Monday, March 30, 2015

Home Again: A Book Review

I get about 5-10 requests per week to review new up and coming books.  About 95% of them have to do with the military one way or another.  I know we get them because we are a military family, and that's great.  But sometimes, I just get a little burned out on military literature.  I turn down most of the requests, mainly because I don't have time to review them all.  Between raising all my boys and being wife to my soldier-man, sadly, I have limited time to sit down with a book.  Audio books have been my friend lately.

So a book really has to catch my eye and interest for me to accept reviews these days.  And Home Again by Michael Kenneth Smith
was one of those eye catching books.

I liked the fact that it took place in Tennessee.  Since living here, I have been very interested in learning more about the history, especially concerning the civil war.  Although, the book is fiction, you can tell the author went through a lot of trouble to include a lot of non-fiction details and real people.

One thing I LOVE about history, is learning about the little stories that make up the big events.  I love the details about real people that make them REAL to me.  And this book includes those small, yet important details, and I LOVED it.  It's a perfect blend of fact and fiction!

I actually promised to do this review last week.  I got the book in the mail and I started reading it.  The first two chapters didn't really grip me because it was "guy talk".  Mostly hunting and guns were being described, and I fazed out a bit.  But once the story started rolling I was swept away.

Even though the publicist sent me a hard copy, I got myself a digital copy on Amazon (You can get it FREE if you have Kindle Unlimited).  Since I have a Kindle Fire 7 HDX, I have text to speech.  So I turned it on to read to me while I folded laundry.

Husband comes home.

He listens in.

He gets sucked in.

And he starts lurking around...

"Are you listening to my book?"

"Yes," he said.

"What do you think?" I asked.

"This book is AWESOME!  I am loving this!" He said.  That's a HUGE compliment coming from Ben.

Then I was banned from reading it without him.  So my review is a little late coming but here it is!

Before I go on, here is what the back of the book says:

An American Sniper in the Civil War Takes Center Stage in Historical Novel

Snipers are not a modern-day military tactic. In the American Civil War, both the Yankees and the Confederates had skilled snipers with advanced rifles and scopes that allowed them to hit targets over a thousand yards away. 
In Home Again, author Michael Kenneth Smith presents a true-to-life work of historical fiction that describes through a young soldier the important role of snipers—called sharpshooters back then.  Zach fights for the Union and earns notoriety for his accuracy with a rifle custom-made by his father, a gunsmith. Beginning with his first kill, Zach feels remorse and guilt over ending a human life.  He questions if it’s fair, honorable or moral to shoot an enemy without warning from a safe distance.  Are his victims really enemies, or soldiers like him eager to return to their families? 
Luke is a Confederate, who enters the conflict in hopes of doing something to make his father proud.  He volunteers to help two overworked surgeons in a field hospital by stitching up the gashes of wounded soldiers. Seeing an opportunity to stand out, Luke impulsively mounts a horse and rushes into enemy lines to retrieve the fallen Confederate flag. His fellow troops cheer, but the surgeons shame him for risking his life for the sake of glory when he is needed to help save injured soldiers. 
Set in Tennessee, Home Again does not take sides. Zach and Luke are both from Tennessee and there is little mention of the issues or the cause of the war. The surgeons tend to all soldiers regardless of the side they fight for. The dramatic and poignant stories of the two boys, uniquely told in alternating chapters, represent the aspirations of many young boys who seek action, adventure and glory and quickly confront the horrific realities of war. 
Smith vividly describes the chaos and elements they endure, as well as the sight of soldiers with limbs blown off and guts spilling into the mud, the screams and desperate pleas for help, the smell of gunpowder and decaying bodies.  
Based on his meticulous research, Smith skillfully weaves his fictional characters into actual events and battles, notably Shiloh and Gettysburg.  The personalities and leadership styles of well- known generals on both sides of the conflict are well presented, and brief biographies of many of them are in the epilogue.
I have to say, I really enjoyed the book. Probably not as much as my husband who was soaking it in. But as a history buff, and wife of a soldier living in Tennessee, I really liked it.  The first thing I notice about a book I review is writing style.  Michael Smith is an excellent writer.  He made me fall in love with the two main characters in such a way that I just couldn't pick a side!  When reading about Zach the sniper, I want the Union to win.  But when reading about the adventures of Luke the medic Confederate, I want them to win!  The reader can't help it!  I think it takes a lot of talent to write like that.

I love the parts when Zach the sniper is proving his skills to the unbelieving soldiers.  But I think my favorite part is when he walks into a confederate tent full of men, after hiding out in the rain for hours and pretends he is one of them to get a good nights sleep.  I still chuckle when I think of that part. But it was really interesting as the writer explored the emotions Zach went through as he was picking off guys as a sniper.  And the lasting effects of war on him.

I really liked Luke too.  I loved his compassion and charity.  He really wanted to take care of everyone... and their horses.  But he had the saddest story I thought.  His dad was a total douche and pretty much forced him into the Army.  But Luke was an animal lover and fishing small town boy. What the war did to him was just short of tragic.  I did find it fascinating the way they were able to patch soldiers up even though the conditions were unsanitary and the supplies were so limited.  But he just didn't give up on anyone.

I am really hoping for a sequel.  The ending left it open to follow these young men on new adventures.  Fingers crossed!

So whether you are a history buff or just love a good military adventure read, you need to read this book!  It will make you laugh, cry, cheer, and it will open your eyes to a new understanding of what the civil war was and what those men fought for so we can live like we do today.

-Cat


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