Book Review | 31 Dates in 31 Days by Tamara Duricka Johnson

31 Dates in 31 Daysis a new book by author Tamara Duricka Johnson that looks at dating from a whole new angle. Unlike the typical how-to dating book, Johnson’s insights are based on her own first-hand accounts from a radical dating experiment in which she embarked on 31 dates in, yes, 31 days!The title alone made me feel exhausted! Dating takes a lot of time, effort, and planning. It generally also requires cute outfits, hair appointments, and other special gestures meant to impress one’s date. I was curious to read on and find out how and why Johnson would embark on such a feat. As it turns out, she was approaching her milestone 31st birthday. Like many single women (and men), she was tired of the dating games and the ups and downs. She wanted to get something more meaningful from the dating experience.

The 31 day project was just the thing to kick-start her personal dating revolution. By setting up dating “rules,” Johnson was able to streamline the dating process, control costs, and focus on learning as much as possible about the men she was dating, and about herself, along the way.

Thankfully,  Johnson decided to share her experiences with the rest of us. Her writing style was funny, yet sincere as she described each new encounter. Some were downright delightful; others were downright forgettable. But, they were all meaningful. In each chapter, we learn more about the men and we learn more about the author. Most importantly, we follow along with the author’s journey and use her dating lessons to reflect on our own experiences.

Are we entering the dating process withe pre-conceived notions that are acting as roadblocks along the path to love? Are we missing out on dates with amazing people due to our “wish lists” and “checklists?” Are some of us looking for love so desperately that we continue to fall for mates that are not actually worthy of our affections? Do we know how to simply enjoy dating without placing a bunch of expectations on ourselves and others?

31 Dates in 31 Days is a good read for both men and women. Although the book seems to lean towards the female perspective, men can learn a lot from reading about the many dates through the eyes of a woman. I was impressed not only by the author’s eloquent writing style, but also by her dedication to writing about each date. I thought that she would surely skip the less interesting dates, but, no, even in those dates there was a lesson to be learned and she made those dates fun to read about as well.

Interestingly, the author became keen on a number of the men that she dated rather quickly! This, too, was inspirational for aspiring daters. Where it may seem like there are no prospects, there can suddenly be plenty! Most of us can take some cues from the project. Instead of doing the same old thing, we can try something new and see where it might take us.

You’re probably curious to know whether or not the project led to love. I won’t spoil it for you, but you can certainly find more information on 31datesin31days.com! I will say that I was truly inspired; shortly after finishing this book, I found myself looking at the men around me in a whole new light. I would definitely recommend this book to all aspiring daters and to all of those who simply want to be inspired to try something different. After you check out the book, let me know what you think!

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Book Review | Become Your Own Matchmaker by Patti Stanger

Patti Stanger is the popular, controversial force behind The Millionaire’s Club, an international dating service that caters to, well, millionaires. Her club spawned the hit show Millionaire Matchmaker, which aired on Bravo.

I was drawn into reading this book because of Patti’s sassy attitude and no-nonsense advice. She seemed to know what she was talking about on the show and often bragged that her track record was impeccable. As far as dating books go, it was pretty good. I purchased it myself and read it on my Kindle about a year ago, then re-read it for this review.  Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect from Patti’s dating guide.

Audience: This book is geared toward female daters who are seeking a man to marry. The man does not have to be a millionaire, but if you’ve ever watched Patti’s show, she encourages men and women to embrace traditional roles. Therefore, future hubby should be a provider who displays desirable male traits (no “coffee shop” men, whatever that means). This is a secular dating guide, so if you’re looking for something focused strictly on Christian principles, this isn’t the book for you. Lastly, you’ll have to be willing to make some changes to yourself. If you’re already perfect as-is, you don’t need Patti.

Goal: The goal of the book is to lay out a step-by-step plan from dating to the alter. As a caveat, I should mention that Patti is not married and never has been (she’s 50). So, take all marriage advice with a grain of salt. Patti gives a lot of background information about how she got to where she is in her career, as well as the dating woes that she’s been through.

The Plan  (I’m putting Patti’s plans in to my own words to provide the summary below):

(1) “You” Time. The plan is simple – first take some time and get to know yourself. Heal from your past relationships and pamper yourself. Get your physical appearance in order and learn how to dress for your shape. Get your hair done professionally. Spend some time with the girls or whatever it is that you need to do to feel your personal best and gain your confidence back.This is an essential step to prevent you from dragging old baggage into new relationships.

