Friday, July 15, 2005

Lessons in Reading Christian Fiction Books

By Marina Woods,



It’s no secret that I looove a good book! But equally important is the message that the book leaves with me long after I am done. Have you ever felt that way? Read a book and it became so good and meaningful to you that you carried it everywhere you went and you couldn’t wait to wind down long enough to find enough time to finish it. Then, when you did finish, you realized the characters had become a part of you and thus a void of sorts was left in your life?


I was just speaking to a friend about this and we shared the same sentiment. She began to tell me the books that had impacted her reading time the most, and without a doubt they were all Christian fiction books. (Yippee!)


One in particular was That Faith, That Hope, That Love by Jamella Ellis,. Of course I couldn't  forget the sister-girl of Christian fiction, Victoria Christopher Murray when she released Temptation. (She had me up two nights in a row reading it!) And last but not least, there is a sweet lady I call the God Mama of fiction, the beloved Sharon Ewell Foster. I fell in love with historical Christian fiction with Passing by Samaria. The pages were overflowing with so much wisdom and love that I had to use two different color highlighters for passages I didn’t want to ever forget.


My, oh my, where has the time gone? These titles impacted me over four or five years ago, and yet they still live inside of me. I know there are many awesome Christian fiction books on the scene at present and I will surely share those with you next time.


I hope you find a good book that you won’t soon forget either. You’ll meet unforgettable characters and discover lessons that the characters learned which you can apply to your own life.  When you do, don't forget to share with a friend!


Happy Reading!


© Marina Woods

Dee's Reviewed: Purple Hibiscus

Purple Hibiscus
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
2003, 307 pages (hard)
ISBN # 1-56512-387-5
+++++ Star Rating

Fifteen-year-old Kambili barely breaths, speaks or exists in her privileged, but suffocating Nigerian home with her brother Jaja and her parents. Kambili’s father’s dominance is felt not only in her home, but in all of Nigeria except for her Aunt Ifeoma. When Aunt Ifeoma persuades Kambili’s father to allow the children to visit her in Nsukka, while they are on holiday. Kambili and Jaja’s minds blossom into free spirits. JaJa learns the beauty of life, while Kambili falls in love with a handsome young priest. How will these two go back to such a strict and abusive home when they have been surrounded around love and the beauty of the purple hibiscus?

Adichie writes so effortlessly that you find yourself transported to Nigeria, smelling the rich soil and tasting the flowers. It is enchanting and engaging all at once. One of my favorite lines in the book is:

“It was what Aunty Ideoma did to my cousins, I realized then, setting higher and higher jumos for them in the way she talked to them, what she expected of them. She did it all the time believing they would scale the rod. And they did. It was different for JaJa and me, We did not scale the rod because we believed we could, we scaled it because we were terrified that we couldn’t.”

From the first page, you know the conflict, the characters and a hint at the ending all at once. After the third page, I was excited to know the end. It was a page turner, which forced me to either stay up late at night or throw the book on the floor, to make myself go to sleep. This book will haunt you for months after you have put it down.

Adichie does an excellent job at fleshing out her characters. She makes them real at an instant. Kambili is so shy and afraid to live that you want to take a flight to Nigeria and remove her from that mansion. JaJa is so strong and silent that you want to shake him to make him scream. Their mother, Beatrice is such a caterpillar. You wait for her to become the butterfly and I can see Father Adami’s clay colored skin and brilliant smile in my mind, behind my eyes. Adichie makes these characters so likable and so real.

This book reminds me of Olympia Vernon’s Eden, but it is set in Nigeria not Mississipi. Both books brilliantly tell the story of people of African descent in such a magical way that you feel power in every page. You feel this undying will that manifests the struggle of African people, their struggle to be heard, recognized and loved. Purple Hibiscus is as timeless as the sand and as beautiful as the flower it is named after.

Dee's Reviewed: Flippin' the Script

Flippin’ the Script
Aisha Ford
Warner/Walk Worthy Press
2004, 324 pages
ISBN # 0-446-53182-0
++++ crosses rating

Sabrina Bradley, production assistant for the Daily Dose, needs a makeover and a chance to cultivate a new relationship with the show’s producer, Avery Benjamin. Then a window of opportunity opens for her. Her boss asks her to produce and star in a segment on whether people keep their New Year's resolutions. There's only one hitch. She has to keep all her resolutions---one of which is not falling in love.

