Visions of a Cryptic Mystery: Volume One by Eternity Philops (June 2008 Pick of the Month)

Publisher/Date:  Black Tygre Publications, Apr. 2008
Genre(s):  Poetry, Short-Story
Pages:  126

Rating: ★★★★★ 

A sweet feeling washes over you when reading VISIONS OF A CRYPTIC MYSTERY: VOLUME ONE, a vibe of spiritual and sexual serenity.

Author Eternity Philops’ Visions is a beautiful view from which readers won’t be able to tear their eyes away. Excellent in its form, approach and creativity, Visions captures your senses. Both poetry and prose encompass this brilliant array of work that speaks to black lesbians everywhere. Its unique charm lies in Philops’ poems that clinch the mind with a metaphysical theme and her short stories that engage the heart.

Visions is categorized by three fragments titled Love, Loss and Life. The first, Love, captures the emotion and physical aspects of affection, with stories concerning unrequited love in “Almost First Kiss” and love beyond time in “Black Lace.” The poems in this section compliment these stories with an air of “Cosmic Intimacy.”

“Come soar with me
Be my love
We will stroll across a plateau of clouds,
Bathed in iridescent rays of sunlight
We shall picnic on the billowed hills of heaven,
As the soft rustle of God’s whispers blows gently
in our ears.”

The next section deals with the facet of Loss, as evidenced by the stories “Other Side of the Moon,” a tale of two women in love who never quite become one, and in “A Luncheon Scorned,” where a woman finally gives a former lover her just desserts. In this section, the poems underscore the feeling losing the most important thing in your life, as evidenced in “A Slight Wind.”

“Her whispered nothings are sweet
their smog a pollution
of my atmosphere
I’ve inhaled to deeply
the toxins of her tongue
Lungs full of a lover’s lies
I asphyxiate
for lack of pure clean truth”

In the final part of Visions, Philops writes about Life in its candor. In “Bait and Switch,” a con-woman finally meets her match and a workaholic learns there’s more to life than business in “An Affirmative Action.” The remainder of her poems in this section vary in themes from creation to dreams.

“Can I be your poet?
Can I write your journey
upon the eclipse of your soul
along the shadow of your benighted thoughts”

Philops’ Visions is a delight to read. It swiftly grabs you from page one, enveloping the reader in colorful and sensuous expressions that you won’t find in most Black lesbian novels. The poems are concise, inspired works of art that Philops has clearly mastered. The prose is mired in its every-woman appeal, making the reader both laugh and long for love. Philops, who wrote the first volume of over an extensive period and has plans for more, compares writing to opening the soul’s window, inviting you to see the view.

From reading Visions, the sight is quite exquisite.

Reviewed June 2008

Hersband by Christina Batista

Publisher/Date:  BookSurge Publishing, Dec. 2006
Genre(s): Romance, Hispanic Fiction
Pages:  254

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

What starts in the 1960s and ends in the 1990s is the basis for HERSBAND, the semi-autobiographical, debut novel from Christina Batista. Protagonist Dena Vargas is a Brooklyn-born lesbian searching for true love, but instead discovers all kinds of misadventures with women.

With her light skin, curly hair and green eyes, Dena endured being a tomboy and having crushes on girls. She had always been honest with herself and her family about her sexuality, but finding someone to love proved to be the harder task.

After coming out at 20, she begins her foray into the gay world, along with her lesbian cousin Hilda. The women share the experiences and drama of falling and out of in love. Dena’s first encounter occurs when she becomes enamored of Marcy, a woman she meets at a party. Like the story of Cinderella, the pair share one dance, but due to unforeseen circumstances, don’t cross paths again. Dena spends months trying to find Marcy, turning down other available women to find the one she’s meant to be with.

And they do finally come together. And fall in love. And break up. And get back together. And break up yet again. Two years of this leads to the demise of their relationship, and dumps Dena back into the dating pool. This time though, she finds only quick or dead-end flings – and Dena never settles for the status quo.

Yet Dena’s story is far more than just her journey to love. It’s also about parties, dildos, fights, family, and simply a typical coming of age for a lesbian. Dena’s saga culminates when she realizes it’s time to settle down and become an adult – a transition we all have to make one way or another.

Hersband is an amiable novel, written by Batista with a flair for chronicling the life of a Hispanic lesbian. Here’s a character you’ll follow in her passage from a child and to a grown woman. Though slow at first, Hersband builds to a satisfying, cliffhanging finale.

