Maxi’s Place: Volume One by Literary Stud

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maxisplacevol1Publisher/Date: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Apr. 2014
Genre(s): Romance
Pages: 128
Website:  http://www.literarystud.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

MAXI’S PLACE (VOL. 1), a bind-up of three previously published serial e-books by Literary Stud, is mixture of love, secrets and heartbreak simmering in one spot.

Yes, just like her tagline says, the popular hangout for the Dallas lesbian crowd features “good food, good music and great drama.” But the good thing is that the drama is not over-the-top, just enough to give fantastic character development and a sense that the next volume will promise better things.

Last year, I reviewed both Rumors Ring True (Part 1) and It’s Complicated (Part 2), and found both to be engaging.

Part 1 titled Rumors Ring True mostly surrounds hostess Ava and saxophonist Bailey discreetly flirting with each other while suppressing their mutual attraction, both wary to begin a workplace romance because of prying eyes and ears. Not to mention Maxi’s Place owner Cole wants to keep her establishment drama-free – which means no employee fraternizing.

Speaking of Cole, It’s Complicated (Part 2) allows readers a glimpse at the woman who knows how to run a restaurant like a well-oiled machine – and her office like a sexual revolving door. Under Cole’s management, every employee knows their role except head chef Tasha, the only one who can dish flak (and her favorite sandwich) to Cole without consequences because they have a genuine friendship that goes beyond the doors Maxi’s Place. It also acquaints us with bartender Logan and the beautiful nightmares that haunt her after her shift is over.

In the most recent installment, The Lies We Tell (Part 3), readers get a real tour of a night a Maxi’s Place. Ava and Bailey are still in the mix, Cole and Tasha find themselves at odds and Logan is trying to get her life back on track. I won’t say anything more because it’ll give away the book’s progression, but just know that Part 3 is the best of the series.

With five strong characters, Literary Stud moves from good, to great to excellent as each installment progresses. The story is stronger, as well. Where there was too much of Ava and Bailey in the beginning, everything smooths itself out, and everyone gets equal time. Maxi’s Place (Volume 1) is a good showcase of Literary Stud’s talent, and I would love to see what she would do with a full-length novel.

[rating-report]

Reviewed April 2014

About Literary Stud

Born in the heart of Dallas, Texas, Literary Stud discovered her love of writing from an early age. Although life gets in the way from time to time, the passion of creating realistic characters and weaving attention grabbing plots drives Literary Stud to continue to perfect her craft.

A proud nerd, Literary Stud enjoys true reality television, anything Mafia related and is an avid watcher of The History Channel, Investigation Discovery and a host of other channels that educate as well as entertain. However, she is addicted to the Dallas Cowboys and the Dallas Mavericks. During their seasons, she is known for screaming at the television and having sporadic fits while watching games.


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.

[rating-report]

Reviewed March 2014

About La Toya Hankins

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.


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.

[rating-report]

 Reviewed Month 2014

About S. Stephens

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

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.


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

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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.

[rating-report]

Reviewed/Interviewed January 2014

About Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas

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.


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.

[rating-report]

Reviewed November 2013

About Kai Mann

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.


If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan

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Farizan_IfYouCouldBeMine_REV.inddPublisher/Date:  Algonquin Young Readers, Aug. 2013
Genre(s):  Young Adult, Transsexual Issues
Pages:  256
Website:  http://www.algonquinyoungreaders.com/author/sara-farizan

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

The hunger to have the girl you love is magnified tenfold in a country where women are kept covered and veiled, and same-sex love could mean your life. Sara Farizan depicts this longing in unadorned language in IF YOU COULD BE MINE, with anger and hurt expressed through Sahar, a 17-year-old Iranian girl willing to undergo a sex change to marry her best friend.

Sahar fell in love with Nasrin when they were six years old, Nasrin commanding Sahar’s heart with her bossy attitude, and now as high school seniors, it’s clear not much has changed, except the fact that Sahar no longer has her mother, who died five years prior. Her Maman was the one to whom she confessed her love for Nasrin, and was told to never speak of it again.

Yet Sahar pursued her dream girl, their love expressed in sweet kisses behind closed doors. Watching Nasrin dance to American songs while Sahar studies to get into university. Holding hands in the street (it’s considered innocent). Their secret love feels like child’s play in their fantasy world – especially after Nasrin is promised to an older wealthy suitor, a doctor no less. Sahar is heartbroken, and that’s when she gets the idea to have a sex change to stop this impending marriage from happening.

