Christian Book Review | The List by Sherri Lewis

the listOne of my latest reads was The List by Sherri Lewis. When I saw the title on the shelf, I quickly picked it up and purchased it. I have read two other titles by Sherri Lewis – Dance into Destiny and My Soul Cries Out. The title “The List” caught my attention because making a list of all the qualities one wants in a partner is something that is often suggested, especially by older women to younger women. “Do you know what you want in a man?” people often ask a young lady who says she is searching for a mate. After reading the back of this book, it seemed like I’d get some answers about what this list-making is all about! The bright yellow cover with the picture of a pretty black woman with a cute curly afro were simply adorable.

So, how was the book? Well, I certainly enjoyed reading it. Basically, the lead character, Michelle, is a divorced young woman who is focused on her career, but longing for companionship. She suffers from a terrible case of hormone surges that seemed to be slightly over-dramatized as she continued to have emotional outbursts throughout the book. While it isn’t uncommon for women to suffer from terrible hormone issues, this is something that it seems like she would have gotten under control sometime in the past, even if she was suffering from a disorder. Instead, popping a few St. John’s warts suddenly helps her regain control.

Anyhow, she and her close friends go through several highs and lows, including weekly meetings and trying out online dating services in their quests to find a soul mate. One of the best things about this book was the variety of the characters. Michelle and each of her friends are dealing with unique circumstances. One friend’s husband had died, another is a middle aged virgin, and one is newly reformed from living a life of sin.

If you’re struggling to find the right man, and trying to go about it in a Godly way, this book may give you the tools you need to do some self-reflection, to help you think about what you’re really looking for, and to focus your efforts in the name of God. It won’t, however, teach you how to “make a list.” The story does remind those who are searching for a soul mate to thinking deeply about what they are looking for.

However, if you’ve been searching for a very long time, you may find some parts of the cookie-cutter ending for Michelle and her virgin friend to be quite unrealistic -or, maybe you’ll find it to be hopeful. The author almost implies that if only you live a Godly life, have faith, and try, then a Godly man will fall into your lap. That’s simply not the case for many of us. Nevertheless, it’s important to keep hope alive. Just recently, a woman at my church who is over 40 found the man of her dreams. She’s been faithful to God and, even though a long time passed, in her words, “There’s hope for all of us.”

The author made many references to pop culture, natural living, and other popular themes. One reference that I didn’t like was that a light-skinned long-relaxed-head ex-wife in the book was characterized as an evil golddigger, while Michelle whose hair was natural and was a brown-skinned Bohemian beauty was somehow the ideal woman. Is this really a big deal? For me, I found that some of the references to natural hair and living threw me off from the message. Maybe you should read the book and decide for yourself…. Overall, it was a very entertaining book and I enjoyed reading it. Sherri Lewis remains at the top of my list of favorite Urban Christian Fiction Authors (along with Mimi Jefferson – Mimi, I’m eagerly awaiting your second novel!)

Ms. Lewis has an adorable website! Check it out at: http://www.sherrilewis.com/. You can read excerpts from all three of her novels, and connect with her on social networking sites.

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Novel Review | Married Strangers by Dwan Abram

Married Strangers

Married Strangers is the first title that I’ve read by Dwan Abrams. I had high hopes for the book. I hear so many married people talking about how they feel like they no longer really know the person they are married to, as if they married a stranger. So, I was eager to jump into this book and find out what this “married strangers” business is all about.

Rayna is a newly wed who finds out that she barely knows her husband. He seems to have a jealous, possessive nature and he’s not very good in bed. On top of that, he’s white and she’s black. However, the interracial marriage theme is not prevalent in the book. It seemed strange to me that that author decided to make the man who was bad in bed white, but chose not to discuss the more material difficulties that may actually arise from an interracial marriage. I got the impression that the only reason why the author made him white was so that it would “make sense” that he was bad in bed. That part kind of threw me off.

