Turn Me Out: The Novel by T. Ariez

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turnmeoutnovelPublisher/Date:  Amazon Digital Services LLC, March 2016
Genre(s):  Stud 4 Stud, Romance
Pages:  199
Website:  https://www.facebook.com/T.Ariez3

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Angel and Ace are best friends who happen to both be studs. When Angel realizes that she has developed feelings for Ace, she devises a plan that will go against everything she’s ever known and believed in. She is tired of the traditions and rules that make her feelings taboo and decides to risk everything. When she finally decides that she can’t take it anymore and throws caution in the wind, will it all be worth the risk?

In 2013, T. Ariez’s short story, Turn Me Out, introduced studs Angel and Ace who found themselves in the precarious situation of being attracted to one another. Two studs in lust? Where they do that at? Though it’s oftentimes inconceivable in our black lesbian community, Ariez made the romance between two best friends believable through her writing and characters in such a brief tale.

Fast forward to 2016, and T. Ariez has expanded her earlier quickie into TURN ME OUT: THE NOVEL, and this version is meatier than I imagined it would be. It broke me in several places. The novel pretty much follows the same basic premise as the short story, but focuses more on the “where do we go from here” aspect and explores Angel and Ace becoming a couple. This is where shit gets real.

Now I’m not a stud. So I don’t fully understand what it’s like be a masculine woman in a man’s world.

But it’s hard not to empathize with Angel as she contemplates her feelings for Ace, who’s as hard as they come. We’re in her head as Angel as she grapples with being in love with her best friend, the person who showed her the ropes of stud life and sheltered her during their teenage years. The lengths she goes through to tell Ace how she feels are real and moving and hard to read at times, but the affection they have for each other is hard-fought and raw. Their love scenes were some of the hottest because of this masculine, loving vibe between them.

My biggest concern, though, was how Angel felt she had change herself to what Ace wanted. Ace, Ace, Ace. It was all I could take not to slam her hand in a car door, mostly because of how she dealt with loving Angel. Her hangups, based on what people would think, about loving another stud were going to be the death of her friendship; I just wanted her to wake up and see what was in front of her. Ace was also spoiled, a stud used to bedding a different femme almost every night, and being in love was something she envisioned as a last resort. Until Angel.

I was so invested in Turn Me Out: The Novel. The resolution Ace comes to, and the fight Angel goes through to prove her love, is what makes this book special. I hope this book will help our community let go of the rigid stereotypes we place on each other and ourselves.

T. Ariez, I’m ready for the next one.

Reviewed March 2016

About T. Ariez

T. Ariez is a Texas native currently living in Dallas. He has been writing since the second grade but only started exploring writing for an audience a few years after graduating high school. He enjoys reading in his spare time, playing board games with his family and watching football.


2 Sides 2 the Rainbow by Unique Waterfall

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2sides2therainbowPublisher/Date:  Amazon Digital Services, Inc., Feb. 2015
Genre(s):  Romance, Drama, Studs and Femmes
Pages:  356
Website:  http://www.uniquewaterfall.com

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Say what you will about their love lives, but Ming, Nayla, Angie and Rachel know how to get down to business. The women of 2 SIDES 2 THE RAINBOW are good friends, but have professions that pair them with love interests that intersect in interesting ways. Unique Waterfall shows that the foursome is about their money, but when it comes to the studs in their lives, that’s where they mix business with more than enough pleasure.

Ming, the unofficial leader of the crew, is a lawyer trying to land a deal with the hottest stud in the modeling industry. There’s no way she can lose this account, even when a handsome samaritan stays on her mind after assisting her one night – unless that guardian angel is her new client’s agent. Even with that distraction, I loved Ming’s professionalism through it all; she seems to have her head on straight when it comes to what she wants and when her friends’ drama lands in her lap.

Especially with her friend Nayla. While her friends know her love for women, she’s apprehensive about coming out to her family. Even with her friends’ support, Nayla still can’t admit, even to herself, that she’s a lesbian. Meeting a stud who challenges her denial, Nayla is at a crossroads that one can sympathize with. Her struggle anchors the book and is the most compelling character to watch.

