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.


Books 2 Check Out – April 2015

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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):

All or Nothing – The Pleasure Principle Series (Book 1) by J.L. Dillard
Romance

Being desired by every man and woman she meets had never been a problem for AJ Arenas until her fiancé ended their relationship by cheating. When AJ realizes all is fair in payback and sex, she decides to make up for lost time. Shedding her good girl image behind closed doors, she made her first conquest a scandalous threesome involving a too-close-for-comfort colleague and an All-American football player. Soon AJ is caught up in a tangled web of passion, secrets and betrayal which lead her into the arms of a familiar enemy and the bed of an unexpected love. With everyone hot on her heels, it’s All or Nothing and AJ is ready for anything except falling in love.

Azure BLU: The Royal Saga by Feral Kitty
Romance
Sequel to Royal Blu (read our review)

Royal and Asia’s relationship appeared solid, or so she thought. Sure they had their issues they had to work through in the beginning, but from Asia’s standpoint they were very much in love and in it for the haul. Royal swore she was finished with her reckless playboy lifestyle…

Take another trip into the Royal kingdom and see how an Azure BLU sky will promise you a bright sunny day clear and bone dry, then everything suddenly changes in the blink of an eye. Don’t be deceived by the pretty Azure BLU sky, it looks so clear and inviting but it can be so cunning and sly!!

I Should’ve Cheated by TJ Rose
Romance

Braelyn and her fiancée, Kai, have the perfect relationship with the exception of falling short in one area…quality time. Kai is always on the go for work and often works late, leaving Braelyn feeling less like a fiancée and more like a roommate.

During a girl’s night out with her best friend, Roxy, Braelyn has a chance encounter with a dose of temptation by the name of Sevaughn. Braelyn can’t shake the magnetic draw to this new stranger, and she finds herself increasingly intrigued by Sevaughn, whose job as an undercover narcotic detective threatens to pull Braelyn into a dangerous underworld. After a lot of flirtation, Braelyn shatters her good-girl persona, diving head-first into a pillow-biting affair with Sevaughn, who has a few hidden secrets that make Braelyn a walking target.

Just as Braelyn is enjoying the illusion of Sevaughn, Kai makes a sudden change and starts devoting more time to being home. As a result, Braelyn finds herself in what most would consider a perfect situation: having her cake with Kai and overdosing on the dessert that is Sevaughn. Perfect pictures are bound to be shattered, though, and Braelyn soon finds herself trapped in an intricate web of deception and betrayal that will leave her regretting the day she decided to betray Kai. Things are never fair in love and war, but Braelyn is about to learn the hard truth about trading what she has at home to bask in the delusion of her fantasy…

I Should’ve Cheated chronicles a dangerous love triangle and will tease readers with a glimpse into what can happen when a person is tempted by what appears to be a plush, green lawn thriving just on the other side of the fence.

Jam on the Vine by LaShonda Katrice Barnett
Historical Fiction, Romance

A new American classic: a dynamic tale of triumph against the odds and the compelling story of one woman’s struggle for equality that belongs alongside Jazz by Toni Morrison and The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Ivoe Williams, the precocious daughter of a Muslim cook and a metalsmith from central-east Texas, first ignites her lifelong obsession with journalism when she steals a newspaper from her mother’s white employer. Living in the poor, segregated quarter of Little Tunis, Ivoe immerses herself in printed matter as an escape from her dour surroundings. She earns a scholarship to the prestigious Willetson College in Austin, only to return over-qualified to the menial labor offered by her hometown’s racially-biased employers.

Ivoe eventually flees the Jim Crow South with her family and settles in Kansas City, where she and her former teacher and lover, Ona, found the first female-run African American newspaper, Jam on the Vine. In the throes of the Red Summer—the 1919 outbreak of lynchings and race riots across the Midwest—Ivoe risks her freedom, and her life, to call attention to the atrocities of segregation in the American prison system.

Skillfully interweaving Ivoe’s story with those of her family members, LaShonda Katrice Barnett’s Jam on the Vine is both an epic vision of the hardships and injustices that defined an era and a moving and compelling story of a complicated history we only thought we knew.

Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz
Young Adult

Etta is tired of dealing with all of the labels and categories that seem so important to everyone else in her small Nebraska hometown.

Everywhere she turns, someone feels she’s too fringe for the fringe. Not gay enough for the Dykes, her ex-clique, thanks to a recent relationship with a boy; not tiny and white enough for ballet, her first passion; not sick enough to look anorexic (partially thanks to recovery). Etta doesn’t fit anywhere—until she meets Bianca, the straight, white, Christian, and seriously sick girl in Etta’s therapy group. Both girls are auditioning for Brentwood, a prestigious New York theater academy that is so not Nebraska. Bianca might be Etta’s salvation…but can Etta be saved by a girl who needs saving herself?

The Palace Blues by Brandy T. Wilson
Historical Romance
Lambda Literary Award Finalist in Lesbian Fiction

It is the age of bathtub gin, jazz—and lines. Lines not to be crossed, and certainly not by women.