Surprisingly, sexual reassignment surgery is legal in Iran, and this is the route Sahar is willing to undergo to be with Nasrin. Her desperation is visible in the transsexual support group she visits to weigh her options, where she’s blinded the promise of what could be with Nasrin. Changing her gender is not necessarily what she wants, and who can blame her? She’s aware of the horrid way men treat women in her country, behaving by a rigid patriarchal code, but what else can she do to keep Nasrin to herself?

This is not an easy decision for Sahar, especially since she keeps her plans hidden from Nasrin, which nagged me as I read. If there’s anyone she’s supposed share everything with, it would be the girl she loves. However, it’s Sahar’s indecision (and the significant people her life) that dominate the book. A sex change is not something one can decide on a whim, especially in her case since it could create more problems than not. Not that I believe Nasrin, with her self-absorbed self, would appreciate it.

Goes to show teenage love is the strongest love (at least at the time). You’ll think you and your first girlfriend will be together forever, even when this love is trying on wedding dresses to marry someone else. Yet, Sahar has to come to this conclusion on her own. Her story graciously and truthfully captures those emotions: from giddyness, to despondency, to anger at not having the love seemingly perfect for her. However, the silver lining of Mine is that Sahar stays true to herself.

I enjoyed Farizan’s writing style in Mine – simple, profound – and creating such a brave, intelligent character like Sahar. I wonder if the author will venture revisiting Sahar in adulthood. I’m quite sure her story doesn’t end here.

Reviewed October 2013

About Sara Farizan

Sara Farizan was born on August 2, 1984 in Massachusetts. Her parents immigrated from Iran in the seventies, her father a surgeon and her mother a homemaker. Sara grew up feeling different in her private high school not only because of her ethnicity but also because of her liking girls romantically, her lack of excitement in science and math, and her love of writing plays and short stories. So she came out of the closet in college, realized math and science weren’t so bad (but not for her), and decided she wanted to be a writer. She is an MFA graduate of Lesley University and holds a BA in film and media studies from American University. Sara has been a Hollywood intern, a waitress, a comic book/record store employee, an art magazine blogger, a marketing temp, and an after-school teacher, but above all else she has always been a writer. Sara lives near Boston, has a cool sister, loves Kurosawa films, eighties R&B, and graphic novels, and thinks all kids are awesome. If You Could Be Mine is her first novel.


Soft Tsunami by Claudia Moss (Oct. 2013 Pick of the Month)

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softtsunamipotmlogoPublisher/Date: Mariposa Publications, Sept. 2012
Genre(s): Poetry
Pages: 126
Website: http://claudiamoss.webs.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Who is Claudia Moss?

I’ve been asking myself that since I read her novel, If You Love Me, Come in 2011. I was so in love with that book, the troubles of four women connected and intersected by the power of love. Its similar style to one of my all-time favorite books, Mama Day by Gloria Naylor, intrigued me to learn more about its creator.

In my discovery, I found Miss Moss, also known as the Golden Goddess to be a storyteller, a word weaver, a mama, a mentor, a radio host and most of all, a poet.

Based on her newest work, SOFT TSUNAMI, I could say she’s something of an enigma, but that wouldn’t be accurate because her poems lay out her maturity, her sensualness, her grown woman assertiveness. There’s nothing in her words that can be interpreted as meek or mild, only confidence, and that’s what I loved most about her book.

So I touch you softer than quill skimming rice paper
A message of calligraphy teasingly rough
Sighs in the taste of us
Transcribed in wetness
Before an indelicate deluge
Squirts
Across my body
To dry in dainty spots on your Soul
Touch-tethered to mine

Reading her poems, I also call her a whirlwind. There’s a flurry of emotions, sensations and passions that speak to and for any femme confident in her sexuality, and her love for the womanly form is mesmerizing. Studs, take notice of this femme form:

‘Cause you don’t know what to kiss first
her smooth sexy feet
those cheeks, Oooh those cheeks
have you humming stupid yummy tunes
about her tight crescent moons
dipped in a sepia glaze
her waist lining towards her cute kitty

Her style may scream raw, but she also can give and receive love, and is humble in its presence.