Another character, Aja, is married to a man – this time, a black man – who is a great lover, but not great with finances and full of baby mama drama, or so it seems. Again, I was bored by the cliché – a black man who is good in bed, but not into the church, full of drama, and bad with finances. Okay…..and of course, Aja is the strong black woman who owns her own business, and is great with money. She’s had thoughts of sneaking around on her husband, which also seems strange because her husband was very loving. When they get into a heated fight and Aja ends up injured, she forgives her husband very quickly. Again, the author missed an opportunity to discuss domestic violence issues. Instead, Aja is more concerned about her husband’s baby mama than her own broken arm.

Lastly, there’s Shania. She is perfect and godly and her man is too. Shania lost her parents at a young age and her worries revolve around her baby sister. Her sister wants to drop out of college and, guess what….she’s dating a thug! You’ll have to read the book to find out more about how that turns out.

I really had high hopes for Married Strangers, but it didn’t hold my attention very well. I mainly finished reading it in order to review it for this blog. Like many other Urban Christian Fiction novels, problems were magically solved, and there were quite a few cliché moments. I really like a lot of the titles, but others could have used a lot more work before hitting the shelves. If you’re debating buying this book, I  would suggest that you try out a few other titles from this publisher first, then get back to this one when you get a chance. Maybe I’ll try Dwan Abram’s next title….

Married Strangers on Amazon.com

Book Review | Manjani by Freedom Speaks Diaspora

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ManjaniManjani is a new and riveting novel by an author by the name of Freedom Speaks Diaspora. From the beginning of the novel, the heroine, Manjani, springs to life as she describes how she was “born conscious.” From that point on, it is clear that Manjani is not your average teen girl.

She’s a rather fierce character. On one hand, she’s wise beyond her years. On the other hand, this young lady has a lot to learn about life, love, family, happiness, and her purpose in life. From birth, she has had a militant belief that blacks have been and continued to be oppressed in “Amerikka” and that she will be a leader who will lead her people to The Revolution. The novel is bursting with vibrant themes such as adolescent challenges, sexuality, spirituality, and race relations. At the same time, the novel centers around a young girl’s coming of age, and her struggle to save not only her own family, but also the world. Manjani wants to see change – in her own life and in society. However, Manjani discovers that not everything in life is as black and white as it appears.

After her family faces a tragedy, things begin to fall apart for Manjani. Problems in school and at home force her out into the world and she has to make some very difficult choices about who she is and what she has become a part of in her quest to lead her people to The Revolution.

The style of the book is captivating. After an initial shock at the blunt truthfulness of the language, the book instantly became a page turner. Crucial issues facing communities across America are discussed in a meaningful way, throughout the dialogue of the characters and in each situation that Manjani faces. This book will make you challenge your own attitudes about sexuality, spirituality, and race relations.

From the publisher:

“Manjani Jackson is a mouthy New York teenager who believes her life’s purpose is to lead her “deaf, dumb, and blind” brothas and sistahs into The Revolution. On one of the worst days of her life, tragedy strikes, landing her at an all white school. Although she is working on getting along, the racist students make it impossible, and before long, the administration crosses the line, forcing Manjani into political action. Then one of her events gets out of hand, sending Manjani on the run. Her journey leads to a place where bittersweet lessons about liberation are learned as her comrades turn against her. Only tough love, spiritual revelations, and self-determination will help her find her place in the struggle.”

Suncycle Publishing

For more information, and to purchase this title, please visit:

Suncylepublishing.com

www.myspace.com/manjani_novel

Christian Book Review | A Man’s Worth by Nikita Lynnette Nichols

a-mans-worth2I have long been a fan of novels published by Urban Christian “The Finest In Christian Fiction” but I had not read any new titles in a while. Low and behold I was browsing through the aisle of the book store and I spotted a new title, A Man’s Worth by Nikita Lynnette Nichols. What stood out to me about this book was the fact that the main character was a young, unmarried Christian black man, rather than a black woman.

Most of the titles by Urban Christian fiction center around female characters who are struggling with love, religion, self-identity, or all of the above. In this title, however, the lead character is Randall Loomis. He is a highly religiously devoted, gainfully employed, attractive black man who is secure in his religious beliefs. So, what could make him fall of the wagon? Yep, you guessed it! A woman. She’ snot just any woman- Randall falls head over heels for Amaryllis, a woman with a face and body as beautiful as her name, but a lost soul that threatens to make Randall loose his religion.

