Book Review – The Dark Heart by Julie Cave

The Dark HeartJulie Cave may be one of my favorite authors. Her ability to weave a tale of faith intermingled with mystery and suspense is almost beyond comparison. She is a talented author, there is no doubt.

I first discovered her books several years ago, when I reviewed a couple of novels from her Dinah Harris series: The Shadowed Mind and Deadly Disclosures. The Dark Heart is the fourth novel featuring Dinah Harris, and it may very well be the best yet.

Author Julie Cave writes a captivating fictional story, but she deals with the harsh realities of modern culture in doing so. Her character, Dinah Harris, is a recovering alcoholic who must deal with the tragic loss of her family. The depression and despair that come through seem almost real at times. The circumstances that define Harris’ life are detailed in the first novel, but are touched on briefly in this one as well. However, I don’t think you need to read them in sequential order.

In The Dark Heart, dark realities are present as well. Drug abuse and racism, and even the issue of bullying come to light in this novel, and Cave deals with them in a way that pulls no punches. Each of these are horrific in their own ways, and many people struggle with these issues. As Dinah Harris digs into this murder, seeking to solve the crime before another can be committed, Cave deals with each of these issues in a way that exemplifies her own faith in God.

Book Review – Some Small Magic by Billy Coffey

Some Small MagicI love a good story with an intricate plot. If it has a good plot twist, so much the better. And if the plot twist is so sublime that I don’t notice it until well into the story, that’s when it’s the best.

That was the case with the plot in Some Small Magic, by Billy Coffey. I wasn’t sure about it when I picked up the book initially, having never heard of the author before. But about halfway through the book, or just before that, I started to get a bit of a feeling that he was going somewhere completely unexpected with this story. And I was not surprised. He did exactly that. And I didn’t even see it coming.

Some Small Magic is a story of a kid named Abel. He and his mom are making it, but just barely. His body is broken by a debilitating condition; just what it is, we are never really told. And he’d like to know more about his father. All of these factors combine to pull Abel and his mother to an Appalachian mountain revival meeting where something strange happens.

Based on what he learns at that revival meeting, Abel decided to jump a train and find his father. With a friend the town considers dumb, who actually has more wisdom than most, and a young girl they meet along the way. Abel begins his quest to seek the truth he’s looking for. And he finds a whole lot more than he ever expected.

Book Review – The Angels’ Share by James Markert

The Angels' ShareMystery and suspense fiction are some of my favorite kinds of fiction. And while The Angels’ Share isn’t necessarily suspense, it will keep you reading until you finish the book.

Set in the early 1930s, after World War 1 and Prohibition have ended, The Angels’ Share is the story of a young man trying to find his way, and a way for his broken family. The family owned a bourbon distillery in the hills of Kentucky. When Prohibition shut it down, and the family experienced the death of their youngest child, it seems like they have been beaten beyond recovery.

But a transient is buried in the potters graveyard nearby, and many believe that he was Christ returned to earth. The story unfolds, exposing dirty secrets, incredible miracles, and flourishing love, love between a man and a woman, and love for mankind as a whole.

The Angels’ Share is a great story, set in a historical context that is rare to find. And although it is centered around a bourbon distillery, the pros and cons of alcohol consumption are not a prominent part of the storyline.

I found The Angels’ Share a difficult book to set aside, and was captivated until the very end. I look forward to reading more fiction from James Markert in the future.

Book Review – The Tunnels by Greg Mitchell

The TunnelsThe Cold War era is a period of history I know very little about. I have read extensively on earlier periods of the twentieth century, and lived through much of the latter portion of it. But that period covering the 1950s, 1960s and into the 1970s has always been of lesser interest to me.

That changed somewhat when I was able to read The Tunnels, a history of the earliest years of the Berlin Wall. The Tunnels focuses on the escapes from East Berlin to the West, and those primarily achieved by using tunnels dug under the Wall and the death strip that buffered it in the East.

While many attempts were made, only a few succeeded, and only a couple really succeeded well. One such was a tunnel that was financed and filmed by NBC, in order to produce a documentary that would raise American awareness of the trials that East Berliners faced under oppressive rule. With the Cuban crisis looming in the Caribbean, the last thing the Kennedy Administration needed was another crisis in Europe. As a result, the media was pressured to hold off, or even to squelch this documentary and others like it.

Book Review – A Harvest Of Thorns by Corban Addison

A Harvest of ThornsI love reading a good legal thriller. It’s one of my favorite genres, and I have found several authors that I really enjoy. When I saw A Harvest Of Thorns, is seemed to be right up my alley, and I anticipated getting into it.

The story line was good, maybe even great. It’s a story based on the reality of sweat shops and slave labor, and addresses the rights of workers in developing countries who make the products we find on our shelves. It’s a novel that drives home a point. While it’s fiction, the individuals found within it could easily be real people. Their situations are not that different.

However, there was one glaring stain that ruined the whole book for me. More than a dozen times, the book used profanity. Now, before you accuse me of being overly sensitive, I have read plenty of material that contains such vocabulary. And I’m generally not offended. However, in this case, the publisher is Thomas Nelson, a Christian publisher, and I expected to find a story that was free of this kind of stuff. In that, I was greatly disappointed.

Very often, my kids ask to read my books. And very often, I let them read them, especially when they are books that are clean. This is one I will not be letting my kids read. And I’m severely disappointed by that fact.

Book Review – 90 Days In John 14-17, Romans, James

90 Days In John 14-17, Romans, JamesI am always looking for good devotional material that will challenge me to grow. It seems like much of the material on the market is pretty basic, and doesn’t go very deep. When I first discovered The Good Book Company, and their For You series of commentaries, I was excited and impressed, because this was material that was not simple and underwhelming, and also not dry and academic either. And what made it even better, is that Timothy Keller was involved, who is one of my favorite authors.

So when a new devotional Bible study came out with his name on it, I was excited to dig into it. 90 Days in John 14-17, Romans, James is an excellent study, that guides you and encourages you to dig deeper into the Scriptures as you study.

The format is simple. The day’s passage of Scripture is laid out, some material is presented to read and think about, often with some though-provoking questions to get your mind working. There are also sections that suggest topics and thoughts for your prayers, and for application to your daily life. Finally, before the next day’s entry begins, there is a space you can journal your thoughts and prayers, and any questions you might have.

Book Review – Leadership Promises For Every Day by John C. Maxwell

Leadership Promises For Every DayJohn Maxwell has released a new daily devotional for leaders, called Leadership Promises For Every Day. While a lot of the daily entries are from the Maxwell Leadership Bible, among other resources Maxwell has written, calling this a devotional is a bit of a stretch. It’s more of a daily leadership thought.

That said, it’s still a pretty good resource. I have had this on my desk for several weeks now, and have utilized it almost every day, reading the thought for the day. It always gives some concise bit of leadership wisdom for me to consider, and usually summarizes a more detailed and complex thought from one of Maxwell’s books.

The drawback to this is the fact that I have read most of Maxwell’s other works, so this is just restating what I have already read, most of the time. The reminder is great, but I would prefer something new and fresh sometimes too.

The book is bound in a nice leather-like cover, and the pages are very well designed. This would be a great gift for a student of leadership, whether in ministry or in the workplace. The daily thoughts are brief and to the point, and the size is sufficient for a desk or a drawer, or even a backpack or a bag.

While not the best resource out there for daily leadership material, this is still a handy book to have, and I have enjoyed using it. I look forward to whatever new nuggets of leadership wisdom it may bring.