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?


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

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

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen, AnnMarie.

Reviewed August 2013

four-stars

About Hannah Weyer

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


Books 2 Check Out – August 2013

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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):

Ascension: A Tangled Axon Novel by Jacqueline Koyanagi (currently available in e-book format; paperback out Dec. 4, 2013)

Alana Quick is the best damned sky surgeon in Heliodor City, but repairing starship engines barely pays the bills. When the desperate crew of a cargo vessel stops by her shipyard looking for her spiritually-advanced sister Nova, Alana stows away. Maybe her boldness will land her a long-term gig on the crew. But the Tangled Axon proves to be more than star-watching and plasma coils. The chief engineer thinks he’s a wolf. The pilot fades in and out of existence. The captain is all blond hair, boots, and ego . . . and Alana can’t keep her eyes off her. But there’s little time for romance: Nova’s in danger and someone will do anything—even destroying planets—to get their hands on her!

In its Rawest Form by Monique “Being True” Thomas (available in paperback and e-book formats)

Rayne Stephens is a forty year old woman who is at the top of her game professionally and financially but her personal life could use a upgrade. She lives by a drama free and stress free modo. When her expertise as an advertising agent is needed by the Deputy mayor of New York city she jumps at the opportunity. During that time she crosses paths with the saucy mouth, unsmiling Lisa Walker and she instantly wants to feel her heat. Lisa Rene Walker has the looks of a model and the attitude of a lioness. She wants love but refuses to compromise herself to get it. A trophy girlfriend she is not, so she has decided to hold off on her personal life. When her boss asks her to volunteer at a city function she meets Rayne Stephens and she inwardly melts. Tragedy strikes and Lisa discovers that being alone may not be what she wants. With features from Cheryl and Mahogany (characters from the Loved Relived novella) this is a story about the fight, the struggle and the reward that love can bring.

On the Come Up by Hannah Weyer (available in paperbook and e-book formats)

Based on a true story, an impassioned and propulsive debut novel about a headstrong girl from Far Rockaway, Queens, who is trying to find her place in the world. Written in an urban vernacular that’s electrifying and intimate, On the Come Up introduces a heroine whose voice is irrepressible, dynamic, and unstintingly honest. Thirteen-year-old AnnMarie Walker dreams of a world beyond Far Rockaway, where the sway of the neighborhood keeps her tied to old ideas about success. While attending a school for pregnant teens, AnnMarie comes across a flyer advertising movie auditions in Manhattan. Astonishingly, improbably, and four months before she’s due to give birth—she lands a lead role. For a time, AnnMarie soars—acting for the camera, flying to the Sundance Film Festival, seeing her face on-screen. But when the film fades from view and the realities of her life set in, AnnMarie’s grit and determination are the only tools left to keep her moving forward.

Told with remarkable compassion and based on the real-life story of Anna Simpson, whom the author met during the filming of the award-winning Our Song, Hannah Weyer’s debut novel is an incredible act of literary ventriloquism that powerfully illuminates the lives of the urban unseen.

My Mom’s a Stud: A family book designed to address labels used in the LGBTQ community by Sonorra C McMath (available in paperbook format)

Maleak and Jaeqwan set out to find a stud within their community. Unfortunately, none of the studs resemble his mom. He is left bewildered and confused. With the assistance of you and your child, the two boys find answers. This book is designed for families with children that seek a non-threatening way to address the use of various labels used within the LGBTQ community. You are afforded the opportunity to positively influence your child’s self-worth by improving writing skills, exercising creativity, and increasing their knowledge and acceptance of alternative lifestyles. Family interaction is important, and encouraged. Share your knowledge, write a segment, or assist in whatever way that is most comfortable for you and your family. Develop the story using the child’s words and family cultural experiences. Just imagine the pride exhibited when your child reads his/her contribution to the story in conjunction with a published product. My Mom’s a Stud is a keepsake, one you and your child will pass along.

SistaGirl by Anondra “Kat” Williams (currently available in e-book and paperback formats)

From the author of black girl love comes another walk through the life of the everyday lesbian. Sit down and listen in as Kat tells your story. SistaGirl like black girl love is me and you and the women you love. Inside you will find over thirty stories and poems told from the heart of every woman who loves other women be it her lover, her Sista or her friend and sometimes, sometimes if we are lucky they are one and the same.