Angie, Ming’s assistant, is trying to find love also, but I mostly see her as comic relief to the other women. Rachel, hotel executive by day and opportunist by night, is my least favorite of the women, only because I didn’t get to know her enough throughout the novel. The stud love interests are passionate in their own special ways.

2 Sides 2 the Rainbow is a mix of fun and drama, but there are a a couple of hiccups: it needs an editor’s red pen in places, and the conversations between the women regurgitate too much what just happened in the scene before. However, Nayla’s struggles, Ming’s relationship and the bond between Ming and Nayla are the major pluses for me. Considering the book ended on the biggest cliffhanger, I’ll be happy to see how the women progress and what new they’ll get into in the upcoming sequel.

Reviewed February 2016

About Unique Waterfall

Unique Waterfall is an Illinois native that grew up on the Southside of Chicago, known as the wild hundreds. Born and raised in the Altgeld Garden Housing Projects, writing was an escape from the reality of living in public housing. The oldest of her siblings Unique was an outgoing but cautious child who always had something to read in her hand. Whether it was a book, magazine, or news paper she was constantly reading and writing. Unique is an avid lover of the arts and the Harlem Renaissance era, this love is what fueled her desire to write poetry. Writing was something that she only did for herself as a release from the pressures of everyday life she never shared her writings with others. But encouragement from her family and friends she started to share some of her writings online. After seeing the lack of positive representation amongst African American lesbians, in the literary world Unique started brainstorming writing a book. But it wasn’t until a tragic event that changed her life that she actually wrote and self published the novel 2 Sides 2 The Rainbow.


Cream by Christiana Harrell

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creamPublisher/Date:  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Aug. 2013
Genre(s):  Romance, Sexuality
Pages:  230
Website:  https://www.facebook.com/girlnovel

Rating: ★★★★★ 

CREAM is my first Christiana Harrell book. *hangs head in shame*

But it definitely won’t be my last because Harrell, whose Cream was a 2014 Lambda Literary Award finalist, truly proved her talents with a book surrounding the life of a character I loved and rooted for the entire way.

Cream is her stage name, a strip club performer with an androgynous appearance and a beautiful body. Dancing for men became a means to an end after being in a foster home after her parents’ abandonment. The first few pages introduce this past and her take-no-shit personality that serves her well as a stripper.

Lambda-Medal2014

2014 Lambda Literary Award Finalist From http://www.lambdaliterary.org

But it also gives credence to why she moves from city to city. Why she’s never befriended hardly anyone since her group home days. And why, even with the fights she’s had (and won), there’s still there’s an innocence about her.

Cream’s sexual naivety is the meat of this book. It’s shown in the way she was drawn to her friend Kitty – until she suddenly left Cream’s life. In the way she latched onto Payton, the daddy’s girl who shows her being a stud is her real meal ticket – both professionally and romantically. And when finally she finds unconditional love, she almost runs in the opposite direction.

And this realness is what I loved about Cream, both the book and the character. This gullibility Cream owns is not a Mary Sue plot device, it’s a journey Harrell writes so we can take this journey with her main character. You feel as if you’re a newbie right along with her, from Kansas City to Atlanta, and everywhere else in between.

Just the way Cream drops her boxers on the stage, Harrell’s writing leaves it all on the page. There’s very realistic dialogue, the sex is on fire, and Harrell’s voice is loud and clear through Cream without muddying the two voices. Her supporting characters also play a big role in the book, to the point where I thought Cream molded herself to any woman who offered her a hand.

That leads me to my next point that one of the most interesting aspect of Cream hinges on the sexuality of the characters. Though Cream dressed and performed as a stud based on Payton’s advice, it should be noted that Cream sometimes questions defining herself as a stud. Until meeting Payton she wasn’t aware of what a stud was, which at times I did find a skeptical. I could say it was because of her upbringing and her singular focus on survival, but never thinking about who you are sexually was a small part of the book that nagged at me. But her exploration of who she is was genuine.

Cream definitely fulfilled my expectations. The love she found and the book’s conclusion were so fulfilling, and worth the learning curve Cream took to find what I think she was always looking for – whether she could admit it to herself or not.

There’s a reason why Harrell has more than 10 books to her name. I plan to read every one of them.

