Favorite SOTS Books Read in 2015

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While there weren’t any reviews posted at Sistahs on the Shelf in 2015, I definitely was reading last year. So I present to you my favorite SOTS books read in 2015:

undertheudalatrees1.     Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta
If done well, coming-of-age stories can make you fall in love, cry, and root for the protagonist’s journey into adulthood. Under the Udala Trees was that book for me in 2015. Tenderly written, this is the book that captured my emotions in the most heartbreaking way. Set during the Biafran War in late 1960s Nigeria, Udala Trees is a narrative that’s been done before – a young woman coming to terms with her sexuality – but Okparanta conveys Ijeoma’s life so beautifully and effortlessly as she loses her family to the war, braves the first plucks of love and being exposed, and suffers a life she’s made to want. Yet there is a small glimmer of hope in the pages – it just doesn’t come easy. (Read our 5-star review of her previous work, Happiness Like Water.)

 

lestales2.     Les Tales by Skyy, Nikki Rashan and Fiona Zedde
Hands down, the best short story collection I’ve read in quite some time, Les Tales is just that good. But why shouldn’t it be? Here you have three popular authors of black lesbian fiction writing about forbidden love, stories that are fully fleshed, captivating and give you feel after feel. (You might have seen me squealing in some instances…shhh). Skyy’s romance sets up the magic of the book, while Rashan’s plot involves a twisted but intriguing turn of events, but Zedde’s story – girl! –had my hormones all over the place. Zedde does what she does brilliantly – create extremely beddable love interests that you wish you could meet in real life. Overall, Les Tales contains hot sex scenes and striking characters. It only makes me sad that Nikki Rashan produced one her finest works in this collection, and she’s no longer with us.

 

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3.     For Sizakele by Yvonne ‘Fly’ Onakeme Etaghene
This was a debut novel that took me by surprise. For Sizakele is about NYU sophomore Taylor, an immigrant transplanted to the US as a young child, fighting to preserve her Nigerian culture in a world that overlooks the immigrant experience. She’s also struggling with girlfriend, Lee, mostly because of Taylor’s bisexuality, a serious point of contention between them. When Taylor befriends fellow Nigerian student Sy, she shares the pangs of her hot-and-cold romance, as well as the familiarity of their native land. It’s a connection she gravitates toward, in the midst of trying to figure out where she and Lee are headed and how best to live her life. For Sizakele is for anyone who’s survived a painful breakup, who questions whether love is enough, and whether the past can truly be healed. Etaghene also deftly portrays of the LGBT immigrant experience in America, something sorely needed in literature.

 

 

4.     The Rules by S. Renee Bessrulesthebess
Both a mystery and a discourse in black lesbian authorship, The Rules is truly engaging. It’s the kind of book that throws a lot at you, but makes you think. Protagonist London Phillip’s anguish to find missing lesbian author Milagros Farrow makes for a compelling, character-driven story in the way that Bess is so good at. In any good thriller, there are the good guys, the bad girls and the one whose good intentions go horribly wrong. If you enjoy mature romance and themes, The Rules definitely fits the bill.

 

 

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5.     Jam on the Vine by LaShonda Katrice Barnett
Jam on the Vine is a remarkable piece of historical fiction following Ivoe Williams from a precocious 5-year-old girl with a thirst for knowledge in the Jim Crow South to a woman launching the first female-run African American newspaper with lover Ona in Kansas City in 1919. The toils and triumphs Ivoe faces in the creation and distribution of her publication, named Jam! On the Vine, are the bread-and-butter of Bennett’s well-researched novel. She captures the strength black women employ to be heard and respected in one of the country’s most volatile times. While at times Jam moves densely toward Ivoe’s future endeavors, her family is richly drawn, and the love story is energetic.

southerncomfort6.     Southern Comfort by Skyy
Her first full-length novel since the acclaimed Choices series ended in 2013, Skyy had a lot riding on Southern Comfort. She conquered that hurdle in creating the love long-distance love affair between British bred Willow and Tennessee native Katrina. The book jet sets between London and Memphis as the pair navigate a relationship and friendships from differing coasts. The result is good fun – even when drama rears its head as it tends to do in Skyy’s books. Based on Southern Comfort, I’m excited to see where she goes next.

 

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7.   All or Nothing by J. L. Dillard
An invigorating, empowering rompfest best describes All or Nothing, the first installment in J.L. Dillard’s The Pleasure Principle series. Sideline reporter AJ Arenas’ story begins when her engagement ends, and she decides to shed her good girl image – involving a dose of threesomes, secrets and, just maybe, love. AJ’s astounding to watch: her confidence and pursuit of her desires, be it woman or man, without hurting anyone. And I found her rendezvous with women to be hotter than fish grease. With All or Nothing, prepare to be pleased.

