Happiness, Like Water by Chinelo Okaparanta

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happinesslikewaterPublisher/Date:  Mariner Books, Aug. 2013
Genre(s):  Short Story, Love, Family, Religion, Women’s Issues
Pages:  208
Website:  www.marinerbooks.com

Rating: ★★★★★ 

When I picked up HAPPINESS, LIKE WATER by Chinelo Okparanta, I saw it profound that I was drawn to this book about girls and women in Nigeria, the same country where almost 300 girls were stolen from their dormitory in April, only to be sold as chattel or hidden away. In Okparanta’s short story collection, her characters wrestle with their own issues of love, faith, and sorrow. Happiness grabbed me at the first couple of pages, and I couldn’t stop reading – and thinking – about a woman’s worth.

Set in a land with lush landscapes and sweltering days, the women’s plights – from coveting a lighter skin color, to falling in love with the same sex – are captured in heartbreaking detail. It deftly embodies what lengths women would go through to have what they believe is happiness.

Lambda-Medal2014

2014 Lambda Literary Award WinnerFrom http://www.lambdaliterary.org

Highlights include “Grace,” surrounding a religion professor with an inquisitive student posing questions about sexuality and the Bible, with both eventually discovering the tough answers lead to each other; “Runs Girl” featuring a young woman who learns there is a price to doing the right thing for the right reasons; and the unreliable narration of “Story, Story!” drew me in to a woman’s despiration to have a baby.

Yet by far, my favorite story from Happiness is “Tumours and Butterflies,” which drew me into the tumultuous relationship between a daughter and father so focused on his child’s missteps he fails to see his own. There’s a loss of innocence one has, even as an adult, when you realize your parents are toxic to your well-being. Okparanta portrays this feeling well.

What Okparanta also does well is convey the realities of Nigerian women and families in America. Okparanta, a Nigerian immigrant to the U.S. at the age of 10, allows us to see how the United States is treated as a promise land of sorts in her native country, where dreams can be fulfilled.

After reading Happiness, Like Water, I can see exactly why Okparanta won a 2014 Lambda Literary Award just a few nights ago because I was enamored with her writing. The way she turns a phrase, even when a story takes a sad turn, is comforting. The lesbian stories are handled with care, providing some of the happier moments. Happiness envelopes you into the life of the characters, who have experiences that could shared by any woman in any country, but are more sentimental to Black women in particular. But the sadness is truly palpable in Happiness. There were only couple of stories I felt had an abrupt ending, but it didn’t take away from the strength or authenticity of Okparanta’s voice.

[rating-report]

Reviewed June 2014

About Chinelo Okparanta

Chinelo Okparanta was born in Port-Harcourt, Nigeria, and was raised there as a Jehovah’s Witness. When she was ten, her family relocated to the United States. She received her BS from The Pennsylvania State University, her MA from Rutgers University, and her MFA from the University of Iowa. She has worked as a middle and high school French and English Language teacher, and an undergraduate writing teacher. She is one of Granta’s six New Voices for 2012 and has stories forthcoming from Conjunctions, Subtropics, and elsewhere.


Tastes Like Cherry by Renee Cronin

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tasteslikecherryPublisher/Date:  CreateSpace, Dec. 2013
Genre(s):  Romance
Pages: 228
Website:  https://www.facebook.com/Renee.Cronin78

Rating: ★★★★½ 

*cues Vivian Green’s Emotional Rollercoaster as background music*

Who can resist heartfelt apologies, declarations of undying love, and spine-tingling sex? Certainly not Sherry “Cherry” Milton, star of Renee Cronin’s TASTES LIKE CHERRY.

Her ex-fiancé, Anya Prye, is pulling out all the stops to win her back.

But six months ago, Cherry was blindsided by Anya’s admission that things were moving too fast – four months before they were scheduled to be married. After two years, she knew their relationship was headed to for better or worse, and the worst happened: Anya became the stud she had to get over.

Fast forward to present day, and 27-year-old Cherry is almost whole. Yet with one one out of the blue phone call comes Anya confessing her mistake in leaving Cherry. She’s back in Boston determined to assuage the pain left by her abrupt departure, and will do anything to have Cherry as her wife.

Told in the lovers’ alternating voices, this is where Tastes Like Cherry becomes a merry-go-round of emotion. I’ll say this: some women might be flattered by an ex stealing her heart again, especially if the torch was never really extinguished between them. She’s the one who never faded completely from that woman’s heart, continuing to be at home in those crevices and cracks. For Cherry, even with anger still brimming, Anya is that woman.

