Favorite SOTS Books Read in 2015

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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10.     Azure BLU: The Royal Saga by Feral Kitty

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


In Memory of Nikki Rashan

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In Memory of Nikki Rashan

August 18, 1972-May 4, 2015

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I was saddened to hear of author Nikki Rashan’s passing earlier this week. As a long-time reader of her four full-length novels and two anthologies, I was enamored with her talent for passionate storytelling, the kind of stories that engage and hook you within the first couple chapters. She was also a fighter, battling cancer, to which she lost her fight. Yet Nikki will always be remembered by Sistahs on the Shelf as a writer, a mother of twins, and a beautiful soul.

A year or so ago, I discovered Nikki’s blog, NB]tween Thoughts, where she discussed her life’s journey. After her passing, I began to read again, and in her last post on March 16, 2015 titled Pray or Worry, Don’t Do Both~N&B update~:-), I found this passage especially moving:

This blog isn’t written to sadden anyone, but instead I pray it’s encouraging in some way. I find refuge in blogs and books written by women who have gone through this journey. If sharing my experience can benefit someone else, I’m happy to share. My mindset right now is to absorb each day with whatever it brings. If it’s a quiet day at home, that’s fine, I have books to read, music to dance to and loved ones around me. If I’m out and about soaking up California sunshine, even better. If it’s day for treatment, all right, the treatment is only helping to rid [my] body of these busybody cells. Life goes on…I look forward to a trip home in May. I look forward to celebrating Brandy’s birthday in Hawaii this summer. I look forward to whatever is next because I trust and believe that it’s all for my good.

Nikki Rashan’s Bibliography
Double Pleasure, Double Pain (2003)
You Make Me Wanna (2005)
Cyber Case (2010)
The EXchange (2013)
Full Figured 7 (2013)
Les Tales: Tempted to Touch (2014)

Photos from www.nikkirashan.com


Books 2 Check Out – May 2014

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

Get At Me by K.A. Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Lesbian in God’s House by Phenomenon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sacred Fire by by Tanai Walker

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

That’s The Way Love Goes by GStarr

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

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

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

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


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?


Books 2 Check Out – Nov. 2012

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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):

Cream (Stud Life) by Christiana Harrell

Cream, an androgynous beauty, knows what it’s like to be abandoned, broke, and used. Left to the state by her parents and taken under the wing of her selfish foster mother, Cream sets her focus on one thing: money. She dives head first into the exotic lifestyle of stripping. Starting out in gentlemen clubs, drama seems to follow her wherever she goes. Instead of facing the turmoil, she moves on to the next city, causing more chaos than what she left behind. She thinks she has life all figured out until she crosses paths with Payton, a daddy’s girl with lots of cash and a lust for women. Payton makes her learn things about herself that she never saw possible and with her new discovery comes a big change in her look and personality. Cream is at the top of her game, surrounded by money and beautiful women. Then, one wild night forces her to discover yet another truth about herself and face the reality of her lifestyle. Will she continue to dwell in her unstable comfort zone? Or, will she finally open her eyes?

Full Figured 7: Carl Weber Presents by Nikki Rashan and Ni’chelle Genovese

Sassy, sophisticated and sensual are the three adjectives Sugar uses to define her personality, her style, and her shapely curves. Fiercely confident about her luxurious, full-figured body, Sugar sashays through Chicago’s nightlife, belting high notes as a well-known singing sensation. Idolized by many, only few know her secret: she and her long-time manager Ace share more than a common passion for Sugar’s career. They’re lovers. At Ace’s insistence, Sugar has always agreed to secrecy for the sake of her career, but now she’s tired of hiding just to maintain her spotlight. Sugar is ready to reveal her true love for Ace. Too bad Ace would rather keep Sugar right in her place—as a sweet scoop of sugar on the side.

Alicia considers herself nothing less than a survivor after escaping years of physical and mental abuse at the hands of her high school love. Now she does whatever is necessary in order to maintain the picture perfect image she thinks she needs to present as a female working for the Virginia Beach Police Department. Tia is Alicia’s polar opposite. She’s an enticing con-woman who’s broken every law, deliberately searching for cracks and loopholes in the system. Tia’s main goal is to live the lavish lifestyle she adores without having to work an honest nine to five to achieve it.

When their worlds collide, it’s everything but ordinary. Alicia finds herself drawn into a world she swore to defend against. They say opposites attract, but Alicia starts to wonder if her fascination with Tia is because they are actually birds of the same feather.

In Full Figured 7, Carl Weber brings together two literary divas to give readers what they’ve been asking for: empowering and entertaining stories about big, beautiful women.

Love After Miami (Love After Series) by Samantha Underwood

Not written as a sequel, the 2nd novel in the Love After Series (read the SOTS review of Love After Atlanta) features two characters that are full of explained angst, graphic passion, and suppressed anger. The slow burn of the content quickly heats up as these women are pushed to their limits and begin to question themselves.

Alexandra Lyon, caught in between a love triangle with a co-worker and a stranger gets in her feelings and falls for a killer love. Crippled by self-deprecation and alcoholism this Creole, English Professor struggles to stay sane after finding out the truth about her lover.

