SBF Seeking by La Toya Hankins (June 2012 Pick of the Month)

Publisher/Date:  JMS Books/CreateSpace, Jan. 2012
Genre:  Romance
Pages:  234

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

“Goin’ to the chapel and we’re gonna get married…”

Wait, not so fast.

That’s what Yvette Thurman said to herself before walking down the aisle to her longtime boyfriend, Martin in SBF SEEKING. by La Toya Hankins. She comes to this decision after much thought – and after placing a personal ad seeking a white man to fulfill a secret fantasy.

Ironically, it leads Yvette to a woman.

Yvette knew she was choosing the wrong path in marrying Martin, only saying yes because she “didn’t know what else to say.” Her relationship with Martin began when she was a college freshman; now a 25-year-old magazine writer, it doesn’t suit her needs physically or otherwise. Something is missing.

In her attempt to find it – and at her friends’ and family’s insistence – Yvette breaks up with Martin. The only thing they didn’t expect was that Yvette would happen upon love with a woman. Her first female relationship, it’s full of all the affection and chemistry she was sorely missing – and provided her something she didn’t even know she could have.

Now her inner circle – best friend Danita, mom Lena, twin sister Yolanda, and close pals – has something to say about this new love Yvette’s found with Jasmine. It doesn’t faze her as she charges ahead without any qualms. She’s doing her for the first time.

Hankins debut novel is funny, and sensitive, and while Yvette is naïve to the pitfalls of coming out, she’s a sincere character with a distinct voice. So are her family and good friends who add a greater dimension to the first-person story. In SBF Seeking, Hankins creates a woman you’ll be happy for when she finds her first love, but want to wake up to the realism of first love.

But who are we to begrudge Yvette’s happiness? Shoot, I’m rooting for her next adventure.

Reviewed June 2012

30 Day Notice by Kai Mann

Publisher/Date:  Scriblical Vibez Publishing, Dec. 2011
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Pages:  216

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Sometimes, the ending of a relationship is telling. It reveals truths about the woman you were in love with, things that make you wonder if you really knew her.

And a breakup pushes you to reevaluate your life and purpose, much like main character Kori Maitland, the heroine of 30 DAY NOTICE by author Kai Mann.

When her relationship of five years disintegrates, it leaves Kori broken. Though she’s given a 30 day notice from her love, Kori never thought Layla would end it, despite the hurdles and dysfunction that occurred during. Layla did what she had to do for herself, but Kori can’t seem to muster the same self-worth to pull herself out of the heartbreak.

It paralyzes her. During the 30 days, Kori begins to examine her entire life to figure out what got her to this downward path. At the same time, she moves back to Detroit, her old stomping grounds where she runs into people from her past – some who uplift her, others who take advantage of her spirit.

In truth, her life has been no crystal stair. In her current situation, disturbances once dead resurface. The ghosts of leaving her marriage and children behind to be her authentic self haunt her.

Every setback – and there are several – devastates her core. Being used, being discarded, being alone. It’s all there.

Yet Kori is a fighter. And she knows God has a plan for her.

That’s the crux of 30 Day Notice. Although the writing could use more showing than telling, the novel is direct and honest, as you sympathize with Kori; we’ve all been there in some form or fashion. This is a great story for lesbians dealing with separation from their families or finding themselves at a crossroads in life.

Reviewed June 2012

Erotic Tones…Sensual Moans: A Mixture of Sensual Erotic Poetry & Short Stories by Stacey M. Rice

Publisher/Date:  Rycemoore Horizons, Dec. 2011
Genre:  Erotica
Pages:  120

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

The Plot: Twenty-three short stories and poems convey the erotic overtures between women in EROTIC TONES…SENSUAL MOANS. Author Stacey M. Rice captures the raw and sweet with tales like “Oooh Boi,” a stud-4-stud treat and “Thrill of the Chase,” where a bookstore patron doesn’t accept no when it comes to the store owner.

The Good: Rice definitely mixes it up. The stories are fun, and the poetry is passionate. The depth of the book heightens as you read.

The Not-So-Good: While the tales were heat-inducing, there were a couple of moments when the characters would head-hop, and you don’t know who’s putting it on whom. And I would have liked a little more background on some of the characters, as well.

The Bottom Line: Rice spares no time and delves straight to the point in Erotic Tones. You will be satisfied.

Reviewed June 2012

Finding Us by T. Jurrette

Publisher/Date:, July 2011
Genre: Romance
Pages:  140

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

It was more than a year ago when I pronounced there were no marriages in the novels I read. I’ve finally found one, thanks to T. Jurrette’s FINDING US, a great lesbian novel about marriage and its ups and downs.

