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

Publisher/Date:  iUniverse, Nov. 2005
Genre:  Romance
Pages:  202

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Kyla, Kyla, Kyla.

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

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

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

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

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

Reviewed January 2006

Ain’t Gonna Be the Same Fool Twice by April Sinclair

Publisher/Date:  Harper, Feb. 1997
Genre(s):  Coming of Age, College Life
Pages:  324

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Everything feels fresh and exciting much like Stevie in AIN’T GONNA BE THE SAME FOOL TWICE, this colorful sequel to Coffee Will Make You Black.

By the novel’s start, Stevie has graduated high school and is leaving and is leaving to attend college in a small Illinois town not too far from her native Chicago. Although the school is predominately white, Stevie manages to hang with Black folk, making fast friends with Sharlinda and Today. But it’s her relationship with French girl Celeste that proves to be her life-changing moment: that’s when Stevie discovers the delicious taste of a woman.

It’s also confirmed when she, Today and Sharlinda travel to San Francisco for a getaway after graduating college. After her buddies ditch her dates, Stevie decides to explore the city on her own by going to a women-only dance. There she meets Traci, one of the few sistahs in the place. The two hit it off, and pretty soon Stevie decides to stay in San Francisco to carve out a life of her own.

Stevie moves in with Traci, taking over the room and rent for one of the roommates who’s traveling abroad. Although the romantic relationship is great with Traci, it’s hard for Stevie to adjust to the city a first; trying to find a job is pure hell and San Francisco has its share of far-out folk. But you can never keep a Black woman down, and Stevie’s willing to explore new experiences. It’s 1975, and the world is changing; Stevie wants to change along with it.

In time Stevie finds out the more things change, the more things stay the same. Racism might to be as blatant in the City by the Bay as it is in the Windy City, but people are still hung up on color. And after her affair with Traci goes sour, she discovers love is a bitch, too. But she takes everything in stride, and learns that you can be a fool, but you won’t ever be the same fool twice.

Sinclair’s Ain’t Gonna Be is dynamite. Stevie’s spunky character is a hoot, complete with the 70’s lingo and all. The story is fulfilling and leaves you wanting more. Although not as sweet as its predecessor, it’s still a funky good time.

Reviewed January 2006

Black Girl in Paris by Shay Youngblood

Publisher/Date:  Riverhead Books, Jan. 2001
Genre:  Coming of Age
Pages:  238

Rating: ★★★★½ 

When reading Shay Youngblood’s BLACK GIRL IN PARIS, you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped in to France’s capital city yourself. You’ll rendezvous with Eden, the protagonist in Youngblood’s adventurous tale, as she travels the city in search of literary greatness and her mentor, James Baldwin.

Eden grew up a poor Southern girl in Birmingham, when in the late 1960s, the racial climate was violent at its worst. The four girls killed in the infamous church bombing was a significant event in Eden’s young life, and she vows to one day live in a city where life is free. In Paris, Eden believes, black people are just people and not a color.

So at age 26, recently graduated and looking for something more, Eden takes off to Paris. She arrives with only $200 but hopes to gain immeasurable riches from life experiences.

During her stay in the City of Lights, Eden befriends many eccentric personalities, including her flamboyant tour guide, Indego, who shows her the real Paris that tourists never see. She also involves herself in romantic tête-à-tête with Ving, a white jazz musician. It is with him that despite how liberated Paris seems, she’s reminded with disdain that she’s still a black woman. Eden also engages in an erotic friendship with a woman, Luce, which teaches her the true meaning of love.

Every adventure, every moment is vividly captured in Eden’s expedition in Paris that you feel as if you’re there, traveling with her through the French boulevards and savoring the foods. Although her outing was the poor man’s experience of Paris–many days she didn’t know where she would lay her head that night– she emerged a much stronger person.

Youngblood’s lyrical prose was superb, and her characters rang true. I wouldn’t take nothing her
Eden’s journey now — except to one day go myself.

Reviewed January 2006

Jada by Denise Alexander

Publisher/Date:  iUniverse, July 2005
Genre:  Romance
Pages:  100

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

If I had three words to describe JADA, author Denise Alexander’s debut novel, it would be: no more drama!

Alexander’s tale is the semi-erotic tale of Jada Williams, a sexy diva in a new relationship with femme Shanice. Jada, who’s only out to her friends, has been in the life for a few years, and thinks she has finally met the perfect woman. After meeting at a club, the two hit it off and get pretty serious after a couple of months.

Both Jada and Shanice have endured dead-end relationships in their in their pasts that took tolls on their souls. Jada learned she can’t be something she’s not to please others, while Shanice survived endured an abusive affair. They lean on each other and try to trust again, though it’s not easy.

Everything is peachy for the pair until Shanice loses her job. Jada soon learns the real Shanice is ugly — and it takes something piercing for Jada to realize that Shanice is not as perfect as she seems.

Alexander is a good storyteller, I’ll give her that. But Jada moves too quickly to for the reader to get a real hold of the characters. The novel’s namesake comes off kind of immature and shallow at times, and the couple’s problems seem to be easily solved with sex. The grammatical errors also take away from the tale, too.

However, I do recommend Jada for lazy afternoon read — one that starts off good but ends too

Reviewed January 2006

What Becomes of the Brokenhearted: A Memoir by E. Lynn Harris (Oh Brotha! Feature)

Publisher/Date:  Doubleday, July 2003
Genre(s):  Autobiography, Oh Brotha! Feature
Pages:  288

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Bestselling author E. Lynn Harris speaks to the weary in WHAT BECOMES OF THE BROKENHEARTED, a story tailored to the heart.

Harris’ memoir recounts both horrid and triumphant moments in his life, through the eyes of a man who never grew comfortable in his own skin. He was always looking for acceptance through others, instead of himself.

Harris grew up a poor, Little Rock, Ark. boy, dreaming of one day becoming a success. Although he did become a well-known author, his journey was paved with pain. His father physically and emotionally abused him because he wasn’t like other boys. Lynn, as he was known, was a tad more effeminate and caught hell for it almost daily. It was only when his mother divorced her abusive husband that Lynn got any peace in the house.

Searching for the love he never received from his father, Lynn began looking for approval through being the class clown. When that got him nowhere, he then used his intelligence for good and became an upright student. However Lynn was still confused about his sexuality. He knew loving men was wrong and set about acting straight despite his true feelings.

After a successful college experience where he met “men like him,” he landed a great job at IBM but couldn’t find success in love. In the course of 15 years, he moved to five different cities, each time after some love of his life broke his heart. And each time he sank deeper into depression, so deep that at times he wanted to take his own life.

The two things that saved him was his faith in God and his writing. Harris new he was here for a reason, and that purpose was to write. His first novel, Invisible Life, saved him from himself.

Brokenhearted is a motivating book not only for black gays and lesbians, but for everyone who never felt worthy. Reading it gives you the armor to fight your battles and to keep your head and your heart up.

Reviewed January 2006