Social media pundits muddy the waters with wildly contrasting opinions on why street lit is so alluring to readers. But sometimes a single sentence gives the genre a definitive snapshot. In Jackie D.’s Life After a Balla, our heroine Asia finds herself overwhelmed with problems. So where does she go for help? Asia stood in line at the liquor store with a cheap bottle of Absolute Vodka tucked under one arm and the baby in the other.
It’s hard out there being a street lit woman.
Pick of the Month
Noire. Natural Born Liar. Dafina: Kensington. 2012. 275p. ISBN 9780758266088. pap. $15. F
Scam queen Mink LaRue is no stranger to the Manhattan Criminal Court; she’s been pinched (i.e., arrested) multiple times in her 21 years. Mink is always wide open and wields her sexuality pushing for the next score. She spots a mark inside a club. This Philly fool was gwapped out. Swimming in cream. Did I wanna sit in his VIP booth and have a drink with him? Did a wino piss on the stairs? Needing more than nickel-and-dime payoffs, Mink and sidekick Bunni Baines hatch an outrageous scheme to snag a huge inheritance. A wealthy Texas family had a daughter disappear 18 years ago, and Mink figures she could pass for the lost child and pick up a cool $100,000. Before anyone can say howdy, Mink and Bunni do a Texas two-step and land in Dallas. There the Harlem hood chicks show their swagger to the extended family drenched in money. Look out girls, lots of other people are also positioning themselves up for a financial killing.
VERDICT Noire (G-2 Spot: Greed; Thong on Fire) knows all about street slang, scams, strip clubs, and fierce sex bouts. She also has created wonderfully realistic characters who speak in priceless sentences.There was enough room between her bowlegs to drive a freakin’ motorcycle through them without touching either one of her knees. This is top-of-the-line street lit. Buy multiples.
Adonis. Ghosts of the BX. 5 Star Pubs. 2012. 293p. ISBN 9780983247340. pap. $15. F
I’m thinking if someone was tied up with duct tape, beaten,and then left in an abandoned warehouse with honey slathered all over his body for rats to feast upon, that guy would be our for revenge if he could escape. That’s one of the scenes in this disjointed novel about dealing coke and grabbing turf in the Bronx, the BX of the title. Early on CoCo, or Chanel, uses her sex to set up Lawson Lace Anderson. Little does she know he’ll survive the shooting and try to regain a foothold on the block. It’s a lucrative business with $1000 of cocaine sold every hour. But everyone wants more than their share, including CoCo’s psycho brother Cornell, aka Blast. Every action causes a reaction here with thugs patrolling the streets like sharks waiting to prey on the weak.
VERDICT Authentic use of slang and intricate deception leading to betrayal is sidetracked by the author developing overly complicated and vague relationships. Each character is addressed by two names, a given and a nickname, making it difficult to focus on who is involved with what situation. A promising opening scene fades into a marginal purchase.
Bryant, Niobia. Mistress, Inc. Dafina: Kensington. Jun. 2012. 288p. ISBN 9780758265296. pap. $14. F
Jessa Bell (Message from a Mistress; Mistress No More) continues her scandalous adventures. Could it be possible this woman is feeling shame? Maybe, but by telling off a rival New Jersey housewife, Jessa proves she hasn’t lost her brass. I would need thirty more years and forty more pounds to compete with you, darling. Let’s see, Jessa’s scorecard reads: betrayed a best friend by sleeping with her husband, lied about it, and was almost murdered by a deranged lover. So what’s left? She has asked God for salvation, but Jessa doesn’t hesitate to sign TV deals and hit the national talk show circuit spilling her story of being used as a mistress. Oh, and there’s also a six-figure book deal. Talk about the spider trapping the fly!
VERDICT Series fans may enjoy seeing what’s up with Jessa, but newcomers could be totally lost. This slow-moving novel paints Jessa as a modern Hester Prynne. But with no sexual wow factor at any point in the story, it might be time to set aside Jessa Bell’s drama.
