Book Review | No Weapon by Audrey McKay

No Weapon is the riveting follow-up novel to Audrey McKay’s first book Enough Good News. It continues a few years after Enough Good News ended. (My review for Enough Good News can be found here. This review may contain spoilers for those who have not read that novel first). Instead of focusing on Sidra’s story, it focuses on the tale of Sidney Lyons and how her life has changed since accepting the Lord. When Enough Good News ended, the reader was left feeling hopeful, but uncertain, about which way Sidney’s story would go. Soon after accepting Christ into her life, she made a big mistake that almost severed her ties with family and her faith in the Lord.

In No Weapons, Sidney seems to have recovered well from the mistakes of her past. Unfortunately, old spirits are waiting to come back and haunt her once again as an unspeakably evil force begins working to bring her down. It only took me about one day to read this book because I was quickly caught up in Sidney’s tale and how a single lie worked to turn so many people against her. The book also had real life connections as it dealt with scandals and corruption within the church which are both, unfortunately, all too common today.

Christians who are interested in learning more about spiritual gifts will find this book intriguing. In McKay’s first book, spiritual gifts are mentioned when Sidney accepts the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ into her life, but in No Weapon, those gifts play a central role in the development of the plot. Until reading this book, I never gave much thought to “spiritual gifts” and what they mean, but this book definitely encouraged me to look into them more.

Along with the consistent action in this story, McKay skillfully weaves in the thoughts and insights of non-Christians who are witnesses to the turmoil taking place among so-called believers. This is an important part of the story because it helps the reader understand why so many people are hesitant to become a part of the Christian faith. Many non-believers have witnessed wrongdoing and hypocrisy among Christians that makes them question the teachings of the Bible and spiritual leaders. The way that McKay uses the true believers to respond to such doubts can serve as a lesson for the rest of us.

The plot of this book was a real page-turner. The way people came together to work against Sidney was fascinating. Not only that, but the use of technology to aid in their endeavor made the work more interesting and believable. I would highly suggest this book, even if you haven’t read the first book in the series. The author provides enough background information to make it easy to follow all of the characters. For more information about No Weapon, or to learn more about the author, visit her website here.

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Book Review | Enough Good News by Audrey McKay

In Enough Good News by Audrey McKay, readers are introduced to a rather dynamic character, Sidra Lyons. Many young professionals will be able to relate to Sidra. She is living the life of a young, talented attorney and reaping the benefits of years of education and hard work, while at the same time working to grow even closer to God. From Sidra’s story, we learn that becoming a Christian does not mean that one will no longer have problems; it simply means that the Lord will be there to assist us as we face those problems, if only we pray and look to Him for guidance. All is calm in Sidra’s world when things began to rapidly change in both her work and her personal life.

First, Sidra gets a new boss at work, Jensen, who manages to work her nerves on a daily basis. Next, Sidra’s family undergoes some changes when a one of her father’s secrets is uncovered. Then, Sidra’s work life is interrupted as she faces the biggest and most personal case of her entire life. Little does Sidra know, she will end up needing Jensen in more ways than one and her family will never, ever be the same.

Sidra’s strength as a Christian helps her endure the many difficulties that she faces. She continually goes back to the Lord for strength and her story is one that will encourage many Christians. Although Sidra is strong in the faith, others in the story are not. Sidra’s newfound family member is struggling to learn more about Christianity and the questions that she poses are the same questions that many new Christians ponder. McKay uses Sidra, Jensen, and the other characters that become intertwined in Sidra’s life to address themes dealing with Christianity as it relates to love and relationships, family and friendship, as well as career decisions.

McKay addresses spiritual gifts, hypocritical Christians, betrayal, and the strength of holding on to the faith in the face of doubt. There are elements of mystery, thrill, and more in this rather complex story. This work was rather intriguing as I continually wondered how Sidra’s story would evolve and what would happen between she and Jensen.

Often, readers are left wondering, what happens next?! Luckily, McKay plans to follow up this story with more works, such as the sequel to Enough Good News, entitled No Weapon,  as well as the third book in the series, Blind Justice. Stay posted for my review of No Weapon, and check out Audrey McKay’s website for more information about her writing and how to purchase her works.

