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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: 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.

Book Review: The Leaving of Things by Jay Antani

Book Review: The Leaving of Things by Jay Antani

“I could think of no gesture, no words that could express the inner breaking I felt, that contradiction of loss and optimism. And I realized that there is a gratitude that cannot be articulated.”

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.

The Leaving of Things by Jay Antani

Cover Art for the book The Leaving of Things

Publisher’s Blurb (taken from Amazon):

” Winner of the 2014 International Book Award for Multicultural Fiction 2014 Kindle Book Award Winner

Vikram is not your model Indian-American teenager. Rebellious and adrift in late 1980s Wisconsin, he is resentful of his Indian roots and has no clue what he wants from his future—other than to escape his family’s life of endless moving and financial woes. But after a drunken weekend turns disastrous, Vikram’s outraged parents decide to pack up the family and return to India—permanently.

So begins a profound journey of self-discovery as Vikram, struggling with loneliness, culture shock, and the chaos of daily Indian life, finds his creativity awakened by a new romance and an old camera. His artistic gifts bring him closer to a place and family he barely knew. But a devastating family crisis challenges Vikram’s sense of his destiny, hurtling him toward a crossroads where he must make the fateful choice between India, the land of his soul, and America, the land of his heart.

Revised edition: This edition of The Leaving of Things includes editorial revisions.”

 

Things I liked: 

I really enjoyed Antani’s writing. His style bounces back and forth between simple descriptions and eloquent, dramatic prose. Certain passages read like deeply metaphorical literature, while the majority sounds like realistic teenage observation.

This is a story about finding where you belong; in Vikram’s case it’s a question of country, but finding your place is a universal struggle. We all go through periods of feeling like we don’t fit in. Antani’s description of feeling like an outsider resonated with me on a human level, regardless of citizenship. Having said that, I also think Antani does an excellent job of describing what it’s like to be stuck between two different cultures.

The descriptions of life in India were wonderful. I really got a feel for Vikram’s culture shock, and it was easy to picture his new surroundings.

 

Things I didn’t like:

The pace was a little slow. For me, the story started to drag in the middle.

I didn’t care for the romantic sub-plot. The parallels between Vikram’s life in America and his life in India are clear enough without this story line.

I’m not sure how I feel about the ending; it stays true to the conflict at the heart of the book, but as a reader it was a little frustrating. I got to the last page and felt like the story was incomplete.

 

Would I recommend this book?

That depends on your reading mood. ‘The Leaving of Things’ is a quiet, gentle book. It’s mostly built on descriptions of people and places, and the plot is fairly slow and uneventful. If you’re in the mood to appreciate family and travel literature, this is a good choice. If you want a quick, adventurous read, this isn’t the book for you.

 

Final thoughts:

‘The Leaving of Things’ wasn’t a bad book. I didn’t dislike it, but I can’t really find much to say about it, either. There were a couple of really excellent passages about family and finding yourself, but it wasn’t mind-blowing. I’m glad I read it, but it’s not something I would re-read. To sum up: it was fine.

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I’m open to suggestions with my new review format. I’m not sure how I feel about it yet- let me know what you think.