Rating: 4.5 stars
I read this the first time back in late 2012, I think. For some reason, I didn't write a review and decided to reread this. I was worried that I wouldn't like Latakia as much upon the second time through, but was rewarded in the end.
Latakia is a book that can be split in two parts: the first half taking place in Syria and the Iwo Jima. This is where the adventure aspect of the novel lies, with a United States civilian (Matt Goodend) being rescued by a group of Navy SEALs during a kidnapping. The second half of the novel takes place on US soil and deals with the relationship aspect of our characters.
First and foremost: there is no explicit sex scenes.
(The sex is off-page.) So if you're looking for hot soldier sex, I would look elsewhere. Latakia is definitely a book about relationships. The relationships consists of love: love between friends, brothers, and well...lovers.
I think the biggest issue people may have with this novel is Matt. He's the sort of person who lets his boyfriend walk over him. Frankly, he's a pushover with a big heart that sees the problem stemming form himself, and not the true offender. This could get tiresome and annoying after a while (after all, his boyfriend is a really big jackass). But Matt isn't stupid, and his denial doesn't go far once he gets back from Latakia. I went from slightly annoyed to admiring Matt for being courageous in his endeavors both in Syria and the United States. We see how Matt becomes an important person to a group of amazing people, the SEALs.
What I learned from reading other works by J.F. Smith is that he creates very engaging secondary characters. We have Petey, the very offensive guy with a heart of gold; Baya, a middle eastern Navy SEAL who likes playing video games; Desantos, a religious Christian who does not see his place to judge others despite differences in their beliefs; Wasp, a young man trying to prove himself; Jeff, Matt's friend with a cool head on his shoulders; Brett, Matt's diva friend. And of course, Mope, a very special Navy SEAL who showed Matt to believe in others when he couldn't believe in himself. Despite the rich cast of characters, the story never once deviated from the focus of Matt and Mope. They always took center stage.
So overall, I absolutely love this novel. It showed me how easy it is to take life for granted; to appreciate people who put their lives on the line everyday; to see how it isn't always about love between lovers; of brotherhood and family and friends. And so much more.