Books 2 Check Out – April 2014

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Looking for something new to read? Here’s a round-up of a few novels you should check out (the titles are linked to Amazon, but most are available for purchase at Barnes & Noble, as well):

The Girl With the Treasure Chest by V.A. Fearon

Dani Fenton thought her life was sorted. But when her private and professional lives collide, she is forced to walk a dangerous line and risk everything for love. At home Dani has a loving partner with a young child who adores her. At work she is a powerful broker in London’s vicious gangland, where she uses her influence to negotiate deals between rival gangs at underground “meets”. Her intuition has never failed her and her charisma has attracted a loyal band of “soldiers” who would go to any lengths to please her. Life is good until Susanna returns. Enigmatic, sexual, hot-tempered and fragile, Susanna is irresistible to Dani, who soon finds herself in a spiral of obsession and violence that threatens to devastate every aspect of her life. Dani must choose between the love she has and the love she wants, and she knows the wrong decision could prove fatal.

Maxi’s Place (Volume 1) by Literary Stud

Sooner or later, everyone slides through Maxi’s Place. Good food, good music and good company are the ingredients for an unforgettable night. The atmosphere infuses the soul with jazz, and conjures up a grown and sexy crowd. Come in and have a drink with a friend or lover. An unforgettable experience awaits the hungry patron from the delectable menu to the talented musicians who grace the stage. If only the customers knew what happened in the background of this bustling restaurant – drama, deceit and maybe a little love. (This is a bind-up of Parts 1-3 of the Maxi’s Place series.)

The Rules by S. Renee Bess

Blackmail, murder, missing persons, and hidden identities link lives that otherwise, would have remained unconnected.

London Phillips’ suburban black middle class background has made her vulnerable to the alienation she feels as she tap dances between the expectations she holds for herself and the expectations other people impose upon her. A full-time realtor and part-time writer, London encounters frustration when she tries to contact Milagros Farrow, a revered lesbian author whose work London would like to include in an anthology she’s compiling. Milagros has disappeared from the face of the earth.

Rand Carson is a prominent newspaper journalist who is forced to deal with the sudden loss of her financial security and the dissolution of her long term interracial relationship with Willa. Rand seems compelled to pursue London, although it’s possible she’s more attracted to London’s ethnicity than to London herself.

Candace Dickerson, a corporate event planner, is married to avarice. In order to chase a more lucrative future, Candace has abandoned her lover, Lenah and Lenah’s perceived lack of ambition. She’s moved into the city where she executes a plot designed to augment her earnings with other people’s money.

Lenah Miller is content with her job at a local hospital’s Emergency Department. For reasons known only to her, she distrusts women she considers too ambitious or from different social strata. Steeped in cynicism and memories held in secret, Lenah finds it easier to criticize a woman whose gentle nature differs from hers than to accept their differences.

The threads entwined around London’s desire to connect with a kindred spirit, Lenah’s wary skepticism, Rand’s inappropriate ardor, and Candace’s greed come undone when three people fall victim to blackmail, one reappears, and another succumbs to murder.

When She Says Yes by Fiona Zedde

The provocative women from Fiona Zedde’s imagination are at it again. From the sultry beaches of Jamaica to the palace of a Tanzanian queen then all the way to the exclusive playroom of one of the hottest women in Miami, When She Says Yes takes the reader on a sensual journey guaranteed to inspire a different kind of wanderlust. Between these pages, an artist falls in love with Zora Neale Hurston. Two lovers reunite in Jamaica after nearly a lifetime apart. A sexually restrained woman finally gets the chance to meet the seductress she has been lusting after from afar. A chief’s beautiful daughter is forced to marry for rain. The women in this collection of stories love each other passionately, diving into the heart of obsession, desire, and obligation while pulling the reader along for the wild ride.

Yabo by Alexis De Veaux

Fiction. African American Studies. LGBT Studies. Women’s Studies. “See YABO… like a Mingus composition: Pentecostal, blues-inflected, full of wit and that deep literacy of the black diaspora. The present, the past, the uncertain future collapse upon themselves in this narrative of place/s. Our dead move with us: behind us, above us, confronting us—in Manhattan; Asheville (N.C.); Buffalo, NY; Jamaica; the hold of a funky slave ship; crossing and bending lines between genders, sexualities, longing and geographies. Time is a river endlessly coursing, shallow in many places, deep for long miles, and, finally, deadly as the hurricane that engulfs and destroys the slave vessel, ‘Henrietta Marie.’ YABO calls our ghosts back and holds us accountable for memory.”—Cheryl Clarke


Girls Just Don’t Do That Contest

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newgirlsjustdontdothatGirls Just Don’t Do That by Natalie Simone is one of those books that grabbed me the first page. Published in 2009, the college-themed love story is filled with characters that I would have hung out with in my 20s (and probably did). Simone also nailed the stud/femme dynamic to a tee. (Read the Sistahs on the Shelf review of Girls.)

In 2014, Girls Just Don’t Do That has gotten a facelift, and is now the first book in the newly-minted CRAVE trilogy. Three Degrees of Separation, the second book, will be available in May, featuring a now out-of-college Jayne and a new circle of women.

In anticipation of her newest book in the CRAVE trilogy, Natalie Simone would like to bestow 5 lucky winners an autographed copy of her book, Girls Just Don’t Do That! To enter, please fill out the form below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

In the meantime, watch Simone’s video preview of Girls Just Don’t Do That.


K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood by La Toya Hankins

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k-rhosweetteastePublisher/Date:  Resolute Publishing, Nov. 2013
Genre(s):  Friendship, Romance, Sorority
Pages:  236
Website:  http://www.latoyahankins.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

First things first, can we just admire the beauty that is this book cover? Gorgeous.

With that done, let’s get down to the beauty that’s in La Toya Hankins’s newest novel, K-RHO: THE SWEET TASTE OF SISTERHOOD. Hankins, the author of SBF Seeking, has done it again, creating a moving story about an unbreakable bond between sorority sisters pledging Kappa Alpha Rho.

The premise is simple, but the enduring friendship is anything but. It’s a kinship built amongst three diverse Copper Road University sophomores who on the surface don’t have much in common, who probably wouldn’t have even been friends otherwise, but connect from enduring on the same line, commiserating their relationships, and growing through their college experiences in the 1990s and adulthood 10 years later.

And to think it all began by an invitation in a heavy purple linen envelope one cold February evening. From that first interest meeting, Kiara, Gloria and Donna clicked and became inseparable.

The anchor of the group is Kiara, a legacy considered a shoo-in to be a K-Rho swan. Practically groomed for membership since birth, the business major knows all the answers and passes all the trials with flying purple and platinum colors, but she harbors a secret that could end her bid for joining the sisterhood. They don’t know her lover Chris is a she – not a he – and Kiara questions whether they would accept her otherwise.

Gloria, the liberated brainiac, always has a saying, a random fact, or a long-winded explanation as the voice of reason between the trio. On full scholarship and living in the honors dorm, she’s cerebral but down-to-earth and open to more experiences than the other two girls, including being down with the swirl. Beneath that adventurous attitude lies a woman who wants to be stepped to the right way. She doesn’t settle – and her high standards could be her downfall.

Now, Donna…this girl, the daughter of a deaconess and a Marine, won my heart. She’s the sister that could offer you with a Bible-quote in a heartbeat, but would beat your ass and ask questions last if you messed with her man. The curvy beauty lives (and fights) for Peter, who’s a player on and off the football field. As a strong as she appears to be, there’s a soft spot she has for Peter that even her sisters can’t seem to sway her from. And trust me, they’ve tried.

Crossing over, even with all that going on, was an accomplishment the girls held in high regard, and cemented their friendship through college and one tragic incident that set a slightly darker tone for the remainder of the book.

Ten years later, the girls are balancing relationships, children and careers. Kiara is still devoting her every waking hour to K-Rho at her partner’s expense; Gloria is tired of letting love find her – and of being alone. Donna is the most transformed, now a mother to Peter’s children and settled in domesticity.