[rating-report]

Reviewed June 2014


8qqlogo8 Quick Questions for Christiana Harrell about Cream

Tell us about your book, Cream.
Well, in as few words as possible, Cream is simply a story about a woman who learns some hard lessons about love and money, while discovering her identity and sexuality along her journey.

Who is Cream?
I want to say that Cream could be any of us, but she’s just too unique to be categorized. She’s carefree, she makes her own rules, she has tunnel vision, she just is.

One of the things I enjoyed about your novel was it felt as if you put yourself in the head of Cream: being on the stage, discovering her sexuality. How did you create her as a character? Any research involved?
Oh, there was plenty of research (lol). If you noticed, in the novel I mentioned real stud strippers like Face and Juicebox. I watched every video that I could find, but this time for “research,” rather than enjoyment. I watched their moves carefully and their facial expressions. I had to pay attention to costumes and audience reaction. Basically, none of the things I would normally pay attention to. We tend to forget that during the fantasy they create, they are people and they have lives outside of those neon lights. I try to be my characters in my real life when I write them. The people around me get some great entertainment.

Is Cream based on a true person or situations?
Cream is part fiction and part non-fiction. I don’t remember how this person came up, but my ex-partner and I were talking/gossiping like most couples do and she was telling me about a “stud” that lived the same lifestyle as Cream. The little bit that I learned made me want to give her a story. I didn’t know this person myself so I had to fill in the blanks. Literally, all I had to go on was a dancer who danced for both men and women because she was “about her money.

The gist I took away from Cream is that sexuality can’t be defined by roles or labels. Was that your message?
That was definitely one, the biggest one. Roles seem to be a big deal in our community when they really shouldn’t be. If people can read about Cream and accept her the way that she was, then they can accept anyone.

Will you continue Cream’s story?
I thought about it, but if I did that, I’d have to continue so many others. I couldn’t stand the pressure

What’s next for Christiana Harrell?
At the moment, I’m working on the second stud in the “Stud Life Series.” Her name is Magic. There are three others that have to come after her. That should keep me busy for the next two years or so. Hopefully, one of them will get an award. I won’t complain.

Cream was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award in the Lesbian General Fiction category. Congratulations! How did it feel to be finalist?
Aw man. I literally almost fell out of my chair. The day that I submitted the novel, I honestly did not expect to hear anything back. You’d be surprised how much I doubt myself. Being a finalist definitely gave me confidence, but now I have to top Cream and I’m not sure that’s possible. Either way, I’m happy and humbled for the experience.

Want to know more about Christiana Harrell? Read her Sistahs on the Shelf interview A Sistahs Favorite Things interview.

About Christiana Harrell

“I write about heterosexuals, I write about lesbians, I write about transgenders… I write about people.”

Christiana Harrell is a 27-year-old writer from New Orleans, LA., that got her start in writing at six-years-old. She published her first title Girl: a Story for Every Les Being in 2009. She currently has more than 10 titles to her name. She is currently working on her next novel.


Maxi’s Place: Volume One by Literary Stud

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maxisplacevol1Publisher/Date: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Apr. 2014
Genre(s): Romance
Pages: 128
Website:  http://www.literarystud.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

MAXI’S PLACE (VOL. 1), a bind-up of three previously published serial e-books by Literary Stud, is mixture of love, secrets and heartbreak simmering in one spot.

Yes, just like her tagline says, the popular hangout for the Dallas lesbian crowd features “good food, good music and great drama.” But the good thing is that the drama is not over-the-top, just enough to give fantastic character development and a sense that the next volume will promise better things.

Last year, I reviewed both Rumors Ring True (Part 1) and It’s Complicated (Part 2), and found both to be engaging.

Part 1 titled Rumors Ring True mostly surrounds hostess Ava and saxophonist Bailey discreetly flirting with each other while suppressing their mutual attraction, both wary to begin a workplace romance because of prying eyes and ears. Not to mention Maxi’s Place owner Cole wants to keep her establishment drama-free – which means no employee fraternizing.

Speaking of Cole, It’s Complicated (Part 2) allows readers a glimpse at the woman who knows how to run a restaurant like a well-oiled machine – and her office like a sexual revolving door. Under Cole’s management, every employee knows their role except head chef Tasha, the only one who can dish flak (and her favorite sandwich) to Cole without consequences because they have a genuine friendship that goes beyond the doors Maxi’s Place. It also acquaints us with bartender Logan and the beautiful nightmares that haunt her after her shift is over.

