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.


Letters to My Bully edited by Ifalade Ta’Shia Asanti and Azaan Kamau

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Publisher/Date:  Lulu, Aug. 2012
Genre(s):  Life Guide, Self-Help
Pages:  180
Website:  http://gloverlanepress.webs.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

“And in between the Silence, Listen to the Voice that whispers,
You’re good. Overcome.”

Somber and bittersweet, LETTERS TO MY BULLY edited by Ifalade Ta’Shia Asanti and Azaan Kamau is an uplifting work.

It documents letters, essays and poetry written by authors to their tormentors, usually their peers or loved ones, with the purpose of showing teens and adults that they are not alone and with time, life does get better. The 35 authors featured in Letters, including CSI: Miami actor Robert LaSardo, have been beaten, humiliated, tortured, but in spite of what they endured, they still impart positive messages, and prove that the best revenge is living well.

As noted in Letters, their harassment was due to any number of reasons bullies chose to focus on: sexuality, skin color, weight, intelligence, socio-economic status, etc. It also paints abuse at the hands of family members and lovers, turning their homes into haunted houses in the one place that’s supposed to be safe.

Letters shows another side to bullying in that the abused, without an outlet for their pain, can as easily turn their hurts onto someone else, using their clenched hands and sharp words to give love and hate. It’s a vicious cycle that must stop.

One specific thing I took from Letters is that as the adults, we are the ones who can lessen or end bullying. How we treat others starts at home, and our children learn most from what we teach and what they see from us. Beyond saying it gets better, how about we make it better. Show them they are more than what some bully says or does to them. Most of the former victims felt helpless and wondered, why me, and at the same time, wanted love more just as much as being rescued. When 160,000 bullied children miss school every day and bullying is the number one cause of suicide for 11-16 year olds, something has to be done.

Letters is what editors Asanti (The Bones Do Talk) and Kamau (Stiletto), accomplished authors and poets both with numerous titles, wanted to contribute to this epidemic. Kamau is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Glover Lane Press, which also published the co-edited Tapestries of Faith: Black SGLBT Stories of Triumph, Family, Love & Healing. The book’s flow was nicely paced and included statistics about bullying. The only weak spot was that some of the poetry didn’t grab me as much as the personal essays.

I’d recommend Letters to teens and adults, especially to in need of healing from their pasts. The most powerful message sent from Letters is that each one survived. There’s a great energy and almost small appreciation to what they went through to prove that anyone can overcome.

YOU DID NOT WIN. I am a fat lesbian (albeit a slimming one as I lose the need for protection) who loves herself and doesn’t give a damn what anyone says about her state of being. I love my body and love my experience of love as a lesbian. I am no longer trapped in the coffin of your bullying and while I do not believe good comes because of evil, I believe good comes despite evil. The good that came for me despite your evil words and deeds is that I am stronger, more vocal, more attentive and more resistant than I used to be, or than I ever guessed I would be.

Reviewed October 2013


BrookLyn’s Journey by Coffey Brown

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brooklynsjourneyncodPublisher/Date: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, June 2012
Genre(s): Young Adult, Coming of Age, Identity
Pages: 258
Website: http://www.coffeybrownbooks.com

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

There were times reading BROOKLYN’S JOURNEY by Coffey Brown I didn’t quite know what to feel.

On one hand, it’s an affecting story about 18-year-old BrookLynn Scott living an abusive home. On the other hand, the unlikely love story surrounding her and Gabriella Michaels is almost like an fanciful fairy tale, because Gabby saves her in a way BrookLyn never thought possible – with unconditional love.

Growing up with a belt-swinging father and a snitch of a mother caring only to save herself, Brooklyn is trapped in her own house. She is the baby of the family, her brother and sisters long escaped, and her goal is to excel in high school so she can attend college far away from her parents. Since she wasn’t allowed out except to go to school or church, no parties and definitely no boys, her plan seemed attainable.

It also seems like fate when she runs into Gabby, and her church mate uses this chance to finally be with dream girl BrookLyn. As Gabby confesses her affection for the quiet girl in the choir and asks for her trust, BrookLyn imagines a life free of pain. With an inheritance and her own home at 19, Gabby woos BrookLyn with promises of love, protection and most of all, normal teenage experiences. In every step of their relationship, it appears impossible that BrookLyn has found someone who will love her, scars and all, but she holds on tight to this impossibility – because if not, what else does she have left?