Coleman, JaQuavis. Dopeman: Memoirs of a Snitch. Urban Bks. (Dopeman’s Trilogy, Bk. 3). 2012. 194p. ISBN 9781601622884. pap. $14.95. F
Braylon Kennedy is just about out of the drug game and feels it’s time to settle down with his girlfriend Zoey. One last dope run should prop them up with $60,000 to start a new life. But betrayal and horrible missteps result in Zoey’s death and a life sentence for Braylon until he is asked by a DEA agent to infiltrate the Columbus, OH, drug empire of Seven. Adopting the name Ball, Braylon soon proves himself as a top soldier for Seven. Of the gorgeous women prowling around Seven’s business, Braylon/Ball needs to keep an eye on Lola, the closest confidant of Seven. Tension mounts on each page as we know Ball is waiting for the right moment to nail Seven, a move that cannot end well for anyone.
VERDICT Ball’s fear of his cover being blown has a cinematic edge-of-your-seat feel as tension-packed scenes feature lots of cool twists up to the final page. Coleman (The Dopeman’s Wife; The Dopefiend) is a top name in street lit. Make sure you have extra copies.
D., Jackie. Life After a Balla. Lifechanging Bks. 2012. 235p. ISBN 9781934230374. pap. $15. F
Plenty of drama and revenge swirls around this sequel to 2011′s Married to a Balla. Skye Washington is now playing house with Dezmond Cruze, but he’s hardly a knight in shining armor. Dezmond has gunned down former NFL star Sandino Washington who’s also Skye’s husband. Why? Because Dezmond is sexing up Skye in a steamy affair and hated the abuse hubby Sandino laid on her. Sandino has the nerve not to die but now rides a wheelchair. And Skye only has access to Sandino’s millions if she doesn’t divorce him. This hateful woman ercilessly taunts Sandino as she spends his bucks thinking nothing of dropping $100 tips just to get seated in a crowded restaurant. In the wings is Asia, Skye’s former best friend who’s also Sandino’s baby momma, and she thinks his money belongs to her! Whew. Readers almost need a flowchart to track who is sexing whom.
VERDICT Ruthless and selfish Skye is that female villain street lit readers love to hate, but they can’t stop reading about her adventures. Plenty of secondary characters conniving to get their piece of the cash detract from Skye’s drama, but there’s no redemption here, just juicy revenge.
Lee, Amanda. Down Low Diva. 5 Star Pubs. 2012. 224p. ISBN 9780983247364. pap. $15. F
At one point in Lee’s sexual tale, Christina De’Angelo is asked if there’s another phrase for whoring around? Um, no. Not when you jump from sex partner to sex partner on almost every page. This isn’t a romantic erotic sex story but a series of rough assaults in a bed, shower, on a table, a floor, or anywhere. Christina has migrated from rural Mississippi to Denver and is the sexual plaything for married couple Peter and Peaches (really, those are their names). She loves the bisexual life, but hey, why not get paid for her trouble? Soon enough she is the star attraction of Delicious Divas, a club where anything goes. Cash is king, and Christina finds herself pulling down $50,000 for one night’s work. But the freak lifestyle comes with a bill that has to be paid.
VERDICT Sex scenes overload this tale with very little storyline. It’s almost like a porn-movie storyboard, letting characters test-drive sexual situations to see what they like best. This one’s nasty. Caveat emptor.
Williams, Karen. Sweet Giselle. Urban Bks. 275p. ISBN 9781601624895. pap. $14.94. F
After her parents die, 18-year-old Giselle is left responsible for her younger brother, Brandon. Desperate for cash, she lets best friend Lexi talk her into pursuing an afternoon of modeling for $3000. What she finds is Giovanni’s porn empire, and in a fairy tale turn of fortune, Giovanni makes her his wife. In no time at all, Giselle quits slinging burgers and fries for minimum wage and now thinks nothing of blowing $20,000 on shopping sprees. But this rags-to-riches story goes off the rails when Bryce, a thug wronged by Giovanni, kidnaps Giselle and beats, rapes, and starves her. Pages will fly as readers rush to find out why Bryce is such a hater. The truth emerges with rough-and-tumble pure street lit action.
VERDICT Step-by-step details of routine tasks like showers, drinking a soda, and driving a car (a common flaw of new writers) may have some readers abandoning Williams’s book after the first 80 pages. Encourage them to keep at this one. The early sappy romance is contrasted with epic beat downs and stunning violence that intensifies when a host of bodies hit the floor.