Darci Oliver is the host of the Daily Dose, the Midwest’s hottest daytime talk show and the soon to be fiancée to Avery Benjamin. When television critics berate her show and Avery diverts his attention from her to her comely PA, Sabrina Bradley she has to turn up her Diva-devilish ways.

With a sweet voice and an even sweeter underdog character, Alicia Ford shares the struggles of contemporary Christians seeking God’s message for unconditional love.

Dee's Reviewed: Casting the First Stone

Casting the First Stone
Kimberly Lawson Roby
Dafina Books 2000
ISBN # 0-7582-0179-6
384 pages (pbk) first trade paperpback
++ crosses rating

Tanya Black abhors her husband, Curtis. Every thing he now stands for disgusts her. Regardless of Curtis’ very powerful position as the head pastor of a prominent black Chicago church, Tanya can’t stand the sight of him and starts to think about not only ending their relationship, but also Curtis’ tenure as senior pastor, since Curtis had to maintain his marriage in order to keep his position at the church.

Kimberly Roby churns out another formula story about a woman’s self-discovery.
This novel begins promising, but turns into this poorly written, attention grabbing, cookie cutter. When Roby describes church activities and rituals in very stereotypical ways like “Sunday go to meeting clothes,” she turns her characters into caricatures instead of three dimensional very human people who struggle with their faith and their marriage. Why Tanya Black continues to live in this dead marriage never comes to full view. If there is a Christian message it is clouded by cliché plot points and cliché characters.

For those whose guilty pleasure is reading super dramas; then this book is for you. If you’re looking for a book that will help you understand how your romantic relationship relates to your spiritual relationship with God, pass.

Dee Y. Stewart

Dee's Reviewed:For love and Grace

For Love and Grace
Kendra Norman-Bellamy
BET Books (October 15, 2004)
ISBN: 1583145494
Paperback: 261 pages

+++ crosses rating

Kendra Norman-Bellamy brings southern charm and grace to inspirational romance fiction with For love and Grace, her debut novel. Set in Atlanta, Georgia we are introduced to two male friends who've known each other since both of their mother's shared a maternity ward room at their births.

Dr. Gregory Dixon, one of the brightest stars in brain medicine, finds his professional duties at odds with his best friend, Derrick Madison, esquire, when the patient Gregory has committed to save has supposedly killed Derrick’s mother in a hit and run accident. To make matters worse, Gregory rehabilitates the patient, Grace, behind Derrick’s back. During these late night treatments he falls for the patient, Grace, although she is in a coma most of the time. Gregory is torn between his allegiance to God and his childhood allegiance to Derrick, as well as his mounting love for Grace, a romance that he questioning himself.

Attorney Derrick Madison is on a mission to make Grace pay for his mother’s death. He uses his legalese and work allies to help him punish Grace once she is fit for trial, despite the fact that he has been forbidden to stay away from the criminal in

vestigation. Derrick's grief turns into unjustified hatred and he struggles with what he knows about forgiveness and what he feels inside. When he finds that his wife has sided with Gregory his own relationship is in jeopardy.

Although the story is sweet, there are many challenges in the novel. It is hard to understand why Gregory falls for a sleeping Grace. What does that say about God's ideas for marriage? What does that say about God's definition of a true romance? What does God say about the role of women in marriage? Are we just Sleeping Beauties waiting for our Prince Charming to show up or are do we have our own God given purposes in this world?

Although the characters are not perfect, some of their actions are a bit unbelievable. Gregory spends his nights rehabilitating a patient. When does he have time to record his medical notes? Gregory is a gorgeous Christian man, who has women falling at his feet. Yet, he picks a person that he cannot participate in any real dialogue with, because she is in a coma.

The most realistic character in the story is Derrick, who struggles with his faith and changes for the better.

If you are a hopeless romantic, this book is for you. If you want to read a book about black men who aren’t keeping secrets and having baby Mama Drama, then this book is for you. If you are a christian woman and you want to find a good read that nurtures your soul, this book is for you, too.


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