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8.     This Time by Monique Thomas
Monique Thomas writes everyday love stories, the kind that feel familiar and whose characters that could be your real-life friends. This Time is no different. When former roommates and one-time lovers Nina and Trish are reunited by a set up, the women’s’ drunken night together evokes the hurtful memories that haunted their years of no contact. Their road to forgiveness is so genuine and real. It’s a happily ever after worth the emotions it puts you through. This Time also features one of my favorite lines all year: “Just so you know I’m not a piece of guaranteed ass.”

 

nototherwisespecified9.     Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz
The synopsis of Not Otherwise Specified depicts main character Etta to a tee: she’s a black, bisexual, bulimic, former ballet dancer who feels she doesn’t fit anywhere in her small Nebraska town. All of this could make Etta an utter mess, but she’s simply a teenager trying to find her way. Etta’s insecurities and struggles at 17 are what label her endearing because despite her shortcomings she’s very self-aware. At that age all you want is to do is find your place and friends who love you for you. I loved Etta; I rooted for her so much. There hasn’t been a character quite like Etta in young adult fiction, and I hope voices like hers get more exposure in 2016.

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10.     Azure BLU: The Royal Saga by Feral Kitty

The continuing saga originating from 2012’s Royal BLU, Azure BLU is pure drama from beginning to end. It’s hopeful that the characters, Royal especially, have learned from their mistakes and matured as women. Some have, and some haven’t (I’m looking at you Royal). But I guess it’s all about growing up and learning what it takes to be in an adult relationship. Hopefully by Book 3, it’ll take effect; until then one can enjoy the flurry of these hookups.


Books 2 Check Out – October 2014

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

3 Degrees of Separation (The Crave Collection Book 2) by Natalie Simone

Jayne is a beautiful and ambitious vixen who still sees people as disposable. She works at a prestigious law firm and is months away from passing the bar. She is dating Damien, who wants her to be his woman. Jayne couldn’t care less about what he wants as long as he stays cool about her occasional hookups with women and stops pressuring her for a relationship.

Tramaine is good-looking, established, and the biggest player in Atlanta. Her heart was broken once, and she has taken steps to ensure that it never happens again. Jayne meets Tramaine, who quickly becomes her new best friend. They are attracted to each other, but Jayne likes her women in boy shorts—not boxers—and Tramaine already has her hands full.

Candice is hardworking and the ultimate wifey. Too bad she’s living with Tonya, who smokes and drinks all day while pretending to look for a job. Tonya is up to something, and if Candice finds out, it could destroy their relationship.

These women are all connected because in the glamorous world of women who love women in Atlanta…there are only three degrees of separation.

Delve into the other side of desire!

Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay

A collection of essays spanning politics, criticism, and feminism from one of the most-watched young cultural observers of her generation, Roxane Gay.

“Pink is my favorite color. I used to say my favorite color was black to be cool, but it is pink—all shades of pink. If I have an accessory, it is probably pink. I read Vogue, and I’m not doing it ironically, though it might seem that way. I once live-tweeted the September issue.”

In these funny and insightful essays, Roxane Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman (Sweet Valley High) of color (The Help) while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years (Girls, Django in Chains) and commenting on the state of feminism today (abortion, Chris Brown). The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture.

Bad Feminist is a sharp, funny, and spot-on look at the ways in which the culture we consume becomes who we are, and an inspiring call-to-arms of all the ways we still need to do better.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Jacqueline Woodson, one of today’s finest writers, tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse.

Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.

Praise for Jacqueline Woodson:
Ms. Woodson writes with a sure understanding of the thoughts of young people, offering a poetic, eloquent narrative that is not simply a story . . . but a mature exploration of grown-up issues and self-discovery.”—The New York Times Book Review

Desire at Dawn by Fiona Zedde (the sequel to Every Dark Desire)

Recently turned from human to vampire, Kylie wants nothing to do with her new life or with the clan that claims her. She certainly wants nothing to do with her mother, Belle, who is completely infatuated with her vampire wife and clan leader.

To escape her unwanted existence, Kylie befriends a human, Olivia, who has been abandoned by her family. But unknown to Kylie, someone is watching her. An enemy has targeted her as the perfect way to destroy her clan. While battling this enemy, Kylie also grapples with the surprising desires she feels for the human. Desires that she’d once seen as wicked and wrong.

Fighting for her life, Kylie must confront both the assassins and the beast within her that would do anything to keep her loved ones safe.

