends on what you prefer. Do you prefer never knowing what happens or do you prefer sweet happy endings?

Overall, both are definitely worthwhile. The book was enchantingly written and the characters are nothing short of unique and varied. The movie is charming and delightful, heartwarming even.


Overall, this volume of stories is rather good. It begins enchantingly and ends on a sad note, but allows much thought to be put in even after finishing them all. Its quick to read, but heavy on thought. 

This concludes this review of some of Truman Capote's work. Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Summer Updates

Hello everyone! 

In case you haven't checked it yet, I have updated my Reviewing Policy tab. Let me fill you in on everything that's been going on. 


1) I've been on vacation and will be potentially going out of town again rather soon.

2) My third year of college begins in late August

3) I was elected to be the president of the NSCS chapter at the university I attend this year

4) I have too many books on my to-read list and it really needs to shrink

5) I'm an English major, taking 4 English courses this fall......meaning I will have lots of reading to do for class

6) It's summer reading program time at my local library

7) I'm on summer break and need time to play with my little sister, manage a long distance relationship and kick back with some video games

So what does all of this mean for all of you? I'll break it down:

FOR MY BLOG READERS:
     Nothing. I'll still be putting up posts as often as I can and nothing should change for you...you'll still be getting reviews for books of all kinds of genres.

FOR AUTHORS WHO HAVE ALREADY ASKED ME FOR REVIEWS:
     You're on hold unless I've specifically told you otherwise. I'm trying to get to reading all of your books, but it isn't easy. Particularly, for those who have given me e-books to review. I have not yet adjusted to e-book format and still prefer a physical book in my hands to read. I own an e-reader and have managed to read only 2 books on it. However, I am practicing with some library e-books I borrowed through Overdrive and trying to get used to reading books on my e-reader. This means that if you've given me an e-book, I may take another few months to get a review up. If I have a physical copy of your book, I'll get to doing your reviews sooner because it's so much easier for me. 

FOR AUTHORS WISHING TO ASK ME FOR REVIEWS: 
      Unless you're ready for a 6 month or so wait for reviews, don't do it yet. I'm taking time to catch up on my own personal books that I've been meaning to read, but haven't had the chance to; so I would appreciate your patience with me while I try to lighten my present reading load. If you are patient and wish to contact me already, feel free to do so, but let me know that you're cool with waiting a bit so I don't feel rushed. I am not currently available to make deadlines....sorry, but that's how it is at the moment. I'll update the Review Policy and put up another post when I am once more ready to accept e-books and other materials for review. 

Glad that's taken care of and I'd like to thank everyone for respecting my reading wishes at this time. Huge thanks to all my readers for sticking around and hopefully we'll get some more readers to hop on board in the months to come. Spread the word about my reviews to any of your book loving friends. I always accept book and movie recommendations!! If you wish to know what's coming up review wise, you can friend me on Goodreads and keep an eye on my To-Read and Currently Reading lists. If you do not see a book that you have given to me up there, feel free to contact me about it and I'll see what I can do!!

I can be found here: Samantha King on Goodreads

Sam King 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Millenium Falcon, Vader, and Yoda REVIEWING: William Shakespeare's Star Wars- The Empire Striketh Back

Hi!

If you've been following this blog for a while, you might remember the review I posted for Verily, A New Hope by the same author. You might recall that I was not too pleased with it. The sequel to it just recently came out and my local library got it in so I was the first person here to get my hands on it.

William Shakespeare's The Empire Striketh Back
Author: Ian Doescher
Genre: Humor/ Play
Year of Publication: 2014

     I won't lie, I was really nervous about this one. The first one left me highly unsatisfied and greatly
disappointed and I was hoping that this one would be a large improvement.....and it WAS!!!!! 

