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Book Review: A Journey Home by Angela Scavone

Book Review: A Journey Home by Angela Scavone

The links below will take you to Amazon.com. Disclosure: LiteratureLynx is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This adds no additional cost to you.

A Journey Home by Angela Scavone

Book Cover for A Journey Home by Angela Scavone

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Cover blurb (taken from Amazon): “Air Force Captain Stephanie Tyler’s sole duty is to fly overseas to war torn areas of the world to retrieve and escort the bodies of fallen soldiers back home to the United States. It is a tough and emotional job but she is honored for the privilege. Her duty also helps her to escape her past and her failed marriage. But those flights have become increasingly more dangerous and she is forced to have a partner accompany her. Much to Stephanie’s surprise and dismay, she is partnered up with her ex-husband, Captain Douglas ‘DA’ Aston.

From the moment DA enters the scene, he irritates her. It could have something to do with the fact he slept with her best friend while she and DA were married. As they go on several missions together, Stephanie is forced to be courteous and professional with DA even though the very sight of him irritates her beyond comprehension. Then, Stephanie’s cheating, husband stealing, ex-best friend is killed in Afghanistan and Stephanie and DA must escort her body home. While executing this difficult duty, a myriad of conflicting emotions makes Stephanie ponder how short life really is . . . and to question her own ability to forgive.”

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I received a free copy of ‘A Journey Home’ in exchange for an honest review. For more information, please see my review policy page.

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What I liked:

What I liked most about this book was the way I felt after reading it. ‘A Journey Home’ made me tear up, but I walked away with a deep sense of sweetness and contentment. Captain Tyler’s job is heart-wrenching, but Scavone manages to write about the topic in a sensitive, enjoyable way. I actually read the entire novel in one sitting- the writing is simple, and that simplicity adds to it’s emotional impact.

‘A Journey Home’ is not a typical “romance novel”. “Romance novel” makes me think of bodice-rippers and torrid affairs. ‘A Journey Home’ is much more of an emotional romance story. This book is very character-driven, and it’s cute, rather than steamy. That’s the word I want to keep going back to: cute. The love story is gentle and very reminiscent of a romantic comedy.

When I first read the book description, I was a little nervous. Escorting fallen military personnel doesn’t seem like an ideal backdrop for a romance story. It would be all too easy to smack readers in the face with the life/love/death interactions. Scavone treads carefully, and swings you from heartbreak to hopefulness without it feeling too heavy-handed.

What I didn’t like:

As a personal preference, I don’t love characters with a jealous streak. Stephanie is a well-written character, and her behavior makes sense with her history, but I found her a little frustrating. Despite DA’s many attempts to discuss their past, Stephanie outright refuses to listen and I find that somewhat hard to sympathize with. It’s not an issue of bad writing, just a personal preference in the characters I relate to.

I’m not sure I’d call this a “dislike” but it’s worth pointing out that it’s hard to find your emotional footing with this book. The characters are frequently called to escort a fallen soldier in the middle of a light-hearted, romantic moment. Just as you relax into the relationship aspect, you’re reminded of the reality going on around them. It was difficult for me to switch gears as often as was necessary.

Would I recommend this book?

Yes, I definitely would.

**Sensitive content warning** This book obviously talks a lot about military procedure, soldiers who are killed in action, and the emotional impact on the families. Scavone’s descriptions are not gory or gruesome at all, but they are emotionally difficult**

**Minor spoilers** There are no explicit sex scenes in this book. As mentioned above, this story is more about the relationship, and the emotions, and less about lust or sex**

Additional thoughts:

I don’t have any experience with the military, so I can’t speak to it’s accuracy in that regard. ‘A Journey Home’ portrays the personal side of the armed forces, and each of Scavone’s characters are shown being thoughtful and caring. My deepest respect goes out to those who have to do Captain Tyler’s job in real life. I cannot imagine how difficult that is.

Let’s talk diversity. ‘A Journey Home’ doesn’t specifically draw attention to anyone’s race or ethnicity. There aren’t a lot of physical character descriptions, so you’re free to imagine them looking however you want. There is some limited discussion about injuries sustained in the line of duty, but we don’t see any of those characters in the story.