Let the Lover Be by Sheree L. Greer

Functional alcoholic Kiana Lewis is looking for a way out. Running away from the memories of her mother’s horrific death and her own dead-end existence, she decides to crash her ex-lover’s New Orleans wedding and put a stop to the whole thing. She arrives in the Big Easy to reclaim her old love, and hopefully, reclaim her own life.

Her plans are disrupted when she meets Genevieve Durand, a seductive and spiritual New Orleans native who challenges Kiana’s skewed sense of resolve and control. Spending time with Genevieve, just like drinking, offers Kiana moments of escape. But unlike the numbing effect of alcohol, the intoxicating Genevieve makes Kiana feel and think about things she’d rather not, like the death of her mother and the destructive ways she uses to cope.

On the brink of losing it all, Kiana must decide if she will reach for the next drink or if she’ll reach beyond herself to finally slay the demons driving her since childhood.

Pieces of Her by A. C. Mims

On the outside, Naima seems to have the Rainbow Family dream. She and her wife, Tasha, have two adorable daughters and live on a beautiful block in Lawndale. Tasha’s career is booming, and Naima has every material thing she desires.

Then Allison enters the picture, awakening mental and physical desires that Naima thought were long buried.

In Pieces of Her, you’ll take the journey with Naima as she decides whether to follow the carefully crafted script she and Tasha wrote, or walk away from the past ten years to explore what.. and who.. is truly in her heart.

Rapture by Myesha D. Jenkins

Two women…

Two marriages…

Love changes…

Candace Vance is the wife of Rev. Nathanial Vance, the mother of two sons, and an elementary school teacher. Seemingly content in a happily married default mode, she crosses paths with Adia Knight and grasps for something different.

Seeking to renew her marriage, Adia Knight agrees to relocate to Atlanta after her husband, Judah, accepts his dream job as the director of an addiction counseling center. Adia is a self-proclaimed writer and part time lecturer trying to find her way professionally. She is uninspired and between teaching jobs.

Candace and Adia are drawn to each other, becoming fast friends. They are soon entangled by their consuming love and passion. Candace envisions a forever love with Adia. Adia is content with the love they have right now. Their tumultuous bond threatens the very foundation of the lives they have built with their husbands.

Get caught up in the rapture.

Surrender: Two Hearts & a Rainbow series (Book 1) (Volume 1) by Monique “B.T” Thomas (Author)

Robyn Sterling is a woman of wealth, sex appeal and a focus that is unbreakable. Success is what drives her. The women who want to want to warm her bed are plentiful. She knows that most of them want to be the one woman that will make her commit but Robyn has no intentions of falling into the relationship trap. Her life was going according to plan until her father involves her in a scheme that she can’t turn down.

Pain and disappointment is not something that Kenya Martin is deterred by. Despite her unstable upbringing she hasn’t hardened her heart. She isn’t looking for love but she anticipates its arrival. If the dates she has been going on or any indication the wait for hearts and candy is long off. Two women, two hearts and the possibility of white flags in the wind.

Treasure by Rebekah Weatherspoon

Her sister’s bachelorette party is the highlight of a miserable year for Alexis Chambers, but once her bridesmaid’s dress is packed away, she’s back to coping with her life as a once popular athlete and violinist turned loner and the focus of her parents’ disappointment. She isn’t expecting much from her freshman year of college until she finds herself sharing a class with Treasure, the gorgeous stripper from her sister’s party.

Trisha Hamilton has finally gotten the credits and the money together to transfer to a four-year university. Between classes, studying, and her job as a stripper, she has little time for a social life, until she runs into the adorably shy baby butch from the club. Trisha can’t seem to hide her feelings for Alexis, even when Trisha discovers what she has been through, but will Alexis have the strength to be just as fearless about their new love?

The Vagitarian Chronicles: Erotic Stories of Lesbian Love & Lust by Phoenix Rising

A vagitarian is defined as one who has a strict diet of loving, understanding and satisfying the holder of the vagina. The Vagitarian Chronicles is a collection of erotic short stories and poems centered around this definition of a vagitarian. Lose yourself in the real world, erotic adventures showcasing lesbian love and lust through the stud-femme dynamic. Caution: the stories and poems are explicitly detailed and will leave you reaching for your partner to act out some of the scenes that are described within these pages.


Books 2 Check Out – May 2014

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

Get At Me by K.A. Smith

Fatima is at the community center to paint murals. She’s hoping to get in, get out, and get paid. But the charismatic C.J. is one distraction she’s not prepared for. Frustrated and off her game, Fatima realizes C.J. may have more to offer than a player’s status.

