Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Read In 2013

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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?


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

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iamyoursister2-2Publisher/Date:  EKS Books, Apr. 2013
Genre(s):  Romance, Religious, Family, Stud’s Point of View
Pages:  287
Website:  http://www.ekfsimpson.com

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Forgiveness. An 11-letter word whose concept is hard to give and even harder to do.

It is also Symone Holmes’ Achilles heel, and the emotional theme flowing through Ericka K. F. Simpson’s I AM YOUR SISTER: SEASON 2. The college basketball star is all grown up in the sequel to the previous I am Your Sister, but she learns life gets harder out of school and off the court.

At the novel’s start, Symone has a female b-baller’s dream: she’s the top draft pick for the WNBA,  about to graduate college, and considering forever with the love of her life, Regina. Nothing could make the point guard happier. Then she gets a phone call that her mother has had a stroke – and it brings her unhappy history with her mother front and center.

The relationship between Symone and her mother Paula became rocky the summer before her sophomore year in high school when it was “discovered” that Symone liked girls. Through flashbacks, a flood of painful memories continue to haunt Symone, reliving her mother practically disowning her. Paula refused to acknowledge her daughter’s lesbianism, and their bond disintegrated to zero contact. Moving on with her life, it took being away at school for Symone to put the past behind her but she never forgave her mother or herself.

This guilt takes its toll on her relationship with Regina in ways Symone didn’t realize. It’s the answer to why she is never able to fully open up. Why she feels she couldn’t bring Regina home to her family. Why never she allows Regina to share in her past hurts. Really, Symone could blame her generational curse for her inability to share her emotions, passed on from the male elders in her family, but she knows she can’t rely on excuses when both her mom and her future wife need her. It’s time to truly play ball, and this time, she needs this victory to heal her heart.

I’ve mentioned before that I am Your Sister is one of my favorite books, mainly because Symone is such a complex character. Simpson puts her everything into Symone, and after reading her memoir, Living With 3 Strikes (which you should definitely pick up), I understand how Simpson is inspired by her own experiences in IAYS2. This gives Symone the touch of realism that I’ve come to expect from this writer.

Symone is deeply-drawn, far from perfect, and trying on her adulthood with the help of God. She doesn’t pretend to be something she’s not and doesn’t apologize for whom she is. There’s also a down-home appeal to this Virginia-reared stud, one I found refreshing.

I am Your Sister 2 does have its minor flaws –  the ending left me flabbergasted – but between the laughter and the “wows” I had while reading convinced me that I will always have a soft spot for Symone Holmes.

Now I’m ready for another season.

Reviewed May 2013


Living With 3 Strikes Against Me: Life Through My Eyes as Black, Female and Gay by Ericka K. F. Simpson

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livingwith3strikeslesbianrealife

 

 

 

 

Publisher/Date:  Amazon Digital Services, Inc., Aug. 2012
Genre:  Lesbian Real Life
Pages:  149
Website:  http://www.ekfsimpson.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

After authoring countless novels, such as the outstanding I Am Your Sister, Ericka K. F. Simpson has finally written her own life story in LIVING WITH 3 STRIKES: LIFE THROUGH MY EYES AS BLACK, FEMALE AND GAY.

The messages Simpson imparts descend from her reactions and responses to life experiences. She started writing Living when she was 23 and was still learning her way in the world. Now she’s summoned the courage and confidence to be herself and share this knowledge with others.

Simpson has a testimony. Growing up in a religious household, it didn’t feel right having crushes on girls. She tried to deny it by dating guys, but it was a losing battle. What she felt was real. Denying it and carrying the pain literally made her sick, developing stage 3 colon cancer; stress and anger from trying to please others festered into a tumor that could have killed her. Only then did Simpson begin to live for herself.

Living is divided into seven categories, ones that talk about her early life, love, women, religion and parental controls; a section of Simpson’s poetry is included, as well. These segments provide insight into the author, who displays a maturity that should rub off on younger black lesbians.

Simpson offers these gems:

Love: “Trust me, there is someone out there who will appreciate you for who you are. They will love you the way you need to be loved and most of all, they will fight for that love. Wait for that person, wait for that moment, wait for that kind of love then you fight to keep it.”

Sex: “The point I’m trying to make is this, whether you have good pussy or bad pussy, clean or raunchy, give good head or no head, you’re offering something that all women have the ability to provide. And your pussy being ‘well used’ don’t make it better than most.”