Others bow to
Wondering how we two
Share a current so rare
So true
You see, I recite her
And she–
She interprets me.

But don’t get it twisted. Just like a raging tide, Moss can batter your heart with a line so venomous, you’d wish you hadn’t crossed her.

i’m not frightened of the walkin’ away
and don’t think the way you lay the pipe is yo’ ticket to say
ladies already lined up to play
with the goddess you took for granted
like the door don’t swing both ways

Yet above all, Moss is a Lyrical Lady, her Soft Tsunami celebrating and opining the life of a woman who has is living a full life, but steady embracing what the universe continues to teach her.

Tender-hearted, sometimes I bow to tongues sharpened on the
cutting board, but I am my own unguent, my Band-Aid
against the lacerating wounds of the mouth, when I remember
I AM.
Today I live the lessons I teach.
I am untamed, free.
I do what I want to do, say what I want to say,
indiscriminately.

So this is Claudia Moss. Lover of natural hair, butches, Backwoods women, and fine literature. While her words may be slightly repetitive, with Soft Tsunami, she wants you to know whom she is. Now I can truly say I do.

Reviewed October 2013

Read the Pick of the Month Interview With Claudia Moss

About Claudia Moss

Claudia Moss is the author of two novels, Dolly: The Memoirs of a High School Graduate (her Holloway House debut, adolescent novel) and If You Love Me, Come (her latest, self-published novel). Her short fiction has appeared in a host of anthologies including Longing, Lust, and Love: Black Lesbian Stories (Nghosi Books), Gietic: Erotic Poems/Kinky Short Stories (Gia Bella & The Siren), The Lust Chronicles (e-book), The Hoot & Holler of the Owls (Hurston/Wright Publications), Purple Panties (Strebor Books), SWING!: Adventures in Swinging By Today’s Top Erotica Writers (Logical-Lust Publications), Life, Love & Lust and Her Voice: poetry (Lesbian Memoirs). Her poetry has also appeared in Venus Magazine. She is also the author of the independently published Wanda B. Wonders series, which introduces the enigmatic Everywoman, Ms. Wanda B., who is a humorous social commentary, unafraid to voice her opinions on contemporary life in shades of black and white.


Ascension: A Tangled Axon Novel by Jacqueline Koyanagi

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ascension1Publisher/Date:  Masque Books, Aug. 2013
Genre(s):  Science Fiction, Romance
Pages:  336
Website:  http://www.jacquelinekoyanagi.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

When I was 7 or 8 years old, I wanted to be an astronaut. Believing I could do anything at that age, I imagined floating among the stars and exploring our solar system. I wanted to feel weightless, unbouyed to Earth. I was also curious whether there was other human life in this big wide universe. I still do.

Reading ASCENSION: A TANGLED AXON NOVEL by Jacqueline Koyanagi is what I would imagine this would be like. In this sci-fi tale with romance mixed in, Koyanagi has created a character named Alana Quick, a dreadlocked sky surgeon in Heliodor City on the planet Orpim, whose life is fixing space ships with her aunt Lai and barely getting by. Alana’s debilitating illness, Mel’s Disorder, makes her job that much harder, but repairing these vessels are her lifeline to the sky, her first love since childhood. She always wanted to be an engineer aboard a flight crew, and when a Gartik ship with its members looking for her sister, Nova, she figures this is her chance to stow away and make the money she needs to support her and aunt and cure both of them from Mel’s once and for all.

Alana doesn’t really have much of a reason for the crew to keep her once she’s caught, since now they have another mouth to feed, but the captain — a blonde bombshell in a tank, cargo shorts, and boots — needs Alana’s sister, and only Alana knows her whereabouts. Her engineer’s locs alerts them that she knows a bit about repairing and maintaining ships, so they make room for this hitchhiker.

And the ship is crowded: we meet Ovie, the reigning ship engineer whose half-man, half-canine characteristics confound their new passenger; Dr. Helen Vasquez, better known as Slip, the medical officer ready to repair any bruises and bumps the crew will undoubtedly occur on their journey; Marre, the ship’s pilot with an interesting condition that endears her to Alana; and Captain Tev Helix, the self-assured leader of the ship’s tight-knit family. Once they allow Alana to stay, and eventually take on her sister Nova, it’s truly a full house.