And Anya knows what she lost. Cherry is a catch. The criminal justice professor woos and works Cherry’s body like no one else, as proven by the stirring encounters Cronin writes with sensuous strokes. But Anya suffers from the “water runs dry” syndrome, and Cherry has to decide whether love can truly be rekindled with someone who broke your spirit in a million pieces.

And it’s not as if Cherry doesn’t have other options or distractions. There’s a co-worker whom she finds adorable, and a night out with homegirls gives her the chance to meet a couple of promising new love interests. Her work as a clinician gives her life meaning. And her friends provide her laughs and opportunities to dance all night, one of Cherry’s favorite hobbies.

Just like Cherry, though, I got caught up in Anya’s admissions of guilt. Every love scene had me rooting for a happy ever after, and every tear they shed made me second guess whether these two can make it last.

I really enjoyed both Cherry and Anya as realistic characters in a typical romantic quandry. While some subplots weren’t tied up enough for me, Cronin has a fresh voice as a writer, and when her sequel to Tastes Like Cherry arrives, I’ll want to see where Cherry and Anya go from here.

[rating-report]

Reviewed March 2014

About Renee Cronin

Renee Cronin, a self described avid reader and life time resident of Boston, Massachusetts began penning her debut novel, Tastes Like Cherry in 2005. As a child protective social worker and clinician, Renee has used writing as a personal outlet, but only recently began to explore the possibility of publication. Renee’s inspiration to pen and publish such a compelling story comes from a overwhelming display of support from family and friends. Renee’s debut novel Tastes Like Cherry is expected to keep her readers captivated and pining for more. Renee is currently working on several short stories and anticipates the release of an anthology as well as a sequel to Tastes Like Cherry in the very near future.


Between Right and Wrong by S. Stephens

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betweenrightandwrongPublisher/Date:  Outskirts Press, Sept. 2013
Genre(s):  Romance, Family, Friends
Pages:  360
Website:  http://www.authorsstephens.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

When I first read S. Stephens Am I My Sister’s Keeper in 2005, like Elise, I was going through my own coming out conundrum. I was gay, living with my parents, and taking shelter in my closet. So Elise’s story – attempting to please her parents while struggling with her sexuality – spoke to me in a lot of ways.

Now, eight years later, both Elise and I have faced our demons, but in BETWEEN RIGHT AND WRONG, Elise is still taking on the woes of her family and friends. She allows her sister Lynn to live in her spacious Miami home to get her life in order; provides the always sympathetic ear to best friend, Carmen, a skyrocketing recording artist; and fights to keep her guy pal Wade sane while he goes through some pretty serious legal issues.

At the same time, Elise’s love life is just as hectic, as she falls back in stride with ex Symphony (her biggest hurdle in the previous novel) and cultivates a fling with an extremely sexy older woman, not to mention the simmering feelings she has for married friend Monica, whose unconditional love held Elise’s through every traumatic event.

With all this love in her life, as well as a successful career in high-end real estate, it would appear her life is flawless at 32. Yet here’s Elise’s biggest issue: Elise will do anything for the people she loves, but it always seems to be at the expense of finding romantic love. In Wrong, I saw Elise fluctuate from crisis to crisis, from woman to woman, and it’s so clear that she can’t trust her heart with anyone. I love that she’s so committed to her family, both immediate and extended, but she hides behind them to escape the love she knows she deserves. I found Elise’s life full but slightly dizzying.

The strength of Wrong is in its cast of characters. I really got to know her extended family all over again, and their loyalty to Elise is commendable. What I love most about them is that they will always tell Elise is the truth, even when headstrong Elise doesn’t want to hear it, because that’s what family does. And each character’s romantic woes – reexamining one’s sexuality, sacrificing one’s to get ahead careerwise – is another fire for Elise to put out, which is a huge chunk of Wrong‘s plot. It also moves the book along to a dramatic finish.

Can I say Elise James has grown in the eight years since Sister’s Keeper? I think she knows what love is – she sees it in all forms in Wrong –  yet making it happen and making decisions about who’s best for her aren’t her strongest suits. And even with her devotion to everyone else, she always looks out for self. Nothing wrong with that, per se, but best friend Carmen hit the nail on the head when she told Elise, “There’s this person in you that walks on water, then there’s this other person in you that can move like a snake. Sometimes I don’t think you know right from wrong.” She’s not perfect – no one is.

