African American Fiction (and More) | November 2013

Why deal with complicated revenge schemes when cut-quick-to-the-bone insults produce the same result in way less time? Listed here are a few verbal gems from this month’s selections that will probably lead to more frenemies than friends.

That definitely wasn’t an Altar Call. That was a bonafide parade of fools.

Does your mother know that you’re stupid?

Thinking…it doesn’t work for you, so maybe you should just give it up.

She keeps her distance from me and I don’t punch her in the eye.

My wife thought it was okay to dress like she is on the pole.

I’ll Django you all up in this place.

No sassy backtalk in this month’s Pick of the Month. Instead, in Felicia Mason’s Hidden Riches a dysfunctional family discovers the power of love and friendship. Mason’s writing flows smooth and easy like a hot North Carolina afternoon spent in a front-porch rocking chair.

Pick of the Month
mason African American Fiction (and More) | November 2013Mason, Felicia. Hidden Riches. Kensington. Feb. 2014. 301p. ISBN 9780758205735. $15. F
Three adult siblings converge on the small town of Drapersville, NC, to pay their respects to their older sister, Ana Mae Futrell, who has passed. The kind-hearted Ana Mae led a quiet life but one that was filled with secrets. During the reading of her will siblings Clayton, JoJo, and Delcine are shocked to hear a huge sum of money waits for them if they can decipher clues Ana Mae left behind. Soon, the three siblings and their spouses are rooting through Ana Mae’s belongings and digging up her flower beds hoping to find treasure. Small-town values of acceptance and helping others carry Mason’s tale. The plot has a wonderful, gentle flow as readers learn Ana Mae wasn’t just the simple housekeeper she appeared to be. Verdict Christian values abound throughout Mason’s work, which advocates acceptance of gay relationships. The author shows her strong storytelling skills by connecting the many dots in her tale, which contains a mystery vibe plus an inspirational message.

Murray, Victoria Christopher and Billingsley, ReShonda Tate. Fortune & Fame. Touchstone/Simon & Schuster. Feb. 2014  288p. ISBN 9781476747170. $15. F
Two top African American authors tag-team another episode (following Sinners & Saints and Friends & Foes) in the continuing drama of Jasmine Cox Larson Bush and Rachel Jackson Adams. These frenemies use the church as a cover—no, wait, a backdrop—for their catty shenanigans. Jasmine is married to Hosea, a minister beloved by his flock. Rachel is also married to a preacher, the more subdued Lester. Husbands take a back seat when folks from Oprah’s network tap the girls to be part of a new reality series called “First Ladies.” Jasmine scrambles to get ready, saying, “Just show me the money.” Rival Rachel is miffed when Jasmine steals the spotlight she believes should be focused on her. Add in Mary Richardson, who is Lester’s baby momma but married to whack-job Nathan, and the drama zooms right along. In another world, Jasmine and Rachel could be friends, but for now they’re at each other’s throats. Verdict Priceless trash talk marks this story about betrayal, greed and stepping on anyone in your way. Best supporting character goes to Mae Frances, who nails all her scenes as a muse for Jasmine. A great choice for folks who spend Sunday mornings in the front pew.

Nelscott, Kris. Street Justice. WMG Publishing. Mar. 2014. 315p. ISBN  9780615866451   $18.99. F
The despair of 1970 Chicago’s African American working poor is the centerpiece of Nelscott’s next offering in her Smokey Dalton series (after Days of Rage). A 13-year-old girl is lured into the seedy Starlite hotel to be turned out as a prostitute. Smokey, noble and protective, takes matters into his own hands as the girl is a friend of his adopted son, Jimmy. Smokey can do what the police won’t after the turmoil of the Chicago Seven Conspiracy and a Black Panther shootout. This is a neighborhood where Black folks duck when they see a police car and South Side Chicago police could care less about a single rape. When Smokey lifts up that nasty rock of the Starlite, lots of ugly creatures scurry away, including the police. It’s up to the neighborhood to take care of its own problems, and they do by any means necessary. Verdict Easy comparisons can be made to Dave Robicheaux, Spenser, and Easy Rawlins, but Smokey is his own man. Women want to be near him and cook his dinner as he settles his nerves with three fingers of Scotch. A great read for fans of detectives guarding an inner city’s grimy streets.

N’Tyse. Twisted Vows of Seduction. Strebor. Dec. 2013. 272p. ISBN 9781593095208  $15. F
Oh, where to start! The drama rolls fast and furious in this companion novel to N’Tyse’s earlier tale, Twisted Seduction. Jeff Jackson is sexing up Ménage, who wants more and more of him as he ignores his baby momma, Nadine. In an alternate storyline, Greg Adams is getting his freak on with Naomi as he distances himself from his wife, Vivian. An odd twist is that in the first book, Jeff’s now-deceased wife, Denise, was having an affair with Greg. Complicated? Yes, it is. Toss in the fact that Naomi physically resembles dead Denise and the story takes on certain creepiness. There’s more than betrayal going on here; let’s call it cold-hearted super betrayal. Verdict N’Tyse certainly can create steamy sex scenes that exhaust her characters and leave them sweaty and spent. But her storyline jumps around, making it hard to keep things straight as both Jeff and Greg are fools who should see trouble behind sexy smiles of these barracuda-like women. This one is for readers who like a soap opera laced with erotica.

Poole, Daaimah S. Pretty Girls in the VIP. Kensington. Feb. 2014. 308p. ISBN  9780758246257 $15. F
Three different women are connected to Belize, a high-roller club in Philly that begins serving drinks at $200 a bottle, and that’s one of those small bottles. Adrienne Sheppard is the owner who’s working hard to make Belize a success against the wishes of her live-in lover who would rather invest their money in his film-making career. Zakiya Lee reconnects with her former boyfriend Jabril, who is on the Oklahoma Thunder NBA roster. Jabril is like those sailors of old with a woman in every port, but in his case, it’s one in every NBA city. This dude likes his sex fast and furious, with no strings attached. Shanice Whitaker, a 23 year old who turns tricks for cash, catches Jabril’s eye and soon she’s laying her freak all over him. Revenge is on everyone’s mind as their paths cross in the club. Readers will hope these sheisty folks will get what’s coming to them. Will they? Maybe, maybe not. Verdict Poole’s pacing encounters some starts and stops that interrupt the flow. Still, readers will cheer for Adrienne, Shanice, and Zakiya who are empowered women getting what they want in spite of men who are lying dogs.

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