(2) Meet Men. This is where Patti gets a little radical. Basically, she encourages women to do whatever it is that they need to do to meet men. If you have to go online, go online. If you have to move to a city with a better male-to-female ratio, then move. Put yourself out there. Smile at and talk to men. Let people know that you’re looking. People love to play matchmaker and if you’re really interested in finding a mate, you’ll be open to suggestions.

(3) Evaluate Potential Mates & Present Your Best Assets. A lot of women want a great man, but they don’t bring much to the table themselves. Patti provides tips for how you can present yourself as a great potential wife, while evaluating your potential husband. If he’s not marriage material and you are looking for marriage, you are wasting each other’s time. Patti talks about ways you can tell whether a man is looking for a future wife, just dating, or just playing around. It’s also essential that you make a (short!) list of non-negotiable characteristics that you desire in a husband. This will keep you focused on your core needs without becoming too nit-picky about every man you meet.

(4). No Sex Before Monogamy. Patti is a stickler on this point. She talks in detail about how females produce oxytocin during intercourse. This is a bonding hormone that women produce in much greater quantities than men. It’s what makes it difficult for women to walk away from a man once they have taken that step in their relationship. Her points on this topic are pretty much scientific and common sense; she’s not a religious person (although she doesn’t downplay religion’s role in evaluating compatibility).

(5) Set a Timeline.  This is a another key factor. Patti believes that a man who is looking for marriage will not string a woman along in a relationship for years at a time. So, set a timeline and stick firmly to it. If he’s not talking marriage in a year – as in ring-on-finger, date set, then walk away. This point sets Patti’s plan apart from other dating books. Many books say to give a man two years or longer. Patti says that women don’t have that kind of time to waste. As we grow older, our marriage prospects only diminish further.

I think this is a valuable guide for women who are a little lost in the dating game and really ready to get married. It’s packed with information and Patti gives reasons for each point in her plan. It’s not for the faint-at-heart, since it requires diligent effort on the part of the woman. If you’re just dating “for fun,” then this is probably not the book for you. If you’re interested in finding a hubby worth having, then give it a read.

Book Review | His Needs Her Needs by Willard E. Harley, Jr.

His Needs Her Needs is an unusual read for me because it’s a book about marriage, and I’m not married! The book was introduced to me by a very good friend who was nice enough to provide me with a copy of it. It took me a while to work through the book because of my busy schedule. But, when I finally sat down to read it, I flew right through the book.

The book is about how to make your marriage “affair-proof” as well as how to save a marriage that’s already suffered from an affair. Even though this is a marriage book, it’s also a good book for those who have been in a long-term relationship that may be lagging. The basic premise is that you have to meet your spouse’s needs, and he or she has to meet yours in order to keep your relationship affair-proof. The scary thing about this book is that it makes you realize how easy it is for one mate to kind of “fall into” an affair, as well as how difficult it is to let a lover go. Although that’s not the focus of the book, it’s something for couples to take seriously. The scenarios that are given thoughout the book are really helpful in visualizing the concepts that the author describes.

The hopeful part is that, with hard work and the dedication of both parties, each can meet the other’s needs and stay together. The author says that in a real relationship, each partner’s needs might be different, but he does generalize the 5 basic needs of each partner. For women, he lists the needs as affection, conversation, honesty, financial support, and family commitment. For men, he lists the needs at sexual fulfillment, recreational companionship, an attractive spouse, domestic support, and admiration. Clearly, we can think of examples when the other partner of the opposite sex needs the same thing as the other partner. But, the author bases his lists of needs on his work with couples over many years.

One of the most surprising sections of the book was the “attractive spouse” section. Many partners may not want to believe that “attractiveness” is a need that their mate has, but the author is truthful, basically telling you to stay in shape, or at least try to stay as attractive as you were when your mate met you. This is especially true for women, who often times let themselves go. He says that attractiveness is not as important to women, but you must, again, assess the needs of your mate.

One important note that I’d like to make is that you should try to read this book with your mate BEFORE an affair to try to avoid one. If you learn about how to keep each other’s “love bank” (read the book for more info on that) full, then you won’t have to worry about trying to overcome an affair!

This was a good read, and I hope to put this author’s suggestions into practice in my relationships in the future.

Novel Review | Just Too Good to Be True by E. Lynn Harris

too good to be trueE. Lynn Harris’ novel, Just Too Good to Be True, covers several important, and highly relevant, themes in American life today, from sports and gold-diggers to chastity and single parenthood; everyone will find something to relate to in this novel.

I initially picked up the book at the airport from Hudson Booksellers. The words New York Times Bestseller caught my eye. I had wanted to read a title by E. Lynn Harris, for quite some time and with a long flight ahead of me, I was glad that I had this book to keep me company. It held my attention through delays, rain, and turbulence.