This second half of K-Rho doesn’t hold as much fun as the beginning when they were fancy-free co-eds, enjoying Greek parties and gossiping about who was zooming who. However, I do think they become fuller, mature characters. I enjoyed their interactions with each other, mostly between Kiara and Donna, who are my favorite women in K-Rho. The “lesbian” and the “Bible-thumper” understood each other in ways that show best friends don’t have to do anything but love and accept each other for whom they are. Hankins shows this time and time again between Donna, Kiara, and Gloria.

I did have a couple of qualms about the night of the “incident,” in that I thought it was of out of character for one of the women to even be in that situation. I also kind of hoped Hankins would have delved into skin-color issues in African-American sorority life, but that’s just my wishful thinking.

Hankins, a Zeta Phi Beta member since undergrad, writes authentically in K-Rho. She exhibits talent in writing what the sorority experience is like, most especially as a lesbian in an alliance of women who may not always accept you – despite wearing the same colors.

But despite it all, Kiara, Gloria and Donna can’t be, won’t be stopped.

So at Hankin’s capable hands, sisterhood does taste quite good.

Review Scale
Plot
4 Stars
Writing
4.5 Stars
Characters
4 Stars
Pacing
3.5 Stars
That Oomph!
4 Stars
Overall: 4 Stars

Reviewed March 2014

About La Toya Hankins

latoyahankinsnew

La Toya Hankins is a native of North Carolina and currently resides in Raleigh, NC. A graduate of East Carolina University in Greenville, NC, she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism with a minor in political science. During her college career, she became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. and later served as second vice president for one of the largest graduate chapters in North Carolina.

After working as a regional reporter and features editor in the Charlotte metro area for seven years, La Toya entered the world of banking, where she worked for the fifth largest bank in the country. Presently employed with the State of North Carolina, she divides her time between being a proud pet parent of a terrier named Neo and volunteering in the community.

Currently serving as the chair of Shades of Pride, organizer of the annual Triangle Black Pride, La Toya is an active supporter of LGBT issues and health disparities that affect her community. Her literary influences and loves include Zora Neale Hurston, Walter Mosley, Anne Rice, and Pearl Cleage. Her motto, borrowed from Hurston, is “I do not weep at the world, I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.”

La Toya is the author of SBF Seeking and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood.


Tastes Like Cherry by Renee Cronin

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tasteslikecherryPublisher/Date:  CreateSpace, Dec. 2013
Genre(s):  Romance
Pages: 228
Website:  https://www.facebook.com/Renee.Cronin78

Rating: ★★★★½ 

*cues Vivian Green’s Emotional Rollercoaster as background music*

Who can resist heartfelt apologies, declarations of undying love, and spine-tingling sex? Certainly not Sherry “Cherry” Milton, star of Renee Cronin’s TASTES LIKE CHERRY.

Her ex-fiancé, Anya Prye, is pulling out all the stops to win her back.

But six months ago, Cherry was blindsided by Anya’s admission that things were moving too fast – four months before they were scheduled to be married. After two years, she knew their relationship was headed to for better or worse, and the worst happened: Anya became the stud she had to get over.

Fast forward to present day, and 27-year-old Cherry is almost whole. Yet with one one out of the blue phone call comes Anya confessing her mistake in leaving Cherry. She’s back in Boston determined to assuage the pain left by her abrupt departure, and will do anything to have Cherry as her wife.

Told in the lovers’ alternating voices, this is where Tastes Like Cherry becomes a merry-go-round of emotion. I’ll say this: some women might be flattered by an ex stealing her heart again, especially if the torch was never really extinguished between them. She’s the one who never faded completely from that woman’s heart, continuing to be at home in those crevices and cracks. For Cherry, even with anger still brimming, Anya is that woman.

And Anya knows what she lost. Cherry is a catch. The criminal justice professor woos and works Cherry’s body like no one else, as proven by the stirring encounters Cronin writes with sensuous strokes. But Anya suffers from the “water runs dry” syndrome, and Cherry has to decide whether love can truly be rekindled with someone who broke your spirit in a million pieces.

And it’s not as if Cherry doesn’t have other options or distractions. There’s a co-worker whom she finds adorable, and a night out with homegirls gives her the chance to meet a couple of promising new love interests. Her work as a clinician gives her life meaning. And her friends provide her laughs and opportunities to dance all night, one of Cherry’s favorite hobbies.

Just like Cherry, though, I got caught up in Anya’s admissions of guilt. Every love scene had me rooting for a happy ever after, and every tear they shed made me second guess whether these two can make it last.

I really enjoyed both Cherry and Anya as realistic characters in a typical romantic quandry. While some subplots weren’t tied up enough for me, Cronin has a fresh voice as a writer, and when her sequel to Tastes Like Cherry arrives, I’ll want to see where Cherry and Anya go from here.

Review Scale
Plot
4 Stars
Writing
4.5 Stars
Characters
5 Stars
Pacing
4 Stars
That Oomph!
5 Stars
Overall: 4.5 Stars

Reviewed March 2014

About Renee Cronin

reneecronin

Renee Cronin, a self described avid reader and life time resident of Boston, Massachusetts began penning her debut novel, Tastes Like Cherry in 2005. As a child protective social worker and clinician, Renee has used writing as a personal outlet, but only recently began to explore the possibility of publication. Renee’s inspiration to pen and publish such a compelling story comes from a overwhelming display of support from family and friends. Renee’s debut novel Tastes Like Cherry is expected to keep her readers captivated and pining for more. Renee is currently working on several short stories and anticipates the release of an anthology as well as a sequel to Tastes Like Cherry in the very near future.


Between Right and Wrong by S. Stephens

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betweenrightandwrongPublisher/Date:  Outskirts Press, Sept. 2013
Genre(s):  Romance, Family, Friends
Pages:  360
Website:  http://www.authorsstephens.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

When I first read S. Stephens Am I My Sister’s Keeper in 2005, like Elise, I was going through my own coming out conundrum. I was gay, living with my parents, and taking shelter in my closet. So Elise’s story – attempting to please her parents while struggling with her sexuality – spoke to me in a lot of ways.

Now, eight years later, both Elise and I have faced our demons, but in BETWEEN RIGHT AND WRONG, Elise is still taking on the woes of her family and friends. She allows her sister Lynn to live in her spacious Miami home to get her life in order; provides the always sympathetic ear to best friend, Carmen, a skyrocketing recording artist; and fights to keep her guy pal Wade sane while he goes through some pretty serious legal issues.

At the same time, Elise’s love life is just as hectic, as she falls back in stride with ex Symphony (her biggest hurdle in the previous novel) and cultivates a fling with an extremely sexy older woman, not to mention the simmering feelings she has for married friend Monica, whose unconditional love held Elise’s through every traumatic event.

With all this love in her life, as well as a successful career in high-end real estate, it would appear her life is flawless at 32. Yet here’s Elise’s biggest issue: Elise will do anything for the people she loves, but it always seems to be at the expense of finding romantic love. In Wrong, I saw Elise fluctuate from crisis to crisis, from woman to woman, and it’s so clear that she can’t trust her heart with anyone. I love that she’s so committed to her family, both immediate and extended, but she hides behind them to escape the love she knows she deserves. I found Elise’s life full but slightly dizzying.

The strength of Wrong is in its cast of characters. I really got to know her extended family all over again, and their loyalty to Elise is commendable. What I love most about them is that they will always tell Elise is the truth, even when headstrong Elise doesn’t want to hear it, because that’s what family does. And each character’s romantic woes – reexamining one’s sexuality, sacrificing one’s to get ahead careerwise – is another fire for Elise to put out, which is a huge chunk of Wrong‘s plot. It also moves the book along to a dramatic finish.

Can I say Elise James has grown in the eight years since Sister’s Keeper? I think she knows what love is – she sees it in all forms in Wrong –  yet making it happen and making decisions about who’s best for her aren’t her strongest suits. And even with her devotion to everyone else, she always looks out for self. Nothing wrong with that, per se, but best friend Carmen hit the nail on the head when she told Elise, “There’s this person in you that walks on water, then there’s this other person in you that can move like a snake. Sometimes I don’t think you know right from wrong.” She’s not perfect – no one is.

Somehow I think Elise will get it together, though. Either that or I’m expecting another novel from Ms. Stephens.