From a gender perspective,  Scavone does an excellent job of making sure that women are represented at every level. The book includes female captains, co-pilots and secretaries. In the context of the book, these women are treated with equal dignity and respect.

‘A Journey Home’ tugs at your heartstrings, but makes sure that you walk away feeling warm and fuzzy.

Book Review: A Life Removed by Jason Parent

Book Review: A Life Removed by Jason Parent

“People say that change is the only constant. I believe there’s another constant in this crazy world of ours: human nature. Humanity is the coldest of words.” -Parent

The links below will take you to Amazon.com. Disclosure: LiteratureLynx is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This adds no additional cost to you.

A Life Removed by Jason Parent

A Life Removed by [Parent, Jason]

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Publisher’s blurb (taken from Amazon): “Detectives Bruce Marklin and Jocelyn Beaudette have put plenty of criminals behind bars. But a new terror is stalking their city. The killer’s violent crimes are ritualistic but seemingly indiscriminate. As the death toll rises, the detectives must track a murderer without motive. The next kill could be anyone… maybe even one of their own.

Officer Aaron Pimental sees no hope for himself or humanity. His girlfriend is pulling away, and his best friend has found religion. When Aaron is thrust into the heart of the investigation, he must choose who he will become, the hero or the villain.

If Aaron doesn’t decide soon, the choice will be made for him.”

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I received a free copy of ‘A Life Removed’ from the author in exchange for an honest review. For more information, please see my review policy page.

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What I liked:

First off, a huge thanks to Jason for helping me rediscover my love of thriller-type mysteries. I’m a true-crime T.V. lover (don’t ask me how many episodes of Forensic Files I’ve watched) but for some reason I tend to stick to cozy mysteries when I read. ‘A Life Removed’ reminded me how much I enjoy a more action-packed, hard-hitting mystery.

Parent does a great job of keeping the reader guessing. I genuinely had no idea where the story was going, and the reveals were dramatic, but didn’t feel forced. Parent gives just enough details that you start to question what you, as a reader, know about the characters. Then, when the twists and turns happen, you can trace the clues backwards, but it’s still a shock. There were so many times in this book that I said to myself “no, he’s not going to go there… is he?” And then he does.

Some of the best tried and true mystery tropes were present, like the pairing of a jaded older detective with an optimistic counterpart. On the other hand, though, Parent does an excellent job of turning other stereotypes on their heads. Who is reliable? Who is trustworthy? What don’t we know about our characters’ pasts? I’m trying really hard not to give anything away, but the climax was unusual. I got to a certain point, thinking the story was wrapping up, but then realized that I still had another 70 pages to go. Those 70 pages make ‘A Life Removed’ take on an entirely different feel.

What I didn’t like:

Hm… how do I explain this without giving away any plot points?

I wasn’t emotionally invested in any of the characters. While reading, that fact felt troubling, like I should care more than I did. It took me a while to realize that this was an intentional choice on the part of the author. After finishing the book, that decision makes total sense, but I did need to adjust my expectations.

Like I mentioned before, the last 70 pages of ‘A Life Removed’ is what makes this book truly unique. I liked the twist, but I did feel that this section went on for longer than necessary. Once the pieces begin to fall into place for the reader, I got impatient with the characters trying to solve the crime.

Would I recommend this book?

Yes, but not if you’re sensitive, or squeamish in any way.

***MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD/Sensitive Content Warning*** This book is dark. Really dark. It includes violence (obviously), human sacrifice, cannibalism, thoughts about rape, animal cruelty, religious cultism and lengthy passages about suicide. If you’re already a fan of thrillers, I think you’ll be fine. If you’re looking to read a thriller-type mystery for the first time, I’m not sure I’d start with this one***

Additional thoughts:

From a diversity standpoint, ‘A Life Removed’ is really interesting. Aaron’s girlfriend (and her family) are Portuguese, and her brother is described, literally, as “the fat-guy stereotype.” Normally a description like that would make me angry, but it’s true to character for the person who says it. Aaron’s best friend, Ricardo (ethnicity not specified) is dealing with a degenerative eye condition. Additionally, Aaron himself is not mentally healthy. Individually these pieces might not sound that noteworthy, but Parent does an exceptional job of weaving them into the story. The stereotypes (of people who are fat, or those who have a disability) are used in a thought-provoking way. Each of the characters defy their stereotype in a way you don’t expect. Again- I’m really trying not to give anything away, but it’s hard!