Somehow I think Elise will get it together, though. Either that or I’m expecting another novel from Ms. Stephens.

[rating-report]

 Reviewed Month 2014

About S. Stephens

Originally from Miami, S. Stephens now resides with her spouse and daughter in Northern Virginia. She enjoys the challenges of creativity and attention to detail. Between Right and Wrong is her long awaited sequel to Am I My Sister’s Keeper?


Interview & Review Chat | Love Relived by Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas

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loverelivedPublisher/Date:  CreateSpace, Feb. 2013
Genre(s):  Romance, Friendship
Pages:  198
Website:  authormoniquebeingtruethonas.wordpress.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

interviewreviewchatlogoFriendship and love go hand and hand…or does it? Photographer Mahogany Williams and head museum educator Cheryl James are testing this theory after being childhood best friends, then later lovers — and watching their connection crumble over the years. Can they get it back together? I had to find out from Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas, author of LOVE RELIVED. So read on to see what she thinks about love and friendship in this Interview & Review Chat. The transcript follows below:

Sistahs on the Shelf: Oh, Miss Monique?!

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I am here.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Lol

Sistahs on the Shelf: Hey, how are you?

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I am wonderful and antsy.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Don’t be. It’ll be painless, I promise.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Okay, so…let’s start with how long have you been writing?

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I have been writing poetry since I was five years old and short stories from seven years of age.

Sistahs on the Shelf: So basically most of your life. What were you writing about at five years old?

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Yes, I have been writing since I could put together words. My mother encouraged creativity and she always pushed me to read and write as much as I could. I used to sit at her desk and fill up yellow legal sized notepads with lines about my best friend at the time and my love of anything that had to do with basketball.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Oh, so this could have been the basis for Love Relived? Maybe?

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Hmmm (inserts smile) I shall never tell.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Lol!

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: To be truthful my first girlfriend was at the age of seven and she was not my bff.

Sistahs on the Shelf: 7, huh? I was still dreaming of girls instead of kissing them at that age.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I had already had my first and second kiss that year.

Sistahs on the Shelf: *smh* *but impressed*

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: lol

Sistahs on the Shelf: Now about Love Relived, bffs in love. Tell us about your book.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Love Relived is a story that came to me as I was working on another book idea. The main characters are Cheryl and Mahogany, two women who were best friends throughout adolescence. My focus for the storyline was the aftermath of friends becoming lovers. Most people think that it can be an easy move to just get into a long lasting relationship, especially if the friendship had been so strong. That I believe is a myth that starts the relationship of wrong. Once Cheryl and Mahogany crossed the line the conflict began and there are really no answers for years leaving both with questions.

Sistahs on the Shelf: All very true.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Especially when one partner is struggling with her sexuality, like Mahogany, while the other knows who she is, like Cheryl.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Exactly! Mahogany is dealing with her own personal struggles. As close as she is to her friends not even they know that she was dealing with her sexuality. She feels as if she has an obligation to her family to be someone that she is not. She is strong but like so many of the strong she has a weakness. In Mahogany’s case it is her grandmother Mama Hanna. She knows her grandmother to be a God fearing woman and being gay is something that Mahogany doesn’t think she will accept.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Acceptance is something a lot of us have struggled with as black lesbians. I think you wrote Mahogany’s struggle realistically.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I tried my best to make sure that Mahogany came across real. We may not care if society accepts us as black lesbians but there are people who are close to us that we wish would love us no matter who we love or what we do.

Sistahs on the Shelf: But the crazy thing is where we think we’re hiding ourselves, some of our family members knew our tea before we poured it.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Yes! I have found that the only people in the “closet” are the ones that claim not to be in one.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Yep!

Sistahs on the Shelf: Speaking of realistic, is Cheryl and Mahogany’s relationship based on your or anyone else’s relationship?

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: No one has asked me this question so kudos to you. (smile) When I first set out to write this book I had no particular thought process. I just let the words flow. It was not until I read the first draft back to myself that I realized that this was subconsciously personal.

Sistahs on the Shelf: How so?