Review Scale
Plot
3.5 Stars
Writing
3.5 Stars
Characters
4 Stars
Pacing
4 Stars
That Oomph!
4 Stars
Overall: 4 Stars

 Reviewed Month 2014

About S. Stephens

sstephensnew

Originally from Miami, S. Stephens now resides with her spouse and daughter in Northern Virginia. She enjoys the challenges of creativity and attention to detail. Between Right and Wrong is her long awaited sequel to Am I My Sister’s Keeper?


Living as a Lesbian by Cheryl Clarke (Feb. 2014 Pick of the Month)

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Publisher/Date:  A Midsummer Night’s Press, Jan. 2014
Genre(s):  Poetry, Politics, Sexuality
Pages:  152
Website:  http://www.sinisterwisdom.org

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

LIVING AS A LESBIAN is a book right wingers warn you about. About riots and clits and pride in being black and lesbian, Living takes these subjects, infusing them with her observations and insight, pouring a wickedly-worded brew that wakes up your senses.

To read Living is to know Cheryl Clarke. Born in 1946, this poet, educator, essayist, feminist and activist was raised in segregated Washington, D.C. where she became captivated by words, learned deprecating humor from her mother, father and aunt, and spent time spying on grown folks conversations. Clarke saw and felt the turbulence of the 1960s, especially the violent outcome following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a disturbance that haunts her still to this day. This unjust world nurtured her poetry beginnings, especially when she was an English major at Howard University from 1965 to 1969. Her Chocolate city education – followed by a Masters and Ph.D. from Rutgers University, where she later retired after 41 years as a professor – is what lead her to become the rebel she is, even to this day.

This realization of Clarke is integral to reading Living. It frames the words you’ll find inside: metaphors draped in turquoise, descriptions of dirty politics and provocative sex, jazz riffs that carried Clarke into adulthood.

When I was approached to review Living, I was told it was a reprint of the book originally published in 1986. In saying yes to this review, I was slightly intimidated. Clarke is one of our living legends, a woman who has written influential essays and pronounced her lesbianism proudly and apologetically. She doesn’t mince words, but instead asserts her own capabilities as a black gay woman. In Living, Clarke poetry reflects this strength and her considerable knowledge of the world through her black lens.

Unfortunately, almost 30 years later, Living still has resonance. The police brutality Clarke refers to in “Miami: 1980″, still as relevant with our black men being gunned down by crooked cops, mostly recently with recent FAMU grad Jonathan Ferrell last year in North Carolina. The unadorned passion Clarke shows to her woman in “Kittantiny”, can be found in our own bedrooms. The same white privilege Clarke denounces in “we are everywhere” now shows up in racially inappropriate social media posts and half-assed apologies (I’m looking at you, Madonna). When blacks are increasingly undervalued, Clarke told you that back then with “urban gothic”.

And poor people
black, purple, umber, burgundy, yellow,
red, olive, and tan people.
In neat-pressed vines.
On crutches.
In drag.
With child and children.
Dissidents, misfits, malcontents, and marginals
serving out our sentences on the streets of
America
spread-eagled against walls and over car hoods.
Frantic
like rats in a maze
an experiment in living
down at the jail,
the courthouse on the highway.

I think it should be said that Clarke’s Living as a Lesbian can be complex, daunting almost. It’s not a quick read, and it should definitely be consumed with plenty of thought and afterthought. Some of her references are from a different time, but the reprint of Living does include Clarke’s notes that fill in the gaps, for the generations that might not understand her references. It’s as if Clarke is a godmother of sorts, passing along the history that she’s seen and overheard and lived, and that is worth the challenge Living presents.

Reviewed February 2014

About Cheryl Clarke

cherylclarke1

Cheryl Clarke is a poet, essayist, scholar, and activist. She is the author of four collections of poetry: Narratives: Poems in the Tradition of Black Women (originally self-published in 1981 and distributed by Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press in 1982); and for Firebrand Books Living as a Lesbian (1986), Humid Pitch (1989) and Experimental Love (1993). Her most recent books are the critical study, After Mecca: Women Poets and the Black Arts Movement (Rutgers University Press, 2004), and The Days of Good Looks: The Prose and Poetry of Cheryl Clarke 1980-2005 (Carroll and Graf, 2006). She is the recipient of the 2013 Kessler Award from the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies (CLAGS) at the City University of New York. Clarke played June Walker in the 1996 feature film The Watermelon Woman directed by Cheryl Dunye. She lives and writes in Jersey City, NJ and Hobart, NY. She and her lover, Barbara Balliet, co-own a used and rare bookstore in Hobart, N.Y., the Book Village of the Catskills.


Who is First Lady Wanda Davis? (Book 1: Greater Harvest Saga) by Michael Drain

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whoisfirstladywandadavisPublisher:  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Dec. 2013
Genre(s):  Religious, Romance, Coming Out
Pages:  114
Website:  http://www.browninkentertainment.com

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Wife. Mentor. Friend. Shopaholic.

In WHO IS FIRST LADY WANDA DAVIS?, a story of the perfection it takes to be a pastor’s wife by Michael Drain, we’re introduced to all sides of Wanda, even the ones she tries to keep cleverly concealed.

Wanda Davis followed her husband, Howard, from their college days to the pulpit. In the years since his installation, she’s been the “perfect” pastor’s wife: steadfastly supportive of Howard’s mission, mindful of her words and actions, and helpful whenever needed. This dedication and her husband’s strong word ascend Greater Harvest Cathedral to megachurch status. Once a rock in the South Bend, Indiana community, the church is now in the wake of a scandal, and Howard thinks Wanda is a catalyst to getting the church back to its roots.

Yet Wanda is in the midst of her own spiritual storm.

Being a first lady doesn’t allow much room to be herself. Where she felt other wives in her position wielded their power in a greater capacity, Wanda felt stifled. She can’t speak her mind or tell what’s bothering her, lest she be judged. This pressure builds into an addiction she can’t shake: shopping. Hiding expensive clothes and thousands of dollars in mounting debt, Wanda’s compulsion may stem partly from her first lady pedestal, but it actually masks an even deeper craving: being with a woman.

As a pastor’s daughter, Wanda couldn’t reconcile her spiritual self with being a lesbian. After breaking it off with a female classmate in college, Howard was the man who accepted her as she was, and she saw him as her rock and deliverance.

Even when she didn’t see it, Howard has always believed in his wife and their relationship. He places Wanda front and center over the church’s women’s service during revival. Wanda, with her heavy heart, is not so convinced, especially when the occasion pairs her with an alluring event planner. How can she lead the women when she is so conflicted in her own soul?

The pastor’s wife element in Who is First Lady Wanda Davis?, the first in a series, adds something extra to Drain’s story, but I feel Wanda could be any woman confused in her sexuality and her love for God. Her turmoil in living up to the self-imposed standards of a first lady — and the behind-the-scenes church drama — are real to the black church. We do make it hard for our gay brothers and sisters, but what I found moving was how understanding Howard was to Wanda’s transition then and now as she figures out her life. Howard’s a good guy.

The book’s formatting could use work, and the sermons throughout are slightly repetitive, but Drain engages.

By the conclusion, I can tell something more sinister is coming in Wicked Harvest, Book 2 in The Greater Harvest Saga. I’ll be reading it.

Review Scale
Plot
3.5 Stars
Writing
3.5 Stars
Characters
4 Stars
Pacing
4 Stars
That Oomph!
3.5 Stars
Overall: 3.5 Stars

Reviewed February 2014

About Michael Drain

michaeldrain

Michael Drain is a married, social columnist for the LGBT magazine Rainbowaffairs.com. He is also the CEO of Brown Ink Entertainment, a company that specializes in LGBT an mainstream entertainment, i.e. stage productions, music, publications, media, graphics and artist representation. He is a graduate of Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis. Drain currently resides in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Drain, who wrote and directed the smash hit, My Revival!, is currently working on several stage plays and a follow up novel to Who is First Lady Wanda Davis? titled Wicked Harvest, set for a 2014 release.