If you are looking for a thought-provoking title that discusses the impact of love on our relationship with God, and especially from a man’s persepective, this is title for you! You can find more information on the novel at www.urbanchristian.net or purchase it on Amazon.com.

Novel Review | The Street Lawyer by John Grisham

the-street-lawyer1Traveling means reading! I love to read when flying, but I forgot to pick up a book. Luckily, they have convenient little bookstores in the airport! Well, I was being cheap so I picked up a less expensive paperback- The Street Lawyer by John Grisham. It cost me $7.99 and it was a very good read, which I guess one would expect from John Grisham.

It was originally published in 1998, but the themes of law, life as a lawyer, poverty, and public interest are still hot topic issues today. The main character, Michael Brock, is a well-paid associate at a top law firm, who has a failing marriage and very little purpose to his life. After a life-threatening event, he begins to re-assess his career and his life in general. This leads to some drastic career decisions and an inspiring story about change. This story rings true in a day and age when there is so much talk about changing the world. However you feel about politics, this book proves that change starts with self. Michael Brock is seeking to correct injustices and right wrongs, but he must first start with righting some of the wrongs in his own life and career.

This book will especially appeal to anyone interested in the legal justice, as with many of Grisham’s novels. I also learned a lot about homelessness and poverty, two issues that are very seldomly discussed. If you like Grisham’s more popular titles, or even if you have never read any of his works, you should pick this one up!

John Grisham’s website

Buy this book on Amazon

Novel Review | Twisted by Tracy Brown

I enjoyed Tracy Brown’s novel White Lines so much that I decided to pick up another title by her to see if it was just a fluke! Nope, it wasn’t. Twisted was a great read as well. In Twisted, we get a more intricate look at the money, glitter, and glam, that pulls people into a life in the drug game. Why risk your life, breaking the law? Well, easy money seems to be the answer. However, Tracy Brown breaks down the motivation behind the men and women whose lives are intertwined in the drug game. Instead of portraying them as one-dimensional criminals, Tracy Brown somehow manages to tell their story with fairness and criticism.

By the end of the book, we care about what happens to the novel’s lead character Celeste, even if we don’t agree with all of her choices. Brown’s characters have misadventures in both New York and “Hotlanta” as Celseste’s past affiliations with powerful men catch up to her. This book has an ending that I never saw coming & just like her previous novels, this story is more than a regular urban drama- it has a plot that gives substance to the trials and errors of the characters. The only flaw that I found in this book was that some of the actions of the characters were unbelieveable at times, but I would tell the reader to stick with it because the novel is definitely a shocker at the end.

Bye Twisted on Amazon:http://www.amazon.com/Twisted-Tracy-Brown/dp/0312336500

Visit Tracy Brown’s official website: http://www.tracy-brown.com/

Novel Review | White Lines by Tracy Brown

I don’t normally read urban novels that are, well, overly urban because I can’t relate to them & I often feel like they are glorifying the street life. However, I was in the airport waiting on a flight, looking for  a way to kill time & I happened to pick up a novel called “White Lines” by Tracy Brown. As slow as I am, I didn’t immediately catch what “white lines” meant.

What did catch my eye was the author’s word from the author on the inside of the book:

“….I’ve grieved with friends who lost loved ones to AIDS and other drug-related illnesses…” She goes on to describe her experiences growing up aroung the drug game in the eighties and nineties, then continues, “….In telling the story in White Lines, I want to shed light on every aspect of the drug game to show that no one ever wins in this game. There are only losers….”

Okay, so this peaked my interest! An urban novel about the drug game that told the truth about the drug game? That sounded good to me and the book was thick enough to occupy my waiting time and my flight to my destination and back, or so I thought. The 497-page novel was a true page-turned that I ended up reading in two days & had nothing to read on the way back! Tracy Brown’s story about troubled Jada who goes from “crack addict and prostitute to survivor” is eye-opening. The book is a little bit love story, a little bit tragedy, and full of surprises and truths woven into an intricate plot. This is not your shallow book about a ghetto love story. It’s a true novel that celebrates the urban tradition while exposing the hardships that people go through, how they end up caught up in the game, and what happens when they try to get out of it.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone, especially someone like myself who loves to support urban novels, but gets tired of books about sex and drugs with no plot. You won’t be disappointed with this one.

