Sunday, November 15

A Spy Among Friends by Ben Macintyre

Kim Philby is one of history’s greatest spies. During the cold war he rose the ranks of Britain’s counterintelligence. What none of his colleagues, especially his friend Nicholas Elliott, knew was that Philby was secretly sending intelligence to Moscow. In A Spy Among Friends Ben Macintyre recounts the story of Philby, paying specific attention to the relationship between Philby and Nicolas Elliott.

From the beginning, Macintyre is careful to note that this is not a biography of Kim Philby. Rather, seeks to show the friendship between Philby and Elliott. Furthermore, much of the story is shrouded in mystery since so many files from the MI6, CIA, and KGB are locked. As such, Macintyre attempts to do the best he can from secondary sources. With those caveats, he manages to put together quite a thorough sounding story.

Wednesday, October 14

The Curse of Crow Hollow by Billy Coffey

There’s a witch up in the mountain. Or so the rumor goes. Alvaretta Graves is an old widow who lives alone, and she stays secluded from those around her. Some say she’s insane, while others insist that she’s a witch. Regardless, no one wants to run across her. But when a group of teenagers stumble across her cabin, she curses them. After they return to town strange things start happening in the small town of Crow Hollow, things that no one can explain.

Author Billy Coffey has an unusual writing style. The Curse of Crow Hollow is written as if someone is telling the story, and the narrator sometimes address the reader a bit more directly and uses person pronouns to refer to himself/herself. I’m not sure if the narrator is supposed to by Coffey, or if it’s supposed to be a side member of the town who’s never directly introduced. It took a few pages to get used to it, but eventually I did. However, I found that sometimes the narrator interjections to be distracting.

Thursday, July 23

A Fellowship of Differents by Scot McKnight

In his newest book, A Fellowship of Differents, Scot McKnight takes a look at what the church is supposed to be. To find his answer he turns to the letters by the Apostle Paul. For many people today church is a place to go on Sundays to sing some worship music, hear a sermon, and partake in communion. Usually that church is composed of people very similar to us, usually sharing in the same culture. In looking through Paul’s letters, Scot proposes that the church is meant to be something else. The church in the New Testament is composed of a variety of people from different areas and different cultures, they are a group of differents, but today the church is often composed of a fellowship of those who are alike.

Wednesday, July 1

John Shaw’s Guide to Digital Nature Photography

Are you a budding photographer? Does nature photography especially interest you? If so, then John Shaw has written a guide just for you. His book includes sections on gear, camera basics, composition, close-ups and more. While he often does go into some of the basics, Shaw also assumes you have at least some knowledge of cameras. Maybe you’ve ever touched a DSLR, but you at least know how to point and shoot a camera. Shaw also realizes that people reading this book may already have some DSLR experience.

Coming into this book I already have DSLR experience and enjoy photography as a hobby. I use a Canon 60D (Shaw prefers Nikon but also knows that everyone has their preference) and already had an understanding of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Despite this, the intro sections served as a nice refresher course and in some cases gave me some insight that I didn’t have before, especially when talking about aperture and shutter priority. I had never used those settings before but am now interested in trying out aperture priority sometime.

Sunday, June 28

Taken by Dee Henderson

Shannon Bliss was abducted when she was sixteen and forced into living with and helping the Jacoby crime family. After many long years she was finally able to escape. But returning to a normal life won’t be easy, and she knows it. She contacts Matthew Dane, a private investigator, to assist her in reentering society. If this is done right, she’ll be free.

The meeting between Matthew and Shannon occurs extremely early, leading to a strong and quick hook. From there, the story moves forward at a mostly constant pace. Author Dee Henderson uses Matthew as the primary protagonist, and we learn everything about Shannon at the same time he does, all the while getting insight into his response and understanding of her past.

Tuesday, June 16

Disclaimer by Renée Knight

After finding a mysterious novel at her bedside, Catherine Ravenscroft decides to give it a try. The suspenseful story draws her in, but then she realizes this isn’t any ordinary novel. Somehow this novel recreates a dark event in her life, and the only other person who could possibly know the details has been long dead. She’d hoped the past was behind her, but now all of her memories come crashing back in. She has no idea who wrote the novel, but whoever it is torments her with it.

Disclaimer alternates between Catherine’s first person POV and the author’s first person POV while occasionally switching over to side characters. The story starts quickly, and Catherine discovers the novel early on, hooking me early on. After the first few chapters the story slows down to a slow burns, as author Renée Knight begins to slowly tease additional information, hiding all of the exact details of what the mysterious book contains. Roughly halfway through the story suddenly jumps again and speeds to the end before wrapping up in a surprising reveal that I did not see coming.

