Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Vintage Vision: Pirates, Ships, and Treasure REVIEWING Treasure Island

Hi there! Welcome back to The Real World According To Sam. Today's post is yet another classic (I've been reading quite a few of them lately) and therefore......it's VINTAGE VISION time!!

I have been trying to read this book for years now. I would constantly pick it up as a kid, read a couple chapters, and then end up reading something else and not finish this one, then it'd be time to return it to the library. We ended up buying it when I was in middle school and took it with me to a TAKS test to read when I finished. That didn't happen however because someone stole it on that very same day. On one of our many trips to the local library, I saw it again and decided it was finally time to read it, once and for all. Here we are at long last:

Treasure Island
Author: Robert Louis Stevenson
Genre: Classic Adventure
Year of Publication: 1883

Treasure Island is a classic adventure story that has been around for over a century. It is a story about a young boy named Jim Hawkins who finds himself in possession of a map that leads to treasure. He ends up on a ship, with a crew who turn out to be pirates, all on their way to find the buried treasure of Captain Flint, their previous captain. They are mutinous and under the leadership of Long John Silver, the ship's cook who appears to be rather friendly and an overall good man until his true colors are shown. Jim, Captain Smollett and Squire Trelawney have to find a way to get the best of the pirates, get the treasure, and get back to jolly old England. 

Treasure Island
This book has to be one of the most referenced books I know. I am a huge fan of Disney's Treasure Planet, a space version of this novel. I also love the use of the story in The Pagemaster. It was those movies that made me want to read it so bad. Now that I've read it, I'm almost a little disappointed. I'm not going to lie: I was expecting a lot more. That's not to say it was a bad book. I'm intrigued by pirates and won't pass up a good swashbuckling story on the high seas very often. That being said, this book is very slow and not as adventurous as I'd hoped or as it has been made out to be by various media. I understand that it was written at a much different time. This book came before the invention of the television and people probably had more patience back then. Treasure Island is a good way to escape, but it won't make you grip your seat in anticipation of much. Its not highly suspenseful. 

One thing I noticed was the constant description of the ship and what is done or needed to be done on it. Now, I don't mean ship duties, like swabbing the deck or sitting up in the crow's nest, I mean that ship terminology was used quite a bit and if you don't know the parts of a ship, you might get a little lost. I live in a desert and I've been on one steamboat and a few ferries. I've never sailed long term or taken tours on old galleons. I can imagine a standard ship, but start saying bowline, bulwarks and coxswains, and its decently easy to get lost if I hadn't been able to keep a reference image pointing every part out for me. Maybe back when it was written people knew more about this kind of thing, but I sure don't, and I doubt very many modern readers do. The ironic thing is that a similar technique is used in Jules Verne's novels. He includes oodles of abstract information about geological features, rocks, marine organisms and submarines....yet it isn't as disruptive as here in Treasure Island. I think I would assign this issue to writing style. Overall, the style is pretty simplistic. You follow Jim's narrated adventure and he tells you how it goes down, in a very straightforward manner. Once I get something like that, I expect everything to be consistent. Then out of nowhere come these naval terms and I'm forced to pause and get my bearings. In Verne's novels, its all pretty complex so its almost expected for the reader to be given large amounts of jargon,....but Verne's complexities are explained. The submarine is explained and so are the geological aspects. With Treasure Island, I was not prepared for being left to fend for myself, expected to know every element of an old time ship. I know starboard from port and I know how a ship generally works, as well as what some parts are, but not all of them. Perhaps this is more of a fault on me and my personal experience than the book itself, but it did turn me off quite a bit as I was reading. 