In the most recent installment, The Lies We Tell (Part 3), readers get a real tour of a night a Maxi’s Place. Ava and Bailey are still in the mix, Cole and Tasha find themselves at odds and Logan is trying to get her life back on track. I won’t say anything more because it’ll give away the book’s progression, but just know that Part 3 is the best of the series.

With five strong characters, Literary Stud moves from good, to great to excellent as each installment progresses. The story is stronger, as well. Where there was too much of Ava and Bailey in the beginning, everything smooths itself out, and everyone gets equal time. Maxi’s Place (Volume 1) is a good showcase of Literary Stud’s talent, and I would love to see what she would do with a full-length novel.

[rating-report]

Reviewed April 2014

About Literary Stud

Born in the heart of Dallas, Texas, Literary Stud discovered her love of writing from an early age. Although life gets in the way from time to time, the passion of creating realistic characters and weaving attention grabbing plots drives Literary Stud to continue to perfect her craft.

A proud nerd, Literary Stud enjoys true reality television, anything Mafia related and is an avid watcher of The History Channel, Investigation Discovery and a host of other channels that educate as well as entertain. However, she is addicted to the Dallas Cowboys and the Dallas Mavericks. During their seasons, she is known for screaming at the television and having sporadic fits while watching games.


Sweat: Chapter One (A Lesbian Soap Opera) by LezIntellect

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sweat

Publisher/Date:  Amazon Digital Services, Inc., Feb. 2014
Genre(s):  Romance, Drama
Pages:  22 (e-book short)
Website:  http://diaryofablacklesbian.blogspot.com

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

The Plot:  SWEAT: CHAPTER ONE introduces twins Odessa, a womanizing, prodigal daughter of sorts and Olivia, the responsible older sister (by two minutes) who’s been running their father’s successful hair care empire while Odessa is away in the Big Apple. She’s returned home to her family’s sprawling home and decides as usual she wants what she wants without a thought to what’s been happening while she’s gone. If she had only made a phone call or two, she would have discovered that Olivia has been taking care of things just fine in Atlanta.

The Good:  Author LezIntellect makes it clear this first installment of Sweat is just the beginning. She has way more in mind for her characters; she promises Chapter Two will bring someone “dynamic.” She also knows a thing or two about how to write a descriptive setting and how to give her characters great backstories (even if we don’t know everything just yet), which makes me captived with Odessa and Olivia. And I love the cover artwork.

The Not-So-Good:  Sweat‘s sentence structures can be a little redundant, but I have a (kind of) bigger issue. The thing about soap operas: every time you get closer to the truth, in comes a commercial. That’s how I felt when I got to the end of Sweat. Waiting chapter by chapter is going to be the death of me. *cue death music* *cut to commercial*

The Bottom Line:  I have to know what happens next. I guess there’s a reason LezIntellect calls it Sweat.

[rating-report]

Reviewed April 2014

About LezIntellect

LezIntellect is the woman behind Diary of a Black Lesbian, a oft-posted blog about life, love, and the occasional rant. There she describes herself as “a young, sexy, African American feminine tomboy living, breathing, and loving women in ATLANTA, GA.”

LezIntellect is the author Sweat: Chapter One (A Lesbian Soap Opera) presented in chapter form. She also penned Diary Of A Black Lesbian Uncensored Vol. One. She’s currently working on Sweat‘s second chapter.


Who is First Lady Wanda Davis? (Book 1: Greater Harvest Saga) by Michael Drain

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whoisfirstladywandadavisPublisher:  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Dec. 2013
Genre(s):  Religious, Romance, Coming Out
Pages:  114
Website:  http://www.browninkentertainment.com

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Wife. Mentor. Friend. Shopaholic.

In WHO IS FIRST LADY WANDA DAVIS?, a story of the perfection it takes to be a pastor’s wife by Michael Drain, we’re introduced to all sides of Wanda, even the ones she tries to keep cleverly concealed.