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: For one thing I have been in a situation where a friend and I have crossed an emotional line that was way beyond friendship. Although I explained my reluctance I did not shut down the feelings that I knew were growing. I tried to act as if I could use my charm and full blown cocky arrogance to move past the feelings and continue our friendship as if nothing had changed between us. That proved to be unrealistic and problematic. The line had been crossed and the friendship became difficult. When someone tells you they want to move forward with you romantically and you don’t it is a difficult thing. When said person is a very good friend the stakes are high. You have to deal with feelings of rejection, hurt, and anger. It is a dangerous game.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: So like Mahogany, I decided to run.

Sistahs on the Shelf: So what happened?

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: We have both moved on. The friendship is done. We have not talked in years. We have mutual friends and it is crazy because we respond to their posts on Facebook without talking to one another. Life is something.

Sistahs on the Shelf: It sure is.

Sistahs on the Shelf: But crossing that friendship line…do you think it can be worth it?

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: That is the billion dollar question isn’t it? The friends and lovers debate has been going on for years. For some it works and for others it is a disaster. I believe that it can work but when before a dating relationship can begin a conversation has to be had. You can’t bring up everything that pertained to our friendship. As I used to say all the time, once the line is crossed it is a different ballgame. The” me” you knew as your friend may not be the “me” you want as your mate. You really have to think about it.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: If I was a jerk to all my girlfriends, don’t assume that I will treat you different because we have a history as friends.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Huh, ain’t that the truth.

Sistahs on the Shelf: But having that history is “supposed” to make the relationship easier, let some people tell it.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: That is foolishness. Maybe for some that was the case and I applaud them. Most however don’t remember the way they watched you treat your other mates until something happens. By then you can’t bring it up because you were warned way in advance. As a matter of fact you as the friend had the clearest crystal ball of them all but for whatever reason you chose not to see. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that everyone can change. I know that personally. I am just speaking truth.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Speaking of being true, throughout Love Relived, Cheryl is stayed true to herself regardless of the changes Mahogany put her through. I loved that about her.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Thank you so much. Cheryl’s weakness is Mahogany. Though that is the case she refuses to let Mahogany’s confusion cloud her decisions and break her heart further.

Sistahs on the Shelf: I remember a line from your book that said, “It’s the crime of stealing hearts.” I loved that.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: That line is from a poem I wrote when I was around 18 years old called, ‘Robbing the broken’. It was really me boasting that I could say whatever, do whatever and still like a boomerang I knew the girls would come back. I used to be arrogant beyond. When I was writing that particular scene in Love Relived the line came to me again. Now that I am older it has a completely different meaning.

Sistahs on the Shelf: What meaning does it have for you [now]?

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Now that I am older and have lived through a few trials in my life the line is a symbol of knowing that I didn’t want the love I was receiving but instead of saying that I took it anyway. That is a crime. Those girls could have spent time with someone who was worthy of their admiration.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Wow. That is some truth right there.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Thank you. I have learned lessons and through the teaching that my wrongs have showed me I am better.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Writing has helped tremendously. I can see certain characters clearly because of my experiences both personal and through friends.

Sistahs on the Shelf: I agree. Writing and reading especially have always opened my eyes.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Yes indeed!

Sistahs on the Shelf: Now Mama Hanna. I want her to adopt me, since I have no living grandparents. She is a hoot and a great sounding board for both her granddaughter Mahogany and by extension, Cheryl.

Sistahs on the Shelf: I love when she tells Mahogany: “Girl a pot unstirred never made good stew. It just sat and burned.”

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I adore Mama Hanna. She is lively, blunt and doesn’t miss a thing. She is the true meaning of unconditional love. The lines that she says in the book are me all day. I can make up a saying in a second.

Sistahs on the Shelf: I know that’s right! I follow you on Facebook.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Ha! Ha!! Yes I like to think I am a wise clown.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Yes, you are. Mission accomplished.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: LOL! Thank you.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Okay so one last question (I think). What new projects are in the works?

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: First let me just say that Lisa, a character from Loved Relived has her own story, In its Rawest Form, which is currently out. I began 2014 by putting out my latest Feeling for the Wall. This one is for those who have been in real love. I mean that kind of love that makes you smile but question. It also deals with what happens when after years of being together how life can get in the way with the day to day love. What happens when routine overwhelms us. I have two other books that I am working on now that I will be putting out sometime this year. One will be released this spring and the other in the fall.