How Can An Angel Take My Heart? Part II, The Armanèe by Regina Knox

Life could not be better for Kennedy Arman-Brooks-O’Neal, one of the richest and most powerful women on the eastern seaboard. She is a multi-multi millionaire with a husband who loves her and three beautiful children. Kennedy is whole and complete-mentally, physically, and spiritually-but is everything as neatly tied together as it seems? It is a beautiful Fourth of July weekend; Kennedy is celebrating her wedding anniversary and birthday with her adoring husband, Robert. Suddenly, a chance encounter with a couple making out on the beach changes her life forever. Events of her past and a secret she holds from not so long ago flood her mind with memories of a different life, from a different time, with a different love… Angela. She is at the height of her musical career. The soulful sounds of Angela Renèe electrify the island of Maui, Hawaii-her first U.S. concert tour in years is a huge success… On the heels of a European tour, Angela Renèe returns to the states to find herself on the brink of bankruptcy. Someone has stolen millions of dollars from her. Checks are bouncing as the tabloids document her every move on the decadent playgrounds of Europe’s club scene. Sinking in a sea of lies and deceit, Angela harbors her own secret that threatens to destroy not only her life, but the lives of her children and everyone she holds dear. In a fight for her survival, Angela is forced to reconnect with one whose love for her she thought would never end… Kennedy and Angela. Two women thrust back into each other’s lives through a series of events that eventually lead to a climactic struggle for the possession of their very souls… How Can an Angel Take My Heart, Part II, The Armanèe, is a compelling story of love, betrayal, salvation, and redemption. Will Kennedy and Angela ultimately survive the journey through their past, or will the past destroy their present, as it forever alters their future? Read the 4.5 star review of the first book in the series, How Can an Angel Take My Heart?

Les Tales: Tempted to Touch by Skyy, Nikki Rashan, Fiona Zedde

Temple is the epitome of a true fangirl. Since childhood she has idolized her favorite actress, Ursula Moore. She is stoked to find out that Ursula will be a guest at the Atlanta convention she’s attending with fellow fangirl friends Cree and Nia. When Temple’s girlfriend attempts to ruin her weekend, the only thing that can turn it around is meeting Ursula. To her surprise, more savory options than getting an autograph are presented. Temple has to decide if she is going to stay a devoted fan, or cross the line and find out what it’s like to sleep with her favorite celebrity.

Taryn’s and Nina’s lives unite in an intense and fiery connection through their one common link: Layne, the woman they both loved. Taryn, a reserved wife, is unaware of her own astounding beauty and lurking alter ego. Nina is Layne’s tempting mistress. Together their damaged hearts challenge the unacceptable and cross boundaries into a disturbing affair that pushes the limits of erotic gratification and exploration. Their stormy battles are not only fought against one another, but also within. Secrets are exposed, hidden agendas are revealed, and the line to the forbidden is erased.

Chloe has always had a crush on Kai, her mother’s best friend. She hoped that once she went away to college, her desire would also go away; but upon returning home after years of being gone, she finds that her attraction to Kai is stronger than ever. When she runs into Kai at a local fairground, the sparks fly between the two women in a way that cannot be ignored. Chloe becomes determined to seduce Kai, vowing to have the older woman, no matter the cost.

A Lesbian in God’s House by Phenomenon

Taurus, an aggressive lesbian from Chicago, has experienced so much shameful drama in her past. After losing a relationship with her mother and father over her last girlfriend’s scandalous behavior, Taurus retreated into the Word of God. She found herself falling for another woman that loved God just as much as she did. In spite of the church telling her that God didn’t want to hear her prayers, she kept talking and one day…God started speaking back.

With two sets of twisted parents, two cities full of hateful so called Christians, the most flamboyant gay community in the Midwest and one ride or die woman that would walk through hell and back for her, Taurus and her beautiful new love interest turned the church upside down with their radical obedience and directions from a God that made all the rules.

How strong is your faith? Could you obey a clear request from God in a room full of hate and say the things that might make the front page of Yahoo? Can you trust him enough to enter into a situation that may get you killed? Read as God chooses the most unexpected messengers to expose the false prophets and helps save the souls of millions in the gay community by teaching that regardless of who you love, God loves you just the way you are! Find out what happened to a lesbian in God’s house.

Niya 2: Dreamer’s Paradise (The Dreamers) by Fabiola Joseph

Love, true love, is the ruler of all things. Once you have acquired a taste for it… nothing else will ever satisfy your palate or taste the same.

Niya has already proven that she would kill for Jamilla, which should make their bond unbreakable. But when the dopamine fades and she is faced with her own demons, rescuing Jamilla from her problems just won’t be enough to fill the void she has always felt within. What will happen when family issues, fame and reality sets in? How will Niya deal with a Hip-Hop career as she tries to repair her broken family? Signing to Green Note Records just may bring fulfillment and love when the sexy R&B diva, Brazil Noelle, swoops in and aims for her heart.