Dana Reynolds and Te’anna Marks (better known as Tea) get to know each other through a mutual friend, and after taking it slow, find themselves deeply in love, beginning a life together. Tea, finally leaves her comfortable job as a retail buyer to launch her pastry shop, and Dana is satisfied with her work as a legal assistant with the District Attorney’s office.

Despite having ghost of relationships past hanging over them – Tea being friends with an ex, while her social-climbing girlfriend Camille makes unwelcome appearances – they press on. With a near perfect love, their next logical step is marriage.

Happily ever after seems in arm’s reach, especially when soon after the wedding the couple works to get Tea pregnant. Dana has never been happier, having the love she wants and adopting Tea’s family since being estranged from her own.

When Dana is formed to work closely with the bougie Camille, she neglects to tell Tea how bad things are the office in order to protect her wife. Thinking she can handle Camille’s harassment, the hole Dana’s in gets harder to climb out of.

And Dana doesn’t want to lose Tea – the one thing in the world she calls home.

Jurette’s Finding Us is a noteworthy portrayal of married lesbians. Though Tea and Dana’s love appears easy, the decisions they face are far from it. It depicts what sacrifice matrimony really is. Finding Us simply shows love isn’t faultless, but is still worth it.

Note to T. Jurrette: I’m waiting for my sequel. I want to know what happens with one of my favorite couples.

Reviewed June 2012

I Ain’t Yo Bitch by Jabulile Bongiwe Ngwenya

Publisher/Date:  Paper Bag Publishing, Aug. 2009
Genre(s): Coming of Age, Young Adult
Pages:  163

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

If I AIN’T YO BITCH was defined by a current song, it would sound like Drake’s “Crew Love.”

Mainly because Tebogo’s world revolves around being the lone female in her crew, honing her music craft, partying, and appeasing her groupies. Nothing else matters.

Set in Johannesburg, South Africa, Tebogo’s almost bipolar tale is deep, rooted in the loss of her mother and surviving a family betrayal. Living with her father, Tebogo relied on her grandmother’s gentle counsel, friendship and discipline. It is she, unlike her father, who accepted her granddaughter’s sexuality with love and understanding.

“Will it get easier? Sometimes I think there is something wrong with me,” said Tebogo, tears welling.

“Where have you ever heard of such a ridiculous idea?’ laughed her grandmother, opening her arms to embrace Tebogo. She held the child, gently rubbing her back with soft, gnarled hands. “You’re different. You like different things. I don’t understand how that’s wrong? God created a variety of flowers in his garden. Not everyone will like roses, not everyone will smell the daffodils, but someone will fall in love with a daisy or lily.”

Now after her grandmother’s recent passing, Tebogo is a 19-year-old local hip-hop star trying to make it to the big leagues with her boys: Welile, Siphiwe, and cousin Andile. In the group, SWAT, her image is wrapped up in being “Tube,” which means being one the guys.

She thinks she’s one of them, proud that she can do anything the boys can…except she’s a girl…a fact she doesn’t fully realize until it’s too late.

Though the male posturing is a bit much, I Ain’t Yo Bitch is true to its portrayal of a girl’s coming of age in the hip-hop era. The success she and her boys aspire to have is based on American rap culture, which causes you think about the types of messages, often negative, we express to the world in our music.

What’s also interesting is that being surrounded by men, Tebogo can’t discern that what will gain them the success they crave is her femininity, not in a Nicki Minaj way, but adding her experiences will help them stand out and combat the misogyny pervading hip hop. Because truthfully, the real Tebogo is the sweetness she demonstrates with her grandmother. That’s what I wished there was more of.

But then, it wouldn’t be the same story now, would it?

Reviewed June 2012

Jazzy Ladies Productions by Ericka K. F. Simpson

Publisher/Date:  Xlibris Corp., Dec. 2011
Genre(s):  Romance, Suspense
Pages:  576

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Remember Alice’s much-hyped chart used on The L Word to graph relationships between her friends and the women they knew?

In reading Ericka K. F. Simpson’s latest novel, JAZZY LADIES PRODUCTIONS: NOTHING IS AS SWEET AS IT LOOKS, it needs its own chart to keep up with all the characters and storylines.

And you will want to track every single hookup or association in Simpson’s ambitious work, cause it’s just that engrossing.

First, begin with Dionne, an open mic poet who has several female admirers and desires a real relationship; her best friend, Vincent, a hardcore playboy who can’t give up the women even for the one he really wants; and Dionne’s live-in, college-age niece following in her aunt’s lesbian footsteps.

Then there’s Logan, the MC at Dionne’s open-mic events, who has her own crew: the forever funny Beverly, rowdy realtor Logan, and conflicted Sonja torn between two women.

And finally, Lena, a Virginia teen taken in by her aunt, Vanessa, after her father and grandmother pass away. Her older cousins, Gabby and Mercedes, show her the ropes as sorority girls and help her acclimate to Middle Georgia life.

