Review by Tasha

Title:  The Shack
Author: William P. Young
Pages:  272
Publisher: Windblown Media; 1ST edition (July 1, 2008)
ISBN: 0964729245
Age: 16+

Front Cover
The front cover of this book gave me an strange/mysterious feeling.  With the darkness of the sky and a beat-up, abandoned shack, I sorta had the feeling that Jason was going to meet me there. (yikes!) Which made me curious to what story would unfold on the pages within.

This book is a story of a man's struggle (Mackenzie aka Mack) to deal with his past, a horrible tragedy, and his faith and belief in God.  Lured to the shack (by a message received from God) years after dealing with his loss and hardships from his youth, he goes seeking answers to the questions that he has been pondering for many years.  He experiences what is believed to be a divine weekend with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. 

Brief Overview. (Spoiler Alert)

Mack received a note to go to "the shack" (where the Great Sadness occurred).  The kicker is that the note was signed by "Papa" aka God.  In his reluctance (I would have been too) he went to "the shack", not knowing if it was God or someone playing a cruel joke on him. No one is there when he arrives but the painful evidence of what was found there four years ago.  Mack is suddenly overwhelmed with pain and demands God to reveal himself, if it were he who wrote the letter.  Moments later, he falls into a deep sleep (as it seems) and goes on an experience with not only God, but Jesus, and the Holy Spirit as well.

The conversations that Mack has during this weekend with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit (I call them "The Big Three") are simply remarkable.  He ask many questions that I am sure that we have all wondered at some point or another like, "Why is there so much struggle and unremarkable pain in the world?"  The responses to his questions and the patience that was shown while he sought understanding was incredible.  Think of it like this: Here you are as a simple human, questioning  asking God (creator of all things) why things are the way that they are and even to some extinct judging and holding God responsible for them.  See my point? Mack finds out that he has indeed done both of these things and by the end of his weekend and experience with "The Big Three", he has a new found love, respect, and trust in God. 

Another area that this book focused was relationships.  Not only between a man and woman, but among friends, family, coworkers, etc.  How our relationships with each other should be caring, loving, and kind no matter the offenses committed. (Hard right?)  To live in the present.  Not the past or future, but the now.  The relationship that was revealed to Mack between them ("The Big Three") was the example of how we should live among each other. Mack found himself amazed at their peaceful coexistence.

My thoughts

This book knocked me off my feet!  I cannot express to you all the emotions that I felt while reading this book! From sadness to joy, my heart barely could stand it.  Dealing with a death of a child is completely incomprehensible for me.  I have a child and I cannot even imagine that kind of sorrow and pain that this man had to cope with.  Even more so since he felt responsible for the tragedy.

Could you imagine having the opportunity to walk, talk, eat, drink and be merry with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit?? (In the physical form as we know it?)  The ability to ask God all the questions you wanted answered, or to thank Jesus for dying on the cross, or to ask the Holy Spirit, "How do I know it's you speaking to me?" or many other questions you could not quite figure out? I cannot, but if it were to happen, I would want it to happen very similar to what Mack experiences in the shack. 

This book is not filled with bible verses telling you to convert your life and come to Jesus today!  This book however, is life changing. I can easily say that it has impacted my life and I have already started to re-evaluate a few of my own perspectives.  I recommend this book to this to everyone!  Both believers and non believers.  I strongly feel that there is much to gain from reading the experience that Mack encountered in The Shack.

 My Recommendation: 5 Books

Title:  The Seven Deadly Sexual Sins
Author: Quiniece Sheppard
Pages:  160
Publisher: Author House
ISBN: 978-1-4389-6019-7
Age: 18+

From the author…..
This book is raw, uncut and uncensored in which I talk candidly and openly about my personal battles with sex and exposes the issues that society as a whole deal with as well. It reveals God's intentions relating to sex and the way God instructs us to use our bodies. For far too long, we have been careless with our bodies and have been using our bodies in the wrong way and now it's time to start doing things the right way. This book exposes what we have been doing wrong and gives you tools and advice on how to start doing it right.

Quiniece Sheppard was raised in a small farm city located in Plantersville, Alabama near historic Selma, Alabama. Raised in a family of thirteen, she is next to the youngest.  Sheppard shares with us that for years, she battled low self-esteem, loneliness, depression and struggled wit her identity which caused her to have issues with sex. This book was written out of her desire to help others overcome the battles of the flesh that she had to deal with. By bringing to light these seven deadly sexual sins that our society deal with, she hopes to inspire and motivate others to change. (

Front Cover
The burning flames on the cover definitely catch the attention of the reader but may seem a slight bit cliché.  If you consider the title and take in the cover, you can deduce that committing one of the seven deadly sins will result in certain hot death.