Jamilla is filled with so many mixed emotions that at times, she feels as if she will lose her mind. Her love for Niya is real, and knowing that, gives her just as much comfort as the writing career she chases. Yet, Jamilla is still battling with the fact that Niya is a girl. Will her fling with a male “straighten” her out for good? Or will it help her to realize that love has no boundaries? Either way, a decision must be made.

Join the tormented twosome on an undeniable thrill ride through dreamer’s paradise, as they travel down the rocky road of self-discovery. Niya and Jamilla will combat their fears, distractions, love, denial, family, and sometimes each other, in the emotionally charged and action packed sequel to Niya 1: Rainbow Dreams.

With so many warriors fighting the battle of love… Only one will win the war of hearts.

Sacred Fire by by Tanai Walker

Tinsley Swann is cursed to change into a beast for seven days, every seven years. She keeps her distance from the world, and has more of a relationship with the antique erotic postcards she collects. With the time of her transformation approaching, she finds herself torn between two women. One woman is Sandra, Tinsley’s new boss, and the two are having an affair. Sandra glimpses her transformation and is kind, not frightened. The other woman, Leda, bears a striking resemblance to one of Tinsley’s turn of the century postcards, and she becomes obsessed with the young woman. Tinsley must choose between these two women and ultimately two factions, one that will save the world, the other with plans to destroy it.

That’s The Way Love Goes by GStarr

Only in a perfect world could a couple that has run its course of love co-exist under the same roof.

That’s The Way Love Goes invites you to the relationships of Shayla, Jamie and Yanna, whose lives intertwine through sex, love and greed with a vengeance.

In the irony of “heat of passion” and “by any means necessary”, this page turner will take you for a roller coaster ride of emotions.

GStarr gives a twist to the meaning “Happily Never After”!


Books 2 Check Out – April 2014

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

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

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

Maxi’s Place (Volume 1) by Literary Stud

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

The Rules by S. Renee Bess

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

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

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

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

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

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

When She Says Yes by Fiona Zedde

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

Yabo by Alexis De Veaux

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


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?


Broken in Soft Places by Fiona Zedde

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brokeninsoftplacesPublisher/Date:  Bold Stroke Books, May 2013
Genre:  Bisexual, Romance, Drama
Pages:  264
Website:  http://www.fionazedde.com

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Leave it to Fiona Zedde to come up with a tantalizing theme for her latest book – polyamory – a subject that black folks might do, but don’t talk candidly about. Being a part of a couple that openly allows the other to have sex with someone outside their relationship is usually left to whispered conversations. Zedde shows us in BROKEN IN SOFT PLACES that it’s not only possible, but there may be a reason why people engage in or stay away from this type of coupling.

Sara Chambers could never resist the enigmatic Rille Thompson since their first meeting at a college party, Sara as an innocent freshman to senior Rille’s big-lesbian-on-campus status.  Sara spent a good amount of time wishing Rille could be hers only, however, Rille resisted being tied down to anything singular in nature, including her lovers – be they female or male. Sara and Rille attempted to find freedom in each other for different reasons, but their feverish connection proves combustible right before Rille graduates.

Fast forward to present day, and the pair found their way back to each other, despite the many wounds Rille inflicted on Sara way back when. Much hasn’t changed, except now Sara is an attorney and Rille is a physics professor. And they have someone else occupying their bed. A man named Steven.

Sara never liked this arrangement from the start, and it weighs on her, never having Rille to herself, a situation Sara has allowed since their college days. The good thing is Sara recognizes why she stays with Rille, a woman with no self-control, and why being with Rille makes her feel somehow feel whole. Or does it? Can she untangle herself from Rille’s dominance as she allows monogamy to pass her by? Will she keep allowing her heart to be baby-sat by a woman someone who doesn’t know what love is?

Layers upon layers disintegrate the more you get to know the people in Broken in Soft Places. I can’t say enough about the flawless writing Zedde endows the reader, words coming together seamlessly and alluringly like Zedde knows how to do. She also dug deep in her portrayal of the war-torn Sara and Steven, and to a smaller extent, Rille. *sigh* Rille is so callous and as I read, she just got under my skin (the sign of a good character). I couldn’t stand how she treated Sara, and really anyone who stood in the way of her pleasure principle (Freud would have a field day with her on his couch). Yet, I did feel some sympathy for her that she couldn’t open up herself to love. And frustrated that Sara couldn’t find the love she wanted and deserved.