The other issue I had was the lack of piratical adventure. Because of the straightforward style and attempt at simplicity, there isn't very much suspenseful detail or action. I would've really liked some of that because I feel like it would've really enhanced the experience. Now I know that if I want something like that, I should just watch Treasure Planet

That's not to say the book isn't good though! Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it. It was mildly entertaining and I'm not AT ALL upset that I read it. I'm glad I did and that I was finally able to get through it. I've been waiting for a long time to accomplish this. Ultimately though, the expectation I had was not met and Treasure Island is an average classic, in my opinion. I almost wish I had no expectation coming in, but at the same time, it wouldn't have changed the pacing or the lack of true suspense. The hunt for the treasure wasn't nearly as impressive as I felt it should have been. It happened rather quickly and was over just as soon as it had begun. That was a major disappointment. I feel like this should have been a really big point in the book and it was just glossed over. It was TOO simple and straightforward. These pirates have been waiting a long time to get the treasure and for it to happen the way it did was not at all satisfying. There were no booby traps or hard times locating the treasure. Captain Flint is made out to be this really bad guy, yet he wasn't evil, only harsh and fearsome. None of this comes out within the actual details and plot of the story. If he was so protective of his treasure and if he was such a fearsome captain, he should have had booby traps in place and it should have been near impossible to locate, even with the map. The map should just make it a bit easier to get bearings. I mean, the book is called TREASURE Island. I personally thought that there should be a larger focus and emphasis on all the occurrences that involved treasure and being on this particular island. Its a good book, but it definitely isn't the greatest pirate book or the greatest classic written. There is a lot that could have been improved on to make it a more enticing and satisfying story. 

In the end, I liked Treasure Island, but it doesn't appear to reach its full potential as a novel. There were many lacking points and the simplistic style wasn't always highly effective for this particular story. Its a good book that can serve as an escape from the modern world or to get a glimpse into the kind of adventure we don't have too often these days. Its fun, but don't expect a high adrenaline action tale, because that isn't what Treasure Island is. Expect plots, sailing, and simplicity in narration, because that is what you will get. It isn't necessarily a bad thing if that's the kind of book you enjoy or what you need at the moment. I'm giving Treasure Island a 3 out of 5. I love the escapism and the simplicity, but I also yearn for a good pirate tale that will send my imagination into full sail. If you want to read it, but also are not very familiar with ships, make sure you keep a tab open with a diagram, or print one out to stick in the pages until you need to reference it. 

Thanks for reading this review here at The Real World According To Sam. Please come back again soon for more!!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Geese, Landscapes, and Lighthouses: REVIEWING The Snow Goose

The Snow Goose
Author: Paul Gallico
Genre: Classic/Fiction/Folktale
Year of Publication: 1941

The Snow Goose is a story that is relatively short. The copy I read was only 58 pages long, so I guess this could qualify as a short story. It tells the tale of a man who is deformed and, therefore, isn't appealing on the outside. He is an artist who loves everything that is alive. He paints landscapes and he especially has a love for birds. When he was younger, he bought a lighthouse and lived in it. He had a pen where birds who were migrating could stop and stay before continuing on when the seasons changed. The story tells about the friendship he develops with a little girl and a snow goose. The snow goose helps the little girl to see the beauty and kindness within the man, despite his physical appearance. 

The Snow GooseI really enjoyed this story! For starters, it was beautifully written. The book starts off with a great description of the area and the landscape that really takes you away to another place. Even when the characters are finally introduced, the detailed prose continues. The characters were very well developed, even if they only had 58 pages of show time. I was very impressed with how much the author was able to express in such a seemingly small amount of time. The plot is simple, but it packs a lot of meaning and depth. I found that there was a lot of sincerity to the writing. I'm really glad I read this book, even though I honestly only picked it up to begin with because it was so short. It was pleasantly surprising to discover how great a story lies within the brevity. I'm not sure what I expected, but it wasn't what I got. It was so much more than I could have asked for or imagined. I HIGHLY recommend this story to anyone who loves birds and well written prose. It took me less than an hour to read, but I would definitely go back and read it again a couple times if I had the opportunity. It is one of the books that I will always remember. It truly deserves a 5 out of 5. The Snow Goose really tugs at your heart strings and makes you want to open your heart to others. 

Thanks for reading this review, I hope you come back next Wednesday for another, here at The Real World According To Sam. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Bikers, Canada, and Pen Pals: REVIEWING Apart


Apart
Author: R. P. MacIntyre & Wendy MacIntyre
Genre: YA 
Year of Publication: 2007

Apart is the story of a 16 year old girl named Jessica and a seventeen year old boy named James Charles MacSween, who just goes by Sween. It is an epistolary novel, which means that it is told in the form of letters (epistolary could also mean notes, e-mails, diary entries, etc.). The two main characters become pen pals when Jessica puts an ad in a newspaper asking if anyone has seen her father. Sween writes back from the other side of Canada saying he thinks he's seen him based on the description. This turns out to be a mistake, but it begins a friendship that both really need. 

