Category Archives: 5 stars

Review: Outlaw Platoon

outlaw platoonOutlaw Platoon by Sean Parnell

Publisher: William Morrow

Ratings: 5 stars

Source: Publisher

At twenty-four years of age, U.S. Army Ranger Sean Parnell was named commander of a forty-man elite infantry platoon, the 10th Mountain Division—a unit that came to be known as the Outlaws. Tasked with rooting out Pakistan-based insurgents from a valley in the Hindu Kush, Parnell assumed they would be facing a ragtag bunch of civilians until, in May 2006, a routine patrol turned into a brutal ambush. Through sixteen months of combat, the platoon became Parnell’s family. The cost of battle was high for these men. Not all of them made it home, but for those who did, it was the love and faith they found in one another that ultimately kept them alive.

When my friends saw me carrying around Outlaw Platoon by Sean Parnell they couldn’t help but mention how wide my tastes in books are. One day you can see me carrying around a fun and fluffy chick lit novel and the next day you can see me carrying around a serious war novel. I have to admit after reading Matterhorn (one of my all time favorite books!), my interest in war novels increased greatly. Therefore, when I was given the opportunity to review this book I knew I just had to jump on ship for it and boy am I glad I did.

Parnell’s novel is an excellent book that gives you a small taste of what happened during the war in Afghanistan. I guess one of the reasons I have such an interest in reading war books, especially nonfiction war books is because these are the stories that are not told in history books. We all took history growing up and we learned about the wars and the battles and the winners and losers, but we didn’t get the behind the scene story that you get when you read a memoir written by someone who experienced the situation himself.

I love reading these books because it’s the untold story that everyone needs to know. Can you imagine being 24 and leading a whole platoon? Parnell is the same age I am today when he was put in charge and became responsible for 40 men. Every time I read one of these books I’m always shocked and surprised by how young these men are and how mature they are for their age.

As I turned the pages in this book, my appreciation for the armed forces grew larger and larger. My heart broke for them as I read the hardships and obstacles they had to overcome. I was amazed by their determination and willingness to continue to serve their country. Many of these men ignored their own personal injuries and refused to be evacuated because they couldn’t live with the option of leaving their fellow soldiers behind. It was amazing to read about the bonds of brotherhood forged between these men and how they really became a family for one another.

I highly recommend the Outlaw Platoon by Sean Parnell because it contains all the stories that you won’t get from reading history books or CNN news. Parnell takes you on quite an adventure as he retells his tour in Afghanistan and recounts the bravery, brotherhood, and treachery of war

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Review: Matterhorn

matterhornMatterhorn by Karl Marlantes

Publisher:  Grove Press

Ratings: 5 stars

Source: Purchased

Intense, powerful, and compelling, Matterhorn is an epic war novel in the tradition of Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead and James Jones’sThe Thin Red Line. It is the timeless story of a young Marine lieutenant, Waino Mellas, and his comrades in Bravo Company, who are dropped into the mountain jungle of Vietnam as boys and forced to fight their way into manhood. Standing in their way are not merely the North Vietnamese but also monsoon rain and mud, leeches and tigers, disease and malnutrition. Almost as daunting, it turns out, are the obstacles they discover between each other: racial tension, competing ambitions, and duplicitous superior officers. But when the company finds itself surrounded and outnumbered by a massive enemy regiment, the Marines are thrust into the raw and all-consuming terror of combat. The experience will change them forever.

Wow!! I’ve finish this book weeks ago and I still don’t know how to review it. I honestly can’t remember the last time a book has affected me this profoundly. Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes is one that I will remember for years to come and one that I just want to keep reading. The book sat at over 500 pages and yet when I turned the last page I wished it kept on going. I wished I could have stayed with Bravo Company longer. I was completely immersed into the story and just didn’t want to leave it.

Matterhorn follows the various soldiers, lieutenants, captains of Bravo Company, a marine company, during the Vietnam War. You can clearly tell that Marlantes drew from his own experience in the Vietnam War to write this book and I was reading it I couldn’t help wondering how much of this was fiction and how much of this book spoke the truth. Marlantes opened my eyes to what truly goes on during a war. This wasn’t the first time I read a war book. I’ve always had an interest in what our soldiers go through when they are sent oversea so I have read several war books. But this was the first one to truly affect me.

It took Marlantes 30 years to write this boom and it was worth every second he spent on it. This book is beyond words can express. It completely changed my life and the way I view our heroes. I always had high admiration for our heroes but this book made me speechless about what they have to go through in a distant and foreign land so far away from home and their friends and family.

Matterhorn is heart breakingly good. It pulls at your heart strings and you’ll need to read this book with a box of tissues, but it was worth it. By the end of the book I felt so attached to the members of Bravo Company. The way they bonded together during this difficult time. There’s nothing like the brotherhood they share as they fought together in a war that they didn’t completely understand and didn’t complete agree with, but they fought nevertheless because it was their duty. They book covered so much from the bonds formed, the racism during that time, the honor and pride they fought for. Just writing this review makes my heart ache for those men.

