Wow has it really been almost a year since I did my last book rundown! I must admit, my reading habits have fallen off over the past few years. Freelance work takes up a lot of time and leaves reading mostly for transportation once a month mostly. However, I have managed to finish a few books since the last book post. Many of them have been e-books and been some of my favorite reads since I needed more work with happy themes. So while I finish working my way through From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, here’s how I spent the last few months of my reading life.
Rebekah Weatherspoon – Sanctuary, Tamed, Wrapped, and Xeni
I usually do this in alphabetical order, but this time I must start with this: as far as my reading habits go, this has been the year of Rebekah Weatherspoon. After re-reading Rafe, I went on to find some of the works I missed and then focused on her latest released Xeni. Her books became not just a safe space but also a reprieve when I needed just a bit of happy with characters I would like.
Sanctuary falls in line with Haven in the Beards and Bondage series and introduces us to Liz Lewis, a lawyer who finds herself going into hiding when a former client puts a hit out on her. Through a series of events, she ends up in the small, rural town of Ghent under the care of Silas McInroy. And, well, let’s just say from there, the two decide to explore a mutual attraction. There was a lot I liked about this one, but I think I appreciated most that although the driving factor is a dangerous situation, it doesn’t loom over the plot as Liz and Silas navigate their relationship. It never got too heavy even with the drama.
Tamed is the second book in the Fit trilogy, one of the first series I ever read of Weatherspoon’s. This one was a good read once I remembered who Armando was from the first book. However, the protagonist is a new character, Nailah who comes from a close-knit family and a domineering father. So her attraction to her new fitness trainer Armando when she realizes he is deep into kink is a bit of an awakening for her. This one was a good reminder of the Fit trilogy as I read it some time ago and helped me revisit characters that recur in other stories.
Wrapped was also a good reminder of the Fit series and also connects to the Beards and Bondage series, letting two of Weatherspoon’s universes overlap and expand. I enjoyed this one as a nice Christmas novella with a bakery (a weakness of mine) at the center as Shae and Aiden connect as Shae works through the pain of her divorce and Aiden just tries not to screw things up with the new woman in his life. This is definitely one of my lighthearted favorites.
Xeni, however, is one of my favorite Weatherspoon books since Rafe and not just because the protagonist reminds me of someone *wink*. Xeni finds herself in the aforementioned Ghent when her favorite aunt passes and leaves her an inheritance. There she finds herself pushed into a marriage of (in)convenience with Mason McInroy (Silas’ cousin) so that they can both gain their inheritances. The fun of the story is the two actually like each other though they resist falling in love believing the marriage to be over in a short while once they have secured the inheritance. However, for those who enjoyed Sanctuary, it’s also a great expansion of the Ghent community and two bisexual main characters. And let me just say the comedy in the first chapters is A-plus. Bonus: if *somebody* ever wanted to do a spinoff book focusing on the Everly sisters in their prime… I’m just saying…
Angela Davis – Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement
I found this collection of essays from a little free library and remembered what I loved about Angela Davis’ work. This book is primarily a collection of speeches given during the 2010s before its 2016 publication. There are many enlightening ideas as well as reminders of why we must remain vigilant and aware, even more so following this book’s publications. Those who are interested in various forms of activism and how and why they should connect should give this one a read. I mean, it’s Angela Davis.
Bill Campbell – Baaaad Muthaz
Seriously, this graphic novel is probably the most fun I’ve had with a book this year. Baaaad Muthaz is both an homage and a send up of ‘80s R&B, ‘70s kung fu and funk, and blaxploitation all set to a space opera. And, yes, all that works together. The adventures of this space pirate James Brown cover band feels like a Parliament/Funkadelic album come to life in the best possible way. I really want this to be adapted to an animated show because the first season is all here. For now, I’ll just have to wait until the next volume.
Chesya Burke – Let’s Play White
I must confess it took me almost seven months to work up the nerve to read Burke’s “Say, She Toy,” but it made me even more of a fan after her novel The Strange Crimes of Little Africa. However, this short story collection is lots of original horror, expanding the canon of Black thrillers. Seriously, I would love to see a horror anthology series adapt these stories along with Nisi Shawl’s Filter House and Nalo Hopkinson’s Falling in Love with Hominids. And definitely check out the exquisite “I Make People Do Bad Things.”