Sistahs on the Shelf: You work hard, Monique.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I have been blessed with a partner who has made it so that I can live my dream.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I also have a short story collection and a few novelettes available as well.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I would like to add something if that is okay.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Sure, go ahead.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: The end of 2012 was one of the hardest years that I think I have ever been through. I was holding it together for the masses but inside I was scared and falling apart. I had a serious health scare and I lost my job. I was nervous to the point that I wrote out a will. I didn’t know if I would be here for 2014. Having already had one stroke due to stress I was told that I was on the verge of having another. That is why I dedicated every moment of 2013 to writing and family. I opened my eyes wide and really looked. I realized a lot of things about myself and I also learned how much my babe truly loves the heck out of me. I have gotten healthier and have learned to clear my mind and return to the “me” that I am. For that I will forever be thankful and I will not give up this chance to share my love of writing with the world.

Sistahs on the Shelf: That is heartbreaking and beautiful and inspiring. Your hard work is paying off.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I hope that it does. I didn’t want to leave this world without more of my work published.

Sistahs on the Shelf: You’ll have plenty of time to share more, I’m sure. I truly believe that.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Thank you! I am in much better health and have moved back into my positive space.

Sistahs on the Shelf: I’m glad.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: As am I. I have more time to clown *lol*

Sistahs on the Shelf: *lol* You slay me, Mo.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I try.

[rating-report]

Reviewed/Interviewed January 2014

About Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas is a native New Yorker who has been in love with the written word since the third grade. At the age of fourteen she was a teen journalist for youth magazine, FCYU, writing featured articles about the trials and triumphs of youth in the New York foster care system.

She currently has 7 books available: Forever Tangled; Volume One: a collection of poems and short stories from the heart and between the thighs; Forever Tangled Volume II: Caught in the sheets of Emotion; Love Relived; In Its Rawest Form; Notes of Seduction; An Unexpected Gift; Feeling for the Wall.

Although Thomas began with a flair for writing short stories based on mystery and murder plots, she currently writes romance and erotica for all those lovers of love and temptresses of lust. She has also been a featured radio host on Lesbian Memoirs blog Talk radio show.

Thomas has been featured in lesbian anthologies Life, Love, Lust 2011 and Life, Love, Lust 2012 published by LM Inc. She was also a featured poet in Her Voice also published by LM Inc.


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.

[rating-report]

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.


Full Circle by Skyy

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Publisher/Date:  Urban Books, May 2013
Genre(s):  Romance, Drama
Pages:  354
Website:  http://www.simplyskyy.com

Rating: ★★★★★ 

This is what happened when I opened my mailbox to find FULL CIRCLE waiting there…

mariahdance3

Why the jig? Because Full Circle is the fitting end of a series that began with three best friends – Denise, Cooley, and Carmen – at Freedom University, and finalizes the family they’ve made with Lena, Misha and Nic. What happened in the three previous books – Choices, Consequences and Crossroads – comes completely together in Full Circle and is so good it’s worth the back-and-forth these characters experience page after page.

At first reading, it seems as if everybody is living in the past. Lena, mother to 4-year-old Bria, can’t help thinking about the what-ifs with Denise, only because she’s single and hasn’t had a relationship since Crossroads‘ Terrin. Seeing Denise everywhere – on TV, in movies, on gossip blogs with her girlfriend Farih – only furthers the helplessness she feels about her mundane life. Thus the pining begins…

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Denise, the once-college basketball star, is rising actress in New York and also a part of a powerful lesbian couple with girlfriend/model Farih. Dubbed the black Portia and Ellen, their life appears magical, but behind the scenes, Farih is obsessed with reviving her waning career at Denise’s expense. All Farih cares about is being back on top, and it leaves Denise time to wonder why she and Lena couldn’t make it work. Seeing Lena in Atlanta brings those feelings back, and again they circle around one another without landing the plane…

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Meanwhile, Cooley is still on the grind as manager to both Denise and Sahara, her long-time girlfriend. Cooley has settled into a great relationship with Sahara, something we never could have predicted based on Cooley’s playa mentality three books ago in Choices. Cooley thinks Sahara is the best thing since sliced bread, and would give her just about anything – her heart included. So when something sinister happens to test Cooley’s love, we find out whether Cooley slips back into her trademark way of using sex as a band aid, or trusts that being in love can help you get over the hurt. Let’s just say the growth from Choices Cooley to Full Circle Cooley is tremendous. She’s not the same, and though she slips, she never falls. Skyy truly shows Cooley’s growth as a character.