The Empire Striketh Back is the 5th episode of the Star Wars saga, put into the format of a Shakespearean play and translated into Shakespearean English. It follows the events of the movie Empire Strikes Back. All the characters we know and love are back. I'm just going to quickly outline all the things that I thought were good:
  • The Cast: All the characters were well developed and true to the original characters created by George Lucas. 
  • The Action: Even though it is in a play format, the events in the book are no less thrilling than the movie. There is the battle on Hoth, the Millenium Falcon's escape into the asteroid field, and Han Solo's arrival on Bespin. Everything is here!
  • The Language: Being an English major and having just finished a course on Shakespeare, this book was completely up my alley. I think this time, Doescher really nailed every aspect of the language! 
  • The Illustrations: Just like in the previous book, there are illustrations of classic scenes from the movies scattered throughout the book. I really like them a whole lot. It gets my inner geek excited. 
  • Yoda: I was nervous to see how Yoda would turn out. He is such an iconic character and his manner of speaking in the movies is highly stylized. I wasn't sure how this would work out in a book like this. However, I think that making Yoda talk in Haiku format, while still keeping some of the reverse sentence placement of words, was the right thing to do and it worked out well. It set him apart form the other characters, but still fit into the iconic Yoda speech we all know and love. 
  • The Romance: Everyone who has watched Star Wars knows that Episode 5 is a really big moment for Han and Leia. Tension between the two has never been higher than it is now. I loved it. I loved the translation of their lines. I love how the asides were used to show how they were REALLY thinking at each important moment and how they helped to push along the romantic aspects. This could have been a really tricky slope to climb, but it was very well executed and I'm very satisfied with it. 

BONUS POINTS:
       There aren't as many asides!!! If you've read through my first review, you might remember that my biggest complaint was that there were way too many unnecessary asides. To me, they made the book feel clunky and disjointed. My biggest fear going into The Empire Striketh Back was that it would be the same experience all over again. May I just give Mr. Ian Doescher a huge round of applause for fixing this? Well done!!!! There were way less asides and not once was I taken out of the book by one! They all fit well and served to expand on things that were happening, which is exactly what they SHOULD do! There were less than 100, I'm sure (you may remember I was so annoyed last time that I counted them out and outlined them for you by Act). This time I don't have to count them because there was just the right amount. I'm so glad that this wasn't an issue at all. Also, the sentences were much cleaner in terms of structure and not the least bit awkward. Everything about this book just flows really nicely! Extra little awesome point added for Han Solo being the cool, slick guy that girls have fawned over for 34 years now. 

FINAL VERDICT:
         I'm super happy to have read this book. It was wonderful and I couldn't be more happy. This was a great improvement on the first book and I would gladly read through it again over and over. This book is one that I would pay full price for and be proud to have displayed on my bookcase. Who knows? If the final installment is just as great, I may have to buy the whole set. I was super upset about book one and decided  not to purchase it, but my mind is close to changing and I just might get it after all once I have the proper funds to do so. William Shakespeare's The Empire Striketh Back was a great novel that I HIGHLY recommend to fans of Shakespeare and Star Wars, and I have to give it a 5. If I was the kind of person to give out awards for books, I would definitely give this one an award for Best Improvement or Astonishing Sequel that Exceeds its Predecessor. Without a doubt, this book is one that must be read and enjoyed. I'm so happy that I can share this with you and that I won't be left in the grump slump that the first one put me in. I'm greatly looking forward to the next book and can't wait to read it. For anyone interested, it came out yesterday!!!!!!

Thanks for reading this review here at The Real World According To Sam, hope to see you back again soon! New book reviews go up on Wednesdays. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Dinosaurs, Texas, and Time Travel REVIEWING: Chronal Engine

Chronal Engine
Author: Greg Leitich Smith
Genre: Science Fiction
Year of Publication: 2012

       Being from Texas and purposely mentioning that in my header, I like to sometimes read books that are set in Texas or that are written by authors who are from Texas. This is one of those books that qualifies as both. Chronal Engine is what I would a middle grade chapter book. It isn't large and it isn't too complex in language. This doesn't mean that it isn't the least bit entertaining though!! The local library here just got this one and I was so excited to get started on it. 

