There’s no denying that death is a troublesome topic. It tops many people’s list of fears (whether they admit it or not).

The premise of Robert Ovies’ newly released novel, The Rising (Ignatius Press, 2014), is one that unpacks itself in an endless spiral of conflict: what if there was a boy—nine years old, in fact—who could raise people from the dead? C.J. Walker accidentally restores someone to life—from the coffin—and we all learn a thing or two about just what that entails scientifically.

Stop for a minute and think about that. This isn’t a thriller. It’s not a horror novel. It’s a serious consideration of what that would mean for a normal kid and his family.

On the surface, this seems like it could be either heretical or awesome or even some combination of both. Ovies, however, forces us to go deeper. What does it mean to be alive? What does it mean to be dead? And what are the implications of a boy having this ability?

C.J.’s dad has an entrepreneurial streak, his mom is very protective, and it seems no one’s really concerned about him. For a nine-year-old boy, raising people from the dead could be a neat trick. For the rest of the world, it’s an opportunity to spit in death’s face.

And let’s not forget exploitation, because you know that would happen. The media and even the Church get in on the “what can you do for me?” side of things and, in the end, the hero of the story is the most unexpected person.

This isn’t just entertaining reading, though it’s definitely that. It’s also an examination of life and death. This book is really a consideration of human nature and maybe even divine nature. It’s a look at relationship and trust.

I couldn’t stop thinking about this book the whole time I was reading it. It’s fast-paced and yet it has a way of getting into your brain and making you think.

This might be one of the best novels I’ve read in a couple of years. It gets my highest recommendation. You won’t be sorry you read it!

Now, for something lighter from my summer reading pile. Do you find yourself watching Hallmark Channel movies? Are you looking for something lighter? Do you have a soft spot for romance?

The Rose Ring (Createspace, 2013) can tuck into your bag and be the perfect companion for the reading you’ll do on your back porch or in the Adirondack chair by the pool.

It’s a quick read, and it definitely falls into the romantic spectrum. Fair disclosure: I tend to avoid romances (I had my fill many years ago), but this book is as much a look at relationships as it is anything else. 

Julia Manning finds herself facing an old nemesis—the guy who left her at the altar, as a matter of fact—even while she’s digging her way to the bottom of an old romantic mystery centered on a resident at the nursing home where she volunteers.

And yes, there’s a ring with a rose on it. The ending’s not exactly happy, but it’s not disappointing either. Julia softens, her old flame grows up a bit, and the romantic mystery is fascinating.

Not a bad summer read, all told.