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Things get more complicated when Misha is back in the picture. Cooley’s first girlfriend, the first one she ever gave her heart to, is back hanging with the Freedom University crew, still married with a husband and son. There are so many things she had to give up to be married – her education, her career, her dreams, lesbian pussy – that she wonders if it’s all worth it. Her husband is stifling her in the worst way, but this is the life she wanted when she left Cooley, right? Right?

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Back in Memphis, Carmen is set to walk down the aisle to Nic, her hardworking stud. They’ve settled into domesticity, and along with her tedious job as a teacher, Carmen finds her life boring as compared to Denise and Cooley’s fast-paced, sumptuous careers in entertainment. They can afford things Nic can’t, and though she would never trade Nic for anything, her envy could ruin her impending nuptials. All she wants is the fairytale wedding…

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I truly enjoyed this book. Full Circle is just a fun, thoughtful read. It’s a page-turner, and definitely something that will get readers talking. The writing, though slack in parts, is some of the best Skyy’s done.

In this final book, she gives readers what they wanted, and if you’re a true fan of Skyy, Full Circle is a fitting end to a series you’ve followed for six years. Skyy built characters we love for better or worse. Despite their many faults, we’ve trailed from undergraduates to grown women, seen their mistakes, yelled at them when they just couldn’t get it right (yes you, Lena!), cussed Cooley every which way, and shed a tear when love brought them together (here’s looking at you, Carmen & Nic). You can’t ask for much better than that.

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I wonder what characters Skyy will create next. She’s got a hard act to follow, but I think she can do it.

Reviewed June 2013

all gifs from mariahgifaday.tumblr.com


Once and Future Lovers by Sheree L. Greer (Dec. 2012 Pick of the Month)

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Publisher/Date:  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, June 2012
Genre(s):  Romance, Short Story
Pages:  118
Website:  http://www.shereelgreer.com

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Love.

The four letter word conjures so many images and thoughts and emotions that can be hard to express.

Sheree L. Greer captures the sentiments beautifully in her short story collection, ONCE AND FUTURE LOVERS. Her book highlights the simplest and most complicated forms of affection from the romantic to the familial, to the straight to same-sex varieties.

And it all flows like butter.

Once begins with a tender story, “I Do All My Own Stunts,” as a woman lives the metaphor of “getting back on the bike” to find love again. To her, the feeling of flying when in love is worth the tumble and pain one may have to endure – and she can’t wait to experience it again.

“The Beginning of Something” is truly an old-fashioned love story. Arthur Turner meets a seemingly virtuous woman named Christine. She’s stunning, but at 26, has never been married and doesn’t want to leave home. Arthur, having lived a tough life, desires to see the world and intriguingly finds this same quality in someone else – Iris, Christine’s sister.

It all comes full circle in “Dreaming Woman,” a heartwarmer about Zaire and her two loves: Daryan, her best friend, unaware of Zaire’s passion for her; and her grandmother, Mama Iris, who Zaire lovingly takes care of and enjoys spending time with. Two different kinds of love, but the admiration Zaire has for Mama Iris bolsters her courage to declare her love for Daryan and allow her into her world.

Once and Future Lovers can be considered an exceptional debut novel. The narration of each story exudes genuine human interactions that are relatable to any sexuality, race or gender. Love can’t be defined by those things, and Greer presents this knowledge in a splendid way.

Reviewed December 2012


HIGH – On Love & Addiction by April Joy Bowden and Jeanie RAINBOW Bell

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Publisher/Date:  AuthorHouse, Mar. 2010
Genre:  Lesbian True Life
Pages:  148
Website:  http://www.apriljoybowden.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Choosing between love and addiction is a difficult decision – when both lift you up and can take you crashing back down.

Whereas drugs have the ability to destroy lives and relationships, only love has the power to bring you through and fight the disease.

This struggle is depicted in HIGH – ON LOVE & ADDICTION, written by April Joy Bowden and Jeanie RAINBOW Bell. Bowden is also the author of the poetry book, The Other Side of Joy.

Jeanie and April’s relationship began like any typical love romance. Their eyes met across a dance floor, and while they didn’t seem like each other’s type, they fell in love and soon moved in.

At first glance, Jeanie was good on paper: she had a great job, owned a home, drove a nice car, had a good upbringing, kept up a neat appearance, and treated April like a queen.