Yet their target is simple, the same one Alana has when she hides in the craft’s cargo bay: invade Transliminal Solutions. The infamous corporation holds the remedy to Alana’s illness and can help others on the ship as well. Its cure-alls are known throughout the universe, but like any big business, it makes them unattainable to those without the resources to obtain them.

Alana could barely to afford the just stabilizing meds that keep her working without much pain; even with the drugs, the searing pain to her nerves can stop her from doing her life’s greatest passion – repairing space ships, making them sing again in the Big Quiet. It’s a love affair that no woman has been able to match (her ex-wife can attest to that). But being aboard the Tangled Axon might just make her think of having more than one passion in her life.

Digging into Ascension was treat for me. I haven’t read many science fiction novels, and the fact that this book has a black lesbian protagonist was a big draw. Alana is headstrong, albeit impulsive (jumping aboard an unfamiliar ship comes to mind). And for someone so into her work, she quickly fell in love with the Captain, and the romance between them is slow-building, though almost sluggishly so.

 I enjoyed each character having his/her own backstory, ones that propel the story forward, the most convincing one being Alana and sister Nova’s tenuous relationship. Siblings with a difference of what constitutes a meaningful life, they never really saw eye to eye even as children. Nova’s successful career as a spirit guide has afforded Alana the shop in which she and Aunt Lai work, but Alana has never felt respected by Nova for her choice to be a “dirtheel” playing with ships for a living. Flying though the black gives them a chance to see past their careers, air their differences and possibly heal their bond.

Koyanagi’s creativity is evident, as the sexually-fluid world in which Alana lives and the details surrounding their travels to Transliminal are not hard to follow, but being inside Alana’s head can be; she’s a classic overthinker, especially when it comes to love, but I have to admire her tenacity to fight past her disease to follow her desires – both in the sky and on the ship.

I still wish I could be in space, though. Sometimes I wonder if there are other humans out there, ones more evolved than we are. Ascension gives me taste of what it may be like.

Reviewed August 2013

four-stars

About Jacqueline Koyanagi

Jacqueline Koyanagi was born in Ohio to a Japanese-Southern-American family, eventually moved to Georgia, and earned a degree in anthropology with a minor in religion. Her stories feature queer women of color, folks with disabilities, neuroatypical characters, and diverse relationship styles, because she grew tired of not seeing enough of herself and the people she loves reflected in genre fiction. She now resides in Colorado where she weaves all manner of things, including stories, chainmaille jewelry, and a life with her loved ones and dog.


On the Come Up: A Novel, Based on a True Story by Hannah Weyer

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onthecomeupPublisher/Date:  Nan A. Talese, July 2013
Genre(s): Young Adult, Coming of Age
Pages:  320
Website:  http://www.hannahweyer.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

“It came to her just before sleep, an idea crystallizing in the dark—how maybe the size of your world ain’t what matter, whether it expand or shrink up or expand again—how maybe it was about finding your place in it. Hurdles to jump. You jump. Erase the lines, draw new ones. Chart a course and follow.”

By the time AnnMarie Walker realizes how to make her way in the world, she’d already been pregnant at 13, starred in a motion picture at 15, and fallen in love with a woman at 18. Her life had been full of accomplishments and setbacks, laughter and tears, kisses and bruises – but along the way, she never stopped dreaming.

It’s the thing I love most about AnnMarie, and it’s also the reason ON THE COME UP: A NOVEL, BASED ON A TRUE STORY is one of the most compelling books I’ve read this year.

A novel based on a true story, On the Come Up by filmmaker Hannah Weyer recounts the coming-of-age of AnnMarie, a teen embedded in a Far Rockaway, Queens housing project after being shuffled around the foster system. She’s back living with her mother, Blessed, who left Trinidad to escape her abusive relationship. Brooklyn-born AnnMarie has typical teenage hopes: making money for back-to-school clothes (Diesel jeans especially), wanting to be noticed by the older guy on the block, better known as Darius Greene. A wannabe music producer, Darius begins to flirt with AnnMarie, and she’s in love. This love manifests itself into sex with no protection, eventually leading to a baby – and of course with foolish promises of being together forever.