I applaud Brown for the message she sends with BrookLyn’s Journey, because the questioning BrookLyn has about her sexuality is authentic to what some teenagers face when they’ve been sheltered and discover their first attraction to the same sex. Her portrayal of the horrid emotions of child emotional and physical abuse, as unfortunate as it sounds, was too real. I wanted BrookLyn to leave this house or to have someone, her older siblings especially, to take her away from her awful excuse for parents. No one would save the studious girl who missed days at school so her bruises wouldn’t be noticed.

Yet when that someone comes in the form of Gabby, I was skeptical at first. With everything BrookLyn’s been through, I didn’t want to see her hurt again, and I couldn’t wrap my mind around how quickly they fell for each other, more so Gabby. She is totally in love with BrookLyn, and I think being in her situation, BrookLyn was grabbing on to any life preserve she could find.

But the one thing I love about BrookLyn is that she’s resilient; she may not know what love is, but she surely knows what love isn’t. And that’s what she sees in Gabby – someone who won’t hurt her again. That kind of love is powerful, and I wish every child, neglected or not, has someone – whether a parent, teacher, aunt or uncle, best friend or significant other – she can receive that kind of love from.

There are other things about BrookLyn’s Journey – the sometimes awkward dialogue, the plausibility of the love affair – that I question, but Brown does a decent job giving BrookLyn a voice that teenagers will undoubtedly relate to and cheer for.

Reviewed October 2013

About Coffey Brown

Stacey Pierce aka Coffey Brown was born and raised in Orange County, New York. She graduated from the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Fairleigh Dickinson University and New York University. She has been a social worker for almost twenty years. Stacey will be publishing fiction and non-fiction books in various genres hence the pen name. However, she will be using the pen name for LGBT fiction. She recently relocated to the Charlotte area with her partner of fourteen years. BrookLyn’s Journey is her first novel, followed by The Awakening of Graye Moon.


Dying to Live by Harmonie Reigns

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dyingtolivePublisher/Date:  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Mar. 2013
Genre(s):  Abuse, Drama, Romance
Pages:  224
Website:  http://harmoniereigns.wix.com/harmonie#!

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Why is it that everyone can see the signs but you? Or do you see and ignore the red flags?

Is it cute how she dotes on you, asks you when you’ll be home, always wants to know your constant whereabouts? Or is it suffocating but you don’t know the way out?

Can she make love to you like no other, toe-tingling, mind-blowing sex that tells you just how much she loves you? Or is that just the calm before the storm, or it’s to make up for the blows she sent to your face earlier?

It was all those things and more for Naomi Harris in DYING TO LIVE,  the newest novel from Harmonie Reigns. Naomi is pursued by the charming Sheena at the party of one of best friends, and soon after is enamored of the way she’s treated by the soft stud in the beginning of their relationship. (What she should have done was take stock of how pushy Sheena was in pursuing her at the party.)

Of course, Sheena has her game-face on, sending flowers, cards, candy and jewelry to her office, making Naomi the envy of her friends. It was charming how attentive Sheena is, popping up at work to take her to lunch or to see Naomi’s beautiful face, but Naomi begins to feel suffocated by the attention. And she realizes she’s spending less and less time with her loved ones, her family and group of five best friends: Lynzi, Tina, Star, Dena, and Zela.

Of the five, Zela is one who recognizes Naomi’s predicament and knows something ain’t right with Sheena. She sees the signs of an abusive relationship, because she’s been there. Naomi knows it, too, but writes off Sheena’s behavior as “caring.” “She just doesn’t want to lose me.” “Maybe I was wrong.” Anything to justify Sheena’s atrocious behavior.

Yet after cracked ribs, a broken nose and being cheated on, Naomi finally has enough — and that’s when the real game begins for Sheena. She always told Naomi that if she couldn’t have her, no one else will. And she means it. Which also means that Naomi is in a fight to get her life back, even if she has to take one in the process.

Dying to Live is a very involved book, one that portrays the fallout of an abusive relationship and what it does not only to a woman’s pyche, but how it affects the woman’s family and friends. Naomi is lucky she has a big support system, as some battered women do not. Naomi’s friends, who each have a personality all her own, added life to a story made somber by the dark subject matter. Dying can be a tad melodramatic at times and the writing could be tighter, but Reigns deftly details the emotions and thoughts of a battered woman trying to put her life back together.