Valentine’s Day E-Book Roundup

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Feeling romantic this Valentine’s Day? Or feeling a little hot under the collar? Then pick up these e-books and enjoy the holiday!

hotforitHot For It by K.A. Smith
Publisher/Date:  K.A. Smith, Feb. 2014
Website:  http://krystalarnelle.wordpress.com
Rating:  4 Stars

A sweltering New Mexico day and a frozen “treat” allow spouses Jordan and Kathy beat the heat in a senuous way in HOT FOR IT by K.A. Smith. Considering the cruel winter weather we’ve been having this year, Hot comes right on time. This short is a fun romp between loving partners and makes you wish your lover was just as creative. Smith, who’s also a published poet, has a flair that I’m looking forward to more of.


placenciaPlacencia by C.A. Clemmings
Publisher/Date:  Amazon Digital Services, Inc., Nov. 2013
Website:  http://www.caclemmings.com
Rating:  4 Stars

Was it an accident or fate that Elodie becomes stranded in Belize instead of Honduras where she was to meet her girlfriend Andrea? After missing her bus, the night she spends in PLACENCIA is colorful to say the least, surrounded by eccentric natives, and most especially a tempting woman named Sage. But the few hours are also therapeutic for Elodie, who comes to some headway about her feelings for Andrea and her father’s death. Though I was a tad confused by a scene right before the story’s end, C.A. Clemmings’ prose breezily flows in Placencia, and I could see this short becoming a full-fledged novel. *hint hint*


safepassageSafe Passage by Kate Owen
Publisher/Date:  Less Than Three Press, LLC, Feb. 2014
Website:  http://writerkateowen.blogspot.com
Rating:  4 Stars

Jules Delacroix has never been much of handy[wo]man, so restoring the New Orleans house inherited from her great Auntie becomes even more of a challenge after her sledgehammer happens upon a secret wall safe. Inside are letters written in French – and code – between Auntie and a mysterious recipient only known as “E.” Jules uses this discovery to recruit the help of Genevieve Dubois, the sexy French teacher (is there any other kind?) at the school where she and Jules teach. Jules, a former rowing Olympian, is excited by Gen’s help to decipher Auntie’s love letters – she’s had her eye on her for a while – and it’s where her own love story begins. SAFE PASSAGE is a novella I really enjoyed for its genuine characters. Jules and Gen are so insecure and hilarious and downright lovable. I laughed out loud at the banter between but aahed their affair and solved mystery by the novel’s end.


firsttastekendraFirst Taste: Kendra by Portia M. Delaney
Publisher/Date:  JTM Creations LLC, Dec. 2012
Rating: 4 Stars

A workplace romance is one thing, but workplace sex? Yes ma’am, based on Portia M. Delaney’s FIRST TASTE: KENDRA. This is the story of a uptight lawyer, namely Kendra Holliday, attempting to fight the advances of her hot-in-the pants, demanding co-worker, Lea Jacobs. There’s a few entertaining negotiations between the women, but it’s a case that both women eventually “come” to terms with. Delaney’s writing is descriptive and fully-fleshed, in that she created whole characters where it could have been only about the sex. Don’t get me wrong though: the sex is hella erotic.That’s what makes me want a bigger slice of what Delaney is serving.


 

backtoyou2Back to You: Series Premiere (Bookisode 1) by Rebelle 
Publisher/Date:
JustUs LLC, Nov. 2013
Website:  http://www.livejustifiedbooks.com
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Even a war-torn country can’t extinguish the love between U.N. Peace Keepers Penny Price and Sophie Mitchell in BACK TO YOU: SERIES PREMIERE. They’ve served together for two years and are each other’s life jackets in a land that could rob them of their lives in a moment’s notice. Especially in this first “bookisode” where Penny makes the decision to either kill or be killed. Rebelle captures this anguish, although there are a couple situations I felt were a wee bit far-fetched. It’s a keep-you-on-the-edge story, and I can feel the love between Penny and Sophie. I’m ready for Book 2 already (which is out now).

Reviewed February 2014


Books 2 Check Out – Feb. 2014

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Looking for something new to read? Here’s a round-up of a few novels you should check out (the titles are linked to Amazon, but most are available for purchase at Barnes & Noble, as well):

Back To You: Series Premiere by Rebelle

When war rips through their relationship Penny and Sophie are forced to fight their way back to each other. Penny Price and Sophie Mitchell are U.N. Peace Keepers on a mission to protect their love and preserve the peace in a war torn country. But how can they safeguard peace when there is no peace to keep? How can their relationship survive when death draws nearer with each passing day?

Join them on an epic journey to nurture a blossoming romance rooted at the epicenter of war and peace. They vow to defend their love even in the middle of a murderous place where ethical lines are etched in stones of social unrest and political turmoil.

This thrilling new series will have you on the edge of your seat all season. New bookisodes are released bi-weekly. Visit www.livejustifiedbooks.com for future release dates, discounts and exclusive details about your favorite bookisodes. Back To You: Bookisode 2 (Expiration Day) is available now.

Feeling for the Wall by Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas

Feeling for the Wall explores a relationship that is in crisis. What happens when one person is forgotten or taken for granted? Adanna Johnson is a successful bank manager who may be a bit of an over achiever but everything she does is for her wife’s happiness. The love they have is deep even if their marriage may be in the eye of the storm. Erica Johnson thought that she would never see the day when she would question the love that Adanna and her share. However, lately that seems like all she can think about. Adanna’s changing behaviors has turned the warmth in their home pure ice. Erica doesn’t know if she can take being treated as an afterthought any longer. Marriage can be beautiful but when the balance of things tumble over will Adanna and Erica leave or fight for their love.

G.R.I.T.S. – Girls Raised In the South: An Anthology of Southern Queer Womyns’ Voices and Their Allies Edited by Poet On Watch and Amber N. Williams

G.R.I.T.S. – A MARVELOUS AND DIVERSE COLLECTION OF WRITINGS AND WRITERS! This cutting-edge anthology G.R.I.T.S : Girls Raised In The South- An Anthology of Southern Queer Womyns’ Voices and Their Allies, edited by Poet On Watch & Amber N. Williams, can be compared to the pioneering anthology Home Girls which featured writings by Black feminist and lesbian activists on topics both provocative and profound. G.R.I.T.S. is a critical self-analysis and celebration with multicultural queer women voices and their allies through essays, short stories, poetry, photo stories and healing comfort recipes. The perspectives are of womyn who live in the Southern region of the United States and/or have a strong affinity for this locale. The theme of the publication surrounds the subject matter of erotica while enjoying food, our connection to the South, the bonds created between lovers, and in sisterhood, personal growth, be it spiritual or otherwise and our best G.R.I.T.S. recipes. Come and sit a while on the porch and bask in this Southern hospitality. We have the iced tea waiting. Welcome to our lives.

K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood by La Toya Hankins

K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood chronicles the strength of sorority life for three Copper Road University sophomores. Track star Kiara Michaels didn’t expect to find two lifelong friends at her sorority membership interview. But life had other plans, leading her to meet Donna-a Bible quoting straight talker-and Gloria-a loquacious high achiever. In the semesters following membership induction, Kiara confesses a festering secret, Donna steers a bumpy course with her unfaithful boyfriend, and Gloria can’t find a love match. When a lustful encounter and brutal assault turn Kiara’s collegiate experience upside down, the two friends are her saving grace. Fast-forward ten years later and Kiara can’t balance life’s increasing responsibilities, Donna has departed a broken marriage, and Gloria can’t reconcile feelings of attraction for a close friend. Join Kiara, Donna, and Gloria on a dark, clear night at Copper Road to discover how these friends find happiness through sorority redemption, relationship forgiveness, and best friend intervention as you savor the sweet taste of sisterhood.

Living as a Lesbian by Cheryl Clarke

Poetry. African American Studies. LGBT Studies. Living as a Lesbian is Cheryl Clarke’s paean to lesbian life. Filled with sounds from her childhood in Washington, DC, the riffs of jazz musicians, and bluesy incantations, Living as a Lesbian sings like a marimba, whispering “i am, i am in love with you.” Living as a Lesbian chronicles Clarke’s years of literary and political activism with anger, passion, and determination. Clarke mourns the death of Kimako Baraka, “sister of famous artist brother”; celebrates the life of Indira Gandhi; and chronicles all kinds of disasters natural and human-made. The world is large in Living as a Lesbian but also personal and intimate. These poems are closely observed and finely wrought with Clarke’s characteristic charm and wit shining throughout. In 1986, Living as a Lesbian captured the vitality and volatility of the lesbian world; today, in a world both changed and unchanged, Clarke’s poems continue to illuminate our lives and make new meanings for Living as a Lesbian.