My Thoughts
In this book, Quiniece Sheppard shares with us her thoughts regarding sex, lust, masturbation, fornication, pornography, adultery, and other sexual perversions all in a single book!  She also provides her readers with scriptures and an interpretation of what God instructs us to do accordingly. 

Sex, and all of its related content, is often debated and discussed in many different environments.  From boardroom to the church house, it is a hot topic with all sides armed with evidence to support and disprove the other.  I must commend Ms. Sheppard for taking on such an intense subject matter.   She takes her position very quickly and throughout her book, supports that position by providing scriptures from the bible to her readers as a reference.  In order to make the reader more comfortable with the content of the book, she also bares her soul and shares her experiences that she has overcome through the years.  This is the very thing that I liked most about this book!  The author was not afraid of making herself vulnerable by admitting to her mistakes and sharing with us her disappointments. The importance of sharing these experiences (her testimony) is paramount in that they allow the reader to see her imperfections and share many of the same struggles.  She also encourages the reader not to carry all the weight alone, but to look to a higher source for strength and guidance [GOD].

The main challenge that I had with this book was while the author shares her experiences with the reader in attempts to break the ice, if you are reading this book for guidance and healing, it may come across overly critical and a little off putting.  I understand that the author is presenting information to incite change within the reader, however, it may boomerang and make her readers feel judged by her instead.  Delivery is key.  In addition, there are several instances in which the author repeats herself and completes paragraphs with run-on sentences.

Overall, I found this book to be informative and I actually share some of the views in which she discussed.  I also found that her book became a topic of a few discussions in my recent conversations!  My recommendation is:


Title: Peace from Broken Pieces
Author: Iyanla Vanzant
Publisher: Smiley Books
ISBN: 1401928226
Ages: 18+

Many thanks to those who came out and joined us last Saturday (yea, this post is a little late) for our monthly book club meeting!!  We discussed Peace from Broken Pieces by Iyanla Vanzant.  There were several thought provoking questions/comments that were discussed in the meeting.  Here are a few:

In her book, Iyanla states that we have patterns of thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors that we inherit from our family of orgin. What are some of the things that you feel that you may have inherited from your family?

In Saturday's discussion, the "Personal Lie", was a topic that was referred to several times.... The Personal Lie is defined by the author as a function of all the broken pieces of your history, all of your experiences, all that you have been taught about yourself merging with all that you have made up about yourself... The question: Are you living a Personal Lie??

This book offered much to the person who is ready for self discovery and revelation.  I must say, I personally discovered a few things about myself that I hadn't given much thought along with a few of the ladies at the meeting.  It provided a good platform to discuss and share how life experiences shape and influence our actions as adults and how we potentially can pass this to our children. 

One challenge that I had reading this book is that the author left us with a few gaps when discussing her shared experiences.  While it did not take away from the fundamental theme of the book (only so much could be written), it left questions about what happened from that point of her life to the next. I thorougly enjoyed this book and recommend this book to those who are in search for answers from within and are seeking change. 

My recommendation... 4 Books

Reviewed by: Tasha
Title: Cane River
Author: Lalita Tademy
Pages: 543
Publisher:Warner Books 
ISBN-10: 0446615889
Rated: Ages 13+ 

Front Cover
Depicted on the cover is a woman who stands in front of a  house back in the late 1800-1900's.  From my perspective, it provides you with a sense of the time period in which the book takes place.  I believe the home belongs to one of the women whose amazing stories are told within this novel.  I used this picture as a reference point when reading pages of the book that described events that took place within a home setting.

The author of this book, Lalita Tademy, made a decision to give up her fortune 500 career to research her family's history after curiosity about her great grandmother (Philomene) and the generation of women before got the best of her.  What she discovered was a wealth of information which traced back to a Creole plantation along the Cane Rive in Louisiana.  Out of her research birthed the story of the lives of four strong willed women who lived during the time of slavery and experienced the contradiction of the freedoms that was granted to them by the Emancipation Proclamation in the late 1800's.  This book is a story of survival, strength, and determination to overcome the harsh realities they faced.

My thoughts...Let's recap.