Wanda Davis followed her husband, Howard, from their college days to the pulpit. In the years since his installation, she’s been the “perfect” pastor’s wife: steadfastly supportive of Howard’s mission, mindful of her words and actions, and helpful whenever needed. This dedication and her husband’s strong word ascend Greater Harvest Cathedral to megachurch status. Once a rock in the South Bend, Indiana community, the church is now in the wake of a scandal, and Howard thinks Wanda is a catalyst to getting the church back to its roots.

Yet Wanda is in the midst of her own spiritual storm.

Being a first lady doesn’t allow much room to be herself. Where she felt other wives in her position wielded their power in a greater capacity, Wanda felt stifled. She can’t speak her mind or tell what’s bothering her, lest she be judged. This pressure builds into an addiction she can’t shake: shopping. Hiding expensive clothes and thousands of dollars in mounting debt, Wanda’s compulsion may stem partly from her first lady pedestal, but it actually masks an even deeper craving: being with a woman.

As a pastor’s daughter, Wanda couldn’t reconcile her spiritual self with being a lesbian. After breaking it off with a female classmate in college, Howard was the man who accepted her as she was, and she saw him as her rock and deliverance.

Even when she didn’t see it, Howard has always believed in his wife and their relationship. He places Wanda front and center over the church’s women’s service during revival. Wanda, with her heavy heart, is not so convinced, especially when the occasion pairs her with an alluring event planner. How can she lead the women when she is so conflicted in her own soul?

The pastor’s wife element in Who is First Lady Wanda Davis?, the first in a series, adds something extra to Drain’s story, but I feel Wanda could be any woman confused in her sexuality and her love for God. Her turmoil in living up to the self-imposed standards of a first lady — and the behind-the-scenes church drama — are real to the black church. We do make it hard for our gay brothers and sisters, but what I found moving was how understanding Howard was to Wanda’s transition then and now as she figures out her life. Howard’s a good guy.

The book’s formatting could use work, and the sermons throughout are slightly repetitive, but Drain engages.

By the conclusion, I can tell something more sinister is coming in Wicked Harvest, Book 2 in The Greater Harvest Saga. I’ll be reading it.

[rating-report]

Reviewed February 2014

About Michael Drain

Michael Drain is a married, social columnist for the LGBT magazine Rainbowaffairs.com. He is also the CEO of Brown Ink Entertainment, a company that specializes in LGBT an mainstream entertainment, i.e. stage productions, music, publications, media, graphics and artist representation. He is a graduate of Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis. Drain currently resides in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Drain, who wrote and directed the smash hit, My Revival!, is currently working on several stage plays and a follow up novel to Who is First Lady Wanda Davis? titled Wicked Harvest, set for a 2014 release.


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.


First Love by C. Truth

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firstlovePublisher/Date:  Penny Publishing, LLC, June 2011
Genre(s):  Romance, Coming Out, Young Adult
Pages:  181
Website:  http://www.bflyctruth.com

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

As much as I want to, I can never tell a book character what to do. And not just because she’s not a live, breathing person, but because when it comes to a teenager like Savannah in FIRST LOVE by C. Truth, she wouldn’t listen to me anyway.

She’s 17, a high school senior and falling in love with best friend Bree. She can’t talk to her by-the-Bible mom, who wants a better friend for her daughter than the openly-gay Bree. And she can’t tell Bree she likes her, because she has a girlfriend. She has virtually no one to turn to with her feelings.

I wish she would listen to me. But what could I tell a book-smart, hard-working girl like Savannah, coming from someone older?

  1. Don’t get a boyfriend just to please your mother. When handsome football player Marco approaches and asks you out, say no. Just because he’s 5’7’’ with chocolate skin and deep waves in his hair, and he’s the guy all the girls want, doesn’t mean you really want to go out with him and you shouldn’t get him caught up in your confusion about your sexuality. It can only lead to heartache for both you. Especially when you kiss him and you’re thinking about Bree.
  2. Be honest with yourself. Savannah, you spend a lot of time in your room pondering your sexuality, and that’s good. But you also beat yourself about liking girls when that’s truly where your heart is. Stop it, be who you are. There’s nothing wrong with liking girls. I spent my own high school years denying whom I was, only to feel like I should have just owned up to my feelings.
  3. Tell Bree how you feel. Girl, it’s hard, I know. Telling someone how you feel is never easy. But this is Bree, your homie. You’ve known her since elementary school. She’s told you all about her girlfriends, and you know she would do anything for you. I find it hard to believe she would abandon you after you told her the truth. And don’t worry about that girlfriend of hers; she’ll reveal her true colors – and whom do you think she’ll coming running to advice and comfort?
  4. Don’t make such a big deal about sex. I know at 17 it seems like sex is the best thing on earth. Don’t get me wrong; it’s amazing. But you know what, Savannah? It’s better with the right person. Feel me. Don’t be in such a hurry to give what’s your most precious gift. Cause when it’s right, ooh wee!
  5. Get your mother a boyfriend. Your mother is a piece of work. These praying rants y’all do to save you from lesbianism aren’t going to work. Since your mother is forever beating down the church doors, find her a deacon to work out her own issues with.