ApartI picked up this book because it seemed like it'd be a quick read and the cover was really appealing. It's been a little while since I read an epistolary novel. I liked this book when it started and it was hooking me in, but I couldn't get as into it as I would have liked to. I don't know why, but something kept pushing me back from absolutely loving it. It's definitely not because of the setting. I enjoyed getting to experience Canada through the eyes of Jessica and Sween. This is the first book I've read that takes place in Canada, so it was cool having a new setting from my usual fare. I was connecting really well to the characters at first, but somewhere along the way, I became detached. Jessica lives with her mom and wants to find her father so that her mom will be okay. When her biker dad left, her mom basically fell apart. Tensions are raised in Jessica's situation by her younger brother, Timmy, who is autistic. She has a lot of conflicts trying to be a good caretaker  while trying to achieve her own dreams. She doesn't get along with her father and neither of them really understands the other. Sween is the son of a rich scientist dad whose mom is plantlike towards his father. His father works with plants, so their relationship works well for them. Sween doesn't really like it. He has trouble in school, but it isn't because he is not smart. He says straight up that he has an attitude and that he has a problem with authority. We know that up front. Sween ends up trying to get away from it all several times. He also has a younger sister who he barely understands, but who he begins connecting with as the story progresses. 

This book is really a coming of age story that shows how two teens who live at opposite ends of the same country face similar problems in life, while highlighting how they each react based on their different personalities and backgrounds. It also depicts the way in which this pen pal friendship helps both to get through the conflicts they are faced with. Ultimately though, its a very bittersweet book that just couldn't keep me hooked all the way through. I like the format and the way that the letters slowly unveil different aspects of all the characters involved. I thought the two characters were very distinct, but at some points it felt like they were both trying too hard. Things just feel like they fall apart towards the last quarter of the novel, and maybe that's how its intended to feel. For me though, it just didn't work. This is not one of my favorite books and I'm not sure I would highly recommend it, but it is a good little read for a summer day if you don't have any books that you're pressed or super excited to read. I have to give Apart a 3 out of 5. A plus is that this book really made me want to see if I can find a good travel/road-trip YA book, which isn't a subject that I've read a lot of yet. When one door closes, as they say...or as I'd like to say, when one cover closes, another book opens. 

Thanks for reading this review, come back next Wednesday for more, here at The Real World According To Sam. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Comics, Death, and Medieval Politics REVIEWING: A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel Volume One

If you've been reading this blog for a while you may have noticed the review I did for the first book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. If not, here's the link to it: Game of Thrones Novel Review

No, I am not caught up on the show. I'm doing this whole thing where I read one of the books then watch the corresponding season. Sadly, I'm still not even caught up on Season 1. Patience, please, I will get through it and most likely will be reading book 2 eventually....because as we all know......winter is coming.

However, I would not have started off this way if I was not bringing you something related to Game of Thrones:

A Game Of Thrones: The Graphic Novel Volume One
Written by: George R. R. Martin
Adapted by: Daniel Abraham
Art by: Tommy Patterson
Genre: Graphic Novel/ Fantasy
Year of Publication: 2012

Anyone who knows me knows that I can get pretty caught up in graphic novels. I also read through them rather quickly. I may not be well read in the best ones: the ones possessing all the awards or the most recognized (though I have delved into my fair share of them); I'm getting there slowly. Having said that, this adaptation really blew me away. The story is the same as in the original novel, but now its told its a still-visual form, instead of live action. The characters do not look like the ones in the TV show, because that's not what the creators of this particular work were going for. They wanted a fresh take on the story visually. They did a fantastic job. The world of Westeros that encompasses its lands, inhabitants, and plots, has been masterfully illustrated here. I was absolutely blown away by the artwork and the flow that the entire graphic novel had. The book is pretty big for those who haven't physically seen it. For the team adapting this to not miss the crucial parts of the story, while still keeping it enticing for readers, is nothing short of incredible.


