Christian Book Review | Murder Through the Grapevine by Teresa McClain-Watson

Hello readers! I have another book review for you. I went to (gasp!) the public library to pick up some good reads for a recent plane trip. I made a great pick by choosing Murder Through the Grapevine by Teresa McClain-Watson. I chose the book, as usual, because of the publisher – Urban Christian Fiction. This company puts out great fiction works, that are Christian based, but urban-themed. These books aren’t preachy and you don’t have to worry about a lot of vulgarity and explicit sexuality.

Murder Through the Grapevine is a murder-mystery with a Christian fiction twist. The main character Roni Jarrett is struggling with the shameful events in her past while trying to turn over a new leaf as a minister of music at a new church and a management position at a salon. She has striking good looks, but very little going on in the love department.

Her life takes an unexpected turn when a childhood friend dies and Roni feels obligated to try to uncover the mysterious circumstances surrounding her friend’s death. She has not been close to her friend for many years; the young lady had become addicted to crack and it’s difficult for Roni to follow the trail leading up to her death. Matters become even more complicated when Roni begins to fall for the handsome Police Chief Don Gillette.

This book had enough excitement to hold my attention through a couple of plane rides. Unlike many urban fiction books, I was not able to guess the ending. There were lots of twists and turns. This is definitely a good book to read if you’re tired of the same-old same old Urban Christian novels. Even if you don’t normally read this genre, you’ll still be able to enjoy this book. The author tastefully adds excitement between Gillette and Roni without using any graphic language, or allowing the character to compromise her newly found Christian morals.

The only thing that I found annoying about this book is the series of bad choices that Roni makes quite irrationally. She continues to be naive about her dealings with shady characters, even after it becomes clear that her life is in danger. I understand that the author probably had to allow Roni to make such choices to keep the action moving, but it made the novel (slightly) unrealistic. Nevertheless, the silly choices that Roni makes lead to lots of action.

If you’re looking for an exciting urban novel, Murder Through the Grapevine is an excellent choice!

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Novel Review | PUSH by Sapphire

push-novelMy review of PUSH by Sapphire is long overdue. During my frequent travels, I picked this book up in an airport bookstore and I didn’t put it down until the last page. The book is a very short one, but it was very powerful. I originally wrote this review in 2009 and slightly updated it in 2011.

PUSH is a heart-breaking tale of a young inner-city girl-turned-woman named Clareece “Precious” Jones who is brutally abused – sexually, physically, and emotionally by her father. The story becomes deeper and more disturbing upon learning that Precious is being abused by her mother as well. The poor child ends up birthing two children fathered by her own dad.

Precious is academically challenged, not necessarily because she is slow, but because she is unable to concentrate in school due to the trauma that she is suffering at home. Her mother forces her to eat so that she will remain overweight; her mother then molests her and forces her to perform sexual acts.

The first baby that Precious had is mentally retarded, and Precious is not able to see the child. Her mother is living off of the system; she encompasses all of the worst attributes of a woman living in poverty and despair. Surprisingly, the author did not make Precious’ mother a drug addict. However, she must have been mentally disturbed to do and allow such things to be done to her child. Precious’ grandmother, seemingly aware of the horrors taking place, is also living off the system and does nothing to help the girl.  Her grandmother is caring for the mentally retarded baby in order to receive money from the government for the baby.

An important change takes place in Precious’ life when her high school sends her to an alternative program. For the first time, Precious is able to talk about her problems and begins to learn; she experiences the joys of journaling and talking about her feelings. Her teacher genuinely cares about her, although she does give Precious some questionable advice about being a mother. The book mirrors Precious’ progress from being functionally illiterate to being able to express herself with words. The author’s writing is choppy and words are misspelled at the beginning of Precious’ journey, but the writing clears as Precious’ thoughts clear.

The reader begins to hope that Precious will be a success story, overcoming the years of abuse to become a strong mother and an educated person. She develops career goals, gives birth to her second child, moves away from her mother, and seems to be making progress. It was literally painful to read her thoughts as she begins to realize the depth of the abuse that she has suffered, questioning why no one helped her over the years, why the education system passed her on from grade to grade even as she wasn’t learning, and why the authorities didn’t step in when she was clearly being raped by and fathered a child by her dad. She begins to wonder what it’s like to be loved by a man, to have a real boyfriend, to have true intimacy rather than being raped, to have had a childhood, to have been “attractive” instead of fat, to be innocent instead of being victimized.

Despite the painful healing process, again the reader hopes….until Precious’ mother comes to visit her and reveals devastating news that will change Precious’ life forever.