What happens next with Dena, you never know – but you’ll want to find out.

Reviewed June 2008

Hungry For It by Fiona Zedde

Publisher/Date:  Kensington, June 2008
Genre:  Romance
Pages:  288

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Yes, Fiona’s back.

Or Ms. Zedde, if you’re nasty. And boy, HUNGRY FOR IT is plenty scandalous.

Her fourth solo novel, Hungry begins where a Taste of Sin leaves off, the sweltering novel set in Miami where Dez and best friend Rémi used to run wild through scores of women, always in search of a new delicacy. When Dez finally settles down and marries Victoria, it leaves Rémi to comb the balmy city in search of new fun without her running buddy.

And that she does. From têtê-à-têtês in her popular nightclub to entertaining sexy triplets, Rémi could never deny her decadent sexual appetite – until she finally gets the chance to sample a dish she’s been craving her whole life: Claudia, Dez’s mother.

Forbidden, yes. Off limits, yes. Yet feels so right, yes.

In all actuality, Rémi’s heart has belonged to Claudia since the day she eyed the maternal beautiful outside her school, marveling the enigmatic woman. It later works in Remi’s favor that she and Dez become close friends and she’s introduced to her dream woman. In time, Rémi grew into a member of Dez’s family, but she doesn’t outgrow her crush on Claudia, despite the many women she encounters.

When it happens one night that the two are left to their own devices after Dez’s wedding, they find their attraction palpable but try to fight it. Rémi’s reserved because of her friendship with Dez, and Claudia struggles with the age and sexual differences between them.

One thing they can’t deny, though, is the heat simmering when they touch. The only thing that impedes their passion is the one person that means the most to them.

Zedde is one of the black lesbian community’s most dependable writers, her vivid storytelling brought to life in her characters. Hungry is no different. It’s just the kind of fast-paced, meaty read one needs for the summer. While the novel’s side plots move quickly, the main course is Rémi and Claudia, two women discovering that love is dish best served hot.

Reviewed June 2008

Purple Panties: An Anthology edited by Zane

Publisher/Date:  Strebor Books, May 2008
Genre(s):  Erotica, Short Story
Pages:  320

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Doesn’t matter what the color, all undergarments come off just as easily in PURPLE PANTIES, the newest book from renowned erotica writer Zane, author of best-selling books Addicted and Chocolate Flava. This time, she focuses her view strictly on the ladies in this anthology of 26 lesbian tales of passion.

As Zane says in her introduction, “You might need a few drinks when you read this book, definitely a sex toy or lover, but you are in for one hell of a ride.” Truer words were never written as you peruse story after story varying from tender romance to rip-your-bra-off sex. Not one author fails to ignite a spark with each page.

Take for instance Laurinda D. Brown’s “It’s All or Nothing,” which finds housewife Meena realizing she gave up too much for her husband, and it took another woman’s kiss to cut the apron strings. Then a pleasure-seeking vacationer looks for “Island Goddess” at a paradise resort, and toy-shopping takes on a whole new meaning at with an adult store proprietor taking advantage of her own products in “Miss Julidene’s Sexy Items.”

One of the highlights of Purple Panties is women discovering the delights of the female sex for the first time. This is portrayed in stories such as “The Finest Man,” wherein a feminine security guard is tantalized by the masculine individual at her workplace, even after realizing he’s really a she. Syreeta then ponders what her attraction to the stud says about herself, because she’s ready to give it up – no matter what the gender.

As expected, Purple Panties has the no-holds barred escapades that blaze with undeniable chemistry. That’s provided courtesy of “The Purple Panty Revue,” as Jay meets the faceless neighbor that’s haunted her fantasies for the past few weeks; the surprise is where they finally encounter one another – and what happens next.

Zane’s own novella is saved for last with “In My Mind,” a tale of a nude art model who poses at local university. One particular co-ed catches Emile’s eye, and she wishes to depict her feelings with the shy undergraduate – if only she could break the student’s aloof exterior.

Purple Panties proves more than provocative, worthy of getting your underwear damp. The only objection is that some stories seem to stop abruptly, and I was left wanting more. Yet I love the fact Zane is bringing lesbian literature to a mainstream black audience; in fact, she’s planning to publish a sequel to Panties early next year.

And I, for one, will be happily waiting – because Zane always knows how to put it down.

Reviewed June 2008