What Was Good

The main character is Brady Bledsoe. Bledsoe is a promising young football star who looks like he is headed for a career in the NFL and a shot at the Heisman trophy. On top of that, he is a great role model as team captain, a devoted son, and has vowed to remain chaste until marriage. Brady’s mother Carmyn has raised him well, teaching him the virtues of waiting until marriage, working hard in school, and staying focused on football rather than girls in order to achieve his goals.

As the title implies, all of this sounds just a little “too good to be true.” Carmyn, Brady’s devoted mother is hiding serious secrets about her past, and about Brady’s father. Brady is struggling to maintain his “pure” image while making a series of secret choices that could devastate his future. When a young woman named Barrett enters his life, Brady finds it more and more difficult to maintain his clean image and even more difficult to maintain his close-knit relationship with his mother.

By the end of this book, everyone learns something about being true to who you really are, the importance of family ties, and just how difficult it is to keep from suffering a fall. Most of the struggles faced by the characters were realistic; the pressure on athletes and single moms are easy to relate to.

What Was Not So Good

I would have liked to know more about the future of some of the secondary characters, like Barrett, but I guess Harris is saving the rest of their stories for a different novel.

My criticism of this book is that, like many urban novels, the book is riddled with graphic sexual images. The author does a great job of “show, not tell,” and intimately describing what physical interactions take place between characters; but, sometimes, it’s just a little too much. Describing exactly how who-did-what seemed out of place in a book with such strong themes of chastity and family. It almost seemed as if the author was ridiculing people who make celibacy vows, by implying that they aren’t ever really being kept.

Looking back, it seemed strange to me that Carmyn was able to keep secrets about Brady’s father for so long. Why didn’t Brady notice that he never met his grandparents? Why didn’t he ever ask his father’s name? I found some parts of the plot unbelieveable and a little too strange to be true.

If you don’t want to read about characters who are homosexual, or men who are GP, “gay for pay,” then, this may not be the book for you. The one character in this book who was uber-masculine was quite suspect in his sexual practices. Again, there seemed to be a hidden message in making the male character who was the most active with women, and the most macho, the one who was most likely to be engaged in questionable acts with men.

While I enjoyed E. Lynn Harris’ writing style, I would rather read a bestseller that is less sexually graphic. It will be a long time, if ever, that I read another one of his titles.  You can find this book just anywhere, including local bookstores and Amazon. After this title, I think I’m going to go back to reading Urban Christian Fiction, and non-fiction titles.

Update! Only days after I read my first book by E. Lynn Harris, the literary legend passed away. I wrote about it here. I send my condolences to his family and fans.

Book Review | How to Marry the Man of Your Choice by Margaret Kent

how to marryThis book is strictly for women who want to be married now. It’s not for women who are holding on tight to the strict dating codes that they have been practicing for all of their lives. After all, if those practices were working, then these women would be married.

Margaret Kent offers a step-by-step plan for getting women from flirting to the alter, and covers many of the follies that women make in between, such as refusing to take the initiative (waiting for him to call), not smiling and speaking to people on the street (MANY of us are guilty of this), and simply being too picky (logically, this cuts down on the number of men available for you to marry). Kent points out that many women behave as if there are an infinite supply of men to choose from (the bus mentality – when one passes you by, there is a another one coming). The reality is that at there may not be another man coming. If this is the one you want, you have to make it happen.

What I liked about this book, however, is that Kent makes it clear that it needs to be the man of your choice. You don’t have to settle simply because you are ready to get married. You only have to work to convince the man that you want that he needs you. Kent provides a complete how-to, including what to do to keep your engagement from ending. For example, you should be willing to marry your mate with or without a wedding. If you want a wedding more than you want a marriage, then you just might get your wish.

Even though I may not be ready to be married, per se, this book also made me think about how I speak to and relate to people in general. The dating techniques that lead to marriage are closely intertwined with persuasion skills, and those are skills that can be transferred to other relationships besides just romantic ones.

Many reviews that I read on this book criticized Kent for encouraging women to give in to their men’s fantasies and desires. I don’t promote any type of promiscuity or doing anything to put your health, safety, or personal comfort in danger. However, if this is the man that you are about to marry, then you should have some level of trust. Kent also encourages living together first. Some people are bothered by this. However, almost all the twenty and thirty-somethings that I know who married, actually did live together first.

Like any dating book, you need to tweak the advice to be in line with your own personal moral code. You can read more about the author and how she nagged not one, but two husbands (her first husband passed) by picking the book up on Amazon, or checking out her site at www.margaretkent.net.

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 | 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.