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Book Review: If We Had No Winter by D.L. Pitchford

Book Review: If We Had No Winter by D.L. Pitchford

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If We Had No Winter by D.L. Pitchford

If We Had No Winter (Billie Dixon Book 1) by [Pitchford, D. L.]

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Cover blurb (taken from Amazon): “Can a father who turned his back on a child want her when she’s an adult?

College freshman Billie Dixon has always found solace in calculations and her secret drawings, hiding from the more difficult parts of life—her mother’s alcoholism, her inability to connect, and of course, her estranged father. That is, until she arrives at Bradford College in Vermont, where the Math Department Head is her father.

After a semester of avoiding him, her father insists she join him for the winter holidays to rekindle their relationship, and Billie is at a loss. While she tries to uphold the status quo, her father refuses to be pushed to the sidelines and forgotten. Just as she realizes she doesn’t want to lose him, her meek and shy father kicks her out of his home during an argument. Can Billie swallow her pride and make amends with her father or will she lose him forever?

If We Had No Winter is a gritty coming-of-age tale about loss, love, and learning to try again.”

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I received a free copy of ‘If We Had No Winter’ 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: 

Where do I even start? There were so many things I liked, and so many things I want to talk about.

There’s a deep honesty about this whole book that’s really remarkable. The characters are deeply flawed, and the relationships are realistically complex. Pitchford doesn’t treat her characters gently. There are things to love and hate about nearly everyone. I absolutely loved the relationship between Billie and Jimmy. **Possible spoilers ahead** How often do we get to see a healthy friendship between a straight boy and girl that doesn’t include unrequited love? Jimmy loves Billie the way a best friend should. He accepts her for who she is, and challenges her to be a better version of herself. There’s no implication of a relationship there, just a solid, functional friendship.**

I was very happy and impressed with the way Pitchford wrote her male characters. Most of the supporting characters are college-age boys. There are some stereotypical behaviors (drinking, etc.) but Pitchford makes sure that they aren’t one-dimensional. These are young men who are emotionally intelligent, and good listeners. They aren’t perfect. Like Billie, they are each flawed, but they try.

‘If We Had No Winter’ isn’t a light, fluffy story. It deals with a number of heavy topics, but feels accurate to the age range of the characters. There isn’t a lot of fiction written about college-age characters. There are a ton of teen books set in high school but I don’t see as many books set on a college campus. I think this is getting better, but I can say that when I was a freshman in college, this book would have been invaluable.

What I didn’t like:

I got frustrated with Billie the same way you get frustrated with your friends in real life. You understand their motivations, but that doesn’t mean you always like their decisions. As the book progresses, Billie’s internal monologue doesn’t necessarily match up with her actions. I started to get annoyed with her unwillingness to see things from anyone else’s point of view. Having said that, though, I think Billie is an accurate portrayal of someone her age, with her life experiences.

‘If We Had No Winter’ was a quick read for me, but some of the middle chapters were a little slow.

Would I recommend this book?

100% Yes.

**Sensitive content warning/spoilers** ‘If We Had No Winter’ deals with divorce, sex, abortion, drinking, alcoholism and a possible eating disorder. Pitchford doesn’t necessarily go into great detail, but doesn’t pull punches either.

**The sexual encounters in this book were really, really interesting to me. I  recently wrote a post about annoying book tropes, and dramatic sex was one of the discussion points. In that post, I said that I wished more authors would include realistic sex. ‘If We Had No Winter’ was exactly the kind of book I want to see more of. Billie loses her virginity in the book, and the reader is present for the entire encounter. Billie and her partner have a discussion first, use birth control, and the love interest makes sure that Billie is comfortable and enjoying herself. There is another encounter that goes differently, but I was happy with the way both scenes were written.**

**Super-mega spoilers** An abortion takes place during this book, and Pitchford handles it beautifully. There isn’t any moral shaming, just support, love and understanding.**

Additional thoughts:

I really loved this book. I loved all of the nerdy references, and the accurate portrayal of real-life hardships.

From a diversity standpoint, ‘If We Had No Winter’ doesn’t go into much detail. There are a few mentions of LGBTQ+ issues (trans men in fraternities, for example) but otherwise it isn’t discussed at length. It seemed to me that most of the main characters are white (based on hair color and tan descriptions) but it’s never stated outright. Most of the conflict in this book is internal: Billie trying to deal with herself. Mental health concerns are never directly addressed, but referred to. This novel is labeled ‘Billie Dixon Book 1’ so I’ll be curious to see if these issues are addressed later.

If you are a fan of Laurie Halse Anderson (author of Speak), you’ll like D.L. Pitchford. ‘If We Had No Winter’ is a book I wish had been available to me when I was in college. I’m looking forward to reading more from this author, and more about Billie Dixon.

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: 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.