      Why Chronal Engine is a good book:
  • Dinosaurs, enough said
  • Time Travel
  • Texas
  • Cool cover
  • Not too lengthy and overwrought with technical descriptions of anything

Seriously, this book has a pretty cool cover. The blue shade is really nice and the tyrannosaur skull is eye catching. The cover, like the book, is simple and straightforward. It is fitting to the contents and I think it was well designed. Anything with dinosaurs on the cover has to be good. I don't think I've run into a terrible dinosaur book yet. I haven't read a whole ton, but I've read quite a few and am only hoping to read even more in the future.

This book has good characters and a good plot. 3 siblings from Austin are going to be staying with their grandfather on his ranch while their mom goes off to do things for her paleontological career. They haven't really ever known their grandfather and he's pretty reclusive overall. On the ranch there are dinosaur footprints and paleontology just seems to run in the family. Then they find out that he has a machine called the Chronal Engine, which is essentially a time machine. After he suffers a heart attack he seemed to know about, he gives the kids certain instructions to follow. Emma, the sister of two boys and one of the leading characters, gets kidnapped and disappears. Her brothers and their new friend Petra need to go back in time to rescue her. 

Dinosaurs and lots of information about them is scattered throughout the book, but never really gets tedious. Most of the information comes from the youngest brother, Max, who has followed in the dino-frenzy of his mom and grandfather. His siblings Emma and Kyle haven't. Kyle is a sporty guy. Emma is the jack-of-all-trades. She can do a lot and is very good at everything she does. Petra is the daughter of the housekeeper who works for Max's grandfather. They are a pretty good cast of characters that were fun to read about. I also liked the use of references to different areas in Texas that I've been to. There is mention of a hotel in Dallas and some spots in Austin, as well as throwbacks to Texas weather and geography. I thought these were nice touches that made the book a little more personalized for Texas readers. 

The plot is interesting. It's rather simple and is kept that way throughout the book. Some kids go back in time to find their sister and rescue her, while surviving dinosaur encounters in an attempt to make it back home. At 171 pages, it was really quick for me to get through, but nonetheless enjoyable. I enjoyed the simplicity and straightforwardness. It would've been so easy to make things extremely complicated with terminology and technology, and I'm very grateful for the author's ability to keep things clear-cut. I honestly wanted a little bit more when it was over. I wanted to have a bit more closure on certain things, but in a way where I saw it and wasn't just told what might happen next. For some reason, I don't really feel like this should be where the story ends. The kids still have a lot to learn about their grandfather and there is a lot that could still be used for further adventures. One of the more lackluster points was the grandfather. Mr. Pierson is a very mysterious character who doesn't end up being very well-developed when the story comes to an end. He really just exists as a way to get the story rolling. Beyond that, there isn't much of him. I think that he should've been a bigger presence given his attention to all the details in the beginning. We still don't know why he wanted the book Max was reading or his heart attack may affect him. I'd like to see him interact with the kids a lot more. I'd like to see some more from this author about these characters. I also want to know what happens to Aki, since it could definitely be problematic to bring an extinct dinosaur back to the present. 

Overall, Chronal Engine is a quick and interesting book about some younger protagonists surviving in prehistoric times while on a rescue mission. There is a need for more character development and there is lots of room to continue playing with the story. I really hope the author is planning to do another book because I feel like this could be a really good start. I have to give Chronal Engine a 3. Its fun and light, but will serve as a great springboard for future works. It isn't the most incredible time travel book ever, but it is definitely worth reading. I'd highly recommend it to young readers, particularly those who are fond of dinosaurs and are looking to find a good survival adventure.