But soon after moving in, strange messages were left on their voicemail. Then Jeanie pulled disappearing acts for days on end. She missed or ruined holidays. That’s when April knew when Jeanie had a drug problem.

The rest of HIGH navigates April and Jeanie’s long journey to getting Jeanie well. What should have been years spent together and creating a family were instead lost to Jeanie’s addiction, relapse and recovery. When Jeanie was sober, she and April had the best time together. When the habit took over, everything took a backseat to getting the next high or, in April’s case, finding Jeanie.

The good thing is that Jeanie and April survived. Through their entries, Jeanie learned what her addiction was doing to her lover and herself, while April endured her own recovery from love.

For those who’ve had an addict in their lives, HIGH – On Love & Addiction is a detailed account of what the struggle is like on a day-to-day basis. Their entries are frequent and slightly repetitive, but that’s the realness of dating addict. One day at a time.

Reviewed December 2012


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

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

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

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

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

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

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

Simpson offers these gems:

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

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

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

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

Reviewed December 2012


black girl love by Anondra “Kat” Williams

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blackgirllovePublisher/Date:  CreateSpace, Mar. 2011
Genre(s):  Romance, Erotica, Short Story
Pages: 202
Website:  http://www.anondrawilliams.com

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Twenty-five stories, 25 beautiful sentiments about black women and love.

That statement encapsulates Anondra “Kat” Williams’ black girl love, a scenic excursion of the black lesbian experience, from love to hate, from sex to love.

There are several highlights of black girl love. The best are ones that allow you to lose yourself in them. Like “locs,” where a lover waits patiently to connect with her harried wife through loving hair maintenance. “lunch” finds two old friends catching up and right back to the mutual attraction that always lingers as they dine, while “buddies” has two friends-with-benefits partakers silently falling for each other.

Other highlights of black girl love are the ones rooted in serious emotions. A partner respects her wife’s choice to live in “decisions,” and “trying” is a masterpiece at showcasing a woman’s many attempts to win her girlfriend back.

The lion’s share of black girl love, though, is about desire. That resonates in most of Williams’ tales, especially with the stories “breakfast”, “lunch” and “dinner,” lovers feasting on each other via words that ring true.

Williams thoughtfully douses black girl love with tenderness, humor, and real-life situations that make it hard to put down. It’s a project she spent three year working on, and it shows in the fluidity of the book. In reading, you will picture yourself as one (or more) of Williams’ characters, laugh, or loudly utter “ooh chile” at something clever.

Now those are the signs of a good book.

Reviewed January 2012


Pulling Me Back by GStarr

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pullingmebackPublisher/Date:  UrbanL Publishing LLC, Aug. 2009
Genre(s):  Romance, Drama
Pages:  261
Website:  http://www.urbanlpublishing.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

There’s always a fine line in friendships between women, a boundary that when crossed the pair is never the same again. That’s the invisible line Bre Morgan and Jordan Powers find themselves straddling when they become lovers in GStarr’s PULLING ME BACK.

The debut novel from UrbanL Publishing, run by authors V. Bella and GStarr, is a dramatic page-turner. Bre and Jordan never thought they’d end up with each other, especially since Bre is in love with a man at the start of the novel. Spoiled and sheltered, Bre oversees her father’s successful real estate firm and pretty much gets whatever she wants – except a commitment from her always-absent boyfriend, Sean. Dating for four years, they only see each other three times a month supposedly because of his job. Their fly-by-night relationship doesn’t exactly fit into Bre’s plans of being married with kids – she’s 33 – and his infrequent visits make her wonder what Sean is up to when he’s not with her.

Jordan, on the other hand, is 35 and avoids commitment like a trip to the gynecologist. While she doesn’t call herself a playa per se, her motto is “to satisfy yourself…first.” She can pull just about any woman, but when the thrill is gone, Jordan simply moves on to the next. Mya is her latest conquest, but the long-distance nature of their relationship is tedious, especially when she has eye candy like Bre to hang out with: perfect petite figure, long luxurious hair, small apple bottom ass.

The friends both believe they shouldn’t cross that line, but it happens one night not so unexpectedly. The sexual tension building between Bre and Jordan came together so smoothly that it scares both women. Jordan feels herself falling in love, and Bre is just trying to deal with being intimate with a woman for the first time. Is she a lesbian? What does all this mean? She already has enough to worry about with her family falling apart at the seams.