Pieces of Me by Vickey Simmons

A compilation of four original short stories from Vickey Simmons:  Toni Knows Best, In Love & Lust, Spring Fever, and Go See The Doctor.

Placencia by C.A. Clemmings

Elodie decides to sojourn in Placencia, Belize for a few days. This comes as a surprise to her girlfriend, Andrea, who is waiting for her in Honduras where they planned to meet up for their vacation together. Elodie says she is “coming to terms” with some things. Also visiting Placencia - a beautiful woman named Sage, who is not afraid to go after what she wants: Elodie.

Sageburner: Simple Pleasures by Poet on Watch

“Do you know why some text sticks to your soul, plays havoc with your perceptions of love, life and truth; while others fall short, leaving you unsatisfied and wanting? The erotically expressive and humorously honest words of Poet On Watch are displayed like art in a gallery; after indulging in reading Sageburner: Simple Pleasures you will text your lover “Let’s meet in a hour, make passionate love and plan world peace.” Trust, when making love is the start to world peace, then we’ve truly understood the political erotic messages of Poet On Watch. – Sunshine Vega

Tastes Like Cherry by Renee Cronin

Sherry “Cherry” Milton has had six months to get over Anya Prye, her ex-fiancé. Six months to accept that what they had was over and that she needed to move on with her life. Cherry was certain she had done so, until Anya reappears. Anya Prye has come to the realization that life was not complete unless she had the love of her life to share it with. Six months ago, she made a decision that changed everything and now she’s back to make amends. Can she convince Cherry that they were meant to be together? What will it take to prove it? Or is it too late?


Interview & Review Chat | Love Relived by Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas

Posted on

loverelivedPublisher/Date:  CreateSpace, Feb. 2013
Genre(s):  Romance, Friendship
Pages:  198
Website:  authormoniquebeingtruethonas.wordpress.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

interviewreviewchatlogoFriendship and love go hand and hand…or does it? Photographer Mahogany Williams and head museum educator Cheryl James are testing this theory after being childhood best friends, then later lovers — and watching their connection crumble over the years. Can they get it back together? I had to find out from Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas, author of LOVE RELIVED. So read on to see what she thinks about love and friendship in this Interview & Review Chat. The transcript follows below:

Sistahs on the Shelf: Oh, Miss Monique?!

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I am here.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Lol

Sistahs on the Shelf: Hey, how are you?

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I am wonderful and antsy

Sistahs on the Shelf: Don’t be. It’ll be painless, I promise.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Okay, so…let’s start with how long have you been writing?

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I have been writing poetry since I was five years old and short stories from seven years of age.

Sistahs on the Shelf: So basically most of your life. What were you writing about at five years old?

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Yes, I have been writing since I could put together words. My mother encouraged creativity and she always pushed me to read and write as much as I could. I used to sit at her desk and fill up yellow legal sized notepads with lines about my best friend at the time and my love of anything that had to do with basketball.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Oh, so this could have been the basis for Love Relived? Maybe?

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Hmmm (inserts smile) I shall never tell.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Lol!

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: To be truthful my first girlfriend was at the age of seven and she was not my bff.

Sistahs on the Shelf: 7, huh? I was still dreaming of girls instead of kissing them at that age.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I had already had my first and second kiss that year.

Sistahs on the Shelf: *smh* *but impressed*

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: lol

Sistahs on the Shelf: Now about Love Relived, bffs in love. Tell us about your book.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Love Relived is a story that came to me as I was working on another book idea. The main characters are Cheryl and Mahogany, two women who were best friends throughout adolescence. My focus for the storyline was the aftermath of friends becoming lovers. Most people think that it can be an easy move to just get into a long lasting relationship, especially if the friendship had been so strong. That I believe is a myth that starts the relationship of wrong. Once Cheryl and Mahogany crossed the line the conflict began and there are really no answers for years leaving both with questions.

Sistahs on the Shelf: All very true.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Especially when one partner is struggling with her sexuality, like Mahogany, while the other knows who she is, like Cheryl.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Exactly! Mahogany is dealing with her own personal struggles. As close as she is to her friends not even they know that she was dealing with her sexuality. She feels as if she has an obligation to her family to be someone that she is not. She is strong but like so many of the strong she has a weakness. In Mahogany’s case it is her grandmother Mama Hanna. She knows her grandmother to be a God fearing woman and being gay is something that Mahogany doesn’t think she will accept.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Acceptance is something a lot of us have struggled with as black lesbians. I think you wrote Mahogany’s struggle realistically.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I tried my best to make sure that Mahogany came across real. We may not care if society accepts us as black lesbians but there are people who are close to us that we wish would love us no matter who we love or what we do.

Sistahs on the Shelf: But the crazy thing is where we think we’re hiding ourselves, some of our family members knew our tea before we poured it.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Yes! I have found that the only people in the “closet” are the ones that claim not to be in one.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Yep!

Sistahs on the Shelf: Speaking of realistic, is Cheryl and Mahogany’s relationship based on your or anyone else’s relationship?

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: No one has asked me this question so kudos to you. (smile) When I first set out to write this book I had no particular thought process. I just let the words flow. It was not until I read the first draft back to myself that I realized that this was subconsciously personal.

Sistahs on the Shelf: How so?

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: For one thing I have been in a situation where a friend and I have crossed an emotional line that was way beyond friendship. Although I explained my reluctance I did not shut down the feelings that I knew were growing. I tried to act as if I could use my charm and full blown cocky arrogance to move past the feelings and continue our friendship as if nothing had changed between us. That proved to be unrealistic and problematic. The line had been crossed and the friendship became difficult. When someone tells you they want to move forward with you romantically and you don’t it is a difficult thing. When said person is a very good friend the stakes are high. You have to deal with feelings of rejection, hurt, and anger. It is a dangerous game.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: So like Mahogany, I decided to run.

Sistahs on the Shelf: So what happened?

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: We have both moved on. The friendship is done. We have not talked in years. We have mutual friends and it is crazy because we respond to their posts on Facebook without talking to one another. Life is something.

Sistahs on the Shelf: It sure is.

Sistahs on the Shelf: But crossing that friendship line…do you think it can be worth it?

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: That is the billion dollar question isn’t it? The friends and lovers debate has been going on for years. For some it works and for others it is a disaster. I believe that it can work but when before a dating relationship can begin a conversation has to be had. You can’t bring up everything that pertained to our friendship. As I used to say all the time, once the line is crossed it is a different ballgame. The” me” you knew as your friend may not be the “me” you want as your mate. You really have to think about it.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: If I was a jerk to all my girlfriends, don’t assume that I will treat you different because we have a history as friends.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Huh, ain’t that the truth.

Sistahs on the Shelf: But having that history is “supposed” to make the relationship easier, let some people tell it.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: That is foolishness. Maybe for some that was the case and I applaud them. Most however don’t remember the way they watched you treat your other mates until something happens. By then you can’t bring it up because you were warned way in advance. As a matter of fact you as the friend had the clearest crystal ball of them all but for whatever reason you chose not to see. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that everyone can change. I know that personally. I am just speaking truth.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Speaking of being true, throughout Love Relived, Cheryl is stayed true to herself regardless of the changes Mahogany put her through. I loved that about her.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Thank you so much. Cheryl’s weakness is Mahogany. Though that is the case she refuses to let Mahogany’s confusion cloud her decisions and break her heart further.

Sistahs on the Shelf: I remember a line from your book that said, “It’s the crime of stealing hearts.” I loved that.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: That line is from a poem I wrote when I was around 18 years old called, ‘Robbing the broken’. It was really me boasting that I could say whatever, do whatever and still like a boomerang I knew the girls would come back. I used to be arrogant beyond. When I was writing that particular scene in Love Relived the line came to me again. Now that I am older it has a completely different meaning.

Sistahs on the Shelf: What meaning does it have for you [now]?

