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?


Ascension: A Tangled Axon Novel by Jacqueline Koyanagi

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

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reviewed August 2013

four-stars

About Jacqueline Koyanagi

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


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.