At her school for pregnant teens, AnnMarie spies a flyer for a movie audition. Despite being 21 weeks pregnant, she lands a lead role in a film about female friendship, and the set, the cast and the director inspire her to dream beyond Darius’ disappearing act, her mother’s disability and deal with her new life as a mother. The movie encourages her to see a world beyond the Rock as she is swept into Sundance movie premieres and sees herself on the big screen.

After her dizzying turn as an actress, reality plays a bigger role as AnnMarie raises baby Star without much help from Darius, and without a high school diploma or GED. It’s her determination that lands her a job being a home nurse, while time after time taking hard-knocks.

The harshest lessons AnnMarie learns are about love. Without a father figure, AnnMarie sees how proud Darius is to make a baby, but not enough to raise their child. He could dog her, beat her, and still want to call himself a “father,” until AnnMarie recognizes his mistreatment is not worth tolerating just so Star will have the father she never had. Surprisingly, it’s a woman who shows AnnMarie what love is, someone who actually cares about the well-being of her and Star. The kind of love AnnMarie is worthy of.

AnnMarie Walker…engaging, smart, and endearing. Those are the best words I can use to describe her. On the Come Up, I must admit, is not a book for everyone – the omission of quotation marks to indicate who’s speaking makes it hard to follow at times; the vernacular and grittiness of the characters aren’t certain folks cup of tea; and the secondary characters could be stronger. However, On the Come Up is authentic. It’s a credit to Weyer, a screenwriter whose credits include the HBO movie Life Support featuring Queen Latifah, who won a Golden Globe for her role. She’s worked with teens in the media arts for 15 years, and it’s evident. AnnMarie could have been any girl growing up in her neighborhood, but her insightfulness and fortitude is shown even from the first pages, as she’s selling her kool-aid pops and Polaroid pics near the beach, when she takes the A train to an against-odds audition, as she’s falling in love…

She thought, What the fuck you got to be afraid of. You is you. Fuck everybody and they opinion. If you love her, then you love her.
You is you.
Be happy.

Amen, AnnMarie.

Reviewed August 2013

four-stars

About Hannah Weyer

Hannah Weyer is a filmmaker whose narrative and documentary films have been screened at the Human Rights Watch and the New York film festivals and have won awards at the Sundance, Locarno, Melbourne, Doubletake, and South by Southwest film festivals. Her screenwriting credits include Life Support (2007), directed by Nelson George, which earned a Golden Globe Award for its lead actress, Queen Latifah. Weyer has worked with teens in the media arts for the past fifteen years and, along with her husband, the filmmaker Jim McKay, started an after-school film club at a public high school in Brooklyn. On the Come Up is her first novel.


The EXchange by Nikki Rashan

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Publisher/Date:  Urban Books, June 2013
Genre(s):  Romance, Drama
Pages:  272
Website:  http://www.nikkirashan.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Exes as friends…an interesting concept. There are usually two camps on this phenomenon. One says exes are exes for a reason, so why be friends; what is there to discuss after the words “It’s Over.” The other school of thought is that as long as it wasn’t a harrowing break-up and/or you were friends before you hooked up, why not be friends after.

If only Kyla and Asia decided to follow the former and not the latter, THE EXCHANGE would have played out a lot differently. Luckily, Nikki Rashan knows how to craft a story of drama with the realities of love. It’s not all pretty, though.

It’s been some years, but you might remember Kyla from Double Pleasure Double Pain as a naive 26-year-old trying to decide between her “good man” and the blossoming romance with a female classmate. Then in You Make Me Wanna, Kyla hops from bed to bed in her new home of Atlanta, until she meets the love of her life, Asia. Nine years later, love and commitment equal boredom for Kyla and Asia in The EXchange‘s onset, and instead of Kyla being honest about it, she deflects Asia’s nightly relationship quizzes and finds her excitement in her good friend Angie, who recently went through a horrible split from her own girlfriend. In case you forgot, Angie and Kyla had a sex-only relationship in You Make Me Wanna, an arrangement that ended once Asia captured Kyla’s heart. While Kyla found her happily ever after with Asia, she and “friend” Angie always kept the platonic door open; Kyla and Asia even double-dated with Angie and girlfriend, Deidre, occasionally.

Now that Angie and Deidre have called it quits, she needs Kyla’s “friendship” to fill the void. The more they spend time together, the more Kyla discovers that she never knew more about Angie other than her strap size. She’s actually very sweet and attentive — and Kyla is somewhat swayed by Angie’s special treatment. Could it be that the excitement of a new love could erase the stability of a long-standing love? Kyla is about to find out.

