Book Review – The Separatists by Lis Wiehl

The SeparatistsIn the past, I have read and reviewed several books by Lis Wiehl, and I have been impressed. The latest addition to my library is no exception, and may be the biggest nailbiter yet.

The Separatists is the third installment in Wiehl’s Newsmaker series. It is by far the best of the three, and I thoroughly enjoyed the first two. You can read my review of The Newsmakers here.

In this third volume, Erica Sparks, the nations top and hardest hitting news reporter investigates the secessionist movements that are growing around the nation. One such movement, in North Dakota, is disturbing, and Erica stumbles upon something much bigger, more sinister and dark than she’s ever experienced. As she seeks to follow the threads of murder and corruption to their source, she lands herself and her family in great danger.

Paired with this plot, Wiehl describes a woman who is both successful and greatly insecure. Sparks comes from humble beginnings, and seeks to escape that stigma, and be a better mother to her daughter. And with her new marriage struggling to survive, Wiehl paints a picture of a realistic person, struggling with many of the same struggles most of us deal with on a daily basis.

Book Review – Everything You Always Wanted To Know About God by Eric Metaxas

Everything You Always Wanted To Know About GodMany people have questions about God, and many of those questions are good ones. But most people simply do not know where to go for the answers. Some have great church communities that can provide many of these answers, others do not. Eric Metaxas has taken the challenge to write a book that takes a good look at many of those questions, and provide some of the answers for those who are seeking them.

In Everything You Always Wanted To Know About God, Metaxas discusses many different topics, from the topics of evil and suffering, to sex, to miracles, and much, much more. The questions are good questions; and the answers are out there, and Metaxas does a great job of covering a lot of good information.

It’s just the format that I didn’t really like. Metaxas writes this in a Q & A, conversational style of writing that feels disjointed and can be hard to follow. Plus, he places some pithy humor is places that don’t warrant it, and it comes across as somewhat snarky. I had a difficult time with the format of the book, even though the information in it is excellent.

So I was mildly disappointed. I have read several other books by Metaxas, including Bonhoeffer, 7 Men, and 7 Women. This book was very different from those, and as a result, I didn’t enjoy it as much as his other works. Again, though, it bears repeating, the information and the answers he gives are great.

Book Review – The Way Of The Dragon Or The Way Of The Lamb by Jamin Goggin & Kyle Strobel

The Way Of The Dragon Or The Way Of The LambMy initial thoughts upon picking up this book for the first time were, “What in the world could this possibly have for me?” Power struggles are not something I deal with, either in the church or in my own personal life, to any great degree. So I was less than enthused going into this book.

However, The Way Of The Dragon Or The Way Of The Lamb pricked my conscience in more ways than one, and brought me to a greater understanding of my own quests for power, versus seeking the power of God’s way, the way from above.

More than once, I had to set aside the book and do some soul searching and prayer. I found that I am tempted by the seduction of the world’s power just as much as the next guy, if not more. And this book spoke to my heart on that matter in a very deep way.

Authors Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel believe that the church has abandoned the higher way of power, that of God working through us, to embrace the world’s way of power, and working through our own strengths and achievements. The American church has been seduced by the world’s way, and we haven’t even realized it. Goggin and Strobel have identified this departure, and even though we would deny it, they have hit the nail right on the head.

In their search for wisdom in this area, they visited and interviewed several key people of the faith, living in these modern times, among them people such as Eugene Peterson, Dallas Willard and J. I. Packer. Their findings were difficult to read, but their solutions offer some hope that we can turn our hearts back to Christ, and seek the way from above as we strive to follow his lead in shepherding the church.

I found The Way Of The Dragon Or The Way Of The Lamb to be a refreshing, yet challenging book, and one that spoke to my heart in ways that I didn’t expect. It has opened my eyes to a reality I never knew existed, even in my own heart. I highly recommend that you read it, too.

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.