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Now that I am older and have lived through a few trials in my life the line is a symbol of knowing that I didn’t want the love I was receiving but instead of saying that I took it anyway. That is a crime. Those girls could have spent time with someone who was worthy of their admiration.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Wow. That is some truth right there.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Thank you. I have learned lessons and through the teaching that my wrongs have showed me I am better.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Writing has helped tremendously. I can see certain characters clearly because of my experiences both personal and through friends.

Sistahs on the Shelf: I agree. Writing and reading especially have always opened my eyes.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Yes indeed!

Sistahs on the Shelf: Now Mama Hanna. I want her to adopt me, since I have no living grandparents. She is a hoot and a great sounding board for both her granddaughter Mahogany and by extension, Cheryl.

Sistahs on the Shelf: I love when she tells Mahogany: “Girl a pot unstirred never made good stew. It just sat and burned.”

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I adore Mama Hanna. She is lively, blunt and doesn’t miss a thing. She is the true meaning of unconditional love. The lines that she says in the book are me all day. I can make up a saying in a second.

Sistahs on the Shelf: I know that’s right! I follow you on Facebook.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Ha! Ha!! Yes I like to think I am a wise clown.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Yes, you are. Mission accomplished.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: LOL! Thank you.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Okay so one last question (I think). What new projects are in the works?

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: First let me just say that Lisa, a character from Loved Relived has her own story, In its Rawest Form, which is currently out. I began 2014 by putting out my latest Feeling for the Wall. This one is for those who have been in real love. I mean that kind of love that makes you smile but question. It also deals with what happens when after years of being together how life can get in the way with the day to day love. What happens when routine overwhelms us. I have two other books that I am working on now that I will be putting out sometime this year. One will be released this spring and the other in the fall.

Sistahs on the Shelf: You work hard, Monique.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I have been blessed with a partner who has made it so that I can live my dream.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I also have a short story collection and a few novelettes available as well.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I would like to add something if that is okay.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Sure, go ahead.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: The end of 2012 was one of the hardest years that I think I have ever been through. I was holding it together for the masses but inside I was scared and falling apart. I had a serious health scare and I lost my job. I was nervous to the point that I wrote out a will. I didn’t know if I would be here for 2014. Having already had one stroke due to stress I was told that I was on the verge of having another. That is why I dedicated every moment of 2013 to writing and family. I opened my eyes wide and really looked. I realized a lot of things about myself and I also learned how much my babe truly loves the heck out of me. I have gotten healthier and have learned to clear my mind and return to the “me” that I am. For that I will forever be thankful and I will not give up this chance to share my love of writing with the world.

Sistahs on the Shelf: That is heartbreaking and beautiful and inspiring. Your hard work is paying off.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I hope that it does. I didn’t want to leave this world without more of my work published.

Sistahs on the Shelf: You’ll have plenty of time to share more, I’m sure. I truly believe that.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Thank you! I am in much better health and have moved back into my positive space.

Sistahs on the Shelf: I’m glad.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: As am I. I have more time to clown *lol*

Sistahs on the Shelf: *lol* You slay me, Mo.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I try.

Review Scale
Plot
4 Stars
Writing
3.5 Stars
Pacing
4 Stars
That Oomph!
4 Stars
Overall: 4 Stars

Reviewed/Interviewed January 2014

About Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas

moniquebeingtruethomas

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas is a native New Yorker who has been in love with the written word since the third grade. At the age of fourteen she was a teen journalist for youth magazine, FCYU, writing featured articles about the trials and triumphs of youth in the New York foster care system.

She currently has 7 books available: Forever Tangled; Volume One: a collection of poems and short stories from the heart and between the thighs; Forever Tangled Volume II: Caught in the sheets of Emotion; Love Relived; In Its Rawest Form; Notes of Seduction; An Unexpected Gift; Feeling for the Wall.

Although Thomas began with a flair for writing short stories based on mystery and murder plots, she currently writes romance and erotica for all those lovers of love and temptresses of lust. She has also been a featured radio host on Lesbian Memoirs blog Talk radio show.

Thomas has been featured in lesbian anthologies Life, Love, Lust 2011 and Life, Love, Lust 2012 published by LM Inc. She was also a featured poet in Her Voice also published by LM Inc.


Descendants of Hagar by Nik Nicholson (Jan. 2014 Pick of the Month)

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descendantsofhagarpotmlogoPublisher/Date:  AuthorHouse, July 2013
Genre(s):  Historical Fiction
Pages:  398 pages
Website:  http://www.niknicholson.com

Rating: ★★★★★ 

I’ve stated in a previous post that DESCENDANTS OF HAGAR was outright the best book I read in 2013. The reason why belongs to Madelyn “Linny” Remington, the heroine of this tale set in a fictional version of Zion, Georgia in 1914.

Linny carried away my heart in world that wasn’t made for modern women: where women are voiceless without a man; when marriage was an arrangement between a father and the man he chose for his daughter; where a woman’s only calling and accomplishment is to bear children.

And in this sheltered life stood Linny, treated like a son instead of a daughter, groomed to build and work beside men, and given a voice unlike her own wedded sisters who were expected to keep quiet. At 20 years old and unmarried, she could have been considered an old maid, but she never saw her worth tied into being betrothed.

Underneath the way Linny’s expected to take on a masculine work ethic lies the heart of a woman. She can hunt and slaughter, but her favorite time is sitting in the women’s quilting circle, connecting with the grandmothers, mothers and sisters of Zion, relishing the women’s stories and lost dreams.

Nicholson creates Linny’s most significant female relationship with her great-great-grandmother, Miemay, who ensures Linny’s purpose wasn’t being someone’s wife. Miemay, an ex-slave and the only woman in Zion to own land and businesses (without ever learning to read), is highly respected as a town elder. This knowledge she passes on to Linny, slowly giving her control over her affairs. Whereas Linny believed she was following the wishes of the woman who practically raised her and spending time with a woman with more head smarts than five men combined, Miemay was preparing Linny to be self-sufficient.

There are so many layers to unravel in Descendants of Hagar, and Nicholson has done her research to tie them in a vibrant arrangement. Linny’s strong voice brings to life a woman’s sexuality in a post-Reconstruction era novel and all the challenges it brings – a single woman taking care of her own home without a man’s help, feeling slighted by her mother because of her unlady like ways, being treated like one of the guys but being left out of their conversations.

Family is also one of Hagar’s solid storylines, because Nicholson touches on just how important kin is to Zion, not only to provide a foundation but also to its prosperity. All of the work done in Zion, from the construction of houses, to picking cotton, to running the main store, is kept in the family, and working together has allowed them to be better off than many in the poor white towns surrounding them – but also creates worry about the next threat from will bear “strange fruit” in their own backyards. Linny’s relationship with her immediately is tenuous with her parents and brothers, but the love from her sisters is her lifeline. Though they treat her with kid gloves at times, they depend on her, admire and envy her unencumbered life, and add such a great life to this novel.

And falling in love is aspect of Hagar that’s significant but not an overpowering part of the novel, which I enjoyed. I assumed there would be some romance, but I appreciated how Nicholson didn’t make it the bulk of this tale. The love between her and Coley is realistic of and fits into the context of the time. Coley means well, and I like how she allows Linny to think outside the box, but Coley is a piece of work. Just get to know her.

Descendants of Hagar is a potent story – somber, sweet, funny, uplifting, enriching – and Nicholson does a fantastic job of capturing this time period. She truly did her homework. This makes me even more excited for the sequel, Daughter of Zion, out this fall.

Review Scale
Plot
5 Stars
Writing
5 Stars
Characters
5 Stars
Pacing
4.5 Stars
That Oomph!
5 Stars
Overall: 5 Stars

Reviewed January 2014

About Nik Nicholson

niknicholson

In 2009, Nik Nicholson began research for Descendants of Hagar. She interviewed approximately sixty women. The research exposed the challenges of masculine-centered lesbians, including how they come to terms with and express their sexuality and gender roles. Descendants of Hagar is Nicholson’s highly-anticipated debut novel. It is the first novel of a two-part series, which includes the intoxicatingly beautiful, Daughter of Zion., scheduled to be released September 2014.

Nik is an artist; in addition to writing she is also a poet, a spoken-word performer, actor and painter.


Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Read In 2013

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toptentuesday2

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme hosted at The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s topic: Top Ten Books I Read In 2013

This year has been one of the best for me at Sistahs on the Shelf.

I’ve met some great people. And I’ve branched out and tried some ideas that I’m definitely carrying into the new year.

Most importantly, I’ve read some fabulous books – both of the lesbian and the mainstream variety. These are truly my favorites, though. Browse through my garden of good and lovelies, shall you?

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Descendants of Hagar by Nik Nicholson

I finished reading this book only a couple of weeks ago, and just like that it became my favorite book of 2013.  Why? Because of Madelyn “Linny” Remington, the main character of Nicholson’s novel about a 1914 woman who doesn’t follow the strict conventions of her time. She can match wits and strength with any man, but knows being a woman is her greatest asset. Even as ladies in her Georgia town of Zion can’t vote unless through a man, Linny strives to make her voice heard. But the book goes even deeper. Hands down, Hagar has the best characterization I’ve seen in a novel this year. Look for a review of Hagar very soon.

Full Circle by Skyy

What more can I say about a beloved series that has come to a close? That Skyy needs to write more books, that’s what. Full Circle, this final novel starring Denise, Lena, Cooley and Carmen, said everything that needed to be said by the last page. Hearts were broken, truths were told, and love brought people together. If you haven’t read any of the Choices series, please get on that.

I am Your Sister 2 by Ericka K. F. Simpson

Just as intense is Simpson’s I Am Your Sister 2, with Symone Holmes undergoing painful flashbacks while finally achieving her dream as a WNBA player. Her growing pains from the previous novel are testaments to Simpson’s talent, tying religion, sports, sexuality and love.

On the Come Up by Hannah Weyer

AnnMarie Walker simply could have been product of her public housing upbringing. Yet there was so much more to AnnMarie than her surroundings, a fact beautifully drawn by filmmaker Weyer in On the Come Up, a novel based on a true story. Pregnant at 13, she’s no one’s victim. AnnMarie is engaging, smart, and endearing. She becomes a movie star, falls in love, and charts her path – and we know she’ll be all right. Not a book for everyone (but it should be), On the Come Up has a unique voice.

Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi

Ascension was an out-of-the-box read for me, considering I don’t read a lot of science fiction. But Koyanagi endeared me to the story of Alana Quick, a dreadlocked sky surgeon in Heliodor City on the planet Orpim. Her life is fixing space ships with her Aunt Lai, barely getting by, and coping with debilitating illness. She gets aboard a stranded vessel, and goes on a wild ride with her ragtag crew. I was enamored by the space travel. This is the first in the Tangled Axiom series.

If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan

What is it about first love that allows us to see only roses and skip over the weeds? This is portrayed in If You Could Be Mine, a young adult romance set in Iran. I enjoyed it, mostly because I watched as Sahar genuinely laid her heart bare for her best friend. Everything she went through to prove this love – including a possible sex change operation – was what kept me reading. Sahar is a great character, and I really want to know what happens to her next (which means I want a sequel).

The EXchange by Nikki Rashan

What hot piece of drama this book was! Kyla – from Double Pleasure Double Pain and You Make Me Wanna – and her partner Asia decide to bring in a third party to spice up their dull relationship – and not in the way you think. It’s more like Kyla decides to date her ex while Asia waits for her to decide what she truly wants. A recipe for disaster, but also an entertaining, make-you-think-about-your-own-relationship read.

Turn Me Out by T. Ariez

After reading this e-book, I immediately had to interview this author. T. Ariez’s work about stud-on-stud love compelled me to explore her motivation for writing. This concluded in my first Interview & Review feature (which I will do more of in the coming year). Turn Me Out is a spicy book, and it managed to get a lot of people reading it and discovering Ariez as an author. I think she will have great things in store in 2014, as she’s been teasing about a new project on Facebook.

Abandoned Property by Kai Mann

Hands down, one of the best sequels I read this year. I was so enthralled by the revolving narratives in Mann’s sequel to 30 Day Notice. All the character’s stories come together so seamlessly in the life of Kori Maitlin, whom we’re introduced to in Notice. Well done and fully absorbing.

Broken in Soft Places by Fiona Zedde

The beauty is not necessarily in how the characters in Zedde’s latest book, Broken in Soft Places, treat each other, but in how Zedde deftly writes a novel that makes a deplorable character appealing. Rille can’t be contained by monogamy, much to the chagrin of Sara, but Zedde’s prose keeps you wanting to know what will happen to this couple next.

So tell me:  What’s the best lesbian book you’ve read this year?


First Love by C. Truth

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firstlovePublisher/Date:  Penny Publishing, LLC, June 2011
Genre(s):  Romance, Coming Out, Young Adult
Pages:  181
Website:  http://www.bflyctruth.com

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

As much as I want to, I can never tell a book character what to do. And not just because she’s not a live, breathing person, but because when it comes to a teenager like Savannah in FIRST LOVE by C. Truth, she wouldn’t listen to me anyway.

She’s 17, a high school senior and falling in love with best friend Bree. She can’t talk to her by-the-Bible mom, who wants a better friend for her daughter than the openly-gay Bree. And she can’t tell Bree she likes her, because she has a girlfriend. She has virtually no one to turn to with her feelings.

I wish she would listen to me. But what could I tell a book-smart, hard-working girl like Savannah, coming from someone older?

  1. Don’t get a boyfriend just to please your mother. When handsome football player Marco approaches and asks you out, say no. Just because he’s 5’7’’ with chocolate skin and deep waves in his hair, and he’s the guy all the girls want, doesn’t mean you really want to go out with him and you shouldn’t get him caught up in your confusion about your sexuality. It can only lead to heartache for both you. Especially when you kiss him and you’re thinking about Bree.
  2. Be honest with yourself. Savannah, you spend a lot of time in your room pondering your sexuality, and that’s good. But you also beat yourself about liking girls when that’s truly where your heart is. Stop it, be who you are. There’s nothing wrong with liking girls. I spent my own high school years denying whom I was, only to feel like I should have just owned up to my feelings.
  3. Tell Bree how you feel. Girl, it’s hard, I know. Telling someone how you feel is never easy. But this is Bree, your homie. You’ve known her since elementary school. She’s told you all about her girlfriends, and you know she would do anything for you. I find it hard to believe she would abandon you after you told her the truth. And don’t worry about that girlfriend of hers; she’ll reveal her true colors – and whom do you think she’ll coming running to advice and comfort?
  4. Don’t make such a big deal about sex. I know at 17 it seems like sex is the best thing on earth. Don’t get me wrong; it’s amazing. But you know what, Savannah? It’s better with the right person. Feel me. Don’t be in such a hurry to give what’s your most precious gift. Cause when it’s right, ooh wee!
  5. Get your mother a boyfriend. Your mother is a piece of work. These praying rants y’all do to save you from lesbianism aren’t going to work. Since your mother is forever beating down the church doors, find her a deacon to work out her own issues with.

Now that I’ve taken care of Savannah, let’s move on to C. Truth. First Love is a dramatic book for sure, but the both the story and the writing needed work. There are more than a few grammatical issues, and some of the situations Savannah found herself in seemed too far-fetched, like her first college visit which went swimmingly considering how complicated her life became by that point. I read so many 5-star reviews for First Love, and while I was reading, I was a little disappointed in how the story unravelled.

Full of youthful decisions and text messages, First Love is good for the drama and the angst of beginning love. Some girls could identify with the identity and parental issues Savannah faces. Teens can read it also for C. Truth’s 8 Love Lessons she provides at the end of the book. Too bad she didn’t make Savannah follow any of them.

Review Scale
Plot
3 Stars
Writing
2.5 Stars
Characters
3.5 Stars
Pacing
4 Stars
That Oomph!
3 Stars
Overall: 3 Stars

Reviewed November 2013

About C. Truth

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I was born in Kansas City, KS, and raised by my Great-grandmother in Kansas City, MO. After high school I went straight to work. I spent five years with the worlds largest electronic retailer, then left the Store Assistant Manager position and enrolled the University Of North Carolina at Charlotte and began writing full-time. I have been living in Charlotte, North Carolina since 2007.