Book Review | The Bride Experiment by Mimi Jefferson

The Bride Experiment by Mimi Jefferson asks the reader to ponder: “What happens when single women get fed up?” The novel picks up where The Single Sister Experiment left off. In The Single Sister Experiment, a group of single women have been inspired to give up clubbing, partying, drinking, and having sex out-of-wedlock in order to more fully devote themselves to the Lord. Through the process, they are forced to face the demons of their pasts and come to terms with the many mistakes that they have made. In The Bride Experiment, some time has passed and the ladies have been blessed for their faithfulness to the Lord.

Despite their progress, the women are not immune from the setbacks that any Christian faces when trying to give up the ways of the world. In addition, The Bride Experiment introduces James, a single man who has a strong distrust from Christians. Readers may remember James from Mimi Jefferson’s first book. He was introduced as the man who Joan was desperately in love with and who also happened to be the father of her son. Male and female readers will be able to relate to James’ story. He comes from a troubled past and has dealt with many of his issues by using women. In The Bride Experiment, readers learn more about what it’s like to a single man to face obstacles while trying to change his life, raise his children, and date, all while figuring out his relationship with the Lord.

I enjoyed reading this book because it had many twists and turns. Besides learning more about James, the reader also learns more about Raquel, the woman who James chose over Joan in the first novel. It becomes evident that Raquel is dealing with pain from a troubled past. All of the characters come together to deal with a tragedy that threatens to change all of their lives. The author also further develops Tisha, Lila, and Janet’s characters and catches the readers up on their triumphs and struggles in trying to maintain an existence as Godly women. The author explores struggle to remain celibate, the difficulty letting go of an ex, and the way that Christians are often viewed as hypocritical. Throughout the 270-page novel, I believe every reader will find an element that he or she can relate to.

I really enjoyed the book and I would highly suggest it to any single Christian looking for stories of other Christian singles to relate to. Married Christians and those who are curious about the faith will enjoy the book as well. It can help those wishing to minister to singles better understand the challenges that singles face. Instead of making it seem easy to remain celibate and resist the temptation to party, Mimi Jefferson presents realistic characters who sometimes fail.

It is not necessary to have read Mimi Jefferson’s first book, The Single Sister Experiment, to enjoy this one. However, if you are just starting out on your journey, I would suggest that book as well. The Single Sister Experiment was the first Christian Fiction book that I read and it lead me on a journey that allowed me to better understand my relationship with God through the characters presented in various Christian novels. I also had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Jefferson a few years ago and experiencing her teaching first-hand. (I did, however, pay for this book and was not asked to provide a review.) You can read more about Mimi Jefferson’s ministry and learn how to purchase the book by visiting her website. If you check it out, please come back and let me know what you thought of it.

Christian Book Review | Right Package, Wrong Baggage by Wanda B. Campbell

This book was a selection suggested to me by Amazon due to my history of reading and reviewing Urban Christian Fiction novels. It was pretty reasonably priced (at the time), and had good reviews. I purchased and downloaded it to my Kindle to read and I’m glad that I did! This book is a Christian-based complex love story that artfully tackles some major themes dealing with sexuality and celibacy. These themes are intricately woven into the storyline and the reader will find him or herself caught up in the the story of a young couple, Pamela and Micah.

When I first started reading the book, it opened with a family scene that seemed a bit far-fetched. Things just seemed too good to be true for Pamela. As a young single mother (widowed), she was swept off of her feet when a man from her church named Micah begins to court her and help her care for her son. However, it quickly became clear that the author was setting the scene for a sequence of events that would take the couple through a number of emotional ups and downs. Just when it seems like Pamela, Micah, and Pamela’s son Matthew are about to get their story-book ending, the past catches up with Micah and things begin to fall apart.

Often, Christian-based story lines are flat. They go something like this – pray enough and God changes things. While this is true, our human emotions often get in the way of us receiving our blessings. What Campbell successfully does in this novel  is contrast Pamela and Micah’s attempt to live by Christian principles with their difficulty overcoming their pasts. The two of them are deeply in love, but their issues are catching up with them quickly.