A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel, Vol. 1I'm not one to hype books very often. If I start talking very positively about a book, it means that I am awed and blown away by a GOOD BOOK. This is a very good book. I highly recommend it to ALL Game of Thrones fans, whether you watch the show, read the books, both, or even neither. This graphic novel is done in such a way that would make it a very good introduction to the land of Westeros for anyone who has yet to become familiar with it. 



However, as with all adaptations, things are cut out. Nothing too important was cut though and of course, with a book that has so many things going on, it can't all be captured in one graphic novel. That is exactly why there are multiple volumes. Well actually, there are several different issues and a few of them have been collected and presented in this book (Issues #1-6). I'm really excited to see how those turn out and hope that these adaptations will continue to be made for the rest of the series. Also, this is NOT a graphic novel that is suitable for children, as I'm sure most people familiar with this series already know. There is lots of blood, violence, nudity, and adult relations. This graphic novel is clearly for a mature audience, as has been shown in the books, as well as the show.

Final Rating: 5/5

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Brothers, Parents, and Parties REVIEWING: Diary of a Wimpy Kid #2: Rodrick Rules

So I'm sure that you readers who read my reviews rather consistently each week recall me reviewing the first Diary of a Wimpy Kid book. Today I'm going to be reviewing the second, making it another Children's book review. I really enjoy dong these types of reviews. It's nice to get back into a childish mindset. Without further ado, lets get to the review. And for those of you just now joining us, here is the link to my review of the first Wimpy Kid book in the series: Diary of a Wimpy Kid

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Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules
Author:  Jeff Kinney
Genre: Children's Humor
Year of Publication: 2008



The first Diary of a Wimpy Kid book kind of left me feeling...eh. It wasn't a really great book in my opinion. It was good, but it definitely needed something else. I suppose that getting to just hear more from Greg is making this series better for me. Once you understand Greg as a character, it becomes easier to get into and to see why its been such a popular book over the past several year. It is full of laughs, it is easy to read through, and it is just....childish fun. Greg is just as immature and ridiculous as before, but what makes him particularly funny is how justified he feels about everything he does and thinks. We as readers know its ridiculous and silly, yet he genuinely doesn't. He feels as though he has the best intentions and doesn't ever seem to catch on to what is really going on.

HOWEVER, his parents really need to double check what they're doing. Most of the time they're behaving as parents would, but then there was the party scenario. I don't want to give any spoilers, but this particular occasion falls under the "Why did you do that? That doesn't make any sense" kind of circumstance and I feel the need to point it out:

Rodrick and Greg get the house to themselves for a night and Rodrick throws a party. Greg gets tossed into and locked in the basement by Rodrick. Now, their parents know they don't get along and I'm going to assume they know how brothers are with one another. So why does Greg get punished for the party too?  He couldn't stop it even if he had wanted to. As far as Greg covering for his brother being a cause for him to get punished, I don't see why anyone would want to say what happened if you're going to get massively beat up by someone years older than you who is known for having a mean streak. His parents should already be aware of that since they' have been raising them since birth. I don't like Greg being punished for circumstances beyond his control that he would get pulverized for talking about, but I can understand how parents may really act like that sometimes. I suppose I can let it slide in the long term. Its true to life if nothing else.

Sadly enough, the parents don't ever seem to get a real handle on Rodrick anyway. They definitely need a new system of discipline. Rodrick is out of hand. This book centers mainly on the relationship between Roderick and Greg. Every event that happens comes back to somehow show that the two of them simply don't get along and that they are very far from understanding one another (in short: Roderick is a butt-head).

Overall, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules is hilarious. It has a lot of funny moments and nothing really drags on longer than it should. Its full of zany antics and childhood ridiculousness, yet still just as quick and easy to read as the first one, due to its epistolary format and font. I have to give it a 4 out of 5. I hear its pretty good for reluctant readers and the way my little sister has been tearing through them, I absolutely have to agree.


