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review 2015-10-19 00:00
American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History
American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History - Chris Kyle,Scott McEwen,Jim DeFelice,John Pruden

2.5 stars rounded up to three, because parts of this story broke my heart


Wow, this was so not what I expected. This is gonna be a long review, and a very personal one at that.

Let me elaborate on my disappointment. When the movie with Bradley Cooper came out, my man was positively stoked. Ex-German Armed Forces, Ex- platoon seargent for the US Army Rangers, extremely decent shoot himself, he couldn't wait to watch a movie about one of the best snipers he heard about during his career. So we went, and I actually liked Chris Kyle. He seemed to be a decent guy, not free from morals and struggling with the torn life as an elite soldier - one day in the war zone, next day at home in a Walmart. So I watched the movie, and I cried when they showed scenes of the day of his funeral and the funeral processions. I was moved very deeply and bought this book soon after because I just wanted to know more about this man and what could be better than reading his book?

Well, I realized soon enough that the movie (and maybe the talent of Bradley Cooper) were very flattering, maybe too much so.

But let me start at the beginning. The writing was okay, not very good or skillful, but not atrocious either. The childhood of Chris Kyle read as a story that Europeans who haven't been to Texas will never, ever understand. Getting your own rifle when you're eight years old? Unheard-of! Unconceivable. But I've been to Texas, so I get it. In a way, I understand it. I'm still a fierce supporter of the tightening of gun laws, but I also understand that in Texas guns are part of everyday life same as fridges, trucks and football. That doesn't make it right in my opinion, and I'm still uncomfortable reading about a kid getting his first rifle, but that's on me.

I enjoyed reading about his striving to become a SEAL, his struggles and new challenges. But then there was all the brawls, all the hazing, all the "unnecessary" violence, that annoyed the crap out of me. I actually checked with my man - and while some of it actually is just the way it is, and some of it are psychological effects normal for fighters trained for extreme war situations - even my man was irritated with other parts. Now, THAT made me dislike Chris Kyle quite a bit. But I got through it and I continued reading, because I still had this man from the movie in the back of my mind, and I hoped I would find him somewhere between the lines.

So I started reading about his deployments next. In other reviews I saw more than one "complaint" about how people expected him to be more conflicted about his many shootings. They expected remorse, guilt and hesitatation. To be honest, I didn't. You can't do this job and survive in war, when you constantly agonize over death, or question your actions every time you're supposed to pull the trigger. You'd get your brothers and yourself killed faster than you could say 'sniper'. So I wasn't appalled or even surprised. But on the other hand this guy - and I'm really sorry to say that, because you shouldn't speak ill of the dead - this man firstly, wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer, and secondly, had no comprehension for anything outside of black and white.

What saddened me was his total lack of empathy for the country and the people he came in contact with. I was especially furious about his constant mantra of "getting payback". Payback for what? 9/11? Let me tell you, you were in the wrong country for that. And newsflash: Your invasion of Iraq had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11. So don't use the death of innocent people in a vile attack in your country to justify your actions in Iraq. If you like to be a warrior, a sniper, a fighter, fine. I might not like it, I might not understand it, but I can respect you for your choice and your loyalty and your bravery, to put your life on the line in order to protect your home.

I was also deeply annoyed by his disregard of foreign traditions and customs. I do understand that the extremist branch of Islam is a threat to the Western World. To the whole world really. And I also understand that you are fighting an enemy there, so not everything can be sunshine and roses. But to describe a country so full of culture, history and wealth (literal and metaphorical) as fucked-up and nonviable, is not only disrespectful, but also vile and plain stupid. It shows more about your lack of education and limited intellectual horizon than about the country you're talking about.

As you can see, I started to get really annoyed with Chris Kyle and that didn't change much until the end. In contrast to his film persona, the things he told in this book made him look like a dumb ass hick with no clue about the world behind his scope. And a man incapable of empathy, not even for his family. I still admire his wife for staying by his side through all of it, because honestly? I probably wouldn't have.

In the end, the book isn't really bad. It's not good either, but for me it was just one big disappointment. A lot of that is probably personal. Because I couldn't help but compare Chris Kyle to my man at home. Now, I'm aware that to me, every man I compare to my SO will fall short. That's fine. Additionally, my SO was not a SEAL and never deployed to Iraq. Not because he didn't want to , but because he had his own war to fight, at home and against cancer. He survived and got his life back twice. And it changed him in ways I'll probably never really comprehend.