I finished ‘A Life Removed’ a few days ago, and the more I mull it over, the more I like it. It’s an intense (at times gross) read, but the character development was fascinating. You just don’t know what you don’t know about people. You never know what’s going on inside someone’s head. Parent takes that idea to it’s extremes, and created a book that will stick with me for a long time to come.

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‘A Life Removed’ is currently available for pre-order, and will be released on May 23, 2017

Book Review: Revenants by Scott Kauffman

Book Review: Revenants by Scott Kauffman

“Life happened. Real life, Betsy, not storybook life. Not life where it all makes sense on the final page, but as it’s truly lived, where there is no sense but the sense with which we delude ourselves so we can keep going on for one more day.” -Kauffman

The links below will take you to Amazon.com. Disclosure: LiteratureLynx is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This adds no additional cost to you.

Revenants- The Odyssey Home by Scott Kauffman

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Publisher’s blurb (taken from Amazon): “A grief-stricken candy-striper serving in a VA hospital following her brother’s death in Viet Nam struggles to return home an anonymous veteran of the Great War against the skullduggery of a congressman who not only controls the hospital as part of his small-town fiefdom but knows the name of her veteran. A name if revealed would end his political ambitions and his fifty-year marriage. In its retelling of Odysseus’ journey, Revenants casts a flickering candle upon the charon toll exacted not only from the families of those who fail to return home but of those who do.”

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I received a free copy of ‘Revenants’ from the author in exchange for an honest review. For more information, see my review policy page.

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What I liked: 

I’m a sucker for stories that jump back and forth in time. I love when different time periods are tied together by circumstance, and the characters have to unravel the connections. Not only is this interesting from a story-telling standpoint, but I like the portrayal of universal human experience. It doesn’t matter what year it is, people and their emotional experiences are the same. Wars damage the mind. Heartbreak stays with you forever. Life is messy. These ideas have been true for all of human history. That universality really appeals to me, and Kauffman handles it gracefully.

‘Revenants’ isn’t an in-your-face dramatic war story. It’s more of a subdued, slow reveal. If you aren’t in the mood for that sort of atmospheric book, the pace might be a struggle. This book is quiet and unassuming, and the details unfold slowly, but that added to the melancholic feel of the whole thing. I happened to be in the mood for just such a book. Kauffman’s writing is detailed and thoughtful- he handles heavy, depressing topics gently, which made the entire book a quick read.

What I didn’t like:

I wasn’t super invested in the main character. I didn’t actively dislike her, but I found myself more interested in the people around her. On a related note, I’m not sure how I feel about the congressman character. He was easy to hate (which was nice, haha) but I also found him somewhat one-dimensional.

The ending left me feeling very conflicted. I won’t give anything away, but after all of the hardships detailed in the book, the conclusion was heartbreaking. I think it’s realistic, and I think it was true to the characters, but that doesn’t mean I was happy about it 🙂

Would I recommend this book:

Yes! Like I said before, I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re looking for something action-packed, but I do think it’s a story that would appeal to a wide audience.

**Sensitive content warning: ‘Revenants’ does go into some detail about war and bodily injury. I didn’t think the descriptions were overly gruesome, but they were gritty enough to feel real. I would feel comfortable letting a young teenager read this book, but as always, it totally depends on your personal tolerance and preference.**

Additional thoughts:

The main character’s story takes place in the early 1970’s. With that in mind, there were some gender/racial situations that felt a little uncomfortable, but they did feel accurate to the time period. Interestingly, Betsy and her family are never physically described in any great detail, which I think lends itself to the universality thing I was talking about before. They could be any American family.

‘Revenants’ made my heart hurt. It illustrates how unfair life can be, and lets that thought seep into every corner of the story without necessarily resolving it. This is true anyway, but especially true anytime war, or the military is involved. I can’t say this was an uplifting or happy read, but I do think it’s worthwhile- just be prepared with some tissues.