Religion:My point is, for those of you who are gay and love God, worship Him anyway. Don’t let the church make you feel ashamed to love God and someone of the same sex. People do not know your heart but God does and He’ll know if the relationship you have with him is real.”

If you read Living With 3 Strikes Against Me and take it in, you will be blessed with information and humor that you can apply to your life. It’s said that God places people in your life for a reason, and Simpson’s story is definitely not in vain.

Reviewed December 2012


Jazzy Ladies Productions by Ericka K. F. Simpson

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jazzyladiesproductionsPublisher/Date:  Xlibris Corp., Dec. 2011
Genre(s):  Romance, Suspense
Pages:  576
Website:  http://www.ekfsimpson.com

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Remember Alice’s much-hyped chart used on The L Word to graph relationships between her friends and the women they knew?

In reading Ericka K. F. Simpson’s latest novel, JAZZY LADIES PRODUCTIONS: NOTHING IS AS SWEET AS IT LOOKS, it needs its own chart to keep up with all the characters and storylines.

And you will want to track every single hookup or association in Simpson’s ambitious work, cause it’s just that engrossing.

First, begin with Dionne, an open mic poet who has several female admirers and desires a real relationship; her best friend, Vincent, a hardcore playboy who can’t give up the women even for the one he really wants; and Dionne’s live-in, college-age niece following in her aunt’s lesbian footsteps.

Then there’s Logan, the MC at Dionne’s open-mic events, who has her own crew: the forever funny Beverly, rowdy realtor Logan, and conflicted Sonja torn between two women.

And finally, Lena, a Virginia teen taken in by her aunt, Vanessa, after her father and grandmother pass away. Her older cousins, Gabby and Mercedes, show her the ropes as sorority girls and help her acclimate to Middle Georgia life.

In the center of all these connections are Jazmine and Karen, life partners and owners of Jazzy Ladies Productions, a local lesbian entertainment company. They host the open mic nights that Dionne performs at, that Logan hosts, and that bring all the ladies (and Vincent) together in love, sex and friendship. But Karen and Jaz – with pasts to run from – also have more sinister links to one character in particular.

Can you guess which one?

At 576 pages, Simpson’s Jazzy Ladies Productions is a big but pleasurable read. The pages fly by as you get into each plot, and you’ll want to see how all the ends tie together.

Simpson, as always, captivates.

Reviewed June 2012


Making Our Difference by Ericka K. F. Simpson

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makingourdifferencePublisher/Date:  EKS Books, Dec. 2009
Genre(s):  Romance, Family, Marriage
Pages:  184
Website:  http://www.ekfsimpson.com

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Monogamy isn’t easy. MAKING OUR DIFFERENCE, by Ericka K. F. Simpson, does it brilliantly.

In her third novel and the sequel to In Fear of Losing You, four lesbian couples deal with the ups and downs of monogamy and marriage, illness and faith, and parenthood. The women, united in genuine friendship, are bonded as family also because of the way the world perceives their sexuality.

If you remember Sweets from In Fear, she was the optimistic romantic. Now in new relationship with Janet, a single mother, she has the love she longed for. But as they get closer, Janet struggles with her sexuality while Sweets is left waiting for the woman of her dreams. Will Janet ultimately see that Sweets is the one?

Kat, a reformed player, has settled down with Cheyenne and made a success of her company, The Whole of Delaware. As she builds the 24-hour sports and activities center into a franchise, can she and Cheyenne truly have it all?

Happiness has shed its graces on Lex and wife Ayanna, their life almost perfect with one child and a new baby on the way, until Lex is diagnosed with cancer. Is their love strong enough to carry them through this rough time, especially with Lex’s family in opposition to their marriage?

Lastly, Genius and Ciara had a playful connection before, and are trying to make it exclusive. Will Genius trust her heart to Ciara, who’s been with several before (including Kat)?

Simpson weaves an excellent yarn in Making Our Difference with a well-drawn cast. God plays a big role in their lives, as well, an aspect that blends nicely (not doggedly) with the plot. The alternative ending is also great touch. The only negative in Difference is the excessive clothing descriptions.

That being said, Simpson nails the characters, and that makes all the difference.