Blonde bombshell CIA Agent Talen Elliot, appears again, this time assigned to a case in Miami. The Spy soon has her hands full while protecting the French Ambassador’s daughter and stopping a terrorist plot while tip-toeing the line between love and duty. As the terrorists’ plot unfolds our favorite couple, Agent Leah Fiento and Dr. Carla Ward make guest appearances to inspire love and save the day.

Niya: Rainbow Dreams (The Dreamers) (Volume 1) by Fabiola Joseph

Do you know who you are? Are you comfortable in your skin? Outed by her best friend in front of the whole neighborhood, Niya is trying to come to terms with being a lesbian, and it isn’t easy. Although everyone around her seems to know the secret she is trying to hide, she is still battling the fact that she likes girls. Filled with dreams of becoming a rap star, she must first learn to accept who she really is before taking over the music industry.

Jamilla is drowning in the reality of her home life. Forced to face a real life monster on a daily basis, the shame of her past is slowly killing everything beautiful about her. Just when she thinks life isn’t worth living, she befriends Niya. Armed with a pen, journal, and true friendship, this writer will find the courage to overcome her past.

With Jamilla’s self-imposed restraints and label of being straight, feelings will emerge, but will also be stifled. Both of these women will be confused by an extremely close unconventional friendship and high sexual tension. Afraid of disrupting their budding friendship, Niya fights to keep her true feelings for Jamilla under wraps. How long can this game of friendship last when love is the stronger opponent? How will these ladies triumph over pain, murder, and so much anger? The secret lies within the pages of Niya… Rainbow Dreams. The story of forbidden love, friendship, music, and destruction.


The EXchange by Nikki Rashan

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Publisher/Date:  Urban Books, June 2013
Genre(s):  Romance, Drama
Pages:  272
Website:  http://www.nikkirashan.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Exes as friends…an interesting concept. There are usually two camps on this phenomenon. One says exes are exes for a reason, so why be friends; what is there to discuss after the words “It’s Over.” The other school of thought is that as long as it wasn’t a harrowing break-up and/or you were friends before you hooked up, why not be friends after.

If only Kyla and Asia decided to follow the former and not the latter, THE EXCHANGE would have played out a lot differently. Luckily, Nikki Rashan knows how to craft a story of drama with the realities of love. It’s not all pretty, though.

It’s been some years, but you might remember Kyla from Double Pleasure Double Pain as a naive 26-year-old trying to decide between her “good man” and the blossoming romance with a female classmate. Then in You Make Me Wanna, Kyla hops from bed to bed in her new home of Atlanta, until she meets the love of her life, Asia. Nine years later, love and commitment equal boredom for Kyla and Asia in The EXchange‘s onset, and instead of Kyla being honest about it, she deflects Asia’s nightly relationship quizzes and finds her excitement in her good friend Angie, who recently went through a horrible split from her own girlfriend. In case you forgot, Angie and Kyla had a sex-only relationship in You Make Me Wanna, an arrangement that ended once Asia captured Kyla’s heart. While Kyla found her happily ever after with Asia, she and “friend” Angie always kept the platonic door open; Kyla and Asia even double-dated with Angie and girlfriend, Deidre, occasionally.

Now that Angie and Deidre have called it quits, she needs Kyla’s “friendship” to fill the void. The more they spend time together, the more Kyla discovers that she never knew more about Angie other than her strap size. She’s actually very sweet and attentive — and Kyla is somewhat swayed by Angie’s special treatment. Could it be that the excitement of a new love could erase the stability of a long-standing love? Kyla is about to find out.

The EXchange is a cliffhanger of a book – one, because Kyla takes us on a crazy jaunt through whether you can truly replace something old with something new; or two, because the ending seems destined to have another installment. The back-and-forth between Kyla and Asia is a page-turner for sure. It also raises a lot of interesting questions about keeping the fires brewing in long-term relationships, and I can see The EXchange being hotly discussed in many lesbian book clubs.

Rashan’s writing is solid. The game-playing and bed-hopping also makes The EXchange a gripping story – it’s a lot fun to read; you should have heard me yelling, “No, Kyla, nooo!” when she did something foolish. But as for Kyla and Asia, they could have easily solved their boredom by something anything else other than bringing people confusion into their relationship. She appears to have grown up in the nine years since being with Asia, but she slightly regresses through much of the novel to the indecisive Kyla she was in Double Pleasure. Asia, with her shoot-from-the-hip attitude, is no walk in the park either; I could have used less of the blame game she pulled about Kyla’s past.

But she was right about one thing: that in the end, love does truly win.

Reviewed July 2013


chatlogoKyla attempts to rekindle feelings with her ex, Angie. So that brings up a though for discussion. Today’s Chat It Up question is: Can exes be friends?

You can vote in the poll, add your own answers, or leave a comment below.


Cyber Case by Nikki Rashan

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cybercasePublisher/Date:  Urban Books, Aug. 2010
Genre(s):  Romance, Suspense
Pages:  288
Website:  http://www.nikkirashan.com

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Attention Facebook and Twitter addicts: Nikki Rashan has written a novel that will make you think twice before you make that next status update.