Thanks for reading another review here at The Real World According To Sam. Hope to see you back again next Wednesday!!!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Artificial Intelligence, Space Miners and Survival REVIEWING: Alien: Out of the Shadows

ALIEN: Out of the Shadows
Author: Tim Lebbon
Genre: Science Fiction 
Year of Publication: 2014

Alien: Out of the Shadows is a new book that came out this past January that brings a new adventure into the universe of the popular franchise Alien. I recently watched the Alien movies for the first time ever and greatly enjoyed them. When I found out that my local library had this book, I immediately wanted to read it and have more encounters with the creepy creature mainly known only as an alien with specific forms. I will refer to it as a xenomorph as that is the term I am most comfortable with using that is associated with it. I don't like just calling it an alien, because it feels so generic and unfitting to the horrific creature found within these pages. Not once is it called a xenomorph in Out of the Shadows, but still, its the way of referring to this specific creature that makes me happiest. I digress.  This book occurs sometime between the first and second movies (Alien and Aliens) and features the main heroine Ripley. This is a really hard thing to do since there is universe continuity to deal with in terms of the franchise. That being said, 20th Century Fox has confirmed this book as part of the Alien film series canon.

Before anything else, can we just talk about this cover for a quick moment? I really like this cover. It's creepy, interesting and very awesome. Whoever designed it deserves major props. This is the kind of book that I would love to have just to show off the cover. I'm a big fan of the xenomorphs and the way they maneuver. The only thing that would improve this would be if they included the claws. I'm really excited to see what the next two books will look like cover wise. To be honest, this cover was half of the reason why I picked this book up for reading. The first half was of course that its Alien related. The drool is so icky looking. Even if its harmless, the fact that it comes from the xenomorph just makes it feel dangerous. Its only drool though! But what if it had been acidic like their blood? These random thoughts floating around in my mind..........

Basically the premise is this: on planet LV178 there is a large group of miners that mine for trimonite. What trimonite is really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. Its just an ore that is very useful that needs to be mined. The blurb on the back of the book says it is the hardest material known to man, but it doesn't play a huge role in the plot of the book overall. There are three ships: the Marion, the Samson and the Delilah. The Marion is a main ship on which the cast of main characters is located when the book begins. There is a problem on the Samson and the Delilah. Strange creatures have been brought up from the mines by accident and are on board both ships, causing complete chaos. Hoop, the chief engineer on the Marion, has no idea what they are. Through some chaotic circumstances, he comes to be in charge of the last few people remaining on the Marion. The crews of the Samson and Delilah have been completely killed. The Samson is a bit recoverable and still useful to the plot but the Delilah disappears from the book pretty quick. A distress signal is sent out and picked up. The ship that picked it up is not a rescue ship, but the Narcissus. The Narcissus is the small ship that is currently carrying one passenger: Ellen Ripley, in a stasis pod, the sole survivor of the salvage ship Nostromo. The book quickly turns into a story of survival in space. There are currently 6 people left on the Marion and Ripley. They have to figure out how to escape and get back home to Earth. It gets majorly complicated with several appearances by my favorite outer space critter, the xenomorph. There are a lot of them!!! The crew ends up having to go down into the mines and get their quick easy plans all messed up and complicated. 