I must commend the author on doing such a great job with developing the characters, as well as she did, based on the information she was able to find in her research.  Each of the main characters (Elizabeth, Suzette, Philomene, Emily "Tite") were very "real" to me.  It was as though I was experiencing their joy, sorrow, setbacks, and successes right along with them.  Each generation demonstrated power, ambition, and determination in very different ways, which I think was influenced by the time period in which each of them lived. 

Elizabeth. (Coffee) She was the beginning of the lineage; the backbone.  She worked in the cookhouse for the Derbannes (her slave owners)  preparing food for dinner, parties and any other special occasion that she was required to.  She had been previously owned by a slave family in Virginia and was sent to Cane River, forced to leave two children behind, because she was a threat to the women who husbands pursued and had her at their beck and call.  She married Gerasime and would later be sold away from the man she loved.

Suzette.  (Caramel) She is the daughter of Elizabeth and begins her journey quite ambitiously.  She is so very innocent to her place in the world as a slave and has big dreams of becoming a "gen de couleur libre" or a "free person of color".  She pursues this dream by aspiring to be like her godmother, Doralise Derbanne, who was born a slave child and freed by her father Louis Derbanne (yes, Suzette's slave owner) and given his last name.  She was considered royalty by some slaves because during that time slaves didn't have last names and they definitely weren't free.  However, in this town, there existed a small group of free people of color who did not refer to themselves as Negro or black and actually owned slaves themselves.... *blank stare*
Suzette was taught to cook like her mother and because of her fair skin complexion, she worked as a hand maiden in the house to her mam'zelle-Oreline, unlike her other siblings who worked in the fields.  Suzette was also allowed to partake in church activities, taking communion along with Oreline.
Well, as you would know it, all her dreams came to an abrupt end as the reality of not who she was, but what she was (a slave girl) came rushing in like a tornado.  Her innocence was stolen by a man (Eugene Daurat) more than twice her age, having two children before she was 16.  She grew up working along side her mother working in the cookhouse until sold away from one of her children to her previous mam'zelle-Oreline.

Philomene. (Cream) She is the daughter of Suzette, who was fathered by a Frenchman named Eugene Daurat.  She too had dreams of being free and married to the man she loved-Clement.  Clement was a slave boy who she grew up with on the plantation where they were previously owned and were now separated by only a few miles.  They were allowed to marry, consent given by their owners, and had two children.  All seemed perfect until once again, reality strikes, and Clement is sold away because of the selfish desires of another Frenchman-Narcisse Fredieu.  Narcisse, who grew up with Suzette (Suzette's mother), had wanted Philomene for himself for a long time and objected to her marrying Clement.  With Clement gone, a child lost to yellow fever, and her heart broken, Philomene picks up the pieces by developing a master plan that would re-unite her entire family if implemented correctly.  During this time, the Emancipation Proclamation had  became law and slaves were now free and many worked as share croppers. She had several children with Narcisse Fredieu, all that she loved dearly.   Each set the stage for her plan to have her own land, house, money, and her entire family in the end. But there was one child in particular who played a key role to the plan that Philomene successfully implemented-Emily. 

Emily or "Tite". (Milk)  Emily was a very small, lovely child.  She was the first of the lineage to be born "free" and did not have the association to slavery as the women before her.  They actually kept the harsh realities from Emily purposefully because they did not want to expose her to the life they knew before and wanted her to achieve more than they ever were able to.  And she did.  Emily learned to read and write and was a great dancer.  She loved and had several children with Frenchman, Joseph Billes.  Joseph loved her and would have married her if they had been permitted to.  However, it was against the law for "black" and "french" to marry, although Emily could have easily passed for white.  Their lives were hard. Fighting those who did not agree with their relationship had a big affect on their relationship.  Joseph would eventually feel forced to marry white in order to protect those he loved.  He was later murdered at the hand of his own people because of that very love he had for them.

I found it quite motivating, but not surprising, that the women in this book were the backbone of the family.   Honestly, what choice did they have?  Not only did they birth and raise the children, they also farmed the land, made business deals, saved money, planned their future, and carried it all out.  This book revealed a side of slavery from a woman's perspective that I had not quite grasped.   Yes, I have read about slavery in many history books and have watched films/documentaries about it as well.  But there was a certain closeness, to both the time and to the people, that I was able to experience that made me thankful for the freedoms that I have as a black woman today.  The struggles they endured, the impossible decisions they had to make, are all things that I find difficult to imagine.