Farrah Rochon – A Perfect Holiday Fling and A Little Bit Naughty (Moments in Maplesville series)
This double feature had been on my Kindle for quite some time, so I finally gave them a read when I needed something I figured would be light and fluffy. And, yes, I got what I needed when I read them. One of the things I appreciate about the Maplesville series is that its set in a smaller community because I noticed lots of romances are set in large urban areas. However, Maplesville is a smaller community outside of New Orleans, so I do appreciate the vibe. Between the two books, there is sweet romance and a bit of kink, so there’s a little something for everyone here.
Fatimah Asghar & Safia Elhillo – Halal If You Hear Me: The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 3
Among a batch of books I found in a Little Free Library, this is a beautiful collection of poetry from the Muslim experience and also includes a few essays. All I’ll say is it’s essential reading, particularly with the current political climate and the targeting of Muslims for hate crimes escalating even more under the current regime. Even if you know nothing of Muslim experience, this is one way to see the variety and beauty of it in an accessible form.
Irene Gallo (ed.) – Worlds Seen in Passing: 10 Years of Tor.com Short Fiction
I actually won this book in a giveaway and quite frankly fell in love with its beautiful hardcover form. However, I found this to be a very good compilation documenting Tor’s first 10 years especially as it shows the ways in which some outlets of science fiction have attempted to make the space not only more inclusive but also richer in the stories that find a home. Tor is one of those outlets and has chosen only a few of the standout stories it has published in the past 10 years.
Jewelle Gomez – The Gilda Stories
A birthday gift from last year, I forgot to include it in the previous rundown probably because I spoke about it in my audio essay on found family. I wanted to read this before it was adapted and found out why it is not only a science fiction classic but also QUILTBAG essential reading. Gomez uses vampire lore to tell the story of Black experience from the mid-1800s to a future yet to happen. However, without giving too much away, the themes of predator and prey throughout the centuries feels familiar on many levels.
Mai’a Williams – This Is How We Survive: Revolutionary Mothering, War, and Exile in the 21st Century
I’d only read Williams’ two poetry zines and an essay in another collection on motherhood before reading her memoirs this year. To say the least, it’s a compelling story not only about motherhood but also about activism and a commitment to living life as freely as possible in any world context. It’s not always pretty but yet oddly hopeful in that the focus isn’t always struggle but more about living.
Mikki Kendall – Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists: A Graphic History of Women’s Fight for Their Rights
I must confess I anticipated this one for a long time. I finally got to read this one during a doctor visit and found it to be one of the more pleasant history lessons I’ve read in a long time. I love primers, and this graphic novel works not only as a primer but also as an accessible history lesson at all levels. Kendall not only looks at the women, named and unnamed, who have always fought for equal rights but also the forces and factors that have made it necessary, even when those forces were other women. It doesn’t shy away from inequities in women’s rights struggles and why it has been a constant fight.
Nalo Hopkinson – Sister Mine
One thing I’ve realized about Nalo Hopkinson over the years is that no one writes paranormal, fantasy, or speculative quite like she does. Fortunately, I always go into her work with no idea what to expect and always find myself in awe at her worldbuilding prowess. Sister Mine is no exception. It’s deceptively gritty under its beautiful prose as it tells the story of fraternal twins blessed and cursed with supernatural power. And, oh, the homage and reference to the power of music was quite a draw as well. Hint: Jimi’s guitar figures very prominently in the story.
SJ Strothers – Daughters of the Root
I will admit, I was about to leave this one after the first couple of chapters, but I decided to see it through. And I’m glad I did. Strothers story of a family of powerful women begins to come together as they discover their powers and family secrets. However, there are some pacing issues because to be honest, the story should have been longer and given more room to build this world and the characters. Also, the story sets up a series but is self-contained, which is a plus for me because I don’t like cliffhangers.
Zaida Polanco – Crush, Interrupted and Extra Credit
I picked these up as free reads and to be honest, they were mostly good for passing the time. I suspect they would be more enjoyable to those who are mostly into erotica for erotica’s sake. Extra Credit works in this way because the story itself feels rushed, but Polanco includes plenty of the sexy stuff (which I’m thinking was the point). However, Crush, Interrupted focuses more on the story and gives the reader more of a chance to get to know and care about the characters. And, yes, sexy stuff aplenty. So these are good for those who like to lean more heavily toward the “let’s get it in” side of things.