I must warn potential readers of this book that it’s not for the faint at heart. I was reading about horrors that I never even imagined a person, let alone a young child, going through. I cringed as the abuse was described. I almost cried at the fate that Precious was doomed to.

Even though it is difficult to read this book without shedding a tear, it’s important for everyone to read, especially people who have not been through abuse and want to understand it. It was eye-opening and educational. It was a book that I will NEVER forget. The ending left me with many questions. Some have described the ending as being “incomplete.” However, I feel that it was best for the author not to tie the end of the story in a neat bow; after all, in real life, many of the issues faced by abused and neglected children are never resolved. In that way, this book accurately reflects life.

PUSH has been made into a movie, best known for Mo’Nique’s Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Hopefully, the book and the movie will encourage victims of abuse to talk about their experiences and seek help.

Book Review | Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man by Steve Harvey

steve-harveyThis has to be one of the hottest relationship books out right now for women!!! When I was in the salon a few weeks ago, I saw 3 women carrying it around and reading it under the hair dryer! Of course, I jumped on the bandwagon and purchased the hardback book for about $25 from Barnes and Noble (You can find it cheaper on Amazon.com).

Although it is a relatively short and easy read, I must say that it was worth every penny. Steve Harvey qualifies himself to write this book based on his experience as a divorced man, a happily remarried man, currently in a long term marriage, his work helping women with relationship problems via “Strawberry Letters” on his morning show, and all of his time dating, traveling, working, and observing people as a comedian. This book is different from a lot of relationship books, first, because he keeps the premise of the book simple. As a man, Steve recognized that men are simple creatures and that women can basically be in control by setting certain standards, communicating them from the start, and acting like ladies as we communicate with men. The Three P\’s (Profess, Protect, and Provide) are how Steve describes what men are motivated to do for the women that they love, and how they use the three P’s to communicate their love. A lot of the information consists of basic truths that many of us feel, but don\’t recognize. Ladies, if you’ve ever had that “something is wrong” feeling while in a relationship, this book will help you identify and clarify what he is thinking during different phases of your relationship.

If you are a man, you may benefit from this book as well. It might help you recognize why your communication with your woman is failing. This is definitely a good read, infused with comedic relief to soften the harsh blows of reality. After you reading this book, you may find a way to make things work….or let things go.

A recent criticism that I heard about the book is Steve’s advice on sex. He advises women to wait three months to have relations with a man – and only if he has met the standards that Steve lays out. A Christian writer criticized the book for going against Christian values and “okaying” pre-marital sex, while making references to finding a man that loves Jesus. However, when I read the book I felt that Steve was saying to wait at least 3 months, not that women had to wait only three months. In reality, three months may actually be a lot longer than many men and women date before becoming intimate.

If you are looking for a guide to help you better understand the differences between men and women in relationships, you should definitely check out this book. If you are looking for a Christian dating book or advice on how to remain celibate, you may want to pass on this read for a more traditional title; however, you’ll be missing out on a lot of practical dating advice from a pretty credible source.

If you found this review to be helpful, please leave a comment below.

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

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.

Book Review | Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper Class by Lawrence Otis Graham

I stumbled upon Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper Class, an intriguing novel by Lawrence Otis Graham, after doing a Yahoo! search for “black affluent neighborhoods.” I was trying to find out what neighborhoods in America the black elite live in.

Well, I did not find a website containing that particular information, but I did discover Our Kind of People. After reading an excerpt of the book on Amazon, I went right out and bought it at the bookstore, deciding not to wait for a cheaper copy to come in the mail. I was shocked and amazed that there was a book out there that talked about the Black Elite in such great detail and from an insider perspective. I must say that I was not disappointed.

Graham covers everything from childhood to organizations, accomplishments, and secret social societies of the black, educated, and wealthy in America. This book is a must-read for people like myself who have been taught a black history that covers the struggle, but not the affluence.

The book reads like a who’s who of American society, while covering important issues such as skin color-consciousness, classicism within the black race, higher education, and the discrimination that even the richest and most accomplished blacks faced.

My main criticism of the book is the way in which sororities and fraternities are covered. As a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, I disagreed with the assumption that there are only two black sororities that “count,” considering that mine wasn’t one of them and the fact the that conception of these sororities does not reflect the complete history of the organizations. Nevertheless, this is a small glitch in an overall excellent history. Since a decade has passed since the publication of the book, an updated version from the publisher would be a good idea to reflect the many changes that black society has undergone, new achievers, changes within organizations, as well as the addition of updates on the organizations that are covered in such great detail.