While it was inevitable that their friendship could translate into a romance, no one but GStarr could have predicted how volatile it would become. Secondary characters weave their way into Pulling Me Back in the most interesting fashion, and drama ensues. That alone makes GStarr’s first novel unforgettable.  I was drawn into the “will-they or won’t they” commotion between Jordan and Bre, and the sex scenes are sizzling.

Pulling Me Back will reel you in – and keep you hooked for pages on end.

Reviewed August 2010


Valentine’s Day E-Book Special

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This Valentine’s Day, Sistahs on the Shelf is providing a little love by featuring four reviews of e-books all about love, romance and passion to heighten your holiday. What’s good about these electronic books is that most are no more than a few dollars to download. Clicking on each book will direct you to where to purchase a copy.

Also for your pleasure are 10 Tips for an Awesome Valentine’s Day and 10 Tips to a Sexy Valentine’s Day to make the most of Valentine’s Day with your lover, written by erotica writers Stephanie Rose and Ms. Erotica.

So read on and enjoy this special day — whether single or attached!


How to Love a Black Lesbian by Velvet Knight and Joy A’Che

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howtoloveblackesbianPublisher/Date:  Sexy Black Rainbows Entertainment, Feb. 2010
Genre:  Relationship Guide
Pages:  26
Website:  http://www.sexyblackrainbows.com

Rating: ★★★★★ 

If you’ve ever been in love, want to be in love or are in love right now, HOW TO LOVE A BLACK LESBIAN is the e-book you must read. Within the pages lie the simple truths about loving a black female.

Velvet Knight and Joy A’Che break down what it takes to deeply care for a woman — from her head to her toes. Yet it goes further than just loving the physical aspects of your mate. Getting to know her mind, soul and spirit is vital according to the authors, who preach that “starting from the outside and going in” is the best way to enjoy the qualities your other half possesses.

First, the relationship manual stresses discovering what makes your lover tick. For example, knowing exactly why she became a lesbian is a key to whom she is as a person. So ask her. The authors say “to love a lesbian you should know why one is a lesbian.” Her attitude and response to the question should reveal more her character and her heart.

But don’t think that loving a woman’s body is not important. Knight and A’Che emphasize adoring every single part of your lover, her touch, and even her imperfections. I like how the authors play up the importance of swagger – whether she’s femme, stud or in the middle – as another facet to enjoy about your partner’s confidence in being female.

For right in time for Valentine’s Day, How to Love a Black Lesbian is definitely required reading. Knight and A’Che provide a sensual guidebook for beautiful African-American women who love women. Anyone in or out of a relationship should read this how-to because it’s an excellent blueprint to building a solid foundation with your lover.

Reviewed February 2010


Love and Marriage: The Gay and Lesbian Guide to Dating and Romance by Cheril N. Clarke

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loveandmarriage2Publisher/Date:  Dodi Press, Jan. 2010
Genre:  Relationship Guide
Pages:  24
Website:  http://www.cherilnclarke.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Want hundreds of tips to kick start, rekindle or preserve your relationship? Then get your hands on LOVE AND MARRIAGE: THE GAY AND LESBIAN GUIDE TO DATING AND ROMANCE by beloved novelist Cheril N. Clarke.

Not only is Clarke the author of lesbian contemporary romance novels, she’s also a happily wedded woman of three years. That helps when perusing these helpful suggestions that list everything from scrapbooking to playing hide-and-go-seek to lap-dancing – all in an effort to keep the romance brewing.

The e-book is broken up conveniently into three sections: Getting to Know Each Other, Commitment and Marriage. Each pointer is marked with a symbol indicating the cost and activity type. As a word of advice, she states that you should make this book your own and not try to do everything at once.

If you’re on a first date or starting a new relationship, Clarke offers out-of-the-box plans for first dates. Things like taking a hot air balloon, having dinner in a castle, or walking under the stars on moonlight night will surely set a very good first impression.

For those in monogamous relationships, she doesn’t forget about you. To strengthen your bond, why don’t you take your girlfriend to a bed and breakfast or write her an old fashioned love letter?

And to cherish your union and combat the long-term itch of marriage, among Clarke’s hints are commissioning an artist to paint a couple’s portrait, having personalized china made, and attending a hedonism retreat.

By reading Love and Marriage, all couples should find something to fit their fancy – from the simplest declaration to the most elaborate arrangement. Clarke has your relationship in mind.

Reviewed February 2010