Now that I’ve taken care of Savannah, let’s move on to C. Truth. First Love is a dramatic book for sure, but the both the story and the writing needed work. There are more than a few grammatical issues, and some of the situations Savannah found herself in seemed too far-fetched, like her first college visit which went swimmingly considering how complicated her life became by that point. I read so many 5-star reviews for First Love, and while I was reading, I was a little disappointed in how the story unravelled.

Full of youthful decisions and text messages, First Love is good for the drama and the angst of beginning love. Some girls could identify with the identity and parental issues Savannah faces. Teens can read it also for C. Truth’s 8 Love Lessons she provides at the end of the book. Too bad she didn’t make Savannah follow any of them.

[rating-report]

Reviewed November 2013

About C. Truth

I was born in Kansas City, KS, and raised by my Great-grandmother in Kansas City, MO. After high school I went straight to work. I spent five years with the worlds largest electronic retailer, then left the Store Assistant Manager position and enrolled the University Of North Carolina at Charlotte and began writing full-time. I have been living in Charlotte, North Carolina since 2007.

I began writing in my early years of high school. Teachers, friends and family had mentioned to me that my writing was something special, but I didn’t gain the courage in my writing until I started blogging on downelink.com, a lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgendered social networking site in 2008. The comments left on my page about the blogs gave me the inspiration I needed to complete my first five novels titled First Love, a love story; Intoxicating, an anthology of short stories; Fly Truth, an anthology of thoughts, Second Love, a continuation novel; and iEscaped, an anthology of poetry.


Abandoned Property: The Eviction Chronicles Part 2 by Kai Mann

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abandonedproperty2
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.


Technical Difficulties by Lee Loveless

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technicaldifficultiesPublisher/Date:  Lee Loveless, March 2013
Genre(s):  Romance, Erotica
Pages:  33

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

The Plot:  TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES by Lee Loveless establishes that if your cell phone technician looked like Raquel – an olive-toned beauty with hazel eyes – you’d probably find any reason to visit the Verizon store every day. Jackson, though, somehow remains all business around Raquel; she finds Raquel alluring, but too young at 25. At 32 years old, Jackson is a determined, hard-working director of a youth center, who doesn’t take time to smell the roses (or anything else for that matter). Her assistant director, Sharon, is the one who makes her recognize what she’s about miss out on. Can this do-gooder put her grant applications aside long enough to take advantage of another equally satisfying proposition?

The Good:  It’s not just about the sex. Technical Difficulties gives a great back story to the lovers, so that we can see just how much of a workaholic Jackson is or how long Raquel aspired to be an engineering tech. Raquel is a bawse; while Jackson deems Raquel too young for her, but Raquel knows her mind and her worth. She’s a definite catch – one that maybe Jackson ain’t ready for. Throughout Difficulties, the relationship between Raquel and Jackson moves at a good pace for a short story, and Loveless also has a good ear for dialogue.

The Not-So-Good:  The grammar could use some work. Sharon, as the voice of reason for Jackson, can come off a little bawdy sometimes. Though explosively gratifying (ahem…), the ending was abrupt – only because I could have read more about these two.

The Bottom Line: Technical Difficulties, the first of the Happily Ever After series, is willing and able to give you the romantic fix you need. I’m looking forward to devouring more of what Loveless has to offer.