Wednesday, June 10

Ruthless by John Rector

Someone wants to kill Abigail Pierce and Nick White is the only person who can save her. While out having drinks, Nick is approached by a woman who mistakes him for a hit-man. She gives him an envelope containing money, and flash drive, and a picture of Abigail. He decides to try to warn Abigail, but the real hit-man is on his trail. In the process of trying to save Abigail, Nick is drawn further into the conspiracy which reaches far deeper than he ever imagined.

Ruthless grabbed my attention from the first chapter and then never let go. Author John Rector crafts a strong story with plenty of twists and turns. I’m usually a fast reader but I flew through this book in two sittings thanks to the fast pace and gripping storyline.

Tuesday, June 9

Mireille by Molly Cochran

The end of World War II is drawing near when Mireille de Jouarre is forced to flee her after being attacked by her abusive step-father. She meets up with her childhood friend Stefan, who is now a resistance fighter. The two fall in love, but after Stefan doesn’t return from an attack, Mireille once again finds herself fleeing, this time to Paris. On her way she learns she is pregnant. In order to provide for her newborn child she must begin a new life. She becomes a poule (French slang for prostitute) and takes on the name l’Ange (the Angel), and she quickly becomes the most famous poule in all of France. While attending a party she meets American film producer Oliver Jordan who later launches her a huge film career. Now that she is an actress, Mireille is determined to keep her past buried and to keep her daughter safe.

Thursday, June 4

A Deadly Wandering by Matt Richtel

It is the end of summer, in 2006, and Reggie Shaw was driving to work. While texting, Reggie crosses the center line and hits an oncoming vehicle. The crash kills both men in the car, both rocket scientists, and injures the driver in the car behind Reggie. In his bestselling book A Deadly Wander, Matt Richtel tells Reggie’s story while also taking a look at human attention and how distractions can affect the brain.

It didn’t take me very long to get hooked, and I wasn’t surprised to see that this book had become a best seller. The writing is never dry and Richtel’s focus on Reggie, the subsequent investigation, the court case, and the rest of people involved provided a strong narrative backbone. This narrative structure is what first hooked me and kept me reading.

Sunday, May 31

Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans

According the Pew Research Center, the percentage of professing Christians in the United States is shrinking. While that particular study was release after Rachel Held Evans released Searching for Sunday, it still illustrates a part of the point she makes in her new book more people, especially young people, are leaving the Church (and which she outlines in her prologue). In the following chapters she tells her own story about what led her to leave the Church and then what led her joining the Church again.

I’ve previously read Evans’ A Year of Biblical Womanhood and am an occasional reader of her blog. While I do not find myself agreeing with everything she writes I do often find myself sharing the same sentiment’s she does. She is a strong writer and describes her feelings towards the Church in a way that easily allows you to understand where she’s coming from.

Wednesday, April 29

Threshold by G.M. Ford

Detective Sergeant Mickey Dolan isn’t having the best year. Between the end of his marriage and a number of complains about use of excessive force, he seems to barely be holding on. He then gets assigned to investigate the disappearance of a councilman’s wife and daughter. Any mistakes could end up costing him his career. During the course of the investigation, Dolan meets Eve Pressman, and her daughter Grace. Grace has the miraculous ability to revive people who are comas, though she works hard to avoid being thrust into the public eye. Eve and Grace may not only know where the missing women are, but the dark secret behind their disappearance.

G.M. Ford wrote a fairly fast paced procedural with plenty of twists and turns and just the barest hint of the supernatural. For the majority of the story, I had absolutely no idea how it was going to end.

Wednesday, April 15

Inside the Criminal Mind by Stanton E. Samenow, PH.D.

Originally published in 1984, Dr. Samenow has re-released his book taking a look at the criminal mind and updated with several decades of further information. I have not read the previous versions of this book, but it is obvious that at least a few of the sections have benefited from events in the past decade. Some sections which have been added since the original version is one on the use of computers for criminal activities, new drug influences, the effect of violent films/video games, and a look at whether or not genetics plays a role in criminality.

Most of what people know about criminals they probably learn from the news or crime shows. In his book Inside the Criminal Mind Dr.Samenow, a clinical psychologist, offers his profile of criminals. His chapters range from children/teens, work place crimes, drug abuse, mental illness, prisons, and how to change criminals. Each chapter is thoroughly researched and contains many examples. Dr. Samenow’s writing is concise and he avoids making his book read like a textbook (though the examples are often far more attention grabbing than the analysis).