Reviewed June 2013


 5 Quick Questions for Fiona Zedde about Broken in Soft Places5qqlogo

Polyamory is such a taboo subject in the black community. And you’ve written Broken In Soft Places, such an invasive book about it. What was your motivation? Is it a taboo subject? I didn’t realize that. I know it’s not overtly accepted in most mainstream spaces but I think many people live it. There are women who know about and accept their wife or husband’s other lover. Couples that regularly have threesomes or identify as swingers. Groups of friends with benefits. My motivation for writing Broken In Soft Places as I did came from needing to talk about one of the elephants in the room; something we all know about but seldom explore in fiction. These polyamorous relationships exist but discussing the truth around what happens with the people involved is what can be considered taboo.

What do you say to readers who are surprised by the three-way relations in your novel? That’s a good question. I’ve already had readers express a certain amount of shock by the plot and characters of the novel. My response is that I wanted to write something different, true and challenging. I don’t exactly think of it as controversial, but it could be thought-provoking. I’ll always write lesbian characters (like Sara) but their sexual relationships may not always be monogamous or even easily defined by the constructs of accepted social behavior. And their stories, just like in real life, may not end as expected.

Sara is a fractured soul and Rille is a free spirit if I’ve ever seen one. What did it take to write both characters who seem polar opposites? I started off writing about Sara and all the pain she was suffering. And it was through her “broken” spirit that Rille’s character was born. I wondered what type of woman would Sara be attracted to and why? When the answer came to me, it wasn’t about how this woman would look and identify, but about her attitude in the world. This attitude is what Sara wants to embrace for herself. She desires freedom. She wishes she didn’t care what the world thinks. She wants to be stronger. Rille is the embodiment of all these yearnings.

Have you ever been in a poly relationship? No, I haven’t. I’ve been approached about being in one; it isn’t for me.

If you could have a threesome with any celebrities, whom would they be? Michelle Rodriguez and Eve, but Michelle would have to be tied up. I’ve heard she gets violent.


Nightshade by Fiona Zedde

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Publisher/Date:  CreateSpace, Mar. 2012
Genre(s):  Romance, Suspense
Pages: 144
Website:  http://www.fionazedde.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

The life of contract killer can be solitary. Just ask Brownwynne St. Just in Fiona Zedde’s NIGHTSHADE.

After losing their parents at 12 and 15, Wynne and sister Celeste harden into career women: an assassin and a pimp. Wynne admires her older sister as a role model of sorts, but even she can’t help her when love has stolen Wynne’s heart.

From the beginning of this novella, one would never think Wynne was capable of love. Pleasure, followed by the thrill of death, is her modus operandi, and there have been women whom she could have fallen for – if she wasn’t hired to kill them.

Time for love is something Wynne doesn’t see as important. Though she’d never admit it, she’s lonely, but her job fulfills her, something I don’t think she could quit even if she tried. She’s so good that her inbox is flooded with requests. It usually doesn’t catch up with her, until the past of one of her previous hits resurfaces in the form of a woman Wynne could easily off – or get off on.

Will Wynne kill love before it begins?

We’re used to the dazzling and tantalizing love stories Zedde provides, as well as the exotic lush locales and electrifying erotic adventures – Bliss, Every Dark Desire, and Taste of Sin are just a few – but Nightshade is a little bit different. More dangerous. More sinister.

Reviewed July 2012


Dangerous Pleasures by Fiona Zedde

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dangerouspleasuresPublisher/Date:  Kensington, Feb 2011
Genre(s):  Romance, Erotica
Pages:
  288
Website:  http://www.fionazedde.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Fiona’s taken a slightly different path this time with newest novel, DANGEROUS PLEASURES.

This route to love embarks with Renee, a recent divorcée searching for something completely different from the unfulfilling relationship with her controlling husband. His determination to change Renee compels her to want strictly physical relationships – the more anonymous, the better. If only she could convince her parents of that, who want to see her settled with the boy man next door, drab-ass Grant. Yet, her secretive one-night stands are all she needs – until there’s just one she can’t get enough of.

Mayson, Renee’s best friend and owner of a yoga salon, isn’t searching too hard for love either. Her bedroom is never lonely, plus she receives the affection she needs from her close friendship with Renee. Friends since they were schoolgirls, it’s the longest love Mayson’s had. Now that newest conquest, Kendra, is after Mayson, will that change the dynamic she and Renee have had for years?

Dangerous Pleasureshas plenty of insatiable bliss. Renee and Mayson’s closeness is the pièce de résistance of Zedde’s tale, comfortable and demonstrative, whereas the conclusion is explosive. At times, though, the steamy exploits, which seem to appear almost every couple of chapters, were a smidgen too repetitive.