Saturday, February 27, 2016

Children, Evil Principals, and Magic REVIEWING: Matilda

Welcome one and all to The Real World According To Sam. Today I am pleased to bring you readers yet another book for the younger minds. There are a lot of great books out there for kids. Here is one of them.  This is also the first book I've read by Roald Dahl....ever.
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Matilda
Author: Roald Dahl
Genre: Children's Fantasy
Year of Publication: 1988

      Roald Dahl has written several children's books (including James and the Giant Peach Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). Matilda is one of my little sister's favorite movies and after she finally got to read it (most happily and rapidly), she insisted upon my reading it and asked nicely for me to review it on my blog. So here it is.

     Matilda is a book about......a little girl named Matilda of course. She is five and a half and her parents are gormless. Her father is a crooked car salesman, her mother is addicted to playing bingo and her brother is....well, just her brother.

     Matilda seems to be a very bright child to anyone who notices her, except, OF COURSE, her parents. This comes to no surprise after we are told more about them. Matilda is oftentimes left on her own at home while her father works, her mom plays bingo in another town, and her brother goes to school. So she takes it upon herself to walk to the public library where she proceeds to read all the children's books and even moves on to some of the classic novels in history, including works by Charles Dickens. She finally gets to go to school and comes across as quite the child prodigy, knowing already how to read and multiply large numbers. Her teacher is astounded but the headmistress (Trunchbull) doesn't even care.

     What I like most about Matilda is that it is full of imagination. There are so many interesting and funny scenes in this book and the descriptions are brimming with creativity. Mr. Dahl sure knows how to tell a good story using only written words. This book is sure to delight the minds of young readers and fuel their imaginations. The characters are all really interesting to read about, even the nasty ones (Trunchbull). Miss Honey is a really nice teacher who I enjoyed, especially because she took so much interest into Matilda and helping her along when so many others wouldn't. Miss Honey is the perfect caricature of what a really exemplary teacher should be. Caring and devoted to the students they teach. She seems to really care about the well being of all her students and puts in a lot of effort to further their educations.

     Overall, Matilda is a really good book for young readers to really kick off more intensive reading. It is fun and will be sure to improve a child's vocabulary (there were a couple words even I didn't know that I learned....such as gormless). Lots of laughs and imagination run wild in the pages just waiting for the next reader to come along. This should be a book that every kid reads because it is something that all kids can probably relate with, even if they're not prodigies like Matilda is. They know what school is like and how it may seem when you first start. They hear the stories older students tell about certain staff members. They probably all don''t consider the fact that their teachers actually have lives and don't just retreat into their classroom closets (as I once thought when I was younger until I ran into one at Walmart). Parents with little readers, this is a book you'll want in your collection.  4 out of 5.

     Thanks for reading my review of Matilda. See you later for another installment here at The Real World According To Sam!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Academies, Aunts, and Inventors REVIEWING: Midnight for Charlie Bone

I have been meaning to read this series for a very long time and just never paused to do it. So finally, after putting it off since I was in elementary school, here is:

Children of the Red King #1: Midnight for Charlie Bone
Author: Jenny Nimmo
Genre: Children's/ Fantasy
Year of Publication: 2002

Charlie Bone seems like your average kid. He lives with his mom. As well as his two grandmothers and uncle. His best friend Benjamin lives across the street with his dog Runner Bean. Charlie's dad was said to have died a long time ago. However, it turns out Charlie is endowed. He is a descendant of the red king and has a strange power. He can hear the voices of people in photographs. His 3 aunts finally get what they want, for Charlie to not be normal. Because he is endowed, he is sent to the prestigious Bloor Academy for kids with certain talents and for the other 11 endowed children. There he runs into friends and he makes enemies.

I enjoyed this book a lot. I thought it was a good story and the plot was done very well. It involves a girl who was traded away and birth by her inventor father. The father left an invention that is supposed to wake her up (she's been hypnotized). As ridiculously complicated as these elements have the potential to get, it didn't happen. The execution of the writing was very straightforward and simple. It was very easy to follow and get into. It's very mysterious and slowly unravels deeper plots along the way.