In the center of all these connections are Jazmine and Karen, life partners and owners of Jazzy Ladies Productions, a local lesbian entertainment company. They host the open mic nights that Dionne performs at, that Logan hosts, and that bring all the ladies (and Vincent) together in love, sex and friendship. But Karen and Jaz – with pasts to run from – also have more sinister links to one character in particular.

Can you guess which one?

At 576 pages, Simpson’s Jazzy Ladies Productions is a big but pleasurable read. The pages fly by as you get into each plot, and you’ll want to see how all the ends tie together.

Simpson, as always, captivates.

Reviewed June 2012

Letting Go…Almost A Trilogy of Alternative Short Stories by Monica Cooper

Publisher/Date KumaSon Consultant, June 2011
Genre(s):  Romance, Short Story
Pages:  392

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

What’s the use of LETTING GO…ALMOST?

To discover a love yet experienced based on the touching book by Monica Cooper.

Her tome features 3 novellas centered on couples who could find love if only they succumbed to its power. Pasts may hinder you, imaginary barriers can be overcome, and the right one could be right in your face, but you have to be able to let go and let love.

The first tale surrounds Dylan, an abused woman stranded by her Lexus in a small town while trying to escape. She’s taken in by Ms. Mae, a caring elder with a granddaughter, Tori, who can fix Dylan’s car in her shop. Dylan and Tori don’t hit it off, to say the least, but through Ms. Mae, they learn each other’s pasts aren’t that different. Things get more complicated when Tori and Dylan find out they share a common link.

Vampires and mortals are to oil and water, yet in Cooper’s second story, they yield pleasurable bedmates – if only Martel could let go of standing traditions that forbid the creatures from mingling with humans. Martel knows Sanai is literally worth fighting for, but dark forces could see to it that the two never see the light of day.

The last tale in Letting Go involves Asilia, in a relationship with a man when she meets Kai. The attraction is undeniable and mutual, but it leaves both ladies confused: for Asilia, whether it’s worth leaving her boyfriend; for Kai, how long can she wait for something that isn’t hers and isn’t promised. As it happens often in life, fate makes the decision for them.

In short, Cooper’s words in Letting Go…Almost flow like honey, delightfully poignant, sentiments felt.

Reviewed June 2012

A Little Sumthin’ Sumthin’ by Imani True

Publisher/Date:  NCM Publishing, Feb. 2012
Genre:  Romance
Pages:  220

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

The Plot: Tired of his manhandling ways, Fatima Strong leaves her husband of more than 20 years in A LITTLE SUMTHIN’ SUMTHIN’ by Imani True. Though Malcolm used to be sweet as pie, his brutal demands push her to finally choose herself. In doing so, she flourishes career-wise and meets Xiomara, everything Malcolm is not – loving, kind and generous. However, when he catches wind of his ex-wife’s new love, someone is going to pay dearly.

The Good: True’s book is fast paced and pretty straightforward. The writing is okay, suggesting a great moral: know your truth.

The Not-So-Good: As I said, the writing is okay, but the timeline between Fatima leaving Malcolm and getting with Xiomara is sketchy at best. The sex scenes could be hotter, as well. If the re-worked and edited better, Sumthin’ could be a much better novel.

The Bottom Line: Grab A Little Sumthin’ Sumthin’ as quick afternoon read.

Reviewed June 2012

Suite 69: Black Lesbian Erotica Volume III by Billie Simone

Publisher/Date:  Billie Simone, Feb. 2012
Genre:  Poetry

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Instead of the sexual come-ons found in the previous installment, SUITE 69: BLACK LESBIAN EROTICA VOLUME III is more expressive about heartbreak and love lost this time around.

Billie Simone’s heart and mind are heavier, and her poems recount a darker time when love beat her down and could have left her for dead. Lucky for her (and for us), Simone channels her anguish into something we could absorb.

Anyone can empathize with losing a love. When Simone’s at her most vulnerable, is when you can really relate:

Cause you…
Got inside me…
Deeply in my insides’ insides
And you are still there
Lingering in every nook and cranny
And every crevice and
Ain’t no woman…Ain’t nobody…
Every penetrated me like that…

Yet while nursing her wounds, Simone’s poems tell of learning the importance of loving oneself. It helps her through it all, and permits her heart to open again.

iLove that you
Ain’t scared of my
Love that you love
Me just as hard
Love that you
Love me with no regard

Simone, with Suite 69: Black Lesbian Erotica Volume III, plunges us into the mind of a stud who loses her swagger a bit, yet sees her rise again. However, it’s worth the aches chronicled in her poems to glance her smile gracing the book’s cover.

Reviewed June 2012