Honestly, I feel like Matterhorn is a book that everyone needs to read. This is the new book that I’m going to start pushing on people, the book that I’m going to start recommending to everyone I meet. It affected me so much that I feel like everyone needs to read this book and go through the experience. Karl Marlantes released another book, What It Is Like To Go To War, and I can’t wait to go pick up a copy of that book.

Review: Beautiful Ruins

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Publisher: Harper

Ratings:

Source: Publisher

From the cover:

The story begins in 1962. On a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks out over the incandescent waters of the Ligurian Sea and spies an apparition: a tall, thin woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. She is an actress, he soon learns, an American starlet, and she is dying.

And the story begins again today, half a world away, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio’s back lot—searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier.

What unfolds is a dazzling, yet deeply human, roller coaster of a novel, spanning fifty years and nearly as many lives. From the lavish set of Cleopatra to the shabby revelry of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Walter introduces us to the tangled lives of a dozen unforgettable characters: the starstruck Italian innkeeper and his long-lost love; the heroically preserved producer who once brought them together and his idealistic young assistant; the army veteran turned fledgling novelist and the rakish Richard Burton himself, whose appetites set the whole story in motion—along with the husbands and wives, lovers and dreamers, superstars and losers, who populate their world in the decades that follow. Gloriously inventive, constantly surprising, Beautiful Ruins is a story of flawed yet fascinating people, navigating the rocky shores of their lives while clinging to their improbable dreams.

Let me just start by saying that I absolutely love and adore Jess Walter. From the opening lines of The Financial Lives of the Poets, I knew I was madly in love with this man – er rather his writing. And he has yet to fail me. The first book I read in 2012 was Citizen Vince and I knew after I finished reading it that it would end up on my best of list. Half way through the year and it still remains one of my favorite books. It just stands out above the rest. And I’ve already passed on my copy of that book to a friend to read. Speaking of which, he hasn’t read it yet, but his girlfriend has and she said she really liked it! That’s my goal here, trying to convert people into Jess Walter lovers, one person at a time. But I digress. Let’s get back to what this should be about, Beautiful Ruins.

Beautiful Ruins follows in line with its predecessors and once again I’m literally blown away by how amazing and incredible the story Jess Walter has created for us. His writing makes me speechless and I don’t even know how to start describing his true knack for the English language and for writing. It amazes me how he uses the same words that we all do, but he just arranges them in a way that allows him to craft such a wonderful and beautiful story that leaves me speechless and stunned. I’ve finished this book a week ago and since then I haven’t been able to pick up another book. I just keep thinking about this one over and over. Even after letting this book simmer for a week, I still have no idea how to review it; how to put the masterpiece Jess Walter has created into words.

If you’re looking for a character driven novel, then Beautiful Ruins is the book you need to pick up. We run into a vast variety of characters in this book with a cameo from Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor so it’s a little difficult to get into everyone’s storyline plus I don’t want to give too much away because I so want y’all to read this one! Despite the characters coming from different generations and different parts of the world, the characters are all linked and interconnected. Their actions affect each other and as we move back and forth between time and between one place to another, everything slowly unravels into this beautiful story about life and the beautiful ruins of life. Typically a book that is composed of stories that move back and forth between the past and the present, a movie pitch, a memoir, a manuscript, and a playwright may come off as confusing, but Jess Walter is a genius and everything comes together wonderfully. The stories are connected to one another and it just pulls you along on this journey with the characters as they realize their shortcomings and discover happiness despite the imperfections.

The characters are vastly different from one another, but they have one thing in common: they’re all so very flawed and yet their flaws actually make the book what it is. What really makes this book incredible is that you know these characters. You see them everyday in the people you meet, you might even see a bit of yourself in them. And yes they’re flawed, but they’re also just people trying to figure it out, figuring out life, and discover happiness. Because let’s face it, that’s what we’re all looking for right?

Beautiful Ruins. I honestly don’t know what to say about this book. This is one novel that I highly recommend. I think there is something for everyone in this novel, whether this is the type of book you normally read or not. Some authors are hit and miss, but Jess Walter is on target each and every time. You can pick up any of his novels and I think you’ll be blown away by his writing.

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Review: Bloom

Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected – A Memoir by Kelle Hampton

Publisher: William Morrow

Ratings:

Source: Publicist

From the cover:

From the outside looking in, Kelle Hampton had the perfect life: a beautiful two-year-old daughter, a loving husband, a thriving photography career, and great friends. When she learned she was pregnant with her second child, she and her husband, Brett, were ecstatic. Her pregnancy went smoothly and the ultrasounds showed a beautiful, healthy, high-kicking baby girl.