The characters were all really interesting and distinct. None of the characters bleed and they all stand out as being their own person. I thought for sure that I would never get Charlie's aunts sorted out, but I know which ones are which thanks to their actions, designations and wardrobe choices. The author did a great job of making every character have their own way of existing, especially since there are so many. I'm sure this could be a big challenge to get right and was executed well here. I'd say this is a great book to learn about how diverse you can make such a large cast of characters, even if many of them still have many similarities behind them (the endowed, the family, the talents, the random students, etc.).
I give this book a 4 out of 5. It is a great book for young readers and older ones looking for a quick adventure. The characters are interesting and there is lots of room for future development. I can't wait to read the second book! My own regret is not starting on this series sooner, but maybe if I had I wouldn't have appreciated it as much as I do now.

Thanks for reading this review.

Love always,
           Sam K. 

Crows, Ruidoso, and Witches REVIEWING: The Witches of Ruidoso

Hey everyone! I understand that I've been away for a while. I just started my final semester of college, and it is looking like I might have a bit of time to be able to begin posting again. So today, I am changing things up and posting TWO reviews. I hope you enjoy them and thank you all so much for your patience with me as I pursue my education! 

The Witches of Ruidoso
Author: John Sandoval
Genre: YA Horror Southwest
Year of Publication: 2012

This book was one of the many I picked up at my local library for summer reading. I picked it up because it had Ruidoso in the title and I happen to like visiting that area of New Mexico when my family gets the opportunity. It's been a little while since we've been up there and I hoped this book could give me a good escape. 

With only 107 pages, this book isn't very bulky or weighty. To be fully honest, it doesn't have much for depth either. The characters are easy to identify, but they aren't very deep. I didn't feel a great connection to any of them. I actually kind of lost interest no more than 8 chapters in...out of a total of 25. Mind you, these are very short chapters. 

I wanted to enjoy this story, but really had a difficult time. At one point, it seemed like it didn't have much going on. There's a girl. There's a guy. The guy is the narrator and he's old now, looking back on his younger years that were spent in historical Ruidoso with the girl, Beth Delilah. Beth Delilah gets seizures weekly. She is very peculiar and often dazes off into space at random times. She says peculiar things. It seems like she is trying to share some deep truths, but I didn't ever feel like I was being changed as a reader. There was a witch, granted, since the title says there should be one. Well, it actually is plural, but I don't know that there IS another witch. Perhaps Beth Delilah could count, but I quite frankly don't see it. The witch is....witchy. She is basically a stereotypical witch, except for the fact that she is also, seemingly, a pedophile. That was a turn I didn't expect and quite frankly, didn't want. The author included a segment that was very obtuse and unclear...then nothing really happened with it again. There is also lack of a strong plot. At one point I stopped to ask myself "is this going anywhere? Is there a point to this book? What's the plot?" Then I realized its supposed to be a coming of age story...a remembrance of youth...and forced myself back into it. Not thrilling, not scary. The best part comes at the end when everything is kind of falling apart for a couple of the town's residents. 

All of that being said, this book isn't at all what I expected or wanted. I learned a lot from it about story telling and writing, but beyond that, I could've done without it. I wanted something more flowy, with depth, heart and some fantastic descriptions of the scenic appeal that IS Ruidoso. I got none of that. However, I almost feel like this is due to the early passing of the author. This is the man's only published novel and he died before he was able to get it published or anything. He wrote it and his family took over the rest. Because of this, I will continue to believe that this book has a lot of potential that was unable to be fulfilled. Possibly Sandoval still meant to work on it, reread it, expand on certain things and edit it, and just didn't get the opportunity. That is the only legitimate reason I can come up with for this book being as scrawny and unsatisfactory as it is. It isn't a terrible book, per se, it just failed to cover the basic points that make up a truly great story. I wish it could've been better, I really do. 

This book isn't popular. There are only two
reviews on Goodreads of it....and maybe three now that mine is up. I like some of the mystical elements, but I would say that, unless you want to take a lesson in what NOT to do and what to be sure to develop in your own writing, this book can be passed on. In the end I have to give it a 2. Only because, truthfully, I didn't absolutely hate it and felt it had promise that COULD HAVE been achieved with a little more work.