The EXchange is a cliffhanger of a book – one, because Kyla takes us on a crazy jaunt through whether you can truly replace something old with something new; or two, because the ending seems destined to have another installment. The back-and-forth between Kyla and Asia is a page-turner for sure. It also raises a lot of interesting questions about keeping the fires brewing in long-term relationships, and I can see The EXchange being hotly discussed in many lesbian book clubs.

Rashan’s writing is solid. The game-playing and bed-hopping also makes The EXchange a gripping story – it’s a lot fun to read; you should have heard me yelling, “No, Kyla, nooo!” when she did something foolish. But as for Kyla and Asia, they could have easily solved their boredom by something anything else other than bringing people confusion into their relationship. She appears to have grown up in the nine years since being with Asia, but she slightly regresses through much of the novel to the indecisive Kyla she was in Double Pleasure. Asia, with her shoot-from-the-hip attitude, is no walk in the park either; I could have used less of the blame game she pulled about Kyla’s past.

But she was right about one thing: that in the end, love does truly win.

Reviewed July 2013


chatlogoKyla attempts to rekindle feelings with her ex, Angie. So that brings up a though for discussion. Today’s Chat It Up question is: Can exes be friends?

You can vote in the poll, add your own answers, or leave a comment below.


Domestically Cursed: A Story on Partnership Violence by Renair Amin

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domesticallycursedPublisher/Date:  Glover Lane Press, Apr. 2013
Genre(s):  Lesbian Real Life, How to Guide
Pages:  39
Website:  http://www.renairamin.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

When your back is against the wall – figuratively and literally – in an abusive relationship, you can either sign your permission slip for the beatings to happen again or you can fight to save your life. Although it took more than one instance for her to decide which way to go, Renair Amin finally figured it out in DOMESTICALLY CURSED: A STORY ON PARTNERSHIP VIOLENCE.

Though the media would have one to believe same-sex abuse doesn’t happen or is not as dire or critical because it’s two women or two men, it is. According to lambda.org, the rates of domestic violence in same-gender relationships is roughly the same as domestic violence against heterosexual women (25%). Amin knows the devastating effects, and Dometically Cursed is her contribution to stop this epidemic…or save a life.

Domestically Cursed is Amin’s time in a relationship she knew from jump would be no good for her. She was 21, dating Chris, a woman twice her age. Amin wasn’t exactly what Chris wanted, but she tried to make it work. Her age and inexperience led her stay in an over-her-head relationship, with many nights of torture from the woman who supposedly loved her.

Hindsight being 20/20, Amin had her instincts about the relationship. Her friends expressed concern. Her mother warned her against it. Even Chris warned her, telling her, “I beat my women.” She brushed these red signs aside. Nothing could deter Amin from being with this woman. Chris’ aggressive nature drew her in, but it soon was used against her to abandon her friends, be talked down to and be beaten on a regular basis. She had signed her permission slip, so to speak, to allow it to happen, but it couldn’t continue.

This is where Amin’s story takes off. Maybe I shouldn’t use the word story because this was her life. She survives the abuse, and fortunately, realized what void Chris filled in her life to allow her stay in such a dysfunctional relationship. Any woman reading Amin’s words can place themselves in her shoes, if they haven’t already been there themselves. She conveys what an abuser really is. She also provides invaluable resources to get help for women stuck in this situation. Because there is a way out.

Amin – minister, motivational speaker, and life coach – can attest to that.

Reviewed June 2013

Read the Catching Up With… Interview with Renair Amin


The Space Our Love Demands by Kionne Nicole (Apr. 2013 Pick of the Month)

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spaceourlovedemandspotmlogo

 

 

 

 

Publisher/Date:  Resolute Publishing, Aug. 2012
Genre(s):  Romance, College Life
Pages:  207
Website:  http://www.respublishing.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Does distance really make the heart grow fonder? Or does distance lead to distraction?

That’s the test Hadiyah Matthews faces in THE SPACE OUR LOVE DEMANDS, the debut novel from Kionne Nicole.

