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?


Abandoned Property: The Eviction Chronicles Part 2 by Kai Mann

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Publisher/Date:  Scriblical Vibez Publishing LLC, June 2013
Genre(s):  Family, Romance, Self-Love
Pages:  282
Website:  http://kai-mann.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

ABANDONED PROPERTY by Kai Mann, the sequel to 30 Day Notice, proves that losing family, money or your soul can sometimes set you on the path, for better or worse, you were destined.

30 Day Notice was Mann’s first installment in Eviction Chronicles, and it was a journal into the life of Kori Maitland. It was being literally trapped in the closet with a gun to her head that set her life in motion, leaving behind her four children to escape her boys witnessing the pain and discomfort being a lesbian trapped in a straight marriage. She knew God was steering her life to something greater. Moving from Florida to Chicago, Detroit and California, then back to Detroit, she encountered a series of trials that seriously tested her faith and sanity.

Abandoned Property continues her story, but ties in stories of five people Kori collided with on her journey, from her husband she left to the women’s she’s loved. Jerard, Darius, Jay, Layla, Karina and Coco had all in some way been discarded in some fashion, and each one’s reaction to their abandonment impacts Kori’s life.

Jerard has been left to raise four kids after Kori’s departure; Darius deals with his sexuality after his father leaves his family for drugs; Jay can’t seem to forgive her mother’s neglect; Layla is forced to begin life again after her husband skips out; Karina is facing motherhood alone; and Coco feels the ache of her mother’s rejection when she comes out at 17.

With this many characters and their separate issues, it would appear that Mann’s story would be convoluted, but that could be far from the truth. It has great focus and I could see that, just like reality, every character’s life has a unique purpose and reason for being in Property. From childhood hurts to love affairs gone wrong, their hurts are magnified and felt as the story progresses. None of these characters were cookie cutter. What Mann reveals is how their abandonments serves to either propel them forward or set them back; how each chooses to use their insecurities, daddy issues, questioning sexuality or self-doubt; and how they dump their issues onto Kori by simply leaving or staying. Some truly loved Kori; some showed their love in destructive ways.

Abandoned Property permits us to see why the people were in her life for a reason. It paints a detailed, complete picture of what Kori underwent when she moved from place to place and couldn’t find a healthy relationship. And I wanted her to find real, unconditional love. Essentially, that’s what all them were looking for. How they try to obtain it is the compelling part.

I felt like Mann really brought Kori full circle. I felt a better connection to her (although there’s still a small part of me that questions leaving her kids). The writing is more cohesive in Abandoned Property, mostly because it wasn’t all narrated by Kori as in 30 Day Notice. It’s a solid effort. Now I just need to know what’s next, Kai Mann? I wonder what the future holds for Kori, but as long as she has herself to rely on, she should be okay.

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Reviewed November 2013

About Kai Mann

Kai Mann grew up in Fort Myers, Florida and currently resides in Detroit, Michigan. She is the author of two novels in the Eviction Chronicles called 30 Day Notice and Abandoned Property. Kai began writing at a young age and has always wanted to write a novel but knew that meant she would need to experience life before that could happen.

Kai came to the conclusion in the latter part of 2008 that the Creator had given her a story to tell and in 2009 she started writing her first novel 30 Day Notice. That year Kai would also become an independent contract writer for Examiner.com and hold the title of Detroit’s Best Friend Examiner. In her role as an Examiner, she purposefully writes articles to incite a deeper level of thought when it comes to friendship.

In 2011 Kai published 30 Day Notice under her newly created publishing company called “Scriblical Vibez Publishing, LLC”. The name came out of a need to publish content that she believed would challenge others to think and create a vibrational change in the universe. She believed the Creator gave her the name to remind her that she was responsible to scribe biblically while creating a message type vibe.

Kai is a proud member of the Motown Writers Network where she volunteers at conferences, workshops, and assists in publishing content on the network’s site.

In 2013 she published Abandoned Property her sophomore novel. In the same year she helped to produce a DocuSeries called Out Loud in the D. While the DocuSeries is still in progress, Kai is presently working on her next project a book of poems called Living on Lafayette Street.


Books 2 Check Out – Oct. 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):

Abandoned Property by Kai Mann
Kori, Jerard, Darius, Jay, Layla, Karina, and CoCo all have something in common; they’ve been abandoned. Even though their issues of abandonment stem from some of the same situations, how they play out is different in nature. Whether it’s Kori’s guilt and shame, Jerard’s revolving door of relationships, Darius’ daddy issues, Karina’s attention seeking, Layla’s insecurities and self doubt, Jay’s fear of being abandoned, or Coco’s trust issues; they all allow their issues to manifest negatively in all of their relationships.

Will the cycles of physical or emotional abandonment like being left with strangers or relatives, placed in foster care, physical abuse, sexual abuse, or even death determine their futures? Or will they go to the extreme opposite to ensure that the cycle ends with them? Or maybe they’ll realize the blessing in being abandoned by people who never knew how to care for them in the first place? (The sequel to 30 Day Notice.)

At Her Feet by Rebekah Weatherspoon
During a night of Web surfing for celeb gossip and masturbatory material, digital marketing producer Suzanne Kim stumbles across an intriguing thread while checking her profile on kinklife.com. Suzanne isn’t exactly looking, but the request for a very specific type of submissive from the attractive mistress, Mami-P, is hard to resist. Though the two hit it off during their first online conversation, Suzanne never imagines how strong their real life attraction and compatibility will be. After a few missteps in training, trust, and communication, Suzanne finds a deep love with her mistress, Pilar.