Purchase the book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/White-Lines-Tracy-Brown/dp/0312336489

Visit Tracy Brown’s official website: http://www.tracy-brown.com/

Book Review | Comeback Season by Cathy Day

Comeback Season by Cathy Day is a good read for any thirty-something woman who has found herself questioning her choice of career over love. While the main character in the novel longs for a real relationship and a family, she finds herself alone in Pittsburgh facing a dismal dating scene. For many women, the heavy use of football analogies may be overwhelming and hard to follow, but the connection is easy to see as the the protagonist’s ups and downs in love are compared to the highs and lows of her favorite team. While the book is heart-warming, at times, and easy to relate to, less focus on football and more of a focus on a compelling plot would have been two great improvements to the novel.

Novel Review | Passin’ by Karen E. Quinones Miller

The latest novel by Essence Bestselling Author Karen E. Quinones Miller is entitled Passin‘. As the title implies, the fiction novel centers around a fair-skinned, blue-eyed young black woman who, initially for career reasons, decides to pass for white. She moves to New York and starts a new career, takes on love interests, and successfully fools her co-workers and friends until an unexpected event challenges her lie.

The author does an excellent job of providing social commentary through the characters’ dialogue with each other and developing the lead character’s transition from cultural experimentation to a lifestyle change.

Nikkie, the lead character who passes for white is forced to question her own motives as she reaps the benefits of passing, while losing the her place in the black community. Is it really worth it? Will Nikkie get caught? Normally, I give away the whole plot in my reviews, but this is definitely a book that requires you to read it on your own, think about it on your own, and come up with your own conclusion.

I would also suggest doing some research of the “passing” phenomenon, popular doing times of more open discrimination against black, but still going on in present times, as in the case of Nikkie in Passin‘ which takes place in present-day New York. I first learned of passing as a little girl when I watched Halle Berry in Alex Haley’s Queen, and more recently upon reading Our Kind of People by Lawrence Graham. With simple internet research, I learned about some very high-profile cases of blacks who were light enough to pass for white. The whole phenomenon is intriguing and the way that Miller presents it is witty and entertaining.

I would definitely recommend this novel, along with two other novels that I have read by Karen Quinones Miller: Using What You Got and Uptown Dreams. Miller is the author of several other works. For more information, visit her website or click on this link to purchase the book.

Novel Review | Steve the Penguin by Mahlena Rae Johnson

Yesterday I was lucky enough to get my hands on a copy of a funny new novel entitled Steve the Penguinby Mahlena-Rae Johnson. I related to the book so well and found it so interesting that I did something that I haven’t done in quite a while; I finished the 189-page book in less than 24 hours! The heroine of Steve the Penguin is the likable, yet sarcastic 27-year-old single gal Bianca. Johnson manages to balance light-hearted comedy, romance, and social commentary in a refreshingly interesting way. Bianca’s thoughts on ethnicity, love, work, and sex mirror many of the things that people want to say, but, like Bianca, don’t always say aloud. Bianca is socially conscious yet socially insecure, full of ambition but at times full of self-doubt, and just like every other single twenty-something woman waiting for her Steve the Penguin to come along.

The main character, Bianca, travels back home to St. Thomas from LA for her high school reunion, where she meets up with old acquaintance, relieves the past, and asks herself what the 17-year old Bianca would think about the now 27-year old Bianca.

Steve the Penguin is definitely a witty, charming, must-read. I recommend this book to anyone out there searching for Mr. or Mrs. Right, or anyone who has enjoyed The Devil Wears Prada, Sex in the City reruns, Girlfriends, pop culture or “pop politics” in general, and anyone out there who has ever “dreaded their high school reunion.”

An added feature to this book is the you get to stay connected to the main character, Bianca, through her blog.For more information on this great new novel or to purchase a copy, visit www.stevethepenguin.com.