Reviewed July 2013


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


A Little Sumthin’ Sumthin’ by Imani True

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alittlesumthinsumthinPublisher/Date:  NCM Publishing, Feb. 2012
Genre:  Romance
Pages:  220
Website:  http://www.truerrotica.blogspot.com

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

The Plot: Tired of his manhandling ways, Fatima Strong leaves her husband of more than 20 years in A LITTLE SUMTHIN’ SUMTHIN’ by Imani True. Though Malcolm used to be sweet as pie, his brutal demands push her to finally choose herself. In doing so, she flourishes career-wise and meets Xiomara, everything Malcolm is not – loving, kind and generous. However, when he catches wind of his ex-wife’s new love, someone is going to pay dearly.

The Good: True’s book is fast paced and pretty straightforward. The writing is okay, suggesting a great moral: know your truth.

The Not-So-Good: As I said, the writing is okay, but the timeline between Fatima leaving Malcolm and getting with Xiomara is sketchy at best. The sex scenes could be hotter, as well. If the re-worked and edited better, Sumthin’ could be a much better novel.

The Bottom Line: Grab A Little Sumthin’ Sumthin’ as quick afternoon read.

Reviewed June 2012


Accept the Unexpected by L. Cherelle

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accepttheunexpectedPublisher/Date:  Resolute Publishing, May 2011
Genre:  Romance
Pages:  216
Website:  http://www.respublishing.com

Rating: ★★★★½ 

I wish more black lesbian relationships operated with the reality found between the covers of ACCEPT THE UNEXPECTED.

The truth may have come at the wrong time, but the sentiment was not lost on Keleya Smith.

Author L. Cherelle’s debut novel skillfully portrays the fallout from Keleya’s failed relationship as she slowly nurtures a new one.

Keleya and Kris were in a long-term relationship when Keleya asks Kris to leave their home after discovering some incriminating texts. She’s devastated to lose her lover of four years, yet has plenty to occupy her time. Her job, hobbies, and most especially, her colorful family and friends keep her mind off Kris.

Then another distraction comes in the form of Jordan, whom she’s set up with by a mutual friend. The brown-skinned, handsome stud’s looks and personality entice Keleya, but she wisely gets to know Jordan little by little, instead of instantly hopping into bed. She enjoys Jordan’s laid-back demeanor and wants to be sure before giving her body and her heart away again.

It’s uncomplicated with Jordan – getting over Kris is not. Keleya can admit to herself that there’s still some baggage left with her old flame, and she’s trying hard not to entangle Jordan in the healing of her old wounds. Can her heart make room for Jordan?

Moving on from a long-time love and starting something new is neither simple, nor painless. But L. Cherelle builds a character that reveals her baggage, accepts the way things are, and gets to know herself at the same time. I also admired Keleya’s dedication to her family and friends, who pluck her last nerves. Keleya is a great character, and L. Cherelle does a great job with the entire Unexpected cast.

The ending, though obvious, was deeply satisfying. The honesty rang true.

Like I said, I wish more black lesbians would do the same.

Reviewed January 2012


Dream Team by Jaden Kelley

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Publisher/Date:  dreamteamLulu.com, Apr. 2010
Genre:  Contemporary Romance
Pages:  168
Website:  http://www.writerwarrior.org

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Abuse of any kind should never be tolerated. DREAM TEAM by author Jaden Kelley is proof of this – but it’s also shows there is a way out.

Heroine Anecia LeCroix is in this precarious situation with partner Teri Reynolds. Anecia’s story is told two years later through therapy sessions, recanting from the time she first met dashing architect Teri at a charity event. As in the beginning of most abusive relationships, everything between Anecia and Teri is perfect. Anecia, an assistant district attorney, begins to imagine their lives blending together – but never envisioning nights where she hands would choke or backslap her. After each angry outburst, Teri does and says all the right things – like proposing marriage – to keep Anecia happy.

Jordan, Teri’s best friend and co-worker, is a witness to the bullish behavior she inflicts upon her employees and to Anecia, so she becomes a shoulder for Anecia to lean on.

When Teri finds out, all hell breaks loose. Anecia recognizes her only option is to leave, but it’s much easier said than done, especially as she falls harder for Jordan.

Dream Team tells of a woman’s painful past with the one she loved. While the writing could use some editing, the plot is good. Kelley can definitely tell a story, and I’m looking forward to more.

Reviewed January 2012