But when her new daughter was placed in her arms in the delivery room, Kelle knew instantly that something was wrong. Nella looked different than her two-year-old sister, Lainey, had at birth. As she watched friends and family celebrate with champagne toasts and endless photographs, a terrified Kelle was certain that Nella had Down syndrome—a fear her pediatrician soon confirmed. Yet gradually Kelle’s fear and pain were vanquished by joy, as she embraced the realization that she had been chosen to experience an extraordinary and special gift.

I rarely rate a book five stars, but Bloom by Kelle Hampton is about as close to perfection as you’re ever going to get. I truly feel like this is one of those books that everyone should read because there is something to gain from it and learn from Hampton’s experience. Bloom is about one mother learning to cope with her daughter’s diagnosis of Down Syndrome. And she goes on quite an adventure as she tries to figure out how to control and deal with the different emotions and feelings after learning about her daughter.

I know that a lot of people probably won’t want to read this book because of the depressing premise, but let me just tell you now that its so worth it! I felt like I got so much out of this book that it was worth spilling a few tears. Even though there were sad and depressing moments scattered throughout the book, by the time I turned the last page, I couldn’t help but think that was one beautiful and breath taking story.

Even though this book was about Hampton’s personal journey, I felt like the book taught me so much about compassion, kindness, and patience. As a society, we’re so quick to judge others and we have this undefined mindset of what is considered normal and what isn’t. I thought Hampton brought up a good point when she questioned who is society to decide who is normal and who isn’t. Just because some people are born with an extra chromosome, it doesn’t mean they are any less “normal” or that they should be treated differently.

I absolutely loved Bloom. I loved the gorgeous pictures that filled up the book alongside Hampton’s wonderful writing. Bloom is one of those books that will reach inside of you, touch your heart, and just leave you thinking about it long after its over.

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Review: Citizen Vince

Citizen Vince by Jess Walter

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Ratings:

Source: Purchased

Synopsis:

Darkly hilarious and unexpectedly profound, Citizen Vince is an irresistible tale about the price of freedom and the mystery of salvation, by an emerging writer of boundless talent.

Eight days before the 1980 presidential election, Vince Camden wakes up at 1:59 A.M. in a quiet house in Spokane, Washington. Pocketing his stash of stolen credit cards, he drops by an all-night poker game before heading to his witness-protection job dusting crullers at Donut Make You Hungry. This is the sum of Vince’s new life: donuts and forged credit cards—not to mention a neurotic hooker girlfriend.

But when a familiar face shows up in town, Vince realizes that his sordid past is still close behind him. During the next unforgettable week, on the run from Spokane to New York, Vince Camden will negotiate a maze of obsessive cops, eager politicians, and assorted mobsters, only to find that redemption might just exist—of all places—in the voting booth. Sharp and refreshing, Citizen Vince is the story of a charming crook chasing the biggest score of his life: a second chance.

I don’t think I could have picked a more perfect book to kick off my 2012 year. I know it’s early to say this, but I’m absolutely positively sure that this Citizen Vince is going to end up on my best of 2012 list. After reading The Financial Lives of the Poets, I immediately became a huge fan of Jess Walter. I have a few of his books that were on his backlist sitting on my shelf, but it always seems like there’s another book to read until now.

So what makes this book so incredibly awesome? Well for starters; this really is the perfect book to read during an election year. The book takes place during 1980, an election year between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter. Walter manages to highlight the importance of the election and voting, while keeping the story funny, brilliant, and entertaining.

I love the characters in this book! Who would have thought I would be rooting for an ex-convict, who was placed in the witness protection program and makes donuts as his day job, but steals credit cards and sells pot on the side. Vince isn’t suppose to be likeable, and yet somehow, I was rooting for him throughout the book. I loved the characters in this book despite the fact that most of them are mobsters or prostitutes that fall on the other side of the track. I have to give much credit to Jess Walter for making that possible.

Vince had his first juvenile felony conviction at 14 and everything started to snowball from there. He didn’t realize it at the time, but once you’re a convicted felon, you lose the right to vote. He’s never been able to vote before. After he entered the witness protection program though, his right to vote was given back to him and he gets a brand new slate.  What follows is Vince’s personal journey towards discovery the importance of voting as he tries to escape the hit man that was sent to kill him. At it’s core is also the question of whether or not someone can really start over? If they deserve the chance to start new and in essence become a ghost and redo life.

Citizen Vince was such a brilliant, funny, and witty book. It made me realize how many of us take voting for granted when there’s people out there who don’t even have the right to vote. And it also made me think about how do you figure out who to vote for. I thought Ronald Reagan brought up a good point during his campaign when he asked, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” It’s something to think about as we will be bombarded with campaigning information in the months to come.

I don’t know if there’s anything else I can say about this book to convince you to read it other than, what are you waiting for?

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