Hadiyah is in a new city, Louisville to be exact, pursuing a graduate degree and trying to cope after a breakup with long-term girlfriend, Charity. They were together seven years, and after things went sour, they mutually decided it was better to be apart than to be miserable together. Being on her own is hard, but Hadiyah is there to get an education – until Fatma comes along.

Fatma is a distraction with a capital D. The brown beauty captures Hadiyah’s senses from the first moment they meet, and Hadiyah catches a rainbow vibe from her classmate. She might be mistaken, though. Fatma is definitely attracted; between the research and studying, they flirt and feel each other out, but is she available?

More so, is Hadiyah available? Charity is still fresh in her mind. When another opportunity presents itself in the form of Adrienne, Hadiyah is even more confused about what she wants. She wants to explore and get to know herself, and these women – as well as great friends – teach her about life and love, its pleasures and its high cost.

The Space Our Love Demands is a witty novel that touches on a few serious issues. Long-term relationships, sexuality and labels, Afrocentricity, local pussy…it’s all in there. And the supporting characters – Tee is my absolute favorite; she needs to have her own book now – only make Space better. Hadiyah’s learning curve, after being in a seven year relationship, is fast and almost makes your head spin. The good thing is she may be blinded by the women in her life, but she ultimately sees things for what they really are.

Reviewed April 2013


Hush Now by L. A. Green

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hushnowPublisher/Date: Dog Ear Publishing, LLC, Nov. 2012
Genre(s):  Romance, Historical Fiction
Pages:  216
Website:  http://www.hushnowbook.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Right now, I’m fighting the urge to sing “Go Down Moses” in honor of HUSH NOW.

Here you have two women – one a white slave owner’s daughter, the other a house slave – who fall in love but can’t be openly together because of their stations in life. Author L.A. Banks presents Rebecca Montgomery and Ruth’s star-crossed love story, and the vivid emotions this kind of affection creates.

Written with spunk and a sense of humor, Hush Now is the novel about love that speaks only in whispers and late-night Shakespeare sessions. Their attraction blossoms through their love of literature, with Rebecca happily discovering that Ruth was taught to read, a secret they both hold close. After all, Rebecca’s plantation-owning father, Grafton, is generous to his workers but recognizes that “a happy slave is money in the pocket.” She believes her father wouldn’t understand the love she has for Ruth.

Ruth has to protect herself, as well. The society she inhabits looks down on her simply because of her skin color. The consequences of loving Rebecca would be far worse for her than owner. But the closeness they feel can’t be helped. How can they ever be together when the world tells them they can’t?

A combined effort by Bonnie Lee Harrison and Gleycia Green, Hush Now is a moving story, and the full cast adds a life to this tale. But make no mistake: L. A. Green’s Hush Now will anger, frighten and enlighten you. Reading it, I felt moved by Rebecca and Ruth, but more so connected with Ruth and her dilemma. The way she was treated by some didn’t sit well with me, but with a story about blacks enslaved for monetary gain, it shouldn’t. It should make you wistful.

It also should make you believe in love – and embracing love in spite of.

Reviewed April 2013


It’s Complicated (Maxi’s Place #2) by Literary Stud

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itscomplicatedliterarystudPublisher/Date:  Amazon Digital Services, Inc., Jan. 2012
Genre(s):  Romance, E-Short
Pages:  50
Website:  http://twitter.com/literarystud

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

The Plot:  What a difference 3 months makes in IT’S COMPLICATED, the second installment of the Maxi’s Place series. Author Literary Stud gave us an intriguing sample with Rumor’s Ring True, but It’s Complicated offers much more flavor. Maxi’s Place owner, Cole, takes after her womanizing aunt for whom the restaurant is named after; her good friend and cook, Tasha, wonders why she can’t get her stud to be as ambitious Cole. Taylor tries to leave her past behind, but it continues to follow the bartender. And finally, we’re reacquainted with Bailey and Ava, still keeping their relationship under wraps, but soon realizing it’s hard to hide secrets at Maxi’s Place.

The Good:  Literary Stud does an excellent job introducing the new characters and sharing their issues, compared to the previous story that mostly focused on Bailey and Ava’s blossoming romance. This second episode delves deeper into the lives of Maxi’s Place workers and makes you wish for the next serving.

The Not-So-Good: The fact it leaves you hanging on.

The Bottom Line: Maxi’s Place is a spot you’ll want to revisit for the third time.

Reviewed April 2013