Review of ‘The Ravine: Evil, Hope, and the Afterlife’

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Rachel Turner and her son, Evan, are found brutally murdered. Her husband, Danny, is found dead in his car at the bottom of a ravine. The town of Akron, Ohio is shocked that such a devastating event could happen in their otherwise peaceful burg. Rachel’s best friend, Carolyn Bianci is thrown into a bout of depression and a crisis of faith, but her husband, Mitchell, a devout man, is determined to discover what really happened in the Turner house that fateful night. Just as he is almost at the end of his faith, Joanna Larson, a woman with amazing spiritual gifts and an insight into the souls of others, living and dead, appears with a message to help Carolyn and Mitchell understand what happened, why it happened, and how their faith can help them through their crisis.

Ravine: Evil, Hope, and the Afterlife by Robert Pasculli is an overtly religious novel, but one doesn’t have to be Christian, or even particularly religious, to grasp the underlying message – hope and faith are the only way to overcome evil, and the capacity to forgive—even one’s own shortcomings—is the key.

I usually find religious-themed stories too heavily laden with piety and overly-hopeful homilies, but Pasculli, even though he does stress the religious aspect, does not really preach. He shows, through the actions and words of the characters primarily, how people can cope with the evil that often inhabits our world alongside the good, and it’s up to us to shun the evil, while seeking the good.

I found myself identifying with the main character, and captivated by Joanna, even though she was almost a Deus ex Machina in the way she shows up just when she was needed to resolve a troubling situation.

I give it three and a half stars.

Review of ‘The Trinity’

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When Jacob Davidson is ordained as a priest, the ceremony is marred by the brutal murder of his mentor, Father Stephen Brentwood. Jacob then finds himself immersed in a plot far more sacrilegious than he could ever conceive. In the process of finding Stephen’s killer, Jacob learns dark secrets of his mentor’s past, and things he’s never known about himself, as he’s dragged deeper into the church and closer to the elusive head of the Trinity.

The Trinity by K. P. Ambroziak is a dark tale of the secret and twisted machinations of a religious order that will disturb those who believe in the traditions of the church. The author digs deeply into the forces that motivate those who believe, and those who exploit those beliefs.

A fine tale to read during the cold, dark days of winter. I give it four stars.

Review of “Heaven 2.0” by Scott Haworth

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Mike Kepler is an extractor, working for the Taipei Corporation, a religion-based organization from the far future that has access to time displacement technology. Mike’s job is to ‘extract’ people from the ‘Dark Ages,’ that is, the ages before TC’s time, just as they ‘die,’ and take them to the future, where they will be judged for placement in heaven or hell.

Now, all that is a mouthful, but it’s the only way to introduce Scott Haworth’s Heaven 2.0. An extremely well written, and funny book, at the same time it nails the tyranny of religion and the mindless formulaic behavior of corporations to a tee. As Mike wrestles with the moral and ethical implications of his work, he also has to deal with his feelings for Gabby, his mentor when he began working as an extractor.

You’ll thoroughly enjoy following him through his experiences working solo in the Dark Ages. Some of the conversations between the newly ‘dead’ and the angels as they call them are both touching and hilarious at the same time.

Haworth knows his subject, and has a master craftsman’s ability to convey it to readers. If you only read one book this month, this should be it. Five stars, only because I can’t give it six.

Why I Think I Believe in Miracles

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I’m not an especially religious person.  I was asked to leave my mother’s church when I was 12 or 13 because of my infuriating tendency – – in the eyes of the southern Baptists in my home town – – to question everything.  After deciding at that tender age that the Baptist faith was too confining and narrow minded, I tried a lot of religions and cults, even flirted with the idea of atheism, decided I was really agnostic (read undecided) and that Buddhism was the philosophy of life most closely attuned to my personality.

I’ve never questioned the possible existence of a supreme being or some higher consciousness in the universe, I’m must not sure of its nature.  When I was in Vietnam in 1968, though, I witnessed a situation that leaves a lot of unanswered questions, but also confirmed my middle of the road philosophy.

I was in an outfit that did behind the lines recon missions; a highly dangerous undertaking as the enemy knows you’re out there snooping around, and doesn’t much like it.  One of our teams, while on a mission, was attacked and one of the members got separated from all the others.  Poor guy wandered around the jungle for four days, occasionally encountering VC or NVA soldiers, including one incident when he and an NVA guy were on opposite banks of a stream getting water.  Funny thing is, being out there all alone, wandering around like a lost sheep, he was never shot at.  The guy at the stream just stared at him for a few minutes, nodded, got up and walked away.

We finally stumbled across him with a search team; or maybe he stumbled into them.  Weary, hungry, and befuddled, he was otherwise unharmed.  The whole thing, though, set me to thinking.  I still wasn’t sure about the whole God thing, but the fact that this guy, with his dark skin, round eyes, and tightly curly hair had survived that long in enemy territory when the bad guys had a bounty on the heads of each of our recon guys, made me think that there was such a thing as miracles.  Who or what generated them, I wasn’t sure, and it didn’t really matter.  What it did for me was to peel away any cynicism I’d been coated in, and leave me open to the possibility of good things happening even when conventional wisdom says you’re screwed.