Ladies sing the blues at The Palace and the rebellious, resourceful Frankie admires the cross-dressing Jean Bailey from afar. Running from her family’s oppressive pressure to marry, Frankie abandons her safe, white life in Chicago and follows the blues singer instead. At first it is merely an adventure of her star struck heart.

But the railroad yards, good times, riverboats and bum times lead Frankie on a remarkable journey between the sterile choices of her family and a reckless, daring life that at least offers a kind of freedom for a girl like her. Or is there another choice, one beyond the blues?

Safe Haven by B. L. Wilson
Romance, Suspense

A runaway ‘wife’ discovers love in the arms of a female doctor who treats her broken bones and bruises then mends her broken heart. Joanna Fairfield AKA Ms. Smith AKA June Davis is on the run from a murderous man who wants more than her love. Vicious killer Vernon Brown wants to take Joanna’s son, adopt him and kill her. Running away for the second time on a dark stormy night, Joanna stops in a place called Eagle View, North Carolina. It’s the small town her grandmother always claimed was a good place to raise any child. Her son, Danny is ill and she needs a doctor. When she meets the town’s one and only family doctor, Dr. Ellie Winston, sparks fly.

Southern Comfort by Skyy
Romance

Willow is at a crossroads. After caring for her father during his final days, she comes home to her flat in London wondering what’s next. Whether it’s traveling to some exotic location or starting her career in fashion, the only thing she is certain of is that she wants to finally experience the love she reads about in books. When a fluke change in the weather brings a sexy stranger into her life, she decides to throw caution to the wind and take her chances on love, which brings her to Memphis, Tennessee.

Seeing her happily ever after in front of her, Willow is thrown for a loop when she finds out she isn’t the only one vying for the woman she knows is the one for her. Now standing in unfamiliar territory, Willow prepares for the fight of her life, the fight to win the heart of the woman she loves from the woman who held the heart to begin with.

Katrina’s stuck between a rock and a hard place. On one hand she has the woman she loved, who left her high and dry, and on the other hand, an exciting new possibility. When the ultimatum is placed in front of her, does she go for the new beauty from across the pond, or stay with the one who got away?  Does this chef create the perfect dish, or is it a recipe for disaster?


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?


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

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Crossroads by Skyy

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crossroadsskyyPublisher/Date:  Urban Books, Jan. 2012
Genre:  Romance
Pages:  418
Website:  www.simplyskyy.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

CROSSROADS, indeed!

The cast of Skyy’s much-acclaimed series featuring Denise, Lena and Cooley is back for another episode of love and drama. We’ve been with them through undergrad beginnings in Choices, seen their Consequences unfold as upperclassmen, and now, Crossroads sees them travel paths in the real world – both joyous and painful – to learn just how difficult adulthood is.

After eagerly reading, it’s hard to write this review without giving everything away, but I’ll try. 🙂

Let’s begin with Denise. After graduating from Freedom University, she’s excited to sign with the WNBA’s New York Liberty, but a snag threatens Denise’s career before it begins, and it crumbles her. Feeling as if years of discipline, hard work and self-sacrifice have been in vain, she has to rethink what she wants for her life. While Denise tries to rebound, this setback makes her think maybe she should let go of some other dreams, namely Lena.

Speaking of Lena, last we saw of her, she was pregnant from Grizzlies star hubby Brandon Redding – and still in love with Denise. With her mind made up, Lena finally decides to get her woman. Yet seeing Denise is far from the welcome home she expected. Lena realizes from her parents, to Brandon then Denise, she’s never completely been on her own. Is it time to give up on Denise and figure out exactly what she wants?

And Cooley. The scarred stud hasn’t opened her heart since Misha’s betrayal. No worries, though. Her new job as an A&R rep at an Atlanta record label will keep her mind occupied and help get her swag back. Cooley is paired to promote rising R&B songstress Sahara, whose curves are dangerous temptations. Wisely, Cooley knows business shouldn’t mix with pleasure. Can Cooley resist, especially when Sahara can see past her damaged heart?

Y’all, this is just the tip of the iceberg, because Crossroads delves into much more. You’ll see the characters in a different light, along with new love interests and tests they have to overcome. Lena, Denise, Cooley and even Carmen (in a smaller role) have truly grown up.

That’s not to say the women don’t have their moments: Cooley still stumbles when things don’t go her way; Lena is indecisive at best; and Denise isn’t always aware of her worth.

Whatever shortcomings Crossroads has – grammatical errors, places where the writing could have been stronger – the engaging storyline more than made up for it. What I loved most was the Denise-Lena love story that kept me on edge, rooting for the pair at times and railing against them at others.

I will say this: it may be wishful thinking, but Lena and Denise’s chapter doesn’t seem over.

We’ll just have to wait for what Skyy has planned next.