CYBER CASE is the tale of two women whose love has been tested by the Internet.

Mortgage broker Jovanna and her criminal attorney girlfriend Melanie have an idyllic four year relationship. Surrounded by wonderful friends, the pair doesn’t think much about the world of cyberspace except to keep up with the people they love and the occasional acquaintance.

That all changes when one of Melanie’s clients, a lesbian named Sunday, contacts her on a mutual social networking site. Jovanna’s not keen on the idea of her woman mixing business with a friend request, but Melanie convinces her it’s strictly professional.

Straight-laced Jovanna isn’t worried at first. She isn’t the jealous type, and enjoys the life they’ve built as a trusting couple. But something changes. Sure, Melanie’s stress is normal when she’s working on a strenuous case; her secrecy isn’t. Melanie’s suspicious behavior – frequently checking her BlackBerry or shutting her laptop around her – raises Jovanna’s red flag.

Could Sunday’s enticing posts be to blame for Melanie’s shadiness?

Rashan’s Cyber Case tracks the ins and outs of how the internet can dissolve trust between partners.  The well-written story sprints to a great build up; by the novel’s close, it ends without a bang. The couple’s friends – all eight – are introduced with complete back stories that aren’t completely finished by the closing stages. Those things aside, Cyber Case is worth the read.

Now…back to your status updates.

Reviewed February 2011


You Make Me Wanna by Nikki Rashan (Jan. 2006 Pick of the Month)

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Publisher/Date:  iUniverse, Nov. 2005
Genre:  Romance
Pages:  202
Website:  http://www.nikkirashan.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Kyla, Kyla, Kyla.

The naïve heroine from Nikki Rashan’s Double Pleasure Double Pain is back in YOU MAKE ME WANNA, this time armed with the truth about who she is. This sequel picks up where Kyla left off, trying to decide between the man she is to marry and the woman who stole her heart. When she finally does choose, Kyla has lost them both, and instead heads to Atlanta with out-cousin David to begin her newly-minted lesbian life.

In “the gay Mecca of the South,” Kyla throws herself in numerous sexual affairs with women, avoiding at all costs a deeper connection. She’s still holding on to the hurt she felt from her two previous relationships that went sour. It prevents her from giving herself completely to another woman, afraid to feel any type of pain again.

Until she meets Asia, the exotic beauty Kyla spies one afternoon. Enraptured by her luxurious locks and ebony complexion, Kyla wants to meet this woman and does after a set up by David’s boyfriend, Marlon. And just one meeting with Asia tells Kyla that she’s the one. They begin a courtship, and Kyla has to deal with letting go of her past to commit to her future. Their relationship is built slowly, as Asia’s been hurt, as well, but their love for each other heals the wounds.

You Make Me Wanna definitely keeps your attention. Kyla is an engaging character who has an honest voice. You will journey with her through love at first sight and on her way to happily ever after. The secondary characters — David, Marlon, and friend Nakia – added something extra to the tale, as the three characters deal with their own issues.

Rashan wraps up the Kyla saga very well, settling all unanswered questions from the first book, and manages to make Kyla a character to remember. She feels like an old friend who’s coming back to catch you up on her life…and you’re hanging on to every word.

Reviewed January 2006


Double Pleasure Double Pain by Nikki Rashan

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doublepleasuredoublepainPublisher/Date:  Urban Books, Apr. 2008
Genre:  Romance
Pages:  288
Website:  http://www.nikkirashan.com

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Entertaining, genuine and down to earth, DOUBLE PLEASURE DOUBLE PAIN is the tale of Kyla, a 26-year-old “super-junior” at the local college who hasn’t quite got her act together. After eight years of school, she doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life, and is settling for a part-time job at a department store when she knows she could do better. And she’s somewhat content with Jeff, a “good man” who loves and supports her, while her best friends Vanessa and Tori provide her comic relief.

Then a pleasant surprise takes the form of one of her classmates. In one of Kyla’s social work classes (her umpteenth major), she meets Stephanie, with whom she has an immediate connection. They are both trying to get ahead in life and among the oldest students in the class. When Kyla discovers Stephanie is a lesbian, it surprises and fascinates her. Soon Kyla has to deal with her own blossoming attraction to a woman stirring up feelings she didn’t know she had.

Stephanie doesn’t step to Kyla at first, but let’s their friendship develop slowly. Kyla gets to know her on a personal basis, even meeting Stephanie’s nine-year-old son, Jaron. After a while, the ladies are sharing more than just classes–and Kyla doesn’t know what to do.

The rest of the novel basically deals with Kyla’s emerging sexuality and trying not to break anyone’s heart, whether it’s Stephanie, Jeff or her own. By the time she decides between her “safe” life with Jeff or the lesbian unknown, she’s gained what’s most important: the confidence to know whom she really is.

Double Pleasure Double Pain is a fast read. It’s surprising to see just how Kyla will end up. Through her inner turmoil, the reader takes a voyage with Kyla through her sexual journey–and it’s well worth the trip.

Reviewed August 2005