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Judicious Women, Authenticity, Crossroads & Legacies


The loss of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is devastating. All the heartfelt tributes are well-deserved, and have turned my thoughts toward consideration of the early years of her legal career at the ACLU and the Women's Rights Project. Without RBG and WRP then, would we now have women in combat in the U.S. military? The Lilly Ledbetter Law? Marriage equality? Federal mandates for equitable insurance coverage? And many more legal protections against sexism and other forms of discrimination?  

The #TWWBF2020 More Than Tragic: Happy Endings, Adventure, and Fantasy for All panelists and authors of the following titles, and I, along with millions (billions?) more people have benefitted from Justice Ginsburg's life and work for human rights. Her existence improved the world and will continue to do so, which is a significant part of her substantial legacy.   

Standby Counsel (Monica Spade #2) by Alexi Venice  

Contemporary legal thriller romance   

August 2020  

After surviving assorted personal and professional upheavals in Conscious Bias, attorney Monica Spade is settling into her new law firm and her sizzling new relationship with high school art teacher and CrossFit devotee Shelby. Then a prank sets off a chain of events that obligates Monica to serve the legal advisory needs of a murder suspect with a hidden agenda and dangerous associates. Will Monica, her legal practice, and her romance survive? Standby Counsel takes readers on a wild ride filled with switchbacks and detours before arriving at the answers to those questions. A balanced mix of workplace dynamics, courtroom procedural drama, relationship tripwires, and layers of mysterious intrigue propel this engaging narrative. Monica's intrepid curiosity combined with distinctive characterizations of the supporting cast members create a believable sense of overlapping communities of connection and support. There's a fundamentally lighthearted undertone despite the serious themes addressed. Survivors of sexual assault may want to consider how far along they are in their recovery before they start reading Standby Counsel. Although the aftermath of a rape investigation figures prominently, a continuation of a comic thread from Conscious Bias offers some relief with a satisfying payoff in the conclusion. This second entry in the Monica Spade series builds upon the strong foundation of solid storytelling mechanics, memorable personalities, and interesting ethical quandaries established in the first story. In the author's note Alexi Venice asks if readers want more Monica Spade. This reader’s answer is yes.

Truth Is… by Kamari Talley  

Poetic prose  


Recognizing oneself. Accepting oneself. Being honest with oneself and others. These simple concepts often seem impossible to execute in real life. If people are as sick as their secrets, then Mya, the narrator of Truth Is…, is nearly terminal on the first page. Meeting Adrian revives her in ways Mya hadn't understood were dying. This author's words breathe fresh emotive power into a familiar tale of self-discovery. Lyrical prose poetry floats along Mya's stream of consciousness observations and revelations.  

Her smile met me before she even opened her mouth. [Page 4]  

Mya's journey begins with a focus on sexual orientation, but quickly broadens into an examination of healthy versus unhealthy relationships with self and others. When Mya says on page 6, “…Truth is you liberate my mind, and you touch my soul…” her words encourage readers to ask themselves if their relationships do the same.   

Near the conclusion on page 59 where Adrian says, “… I`m not perfect there are parts of myself that are under-construction but I want us to build…” it resonates as an echo of the essential truth that human beings are all works in progress. This author encourages readers to build upon the foundation of our most authentic selves. Doing so involves risk and yields great personal rewards.  

[Note: The phrase, “chinky eyes" is used more than once. Although in context, it's clearly used as an endearment, not as a slur, some readers may find it problematic.]  

Minor proofing: to/too, your/you're

The Love Labyrinth by Pamela D. Beverly  

Contemporary romantic women's fiction  


Noelle Harrison is tired and frustrated. Her career-obsessed husband Wayne is rarely home, leaving her feeling like a single parent to their two young sons. Counseling, prayer—neither has solved the complacency and inertia that are killing her marriage. Then one Sunday Clark Johnson, a handsome younger man, approaches her. He says he wants to be Noelle's friend, but she can tell he wants so much more. Noelle needs to figure out what she really wants and the price she's willing to pay to have it.  

The Love Labyrinth offers more than the typical messy love triangle. It portrays realistic consequences of broken trust and lack of honest communication. Plus, there's flirtation, sexy fun times, and enduring friendships with affectionate smack talk. Noelle's story also examines the challenges in making a clear choice that's necessary, yet still manages to wound everyone involved in some way. Healthy or failing, relationships consume time and energy. Noelle is forced to choose the direction she wants her life to go, and which man is the prime partner to travel that path with her.

One Day. Someday. Soon… (Culhane Family #1) by Gay G. Gunn  

Historical literary fiction  


In the tradition of Alex Haley's Roots and Queenie, One Day. Someday. Soon… explores the circuitous, bumpy, lurching forward march of history through the Culhane Family. Their chronicle is global. Their struggles and triumphs are intimate, relatable, and universal. Identity, personal safety, purpose, connection, community, joy—regardless of nationality, skin color, age, gender or social class, humans seek these essentials. With lush language and immersive detail, this author infuses dynamic engagement into historical facts with complicated characters who reveal the layers within familiar cultural tropes of relationships between enslaved Africans and Indigenous North Americans, and the northern migration of southern Black people after the U.S. Civil War. Ancestors, Madears, aunties, foremothers and forefathers, and extended families by blood and by choice build strong villages and enduring communities that lay solid foundations for generational legacies. This story celebrates the physical, mental, and spiritual stamina possessed by each member of the Culhane Family, who through trials, errors, and tribulations establish ways to thrive, excel, and achieve while also savoring life's joy. The Culhanes embody the ideals of the American Dream.     


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