That's basically how it goes for the whole book. It is definitely a high energy adventure in outer space. I really enjoyed it and I only have a couple of problems with it. Ripley is very in character and doesn't stray from being the strong heroine audiences have come to love. That's awesome. Most of the characters left over are pretty interesting except for a couple who bite the dust pretty quickly and don't get much development. That's ok, because they were expendable anyhow. Hoop is a good, strong male lead with flaws. The xenomorphs are freakishly creepy and awesome, as they should always be. Those are the positives. I had a couple things that did get on my nerves, so here they are. There are a few typos within the book. Normally I can easily dismiss typos as quick errors and not very consequential, but in a book that is part of such a great franchise, I have a hard time excusing it. I want to be totally immersed in a horrific adventure of survival, not jolted out of the action by random typos. It wouldn't be so bad if there was one or two in the middle, but there is one on the very first page. This bothers me, because then I get the impression that there will be a lot more and I'll start a scavenger hunt that turns out to be pretty disruptive to overall enjoyment. I'm of the opinion that while typos can occur and that its mostly ok, there shouldn't be any typos in the first chapter at all. If it's later in the book I understand that maybe it was overlooked because the author was so into what was happening and got caught up in writing the story. At the beginning, it just feels like the author was being lazy and couldn't bother to look over their work or that the editor didn't do a very good job at looking it over. Beyond that the only other technical issue I had was with the constant spacing between words starting with the letter F. That's distracting. It might just be a printing error, but it happens all throughout the book and it looks weird. Instead of "fired" you get "fi red" or "fi gured" instead of "figured", and the most obnoxious is the combination of the letters FL. Instead of "flung" there is "fl ung". Sometimes this happens 2-5 times on one page. It isn't on every page, but on a very large number of them and it did bother me. It wasn't stylistic or anything and it just looks so sloppy. It's not a huge deal beaker and I won't dock a rating based on those details alone, but it needs to be pointed out because its so blatant an error for publishing to have made and not even bothered to correct before going to make more copies for sale. This is a major turn off for if I'm considering buying a book at full price. If I'm going to pay anything above $5, I want a good quality book! It was probably an accident of some sort though so I'll dismiss it. 

          The parts that cannot be disregarded are when famous movie lines and scenes are used in very ineffective, cheap ways. The movie Aliens has one of the most recognizable lines that is very frequently referenced. I'm sure everyone who has seen the movie remembers and possibly even loves this famous line (warning to Alexandria and anyone else who may be bothered by it, there are 4 curse words in the clip below, but its appropriate to the characters and the situation when its in context: they're marines in space, basically faced with certain death): 
  

Yep. In Aliens we have the "game over" scene. It describes everything that is happening to the characters we are watching. A bunch of colonial marines are at a colony trying to figure out what happened. They want to get in, do the job, and get out. They have huge guns, they've had top level training, they're ready to go.....and then its all taken away in an instant. It's chaotic, the feeling of security is gone and things have gotten really BAD. The line fits and it tells us everything we need to know. It's appropriate to the character who says it. Maybe to Hudson, his job kind of has felt like a game. He is sent on missions, takes a big gun or two, gets it done and lives to tell the tale. This time, he has a moment of realization that it isn't so easy and that he might not make it out this time. The game really is over. This line is used in Out of the Shadows. It might have been a good idea at first, but the execution is horrible. Lebbon tries to insert a fun piece for fans of the franchise, but fails in its delivery. To anyone who isn't familiar with Alien, or doesn't care all that much for the films, this probably isn't a big deal. However, to those of use who have really enjoyed the films and like the characters and how well lines work and love to quote our favorite scenes, this is something that can't be looked over lightly. I won't take down a rating for it individually, but I will take this moment to complain about it because it really felt cheap and needs to be discussed. Nothing really major has even happened in the book yet. There are some people dead, but the real adventure hasn't even begun yet. None of the main characters have entered the serious dangers yet. The characters who say it aren't even the right ones to be saying it. They aren't colonial marines for one thing. For another, how would any of this even feel like a game to them? It certainly isn't the same dynamic as it was in the movie. The character is all wrong. It just completely backfires. I think that Lebbon tried to put in a really neat throwback for fans and he didn't do it at the right moment for it to work. That doesn't make him a bad author, it just makes this particular instance stick out really bad in a negative way. There's also a moment in the book where Ripley takes hold of a weapon and asks one of the crew members how to operate it and says she can handle it or something. Again, another throwback to Aliens, as anyone really familiar with it would recognize as being really similar to her moment with Hicks. He teaches her how to operate a really intense firearm and its a really nice moment in the movie. I think it was also used in this book with the male lead and it just felt redundant to me. I didn't like it at all. I felt like it was another cheap way to toss in a cool moment from the movie that doesn't feel nearly as cool or significant as the original. I'm not an intense Alien fan, but I did really enjoy the movies and the creature is one of my favorite creepy fictional critters ever (ranked up there with the shark from Jaws, the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park and the graboids from Tremors).  The throwbacks used in this book just happened to be two of my favorite scenes from the original films that were used poorly. 