Overworked and overstressed in her daily life, Suzanne comes to crave their relationship for the visceral escape it provides, but before they can make the ultimate commitment, someone from Suzanne’s professional life threatens to disrupt their perfectly balanced bliss.

Between Right and Wrong by S. Stephens
Elise James has finally found her place in Miami. She’s a high-end real estate agent and loves selling homes to the rich and famous of Miami, Florida. With all her success she continues to live on the edge with the women in her life. The constant turmoil she’s in with her best friend, recording artist Carmen Trammel, the struggle with whether to reconcile with her long time love Symphony Graves or to start something new with Monica Adams who has to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to be with Elise. Just as Elise and her friends are basking in the glow of Carmen Trammel’s success a phone call rocks their world. Will Elise be the glue that holds them together or the piece that tears them all apart? Will the friends stay together long enough to get through it or will the choices between right and wrong derail them forever? (The sequel to Am I My Sister’s Keeper?)

Descendants Of Hagar by Nik Nicholson
It’s 1914 in Zion, Georgia, during the Black Codes, when Negroes were lynched for one wrong glance. A time when marriage was an agreement between a woman’s father and the man he chose for her. Most women had no romantic interest in their future husbands. In the worst case, they were promised to complete strangers.

Madelyn “Linny” Remington is the great-great granddaughter of strong-spirited ex-slave, Miemay, who oversees her rearing. While other women were raised to be broken, Linny was reared to build and repair. When other women were expected to be seen and not heard, Linny was expected to vote beside men. As other women prayed they would be chosen for marriage before they were too old, Linny cleaned her rifle to hunt. While her sister hoped to honor her husband by bearing a son, Linny wondered how a single woman could provide for herself, when only male children could expect an inheritance.

A secret has Linny slated as her father’s favorite son. Until Linny makes a promise that frees her from a conventional woman’s role, but the promise also brings shame on her family. Will Linny, threatened with alienation, honor her promise? Or bow to her father’s will and go back on her word?”

Dreams in Acapella by Alicia Clark
Poetry with a distinct edge. It will have you snapping your fingers, each one better than the last.

In Pursuit of Joi by Olivia Renee Wallace
Joi McIntosh is a woman torn. She is married to the perfect husband. She is the mother of the perfect daughter. She has her own thriving business and seems to be living the perfect life. But she has secrets… Secrets that haunt her dreams. Along comes Latoya Bradshaw. She’s beautiful, successful, and edgy. She awakens feelings in Joi that have lain dormant for years. She reminds Joi of her past. Joi must decide on whether she wants to continue living the life of the woman that she has become or risk it all to become the woman that she once thought that she was meant to be.

Soft Tsunami by Claudia Moss
Poems About Desire, Awakening, Fearlessness, Love, Acceptance and Lesbian Love From the author of If You Love Me, Come and Not Without Passion, Soft Tsunami is a collection of 55 poems, each flowing through torrents and gushes and surges and streams and inundations of life and love. “Soft Tsunami was written like Sanskrit on my Soul, splashed across wire-bound notebook sheets, trickled down yellow legal pads and, eventually, tap-danced across my laptop’s lit screen, each poem flowing into a line-up of regimented and sexy showgirls awaiting applause,” Claudia Moss Poet/Author/Blogger/Speaker/Performer. Soft Tsunami is the complete collection of the 5-part series, The Soft Tsunami Collection, in one book. Readers now have choice. You can delight in one or more sections or read the entire collection.

Two Times A Lady by Seconya Y. Bagby
Four years ago Yvonne was a ‘womon’ on the edge… of love that is. Caught between head and heart, she found herself at the mercy of both Dorian and Corrine, having inexplicably fallen for them both. In the end, Yvonne is forced to choose. This time around she is back with a vengeance and remains firm in her decision. It is only when adversity strikes, testing the solidity of her relationship, that she begins to ponder if love is enough. She soon discovers that one bad apple does indeed spoil the bunch as all of her relationships become affected in one way or another. In trying to salvage the most important relationship of them all, Yvonne must confront her past head on. It is through this vulnerability that she comes to understand what it truly means to love. (The sequel to The Womon.)


30 Day Notice by Kai Mann

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30daynoticePublisher/Date:  Scriblical Vibez Publishing, Dec. 2011
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Pages:  216
Website:  http://www.kai-mann.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Sometimes, the ending of a relationship is telling. It reveals truths about the woman you were in love with, things that make you wonder if you really knew her.

And a breakup pushes you to reevaluate your life and purpose, much like main character Kori Maitland, the heroine of 30 DAY NOTICE by author Kai Mann.

When her relationship of five years disintegrates, it leaves Kori broken. Though she’s given a 30 day notice from her love, Kori never thought Layla would end it, despite the hurdles and dysfunction that occurred during. Layla did what she had to do for herself, but Kori can’t seem to muster the same self-worth to pull herself out of the heartbreak.

It paralyzes her. During the 30 days, Kori begins to examine her entire life to figure out what got her to this downward path. At the same time, she moves back to Detroit, her old stomping grounds where she runs into people from her past – some who uplift her, others who take advantage of her spirit.

In truth, her life has been no crystal stair. In her current situation, disturbances once dead resurface. The ghosts of leaving her marriage and children behind to be her authentic self haunt her.

Every setback – and there are several – devastates her core. Being used, being discarded, being alone. It’s all there.

Yet Kori is a fighter. And she knows God has a plan for her.

That’s the crux of 30 Day Notice. Although the writing could use more showing than telling, the novel is direct and honest, as you sympathize with Kori; we’ve all been there in some form or fashion. This is a great story for lesbians dealing with separation from their families or finding themselves at a crossroads in life.

Reviewed June 2012