I began writing in my early years of high school. Teachers, friends and family had mentioned to me that my writing was something special, but I didn’t gain the courage in my writing until I started blogging on downelink.com, a lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgendered social networking site in 2008. The comments left on my page about the blogs gave me the inspiration I needed to complete my first five novels titled First Love, a love story; Intoxicating, an anthology of short stories; Fly Truth, an anthology of thoughts, Second Love, a continuation novel; and iEscaped, an anthology of poetry.


Abandoned Property: The Eviction Chronicles Part 2 by Kai Mann

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Publisher/Date:  Scriblical Vibez Publishing LLC, June 2013
Genre(s):  Family, Romance, Self-Love
Pages:  282
Website:  http://kai-mann.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

ABANDONED PROPERTY by Kai Mann, the sequel to 30 Day Notice, proves that losing family, money or your soul can sometimes set you on the path, for better or worse, you were destined.

30 Day Notice was Mann’s first installment in Eviction Chronicles, and it was a journal into the life of Kori Maitland. It was being literally trapped in the closet with a gun to her head that set her life in motion, leaving behind her four children to escape her boys witnessing the pain and discomfort being a lesbian trapped in a straight marriage. She knew God was steering her life to something greater. Moving from Florida to Chicago, Detroit and California, then back to Detroit, she encountered a series of trials that seriously tested her faith and sanity.

Abandoned Property continues her story, but ties in stories of five people Kori collided with on her journey, from her husband she left to the women’s she’s loved. Jerard, Darius, Jay, Layla, Karina and Coco had all in some way been discarded in some fashion, and each one’s reaction to their abandonment impacts Kori’s life.

Jerard has been left to raise four kids after Kori’s departure; Darius deals with his sexuality after his father leaves his family for drugs; Jay can’t seem to forgive her mother’s neglect; Layla is forced to begin life again after her husband skips out; Karina is facing motherhood alone; and Coco feels the ache of her mother’s rejection when she comes out at 17.

With this many characters and their separate issues, it would appear that Mann’s story would be convoluted, but that could be far from the truth. It has great focus and I could see that, just like reality, every character’s life has a unique purpose and reason for being in Property. From childhood hurts to love affairs gone wrong, their hurts are magnified and felt as the story progresses. None of these characters were cookie cutter. What Mann reveals is how their abandonments serves to either propel them forward or set them back; how each chooses to use their insecurities, daddy issues, questioning sexuality or self-doubt; and how they dump their issues onto Kori by simply leaving or staying. Some truly loved Kori; some showed their love in destructive ways.

Abandoned Property permits us to see why the people were in her life for a reason. It paints a detailed, complete picture of what Kori underwent when she moved from place to place and couldn’t find a healthy relationship. And I wanted her to find real, unconditional love. Essentially, that’s what all them were looking for. How they try to obtain it is the compelling part.

I felt like Mann really brought Kori full circle. I felt a better connection to her (although there’s still a small part of me that questions leaving her kids). The writing is more cohesive in Abandoned Property, mostly because it wasn’t all narrated by Kori as in 30 Day Notice. It’s a solid effort. Now I just need to know what’s next, Kai Mann? I wonder what the future holds for Kori, but as long as she has herself to rely on, she should be okay.

Review Scale
Plot
4 Stars
Writing
4 Stars
Characters
5 Stars
Pacing
4.5 Stars
That Oomph!
4.5 Stars
Overall: 4 Stars

Reviewed November 2013

About Kai Mann

KaiMann2013

Kai Mann grew up in Fort Myers, Florida and currently resides in Detroit, Michigan. She is the author of two novels in the Eviction Chronicles called 30 Day Notice and Abandoned Property. Kai began writing at a young age and has always wanted to write a novel but knew that meant she would need to experience life before that could happen.

Kai came to the conclusion in the latter part of 2008 that the Creator had given her a story to tell and in 2009 she started writing her first novel 30 Day Notice. That year Kai would also become an independent contract writer for Examiner.com and hold the title of Detroit’s Best Friend Examiner. In her role as an Examiner, she purposefully writes articles to incite a deeper level of thought when it comes to friendship.

In 2011 Kai published 30 Day Notice under her newly created publishing company called “Scriblical Vibez Publishing, LLC”. The name came out of a need to publish content that she believed would challenge others to think and create a vibrational change in the universe. She believed the Creator gave her the name to remind her that she was responsible to scribe biblically while creating a message type vibe.

Kai is a proud member of the Motown Writers Network where she volunteers at conferences, workshops, and assists in publishing content on the network’s site.

In 2013 she published Abandoned Property her sophomore novel. In the same year she helped to produce a DocuSeries called Out Loud in the D. While the DocuSeries is still in progress, Kai is presently working on her next project a book of poems called Living on Lafayette Street.


Sistahs Shop Talk: 11/10/13

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Introducing this new series, Sistahs Shop Talk is just random ramblings from yours truly about books, news, and views that captivate me (hopefully on a weekly basis).

One Thought…

  • black-girls-rock1#BlackGirlsRock:  I watched Black Girls Rock last Sunday on BET, and as always I felt inspired by these women who are making a difference and the encouragement it gives young women. Lord knows, girls and women of color aren’t visible enough or are only visible as negative portraits painted by media), so the show’s message is important and needed. Young girls like my 20-year-old niece, who just got her real-world job disappointment a while ago, need to know that they are special and they do have a place in this world. My only issue with Black Girls Rock is the exclusion of black lesbians. I thought it would be amazing to have Brittney Griner earn the Star Power award for accomplishments in sports (not to take anything away from this year’s winner Venus Williams). Brittney’s rise from college phenom to WNBA Phoenix Mercury player is extraordinary. Not to mention she’s unapologetically open about her sexuality and passionate about working with children in order to bring attention to the issue of bullying, particularly in the LGBT community. It would serve black girls who rock to see that sexuality is just one aspect of being comfortable in your own skin, especially those girls who identify or struggle as gay. Well, there’s always next year.

 News Snippits…

  • Kerry Washington is pregnant:  I know all you Scandal fans are excited to hear Kerry’s pregnant with a little Gladiator. Congrats to Kerry and husband Nnamdi Asomugha.
  • Young gay leaders in the workplace:  The Human Rights Campaign recently hosted the HBCU Leadership and Career Summit, which brought together an effective group of LGBT HBCU student leaders committed to developing their personal leadership and career skills. Watch video of “Generation Equality: Entering the Workforce” panel, hosted November 4 as part of HRC’s 2013 HBCU Leadership and Career Summit. (http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/hbcu-leadership-and-career-summit)

 What I’m Reading This Week…

descendantsofhagarDescendants of Hagar:  Nik Nicholson has crafted a wonderful character in Linny Remington in the Descendants of Hagar, a woman charting her own path in a small Georgia town. She doesn’t follow the conventions of living as a lady in 1914, being 21 and without a husband and kids. It’s unheard of. She’s as smart and strong as the men building houses around her and just as gentle as the women she knits with. I think I heart her. I’m a good ways in the novel and I’m trying to savor it.

Book Quote…

“Being unmarried, I’m like some eternal child, less than a man and always at odds with everybody.

Then again, may not have nothing to do with none of that. Mama was always hovering over my sisters, and I was always running behind Daddy when he what’n pulling me with ‘im. They always use to tease that he raised me like a boy, and that I would grow up to think and act like a man. They say that’s probly why I’m so stubborn and ain’t got no respect for men. I know all they know and can do all they can do, so it ain’t no place for one in my life. That bother Daddy, don’t bother me.”

– Nik Nicholson, Descendants of Hagar

Trolling for New Books…

Slippery When Wet:  Author Cairo’s latest erotica outing, Slippery When Wet, involves women-on-women action flaunted in short stories. With titles as “Juicy Fruit” and “Sweet ‘n’ Sticky”, it’s bound to be wild ride. I’ve read at story in the book already, and I must say that Cairo, a dude with 11 books under his belt, has a way with the raunchy. But it brings up the issue of can a man write good lesbian lit? I haven’t found many men who’ve quite gotten it right – well, with the exception of Terry B., author of Dancer’s Paradise. What do you think?

Visit This Website…

Sapphic Pages:  Have you checked out Sapphic Pages, a new website review for gay and lesbian books?