Reviewed September 2013


SistaGirl by Anondra “Kat” Williams

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sistagirlPublisher/Date:  Black Ink, July 2013
Genre(s):  Romance, Short Story, Poetry
Pages:  172
Website:  http://www.anondrawilliams.com

Rating: ★★★¾☆ 

A Southern woman is a delicacy: defined as a delicious, rare, or highly prized item of food; pleasing subtlety in something such as taste, smell, or color; or the quality of being easily damaged or broken.

All these qualities are revealed reading SISTAGIRL from Anondra “Kat” Williams, also author of black girl love. Her newest collection of stories and poems picks up where black girl love left off, but adds an extra pinch of down-home charm. For a girl like Williams, born and bred in Mississippi, this volume of Southern sensibilities is her bread-and-butter, her calling card. She knows the South, and she definitely knows women.

I saw it when I read the title story, about loving your sista no matter whom she loves, and in “Saturday Mornings,” recalling the memories of Mama and her friends gossiping and commiserating around the table over cups of coffee, at a time when children were to hush when grown folks are talking. It’s also clear in “Southern Living,” narrated by a Northerner loving a “Mississippi thick girl” with hot grits ready every Sunday.

One of the biggest themes in SistaGirl is growth, as a woman and in relationships, a trip back to the girl you used to be, and the woman you are now. Tales such as “Years” recount the affair between a woman in love and a woman who doesn’t want to be caught, realizing one can come back home. In “Firsts” and “15,” the evolution of love is shown, the former being first loves, and the latter growing older together. I reveled in the coziness of the poem, “morning,” reminding me with talks in the arms of your soulmate.

Like a side of buttered cornbread next to your collard greens, the drama finagles its way to the plate in SistaGirl, as well. Stories of crazy love (“Time”), domestic abuse (“Roses”), and dating women with husbands (“How You Get’em”) round out this set. And lest you worry, there’s some “good joog” in there also, with a stimulating game of “Tic-tac-toe” that I need to, ahem, play one of these nights.

Her bonuses, “Top 10 Rules for Being a Lesbian” and “The 11 Lesbians You Will Meet in Your Lifetime”, are humourously spot-on. Williams also includes a except from her upcoming fall 2014 novel, Pat Greene, which I’m looking forward to.

Williams’ SistaGirl exposes the hearts of real women. I found her stories to be exceedingly true in sentiment, but a little slack on the editing. A couple of stories ended abruptly that I wanted to see continue, or at least be fleshed out further. That aside, SistaGirl is all the women in your life, and may be you. And the love of good woman is hard to beat.

Reviewed August 2013

Read the Catching Up With… Interview with Anondra “Kat Williams

About Anondra “Kat” Williams

Anondra “Kat” Williams is writer, poet, radio host and all around lover of words. Her first foray into writing was black girl love released in 2011 and her second book SistaGirl released August 2013. Both are a collection of short stories and poetry, detailing everyday love and life between women who love women.

Kat’s work is currently featured in the anthologies Life, Love & Lust 1 & 2 a collection of short stories & Her Voice a collection of poetry. She will also be in the soon to be released Geechee to Gumbo: Black Southern Womanloving Culture & Politics and G.R.I.T.S: Girls Raised In The South – An Anthology on Southern Queer Womyns’ Voices and Their Allies.

In 2009 she started Shades Retreat: Personal, You. Shades Retreat is a empowerment, growth and change retreat for queer women of color. Shades Retreat occurs once a year during the third week of April.


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.


Dying to Live by Harmonie Reigns

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dyingtolivePublisher/Date:  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Mar. 2013
Genre(s):  Abuse, Drama, Romance
Pages:  224
Website:  http://harmoniereigns.wix.com/harmonie#!

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Why is it that everyone can see the signs but you? Or do you see and ignore the red flags?

Is it cute how she dotes on you, asks you when you’ll be home, always wants to know your constant whereabouts? Or is it suffocating but you don’t know the way out?

Can she make love to you like no other, toe-tingling, mind-blowing sex that tells you just how much she loves you? Or is that just the calm before the storm, or it’s to make up for the blows she sent to your face earlier?

It was all those things and more for Naomi Harris in DYING TO LIVE,  the newest novel from Harmonie Reigns. Naomi is pursued by the charming Sheena at the party of one of best friends, and soon after is enamored of the way she’s treated by the soft stud in the beginning of their relationship. (What she should have done was take stock of how pushy Sheena was in pursuing her at the party.)