However, there were a couple of references that were used from the movie Prometheus that I think came out rather well! I hadn't watched Prometheus before reading the book, but finally watched it and feel the need to add this in as a positive point. There is the line "It's what I choose to believe." I really liked the way in which that line was used in this book. It was completely fitting. It is a great line for the circumstances under which it occurs. Another thing that I noticed was the use of the medical pod. I didn't know what the med-pod looked like and can't recall it being in the previous Alien(s) movies. However, after watching Prometheus it made a lot of sense and added good depth to the scene where the medpod is used. The application of the med-pod in Out of the Shadows actually made me be a bit more nervous when I was watching Prometheus for the first time because I wasn't at all sure what to expect after what Lebbon did. So some references to Prometheus were included and were well executed. That's a definite plus, considering the Alien(s) ones weren't greatly to my liking. 

The other issues I had were with the characterization and development of various characters: 

1) Sneddon, Kasyanov and their relationship:
 Kasyanov is the ship's doctor and Sneddon is the science officer. They are both women and it is implied that there may be a relationship between them. I'm not saying that in of itself bothers me, I have nothing against having queer characters present in the book, so don't think that (truth be told I'm not much for the subject matter of it, but I won't take off points on a book just cause its there and I wasn't expecting it). My problem came with the fact that it isn't ever said for certain and it isn't applied in a way that is any kind of useful to the plot. If its there, it is there just to....be there. It serves no real purpose. To start with, the author took forever to say what gender Kasyanov is, which is peculiar, and takes even longer to actually mention anything worthwhile about her. Throughout the book she is really just the doctor. Doctors are important but there should have been more to her than just that. Sneddon has a lot more depth to her character, thankfully. There were a lot of tense moments with her and Ripley (not sexual) because Sneddon has a fascination with the xenomorphs that reminds Ripley of the android Ash who was the villain in the original movie. That was a throwback scene which actually worked and that I greatly enjoyed because it made sense and even gave me a sense of ease where my suspicions had been raised. In terms of the relationship between Kasyanov and Sneddon though, there is nothing worthwhile there. There are no moments of anything between them, nothing suggesting that they are really close or anything. There is never a moment of deep feeling or emotion. Quite frankly, if Kasyanov had been a male, I could have seen a huge possibility for an important subplot that would play into the very last quarter of the book. The tension and stakes would have been higher and much more devastating if things went wrong. I would have thought even just showing that the two women were super close friends would have added more. There is nothing. It is said but never shown. There is no development and that makes mentioning a relationship a complete waste of time. That annoyed me. Even if I'm not really into queer character relationships, at least make it be relevant if you're going to have it present or even suggest it. Otherwise, don't waste words and time that could be used reading about the xenomorphs tearing things apart. 

2) Lachance, the pilot and a Frenchman: 
He is mentioned several times as the Frenchman. That's all good and fine. He rarely ever speaks a word of French though. That isn't the problem I had. The problem I had came near the end of the book. There is a scene where he is talking to some of the other characters and he says, "pardon my French" and then drops the f-bomb. Sorry, but I don't think a real French person would say that. They would just cuss and be done with it. French to them really is French, THE LANGUAGE. I'm sure he could tell that saying f---ing anything is really not french at all. I have a hard time accepting that this particular character would say that phrase in the way that he did. Even if he wasn't a Frenchman, his character just wouldn't say that. He's been in space for a long time, he's a pilot, and I'm pretty certain that he cussed without any problem in earlier instances in the book. He is with the same 6 people throughout the book, so why would he suddenly change his way of talking or being at that one point? It threw me off quite a bit. I also think it would've made more sense to make him cuss or say random commonly used French words or phrases. Then it would make sense that he was a Frenchman. I can't remember him having said any french at all. I'm sure I would have caught it and marked it as a characteristic specific to him. Why bother referring to him as a Frenchman and not have him use any French and go so far as to make him say that weird phrase? If anything, just make him a regular guy with no associated nationality. That'd be much easier and fitting for this particular character. 