Reviewed February 2011


I Am Your Sister by Ericka K. F. Simpson

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iamyoursisterPublisher/Date:  Xlibris Corporation, May 2003
Genre(s):  College Life, Religious, Romance
Pages:  276
Website:  http://www.publishedauthors.net/e_factor

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Symone shook her head and stated, “Black lesbian love has just has no place anywhere.”

“Yes, it does,” corrected Regina. “With one another.”

And it also has an excellent place in I AM YOUR SISTER, the first novel by Ericka K. F. Simpson. The author has created a brave and genuine protagonist in Symone Holmes, the 18-year-old student athlete and entrepreneur.

A basketball phenom, Symone is graduating high school at the novel’s onset and has the world at her fingertips. The top b-ball player in the country, her accomplishments allow the star to have her pick of colleges to choose from. Symone ultimately chooses an athletic scholarship Marian University, not exactly the most notable school in the country, but a small school that will allow her to shine and leave her hometown in Virginia, where she has had more than of her share of trials.

Not one to hide her sexuality, Symone came out to her parents to disastrous results. Her mother practically disowned her, and she moved out on her own at 16. During her crisis, she turned to the Lord, hoping He would guide her through the pain and could help her understand her sexuality. He, along with girlfriend Kidera, has been her rock, whom she turned to in times of need. Through him, she truly believes that “being in love, regardless of who it was, was not wrong.” And she has no problem explaining that to the world.

Especially at Marian. When Symone arrives at the school, she quickly makes friends a few of her teammates, including fellow sistahs Jasmine, Christina and Deborah. Their color forms a kinship of sorts — until Symone’s teammates find out she’s a lesbian. Some of the once-friendly women shun her. Others pick fights. Her car is vandalized. Through these actions, Symone realizes she only has herself and shuts anyone down who gets too close. Except for Regina.

Regina finds a way to befriend Symone, despite what others have done. She allows Regina into her family life and love life, especially after her romance with Kidera goes sour. The attraction is there between them, but Symone doesn’t want to let Regina have the one thing that has been broken time and time again: her heart.

Marian University is a new start for Symone, but can she handle the pressure of everything that comes with growing up?

Simpson’s I Am Your Sister is outstanding, a great piece of work that combines love and basketball, sexuality and religion. The author really knows her stuff on and off the court, as the b-ball scenes kept my attention (and I am not the sports type at all). What made it so superb was that you really connected with Symone on a more personal level, and got to know her triumphs and struggles with every page. Her connection with the Lord was one every lesbian questioning her sexuality has had, and it allowed you to endear Symone as a great character. I couldn’t put it down.

I now have a new favorite book–and new favorite author, as well.

Reviewed June 2006


In Fear of Losing You by Ericka K. F. Simpson (Mar-Apr. 2006 Pick of the Month)

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infearoflosingyouPublisher/Date:  Publish America, Nov. 2005
Genre:  Romance
Pages:  240
Website:  http://www.publishedauthors.net/e_factor

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Commitment-phobia never read so good as in Ericka K. F. Simpson’s IN FEAR OF LOSING YOU, where good friends Kelly “Sweets” Owens and Katrina “Kat” Stanton are two 20-something soft studs looking for love in all the wrong places and coming up empty. However their reasons why are completely different.

Sweets is the optimistic romantic, a person who falls in love with just about every woman she meets. Overcompensating for the mistakes made with her ex Lisa, Sweets’ is determined to meet the right woman who will complement her life. Instead, she runs into chickenheads who have no problem breaking her heart. After several disappointing chances at love, Sweets still thinks God will bring her the one who will truly love her.

Kat, on the other hand, won’t let love destroy her. The ambitious businesswoman finds her pleasure in as many women as possible and subjects them to her “rules before engagement” terms. She only indulges in her flings for about six weeks–her breaking point. After that she moves from the ex to the next, never getting too close to anybody. Even when she thinks she has a chance at happiness with a beautiful femme, she pushes it out of her life, refusing to show love as her weakness.

Both women are smart, successful, and charismatic, but love is not their strong suits. They have a lot to learn about being true to themselves and their hearts.

In Fear of Losing You is a great book, and Simpson is a wonderful storyteller. The trials of these two women will consume you, and the colorful cast of characters adds a unique flavor to the novel. I was engaged at every page. Simpson handles the plot smoothly, and taking control of her grammatical errors would make the book better. However the story is a winner, and one every black lesbian should have on her shelf.

Reviewed March-April 2006