Of course, Sheena has her game-face on, sending flowers, cards, candy and jewelry to her office, making Naomi the envy of her friends. It was charming how attentive Sheena is, popping up at work to take her to lunch or to see Naomi’s beautiful face, but Naomi begins to feel suffocated by the attention. And she realizes she’s spending less and less time with her loved ones, her family and group of five best friends: Lynzi, Tina, Star, Dena, and Zela.

Of the five, Zela is one who recognizes Naomi’s predicament and knows something ain’t right with Sheena. She sees the signs of an abusive relationship, because she’s been there. Naomi knows it, too, but writes off Sheena’s behavior as “caring.” “She just doesn’t want to lose me.” “Maybe I was wrong.” Anything to justify Sheena’s atrocious behavior.

Yet after cracked ribs, a broken nose and being cheated on, Naomi finally has enough — and that’s when the real game begins for Sheena. She always told Naomi that if she couldn’t have her, no one else will. And she means it. Which also means that Naomi is in a fight to get her life back, even if she has to take one in the process.

Dying to Live is a very involved book, one that portrays the fallout of an abusive relationship and what it does not only to a woman’s pyche, but how it affects the woman’s family and friends. Naomi is lucky she has a big support system, as some battered women do not. Naomi’s friends, who each have a personality all her own, added life to a story made somber by the dark subject matter. Dying can be a tad melodramatic at times and the writing could be tighter, but Reigns deftly details the emotions and thoughts of a battered woman trying to put her life back together.

Reviewed July 2013


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…

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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


It’s Complicated: Misconceptions by Erika Renee Land

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itscomplicatedPublisher/Date:  Ezarie Publishing, Jan. 2013
Genre(s):  Romance, Drama
Pages:  254
Website:  http://twitter.com/elandthewriter

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Why does it seem as if in some lesbian breakups that we never really break up, at least not completely? There’s that unfinished business that gets pushed aside, not resolved, as we move to the next woman.

Enter IT’S COMPLICATED: MISCONCEPTIONS, the debut novel from Erika Renee Land. It’s a whole mess of things going on this book, mostly surrounding Laila Morriston and her 8-year relationship with Victoria. Good as all are relationships are, their romance dwindles due to Victoria’s infidelity. Laila can’t trust Tori, and in my eyes, should have left her a long time ago, but Laila is still holding on to that connection they still have when times are good.

Just when she thinks things are getting back on track, Tori pulls the disappearing acts again. Acting secretive. Leaving the house at all hours of the night. Laila has had it up to here, and decides that Tori needs a taste of her own medicine. Enter Camille, the stripper she meets on a night Tori got missing. What transpires between them was nice, but Tori is still the love of Laila’s life and she wants to put things back right between them.

As always, though, things are good, and then Tori acts shady again. This back and forth causes them to separate, and Laila believes it’s truly over this time. Enter Nadia, another woman Laila meets at a vulnerable time, an assistant to a client of hers, and a dynamite woman. They could talk about anything, and bonded over loved cultural events and books. Nadia was someone she could see herself with – if she weren’t still wondering about and pining for Tori. Dating Camille and Nadia at the same time, both women are smart, beautiful and open up Laila’s eyes to new possibilities. The problem is Laila isn’t truly honest about her unresolved feelings for Tori; neither woman knows just how deep Laila’s feelings still run for her ex.

When Tori returns, what’s a woman to do with the new relationships she’s entered into in the meantime? Is she willing to drop everything for the woman who left her, or take a chance on someone new?

A fast-paced read, there is more to this story than I should put in this review, but trust me, you’ll read all about the deception, heartbreak and betrayal (plus crazed stalkers) in It’s Complicated: Misconceptions. One thing I should say is that everything is not what it appears. What is transparent is that Laila and Tori’s back-and-forth relationship was something that could have been resolved if they were more mature about how they handled each other. But after 8 years of cheating, why was Laila still even with Tori? As 32-year-old landscape architect at a respectable firm (one that is unbelievably tolerant of her messy personal life), she’s smart, but naïve and too into her head. We’ll see if she learns the game in the sequel. Hopefully.

Reviewed June 2013