Reviewed January 2012


Consequences by Skyy

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consequencesPublisher/Date:  Kings Crossing Publishing, Feb. 2009
Genre(s):  College Life, Romance, Studs & Femmes
Pages: 304
Website:  http://www.simplyskyy.com

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Love. Sex. College. Studs. Femmes. It’s all one big circle in beloved author Skyy’s newest installment of lesbian drama, CONSEQUENCES, which follows our favorite ladies and gents as they navigate their senior year together.

Consequences begins exactly where Choices concluded, with Lena readying herself for marriage while still pining over Denise. Despite having what appears to be all she wants – a fiancé who’s pro-basketball player, money and a chic apartment – she can’t help but imagine another life with Denise. The kiss they shared at the end of last year changed everything, and even the love of Brandon can’t stop her fantasies of the stud who stole her heart.

Denise, meanwhile, has tried to move on from feeling like Lena’s second choice. The women she’s been spending her time with aren’t up to par – one is a certified nutcase – and they certainly aren’t Lena. It’s hard to see her former roommate, whom she fell in love with, marry another man. But Denise doesn’t want to let go of their friendship, and only hopes Lena will realize how deep her loyalties lie before she walks down that aisle.

Cooley, Cooley, Cooley. It took Misha to tame that wild heart of hers, but when she did, Cooley wound up alone after being caught in some mess that wasn’t her fault. No worries, though, Cooley’s had the summer to get hoochies out her system and conspires to win back Misha. However, she didn’t plan on Misha being with someone else or settling for being “just friends” when Cooley’s heart says she’s the one. This is a move the former player surely didn’t see coming.

And finally Carmen, the previously portly beauty, has maintained her relationship with Nic. While the couple plans their future as they approach graduation, Carmen’s past threatens to destroy their present. She still has insecurities when she sees Nic around other women, no matter how much Nic professes her devotion. Carmen can’t believe she’s found someone who loves her so much – and begins to sabotage what she has. Can she see what she has in front of her before Nic gets fed up?

There’s a lot more in Consequences than I can describe here, but I don’t want to give it all away.

Most will agree that Skyy is the new queen of black lesbian romance, and the writing of Consequences proves it. She’s our version of E. Lynn Harris of Invisible Life fame, but with a style truly all her own. Despite its long wait following Choices, Consequences was well worth the pure uproar women created about the fate of Denise, Lena, Carmen and Cooley, and who would end up with whom. We sincerely care about these characters as our own, as the animated discussion at my book club proved.

Skyy’s Consequenceswill not only answer your questions, but will gladly provide you with cliffhangers to the next chapter in these women’s lives. When the next book arrives, I’m 100 percent sure Skyy won’t disappoint.

Reviewed June 2009


Choices by Skyy (Feb. 2008 Pick of the Month)

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Publisher/Date:  Kings Crossing Publishing, Aug. 2007
Genre(s):  Romance, College Life
Pages:  255
Website:  http://www.simplyskyy.com

Rating: ★★★★★ 

It truly is a “different world” from where you come from – nothing is more evident than in author Skyy’s debut novel, CHOICES, a spellbinding story of four friends at a HBCU navigating lesbian life.

Hearts are broken, friendships are tested, and lessons are learned by the richly-drawn characters who come to life from the very first chapter. More like family, Denise, Cooley and Carmen are out lesbians on campus and best friends aiding each other through love and life; adding Lena, the sexy new roommate of Denise, only enhances their friendships.

Lena is the new girl on campus. Her heart belongs to Brandon, the star of the men’s basketball team. That, combined with her wealthy background, makes her the most envied girl on campus, especially since she’s set to be the wife of a future NBA superstar. Despite that, Lena finds something intriguing about the tomboy she shares a room with – and her curiosity about Denise begins to get the better of her.

Denise is the unattainable stud athlete, with mad skills on and off the court. Her heart has been closed since her last failed relationship – until she walks into her dorm room the first day of school and discovers Lena unpacking. While noticing her curvaceous form, Denise soon realizes Lena is a remarkable woman with a good heart, and can’t help but fall hard for the beauty. It’s a move she’s not sure she wants to make.

Completely opposite of Denise is Cooley, the smooth player of the bunch, the stud who’s managed to have any woman – gay or straight – that she sets her sights on. Christened as “Killa Cap” for her sexual prowess, Cooley has played more games with females than Milton Bradley. One woman, however, doesn’t seem to take no for an answer and makes her life a living hell, possibly ruining Cooley’s one chance at a real relationship.

Tired of the “big girl” blues, Carmen takes hold of her life and drops enough dress sizes to be a dime. Carmen figures losing the weight will help her ex see her in a new light, but she still can’t shed the self-esteem issues that plague her. Will Carmen finally find someone to accept her for whom she is, and even better, learn to love herself?

Skyy’s Choices amounts to a story with heart. The author has taken the black college experience and made it her own – lesbian style. Classes, parties, sororities…all of it creates a fresh story that hasn’t been done this well in black lesbian novels. Bravo, Skyy!

Now where’s the sequel – cause you can’t leave me hangin’.

Reviewed February 2008