For Christians struggling to stay focused on God’s principles while being involved in relationships, this is an excellent read. It also speaks to single mothers and individuals struggling to over come drug abuse or issues that arise from being victims of molestation and sexual exploitation. These topics sound serious, but the book is really an enjoyable, well-written work that and is an awesome love story at its core. I rarely outright suggest that my readers purchase a book, but if Christian Romance is your genre, this is definitely the book for you. If you’d like to hear more about the book or the author, check out the summary below from the publisher and click the link  to visit Ms. Campbell’s website.

From the publisher:

For five years, Pamela Roberts, has balanced the demands of being a single mother and a devoted Christian. She unselfishly places the needs of her son, Matthew, above her own. Although she tries to convince everyone that she’s happy with Jesus alone, Matthew handpicks the perfect present for her—a husband. Everything about the man her son chooses is perfect, except for his past. Micah Stevenson is excited when he learns the son of the woman he has been praying about wants him to join their family permanently. Believing Pamela Roberts is his soul mate sent from God, Micah pursues her. Once he is certain of her love for him, Micah reveals his dark history, shaking the foundation of the once loving and stable relationship. Trust is broken as judgments and prejudices threaten to deny the couple’s destiny. Will the man he used to be prevent Pamela from loving Micah for the man he is now?

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!

Christian Book Review | Selling My Soul by Sherri L. Lewis

Selling My Soul by Sherri L. Lewis

Selling My Soul by Sherri L. Lewis

Lately, I’ve had the hardest time finding new Urban Christian Fiction titles because the publisher, for some reason, decided to stop putting the script across the bottom of the cover page that declared the book was an Urban Christian Fiction title. Perhaps they want to appeal to a wider audience of urban fiction readers, or maybe the authors complained. Either way, this is the main reason why I haven’t reviewed any Christian fiction in a while – I couldn’t find any!

However, I’ve read three other titles by Sherri Lewis – The List, My Soul Cries Out, and Dancing With Destiny. So, when I saw her name, I immediately grabbed the book, excited to read it. I was even more excited to see that the main character of the book is a professional, a Public Relations expert by the name of Trina Michaels.

Trina is returning home from a two-year trip to Mozambique in Africa where she was doing missionary work. Needless to say, Trina is a devout Christian who has been trying for many years to lead her mother and her sister to Jesus. While in Africa, Trina meets a wonderful man named Gabriel who is in love with her. But, like many women, Trina is not open to love and struggles to commit herself to the relationship.

To make matters even worse, Trina’s mother is very ill and her sister’s life is falling apart. Almost as soon as she gets back to the States, Trina has to get back to work in Public Relations, even though she left her heart and her passion back in Africa. She is forced to make a very tough decision about whether to represent a Bishop Walker, her former pastor, despite his possible involvement in covering up child molestation in the church. Things are further complicated by the fact that Monica, from My Soul Cries Out, is Trina’s best friend. Monica’s husband was one of the victims of molestation at the church, further complicating Trina’s decision. Trina’s faith is tested, as she tries to work out her own life as well as help salvage the lives of the people around her.

I found this book to be an awesome read. Once I had time to sit down and read through it, it only took me a few days to work through the entire book. I enjoyed reading how Gabriel expressed his love for her, and it made me think about my own attitudes towards men. Just like in The List, there were a million different mentions of natural hair. At least in this book, they fit in a lot better because the character had cut off her relaxed hair during her extended time in Africa. I really liked the way Lewis intertwined the characters from her previous book to this on in a meaningful way.

The references to Mozambique and the conditions there were eye-opening. The author made mention of starving children and disease, and often mocked American consumerism and creature comforts. That might be the only part of the book that I was uncomfortable with. I think of myself as a conscious person, but there isn’t much that I can do about the fact that I was born here in America, and that as an American, I have been very blessed.

I would also like to read more titles with characters who are not just single and struggling or married and confused about their relationships…where are the Urban Christian books about mothers and students? What about older married people who have struggles that go beyond their relationships with each other. In this book, Lewis did a good job of showing that struggles as a Christian go beyond just relationships and sex.

I’m glad to be able to recommend yet another well-written Sherri Lewis work. Selling My Soul is an intriguing book for those who are devout Christians and those who are struggling to believe. Either way, you will relate to Trina or her family and their struggles.

If you read this book or another Sherri Lewis title, please share your thoughts in the comments section. As always, thanks for reading.

http://www.sherrilewis.com/

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.

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.

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