Monday, March 30

Scary Close by Donald Miller

I’ve enjoyed reading Donald Miller’s books ever since I first picked up Blue Like Jazz (something which I’m sure many of his fans have also experienced). When I heard he had a new book out, I was eager to pick it up. Scary Close is certainly different that his earlier books, but it was still a great read. Whereas his earlier books were more based around spirituality or spiritual themes, this one focused more on relationships. That isn’t to say he ignored his faith at all, but rather that it wasn’t the focus of the book.

After many failed attempts at relationships, Donald Miller began to see past the drama in his past to understand why he had a hard time connecting with people. What he found startled him. He spent so much of his time trying to impress people, and had a strange balance of trying to be a private person while yearning for close relationships with other people. The problem was that he was hiding himself behind a false persona. So he decided to drop the act and just be himself.

Thursday, March 19

World Gone By by Dennis Lehane

Its late spring in Florida and the United States is in the middle of a second world war. Meanwhile, former crime boss Joe Coughlin is working for the Bartolo family in Florida and Cuba. After his wife died a decade earlier, Joe works to raise his son to re-establish himself. So far it’s working as he’s gained wealth and power. But then everything is on the verge of collapse as Joe learns that someone wants him dead, and he doesn’t have long to figure out who it is.

Now, before I go any further, I have a confession to make. I ordered this novel because the description intrigued me. What I did not realize was that this book is the third in a series. Whoops!

Thursday, February 12

Aloof by Tony Kriz

Is God truly there? And if so, where is He? Many people find themselves asking these questions as they struggle to discover whether or not God is present. Tony Kriz describes it as feeling as if the divine presence of God is ‘aloof.’ Throughout his book of the same name, Tony seeks to show readers how God might actually show up in their life, even if they don’t always realize it.

Aloof is broken into 4 sections, roughly following theme of story. Each section is strongly supported by Tony recounting parts of his life from when he begins to question his faith to how he grew into a more clear understanding of God. The writing is often raw and honest, and Tony isn’t afraid to show his own struggles and failures. His story and conclusions are not always clear cut, but they are honest.

Wednesday, January 28

Sleepy Hollow: Children of the Revolution by Keith R. A. DeCandido

Set during the first season of Sleepy Hollow, between episodes 10 (“The Golem”) and 11 (“The Vessel”), Children of the Revolution tells another tale of Ichabod Crane and Abbie Mills as they work to stop the coming apocalypse. While in Patriots Park, Crane receives a vision from Katrina. Some sort of danger is brewing and Crane must retrieve the Congressional Cross that he was awarded by George Washington for his bravery. But there seems to be one problem: he died before actually receiving it and no one is sure where it is.

As Crane and Lieutenant (left-enant, that is) Mills search for the cross they learn of a coven of witches who are trying to raise their leader, Serilda (who also appeared in the second episode of the show). If the coven finds the cross first, then Serilda will be free to take her revenge.

Thursday, January 22

Cane and Abe by James Grippando

A serial killer is on the loose in southern Florida. He’s known as ‘Cutter,’ using methods reminiscent of Florida’s dark sugarcane cutting past. When a woman’s body is found in the Everglades and the cutter is the first suspect.  Prosecutor Abe Beckham aids the FBI in the investigation, but something isn’t right about the case. When Abe’s wife disappears, Abe finds himself in the spotlight. Did he have anything to do with it?

This is the first book I’ve read by James Grippando and I was instantly drawn into it. Early in the novel he covers Florida’s cane cutting past, which sets the stage for several events in the end. From there everything moves at a non-stop pace until the very end.

Buoyed by strong characters, Grippando crafts a compelling and exciting mystery. With each turn of the page I tried to figure out what would happen next. At times it reminded me of Gone Girl (I’ve watched the movie and haven’t yet read the book, I know shame on me), but it avoids being a complete replica of the plot and there are plenty of surprises.

Monday, January 12

Kidnapped by the Taliban bu Dilip Joseph, MI with James Lund

Dilip Joseph is a medical doctor who works with Morning Star Development. During a part of 2012 he was stationed in Afghanistan and helped those without access to basic health care. On December 5, 2012 Dilip and two of his colleagues were on their way to Kabul after working in their clinic when they were stopped by men armed with AK-47s.

It was the Taliban.

The men force Dilip and his coworkers on a nine-hour march.  The captives are repeatedly threatened. One of the other captives serves as a translator, and they soon learn that the Taliban is hoping to hold them for ransom. Despite the circumstances, Dilip manages to learn a little bit about his captors. He begins to see glimpses of their humanity. Though he longs for rescue, he also hopes he can use the situation to