So, in a way he couldn't be more different from Chris Kyle with his healthy SEAL body and his four deployments. But I still saw quite some similarities and was unbelievably disappointed how a guy who was supposed to be a good one, a protector, an honorable ELITE soldier, could be so ignorant, so awfully flat in the mind. So much less than my man. I was honestly shocked.

Again, these are personal reasons, so other people might not have the same issues with the book. But these things ruined it for me. This is one of the very, very rare occasions on which I will stick with the movie and try to forget about the book.

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review 2015-10-05 00:02
City of Bones - Cassandra Clare

When I first started reading this book, I was very intrigued. I knew Clary was different because of what she could see. At first, I thought Simon might have just been blind and somehow couldn't see the people that Clary saw. Then I put two and two together and figured there was a reason Simon couldn't see them. After the night at Pandemonium, Clary's life changed for the worse if you ask me.

 

I felt like the book went through the action-packed parts way too fast and left all the explanation of everything in the middle in the most boring way possible. I almost gave up on the book trying to get through the middle of it. It was like everything was predictable and I guessed most of what was going on before it happened or was actually told. I think the parts I didn't expect were Hodge's betrayal, that Clary and Jace are brother and sister (it's pretty disgusting that they ended up kissing, but thank goodness that was it), Alex being gay, and Luke being a werewolf that used to be a shadowhunter. I had already figured out that Simon liked Clary, Clary's mother was a shadowhunter and that Valentine is Clary father (I didn't expect Jace to be his son though obviously).

 

If it wasn't for how the last part of the story went, I think I would have hated this book. The ending completely shocked me and makes me want to read the next book in the series. I'm glad I struggled through the middle to get to the end of the book.

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review 2015-07-09 15:28
The Movie Ruined This For Me
The Minority Report - Philip K. Dick

 

It's been a while since I saw the movie version of this short tale by Philip K. Dick, but I now have it on order from the library so that I can watch it again.  Although it's been 13 years since I've seen the movie (starring Tom Cruise), I recall it well enough to know  that it is quite different from its source material.  And while this doesn't usually happen with film adaptations, I think this is one of those cases where the filmmakers vastly improved upon the original story.  I was terribly disappointed.  That might not be fair to Philip K. Dick, but I'm afraid it can't be helped.  Spoilers below.

 

As those familiar with this story know, the premise is that crime has been virtually eliminated because of a police unit called Precrime, which relies on three clairvoyant  mutants who have visions foretelling the future, and whose visions are loaded into a computer system that translates them into "reports."  These visions foretell crimes before the would-be offenders have a chance to offend, and those people are locked away before the idea to offend has a chance to develop in their heads.  John Anderton, head of Precrime, has the shocking discovery of the precogs predicting that he will murder a man named Kaplan.  As he has no intention of ever doing so, he pulls the report and goes on the run.  It turns out that Kaplan is part of a movement to discredit Precrime, and he means to have Anderton stand by his side as he reveals the contents of the majority report as well as the minority report.  (If two of the precogs have one vision and the third has a different one,t he different one is the minority report.)  In Anderton's case, the minority report comes about because it takes into account Anderton finding out about the report and making the decision not to kill Kaplan.  But as Kaplan is making his speech, Anderton takes out a gun and really does kill Kaplan.  Why? To prevent Precrime from being discredited.  I absolutely hate that ending.  Anderton ultimately explains that in his case, there were actually three different reports--all minority reports.  Two of them had him killing Kaplan, but the third was based on his having read the second and changing his mind back to killing Kaplan.  Yes, to save Precrime.  I AM DISAPPOINT!

(spoiler show)
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review 2015-03-03 07:17
Ramona
Ramona - Helen Hunt Jackson,Michael Dorris,Valerie Sherer Mathes

Yikes.

 

You'll note that one of my shelves for this book is "somehow the movie was better". That's because, roughly 100 pages into this boring peasant festival, I watched the 1936 movie with Loretta Young (who is shockingly NOT half-Indian) playing Ramona and some Italian chap(who is incredibly not Indian) in a terrible wig playing Alessandro. The romance/love story is hyped up and the conflict between the Indians and the whites is almost nonexistent so, obviously, there's a love quadrangle. See, Margarita, who yearns for Alessandro, hates Ramona, who is totes in love with Alessandro. Ramona is loved so much by her sorta-adopted brother, Felipe, (who in no way wants to be her brother) that he is willing to let her marry Alessandro, who was instantly struck by Ramona's beauty and is deeply in love with her. Presided over this is a bitchy matron lady who is Ramona's father's former fiancee's sister and no one is good enough for her son, Felipe. Sounds like a drama filled mess, right? Well, it was actually pretty good. It was in technicolor and evvverything.