That aside, Zedde still delivers what women want.

Reviewed February 2011


Hungry For It by Fiona Zedde

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hungryforitPublisher/Date:  Kensington, June 2008
Genre:  Romance
Pages:  288
Website:  http://www.fionazedde.com

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Yes, Fiona’s back.

Or Ms. Zedde, if you’re nasty. And boy, HUNGRY FOR IT is plenty scandalous.

Her fourth solo novel, Hungry begins where a Taste of Sin leaves off, the sweltering novel set in Miami where Dez and best friend Rémi used to run wild through scores of women, always in search of a new delicacy. When Dez finally settles down and marries Victoria, it leaves Rémi to comb the balmy city in search of new fun without her running buddy.

And that she does. From têtê-à-têtês in her popular nightclub to entertaining sexy triplets, Rémi could never deny her decadent sexual appetite – until she finally gets the chance to sample a dish she’s been craving her whole life: Claudia, Dez’s mother.

Forbidden, yes. Off limits, yes. Yet feels so right, yes.

In all actuality, Rémi’s heart has belonged to Claudia since the day she eyed the maternal beautiful outside her school, marveling the enigmatic woman. It later works in Remi’s favor that she and Dez become close friends and she’s introduced to her dream woman. In time, Rémi grew into a member of Dez’s family, but she doesn’t outgrow her crush on Claudia, despite the many women she encounters.

When it happens one night that the two are left to their own devices after Dez’s wedding, they find their attraction palpable but try to fight it. Rémi’s reserved because of her friendship with Dez, and Claudia struggles with the age and sexual differences between them.

One thing they can’t deny, though, is the heat simmering when they touch. The only thing that impedes their passion is the one person that means the most to them.

Zedde is one of the black lesbian community’s most dependable writers, her vivid storytelling brought to life in her characters. Hungry is no different. It’s just the kind of fast-paced, meaty read one needs for the summer. While the novel’s side plots move quickly, the main course is Rémi and Claudia, two women discovering that love is dish best served hot.

Reviewed June 2008


Every Dark Desire by Fiona Zedde

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everydarkdesirePublisher/Date:  Kensington, July 2007
Genre(s):  Erotica, Supernatural
Pages:  327
Website:  http://www.fionazedde.com

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Vampires run wild in Fiona Zedde’s third novel, EVERY DARK DESIRE, which chronicles the death of Naomi McElroy and her rebirth as vampire Belle.

Naomi’s life in Jamaica was mostly uneventful, until the night her desire for women takes her to a place she’s never been before — and leaves her lifeless. She then mutates into Belle and becomes one of them…

Belle is now a blood-sucking, cold-blooded vampire, recruited by a clan of men and women just like her. The ringleader, a sexy beast named Silvija, makes sure Belle learns the ropes of hunting for blood, fighting enemies and satiating her sexual cravings. It’s far from easy, what with Belle missing her daughter, Kylie, and the life she left behind. Taking orders from a taskmaster like Silvija isn’t helping matters.

And it especially doesn’t help that Belle’s falling for her.

Their encounters are extremely wickedly hot, but Belle can’t seem to get a good read on whether their affair means more to the unattainable Silvija. To a group of vampires who lack human characteristics, it’s hard to tell whether Silvija’s carnal desires are real, or just a part of the hunt and chase.

Zedde’s Desire is evident in every page. You see the growing yearnings Belle has for Silvija. The author’s trademark sex scenes leave nothing to the imagination, as you can visualize thrust and lick. However, I wish this same attention to detail was given to the plot. In reading I felt like the sex came every chapter, and the ending of the novel felt rushed. With that being said, Zedde is an excellent writer I would read again, as her previous works — Bliss and A Taste of Sin — were enjoyable.

Desire kept my pulse racing, but left me wanting more — whether that’s a good thing is up to you.

Reviewed December 2007


A Taste of Sin by Fiona Zedde

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atasteofsinPublisher/Date:  Kensington Publishing Corporation, July 2006
Genre:  Romance
Pages:  280
Website:  http://www.fionazedde.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Indulge yourself in A TASTE OF SIN, author Fiona Zedde’s appropriately-titled second novel, a veritable smorgasbord of sexual pleasures with protagonist Desiree Nichols as your guide through the culinary delights of women.

Since declaring herself a lesbian at 14, Dez has had them all—women of varying shades and hues, proportions and personalities. Her acquired wealth has afforded her a life of leisure, and because of it she’s treated herself to a fair share of sexual encounters throughout her college years. Everything changes, though, when Dez falls for Ruben, a man she finds absolutely irresistible, and deserts everything to follow him. Two years later, she finds herself abandoned by Ruben and facing a family emergency that calls her back home to Miami.