As you may have noticed, each woman had a color description next to their names (described by the author) which indicated their shade in skin color.  Beginning from the color of coffee (Elizabeth) to milk (Emily) you can see the transition that occured within their lineage.  The mindset of slaves pertaining to color during the time of slavery was that lighter skin was privledge because they were often tolerated treated a lot better than those blacks that were darker skinned.  This mentality still exists today, believe it or not, among some black people and has had many negative affects on the race as a whole. 
I believe the author describes each of them in this manner so that the reader can understand how skin color played a huge part of survival.  It determined where you worked, how you were treated, and who pursued you as a suitor.  Because skin color was regarded so highly among these women, they encouraged them to have children with men who were french or fairer in skin complexion.  By the time we read about Emily, she faintly resembles her Negro roots and could easily pass for a French woman or caucasion altogether.
I must admit, this was one of the hardest things I found myself dealing with while reading this book.  Because the time I live in is different,  I found myself upset at the fact they wanted to erase a part of who they were.  That they associated being dark skinned with being bad or negative is very disturbing.  However, I had to step back and look at the time in which they lived and try to understand that they felt that this was necessary in order to survive; to be treated better; to be feel privledged. In the end, they still were not accepted by those who were French, caucasion and even some among the black race resented their actions.

Other than reading through the many difficult harsh experiences, I found the book easy to read.  The plot is easily understood, the characters are well developed, and the ending left you wanting to know more about this family.  I would recommend this book to not only black women, but women in general because of the strength that each one of them demonstrated.  I find their strength to be inspiring and will refer back to how they each endured and overcame their struggles to motivate myself when dealing with difficult situations of my own.

My recommendation is.... 5 pages

Reviewed by: Tasha
Title: The Help
Author: Kathryn Stockett
Pages: 464
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam
ISBN-10: 0399155341
Rated: Ages 13+

Front Cover
I loved the bright yellow and gold trimmed cover.  I think the brightness of the cover is such a contrast to such a dark time for our country.  I also see it as a small light at the end of a very dark tunnel.  I find it quite interesting how the birds are arranged on the front cover as well—two stand together and one alone.  But I could be over thinking....

To begin, the author starts by introducing us to some very, very interesting main and supporting characters in which she allows you to draw upon who they are as you read a little about the lives of each.  She jumps right in with the leading character and what I believe is her voice (the author) for the book. Soon after, the plot is born and things really take off, drawing you into every situation and sequential moment to come.

Without giving to much away, the story takes place in the deep south (Mississippi) during the time of Jim Crow laws, racism, and segregation.  On the brinks of what would become known as the Civil Rights Movement, three courageous women embark on a journey, that would play a small, but pivitol role in the lives of a small southern town.  This journey is one of self discovery, strength, passion, and courage as each of them are faced with the threat of judgement, imprisonment, and extreme danger.

My thoughts...
I must admit, at first I thought is was another brash story about the south during the time of the Civil Rights movement. *cringes*  Although the book is written during that era, I was pleasantly surprised at the approach the author used to write the book. She does an excellent job of capturing the "time" in which the experiences in the book take place—references to historical events, the vernacular of the town, and the interaction (or the lack thereof) among blacks and whites. There were moments that revealed just how controversial this time was. However, that did not over shadow the plot of the book.

Did I like it you ask?  Nope.  I loved it!!  First, because it I found it very interesting that the author wrote the book through the eyes of black maids during a time when the south had not accepted black people as equal.  Second, because the characters are well developed and very relatable.  The author does a great job of painting a picture of her three main ladies and supporting characters.  So much so, I began to see examples of them in my own experiences.  I will say, that there was one character that I wish she had discussed a little more, however it did not take away much from the book. It actually adds this sense of mystery to it!  And lastly, because I found the storyline easy to follow.  I found myself anxious to get to the next chapter to see what was going to happen next! Ohhhh, the drama!

This book generated much discussion at our book club meeting.  Questions ranged from:  Does the "time" in which we live affect our personalities?  Why/why not?  Do you think racism is inherent or taught?

So, as you can see, much can be shared and possibly even learned by the experiences that occurred in this book and from the moment in time in which it was based upon.  I don't think that it is easy to write a book that brings attention to this era in our country's history (without dozing off) that compels you to keep reading.  I think she did a wonderful job!

My rating of this book is: 5 Pages
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