But this is not a space for reviewing the movie, much as I'd actually rather do just that...

So the book. It's supposed to be an epic love story/tale of true love tested. Well, if by that you mean "horrifyingly lengthy love triangle fraught with tragic circumstances, angst, and depression that is as dull as the Amazon River is long", then BOOM, you're right on point.

There's one scene where Ramona is actually dying due to her not being able to be in Alessandro's presence because he is gone for a week. Then one night, Ramona awakes and knows, just knows that Alessandro is near. So she hops out of bed, sprightly as you please, and wanders around the estate until she finds him. Is it just me, or does that sound highly ridiculous?

But really, I think the shining highlight of this whole gem is the last 100 pages. Let me elaborate.

Ramona and Alessandro's land is stolen from them by the American Government, who sold it off to some white people. Their baby dies. Depression sinks in. They have another baby. Alessandro is shot and killed. Ramona is incapacitated by grief and is practically at death's door. Felipe shows up and, after an (maybe) appropriate amount of time, professes his undying love for Ramona, who agrees to marry him only because he's been so helpful and she does love him, but SHE LOVES HIM LIKE A BROTHER. They have a bunch of kids, Felipe is blissfully happy, Ramona appears to never be truly happy again, and Ramona 2.0 is the prettiest and bestest and most specialest of all the kids, because her dad was Alessandro.

Ugh.

I'll admit that the writing of the book, barring any and all dialogue, is really quite decent, but I could not, in any way, get into the story. This book was supposed to bring the people to a better understanding of the plight of the Native Americans, and it was supposed to accomplish this through the characters, but I found it to be so much more an depressing lengthy love story than anything else. But it doesn't even matter what was the point, because I didn't care for any of it.

(spoiler show)
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review 2014-09-24 04:08
Not as good as the Zac Efron movie...
The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud - Ben Sherwood

Don't hate me for this, dear readers, but in this case I have to say - the Zac Efron movie was better than this book. I know, I know! It's almost sacrilege. But, sadly, true. I can promise it doesn't happen often.

Charlie and Sam St. Cloud are the closest of brothers, and when Sam dies in a tragic car accident their bond transcends the here and now to include the inbetween. Due to a promise made just before Charlie was shocked back to life, Sam now hangs between the present and the afterlife. Charlie is also stuck. Since he made his promise to Sam, Sam appears to him every night at sunset in the cemetery where he is buried and Charlie now lives as caretaker. They play catch, they swing, they swim in the river. Neither brother has yet been capable of moving on so they are stuck in the inbetween. Enter Tess Carroll, a sailor who makes Charlie question whether this is really what he wants.

Overall, the story premise was good. And this is why I liked one and not the other. The author had a good idea. Unfortunately, he butchered it with his writing. I'm not sure if it's because I already knew the outcome, but I just wasn't really interested while I was reading. I found there to be a lot of 'telling' as opposed to 'showing' and that a lot of the time I wasn't reading about things that were happening, but instead things about the characters. I was rather bored and waiting for something to happen.

I couldn't understand how and why Charlie and Tess fell in love, it felt a bit superficial to read and I just didn't believe in it. As characters they both seemed a bit wooden and lacking in actual depth. The author just told me stuff about them but didn't let me see these things in action. I just couldn't stay interested because even though there was a story, it felt like nothing was happening. I hoped this book would make me feel something - but I didn't feel anything. I didn't hate it, didn't love it, just mildly tolerated it. And it shouldn't have taken long to read as it was only 269 pages but it took longer than usual for a book this size, reflecting my lack of interest.

I wanted to like it, I did. Based on the movie I thought I was in for a good read but in the end its just another book to put on my shelf and forget about it. It has been a few years since I saw the movie, so it will be interesting to watch it again now and see if I still like it as much as I did back then. Although I'm sure the presence of Zac Efron helps!

This review is also posted at Crash My Book Party. More reviews there!

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