When she arrives in the sunny city, Dez finally confronts the people she left in her wake years ago—Claudia, a worried mother and Derrick, her twin brother—who were left to pick up the pieces she shattered with her coming out and hedonistic behavior. Though Dez’s old friends, once devastated when she took off with a man, welcome her back with open arms and help her seek other pleasures to take her mind off things.

Like her mother’s cancer scare.

And the fact that she and her brother have never really gotten along.

Both smart and attractive, Dez and Derrick could never see each other as more than rivals, especially when it came to the ladies. He doesn’t care for her self-indulgent lifestyle, and when he introduces her to his friend Victoria, he quickly declares her off limits to Dez.

That proves difficult because Dez finds Victoria so tantalizing with her gorgeous face and shapely figure. She’s never met a woman she couldn’t have, and Victoria proves to be no exception. And despite her hesitations about Dez’s love-em-and-leave-em persona, Victoria initiates a no-strings attached affair, making the sex all the more exhilarating.

It’s all fun and games for both women—romantic getaways by day and hot sex by night—until Dez finds herself caring more than she ever thought she would. This is all new for the heartbreaker who’s never found herself in anything more serious than one-night affairs. Victoria’s fallen hard as well, but doesn’t want Dez to destroy her heart.

As the title implies, A Taste of Sin is chock full of the delicious sex scenes one would expect from Ms. Zedde. After all, she gave us the debut novel Bliss, a tour de force in black lesbian literature. Sin is not as captivating as her first, but it is a page turner nonetheless. Dez, as the bad boy you always wanted in your bed, is a character that grows on you, a woman whom Zedde swiftly paints into a stud with heart finally taking a chance on love.

And don’t we femmes wish we had that?

Reviewed Aug-Sept 2006


Bliss by Fiona Zedde (Sept. 2005 Pick of the Month)

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Publisher/Date:  Kensington Publishing Corporation, Aug. 2005
Genre:  Romance
Pages: 297
Website:  http://www.fionazedde.com

Rating: ★★★★★ 

The tagline on Fiona Zedde’s debut novel, BLISS, reads, “Every woman wants it.” If “it” is based on the steamy scenes found within these pages, then Zedde ain’t never lied.

Zedde’s book is a tasty, colorful journey to a woman’s sexual satisfaction. Bliss Sinclair, an uptight accountant, lives her life by the numbers. She has the boyfriend, the good-paying job, and a spacious apartment–the things some define as success. But no one knows that her relationship with Yuen isn’t as great as it seems. And no one knows how she lays awake a night, suffering from bouts of insomnia. What’s missing in her life is passion: passion about her boyfriend, her job, her life.

That is until she meets Regina, an author who chronicles her sexual experiences through her books. They share a flirtation that leads to Sinclair dumping her boyfriend. Regina teaches Sinclair the pleasure of woman, and opens her up to a buffet of sexual indulgences Sinclair never thought she’d savor. Then as quickly as she came, Regina dumps Sinclair, telling her that a month is her limit with flings. Sinclair is heartbroken, believing that she had found the woman of her dreams, someone who had taken her to sexual heights she’d never climbed before.

To get away from the disaster she calls her love life, Sinclair takes her father up on an invitation to Jamaica. Days later, Sinclair returns home to the roots she abandoned after her mother was killed on the island. After her death, her grandmother took her to the States, and she never looked back. Now she’s reintroduced to her homeland–and her father’s new wife, a stepbrother, and a half-sister she never knew she had.

Lydia is the daughter her father illegitimately conceived, and the girlfriend of the woman Sinclair finds fascinating. Sinclair would never dream of taking her sister’s lover, but Hunter is tantalizing with her perfect ebony skin, sleek body, sensuous lips, and long dreadlocks. Sinclair and Hunter become friends through Lydia, and share a connection.

Everything changes, though, when Lydia and Hunter decide to mutually separate. Soon Sinclair and Hunter slowly act on their growing attraction. It isn’t long before their lust blossoms into deep affection. Despite her joy in finding Hunter, Sinclair is still scared–to fall in love and to leave love behind. She’ll be returning to America soon, without Hunter. Or does she?

Bliss is a novel you’ll want to read in one sitting. Zedde’s writing is intensely stimulating, as she brilliantly captures the spirit of the island. And the sex scenes were detailed so vividly, you could envision every touch or stroke. You will root for Sinclair and Hunter, as you can tell they truly belong together.

Zedde leaves nothing to the imagination, but with each page, makes you wish for that “it.”

Reviewed September 2005