I really enjoyed the book, but there were a lot of things I just got really fed up with. I kept becoming distanced from the characters and having to force myself to get back into the action. I kept noticing all these little strange things that made no sense and they continuously bothered me. The main issue is just the fact that things are done or said that are out of character or that have no relevance whatsoever. I loved the action sequences and everything that had to do with all the aliens. The xenomorphs were depicted as being very intelligent and I liked the way that Lebbon incorporated Ash into the story and made him an important part of why things are happening like they are. Pretty much everything is explained and wrapped up. I think that while it was fun, it was not the best book ever and the characters aren't as good as they could have been. Therefore, I have to give Alien: Out of the Shadows a 3. I probably won't ever read over again, and I'm not very likely to purchase it at full price. If I ran across it at a second hand sale I would pick it up just because its Alien related and I really do like the cover. Can we just take a moment to appreciate that xenomorph on the cover? I mean, wow, its awesome. It looks so cool and freaky at the same time. 

This is the first book in a new Alien based trilogy published by Titan Books. The next one comes out in July of this year and it is written by a different author. The final book comes out months after and is also by an author that is different from the first two. This should add some interesting flavor to the adventures to come. I liked Lebbon's style for the most part, but for some reason he just couldn't hit a home run for me with this book. He isn't a bad author, but he did have a really high expectation that a few of his characters dragged him down from hitting. Hoop and Ripley were spot on. I loved them greatly and I can't wait to see what direction the other two books go in. The ending did leave me curious and I'm super frustrated that I can't just have the next book already.

This concludes my review of this book, come back next week for another book review. Leave comments telling me if you've read this book or if you want to. I'd love to hear about any thoughts you had on the original movies and the xenomorphs. If anyone would like for me to write a review for any of the movies or anything else at all, don't hesitate to say so!! Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Book Review: Beezus and Ramona

Hello! Welcome to yet another book review here at The Real World According To Sam. Today's book is directed toward a younger group of readers. It was forced upon me by my mom and little sister. I'm just kidding. I don't read against my will. My mom read the books about Ramona when she was younger....I didn't pick up on them, but my little sister sure did!! So all three of us took a go and as per request from my little sister, here is the review for it. Hope y'all enjoy!

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Beezus and Ramona
Author: Beverly Cleary
Rating: 4/5

New Re-release Cover
Beezus and Ramona came out in 1955. Just recently (2010), a movie was made based on this book, starring Selena Gomez as older sister Beezus.

So Beezus and Ramona is the story of 2 sisters. Beezus (Beatrice) and Ramona Quimby. Beezus is 9 about to turn 10 and little Ramona is 4. The book basically tells 6 short, but interconnected tales of the interactions and relationship between them. Beezus is growing up, but Ramona is just as pesky as any other little sister. She throws tantrums when she doesn't get her way for one. She is very imaginative and for some odd reason likes being read books                                   about steam shovels.
   
Beezus frequently has to keep an eye on Ramona and even take her places, like the library and Beezus's art class. The book is 6 chapters and each is very entertaining and fun. Overall its a really lighthearted story that allows big sisters to not feel so alone in their experiences and to get a better understanding of their "mini-me's." For all readers it could be very cute and sweet, as well as being simple enough for young readers to enjoy. It is a great choice for beginning the transition from picture and minor chapter books to bigger chapter books. The characters are fun and well developed and the stories are just waiting to make you laugh...from scribbled in library books to parades and even applesauce.

Alternate Movie Cover
This book was very pleasant and I was able to read it in an hour or two. It makes a great book for discussion and it will definitely be something I use as a reference to jumpstart conversations with my sister. "Remember when Ramona did....or when Beezus was...." I would recommend this book to sisters in particular, because they could really learn a lot about dealing with one another and connecting on a better level.
Thanks for reading!

P.S. Issa------You're welcome, little sister