Yecheilyah’s Book List 2021

Hey guys!

As we wrap up 2021, I thought I’d copy off Barrack Obama and share my book list, a combination of Trade and Indie books I read this year. This list is based on books I’ve read or am reading now. I missed a lot of hot releases reading for research, so I only got around to about twenty books this year, and not all of them were published in 2021. And for the sake of time, I will not talk about every book.

So heerree we go.

Just as I am by Cicely Tyson

This list is in no particular order, but if it was, this would still be the number one read for me this year. Publishing a memoir is among many of my author goals, and the way this was structured is precisely what I have in mind. Cicely Tyson’s Just as I am is not only a memoir. It is a magnifying glass on 96 years of black history told through the eyes of someone who lived it in real-time. A perfect blend of personal testimony with the political and social climate of the times, a poetic proclamation to some of the most historical events of the 20th Century. 

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw

Listen, if you can get me to read your book and keep reading it or think about it so much when I am not reading it, I want to pick it up at my earliest convenience to finish, then you can make the top of my list. This book was hilarious and thought-provoking at the same time. It was also refreshing that the book was not too long and engaging enough to read in one sitting. I hadn’t done that in a while. I enjoyed it.

Black Girl, Call Home by Jasmine Mans

I read the first half of this book at the library while I was supposed to be reading Amanda’s new book. No shade to Gorman, but I had to let hers sit to the side a lil bit reading this here. I love Jasmine’s rawness. She is all fire and straightforwardness. When I got home, I bought my own copy.

Promise That You Will Sing for Me: The Power and Poetry of Kendrick Lamar by Miles Marshall Lewis

For clarity, this is not a memoir. It is biography written by pop culture critic, essayist, literary editor, fiction writer, and music journalist Miles Marshall Lewis. I really like how he structured this, mixing pop culture, some hip-hop history leading up to Kendrick’s birth, and Lamar’s coming of age story.

The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman

Because I heard this poem recited first at the Presidential Inauguration, it’s so fun to read because Gorman’s voice is in my head. I can read this repeatedly because it’s short and inspiring.

Will (Currently reading)

I literally just got this book yesterday, but I had to put it on the list because I think Will is dope so I know this book will be entertaining. Looking forward to digging in.

The Love Songs of W.E.B. Dubois by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers

This book is mad thick, so no, I have not finished reading it. What I have read so far is good, though, and I will be picking this back up again for sure.

The Queen V: Everything You Need to Know About Sex, Intimacy, and Down There Health Care by Dr. Jackie Walters

Ladies, listen. There are so many myths surrounding this here vajayjay of ours. Do yourself a favor and grab a copy of this book by Married to Medicine’s Jackie Walters. She’s an MD of Comprehensive Women’s OB/GYN, located in Duluth and Dunwoody, Georgia, and is a household name in the Atlanta area. If you know her from the show, the book reads in her voice, which is cool.

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America

If you want to learn about how the US government systematically imposed residential segregation: with undisguised racial zoning; public housing that purposefully segregated previously mixed communities; subsidies for builders to create whites-only suburbs; tax exemptions for institutions that enforced segregation; and support for violent resistance to African Americans in white neighborhoods, this the one.

Immersed in West Africa by Terry Lister (Indie)

I enjoyed “traveling” with this author on his journey through Senegal, Mauritania, The Gambia, Guinea, and Guinea Bissau.

Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism by James W. Loewen

They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South (Current Research Book)

Chile. If you want a history of Karen’s behavior, babbyy. This the one.

Family Medicine: A Psychological Suspense Thriller (Indie)

Call Us What We Carry by Amanda Gorman (Currently reading)

I am not as invested in this one as I was in the first one, but I’m still enjoying it.

Things I Wish I Said by AVG (Indie)

Fields of Grace by Wendy Waters (Indie)

Capitalism and Slavery by Eric Williams (Research Book)

Ya’ll notice my nails got better in the latter part of the year? Cause this was this summer, and what in the messy nail polish is going on here, lol.

Living in the Land of I am: Your Life Journey Reveals Your Purpose by Tiffany James (Indie)

Life After Death by Sister Souljah

I had such high hopes for this book. Read my full review here.

She Wins (Indie)

When Poets Pray by Marilyn McEntyre

I did not enjoy this book like I thought I would. I should have researched it more, but I judged it by its cover and title, both of which I think are awesome. But I’m gonna have to pass.

I’m Speaking Now: Black Women Share Their Truth in 101 Stories of Love, Courage, and Hope

A compelling anthology. Highly recommended.

Books I Didn’t Get Around to but Want to Read:

The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story by Nikole Hannah-Jones

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris

Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas

Feeding the Soul by Tabitha Brown

You Got Anything Stronger? by Gabrielle Union

And that’s my book list for 2021!

Have you read any on this list? Tell me your favorite!

Yecheilyah’s Book Reviews: Life After Death by Sister Souljah

Title: Life After Death
Author: Sister Souljah
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Published: March 2, 2021
ASIN: B08BZVTLWX
Pages: 349

I purchased this book when it dropped in March and promised to share my thoughts. That was nine months ago, and I want to deliver on my word.

The Plot is in the Title

Life After Death is the much anticipated second sequel to Sister Souljah’s explosive bestseller, The Coldest Winter Ever. The first thing I noticed is the plot is in the title.

Winter Santiaga is still in prison and negotiating a deal with her brother-in-law, Elisha, for a reality TV show on her release. But before Winter could make her grand debut, she gets shot.

And this is where the story goes to a place I did not want to go.

The rest of the book are the details of Winter’s experience in the after-world. Neither heaven nor hell, she floats around in a kind of purgatory.

What in the American Horror Story is going on here?

There is a bit of a twist at the end, but unfortunately for me, it was not enough to save the book. It also didn’t help that I predicted the twist from the beginning so I didn’t even have the satisfaction of that to help how I would rate it.

Urban Fiction? Paranormal? Sci-Fi? Magical Realism?

Pushed as an urban fiction novel, Life After Death actually reads like a paranormal story. The book is heavy on religion and metaphysics and I found it dark and hard to get through.

The beginning leading up to the bizarre other-world was not too bad, though I did think the Life After Death Winter sounds a lot less mature than the Winter from the end of book one. To understand what I mean let’s do a quick recap of the end of The Coldest Winter Ever.

At the end of The Coldest Winter Ever, Winter is still street, but has been humbled after serving seven years in prison. With eight more years to go, she is shackled and accompanied by guards to attend her mother’s funeral. She talks about how breathing is different, the feel of the sun on her face and the smell of the food.

As the book comes to an end and Winter sees the family, her middle sister Porsche rolls up in a Mercedes Benz dressed like a million bucks. Winter can already tell the road she’s headed and thinks about warning Porsche about the life she’s living. She decides to let it be. The girl will have to see for herself.

Fast forward to Life After Death.

This Winter is negotiating a deal for a $50,000 per episode reality TV show, hooded three-quarter-length mink coat, Python sky-high boots, red Gucci driving gloves, an activated iPhone, and a red carpet welcome out of the door.

Mmkay.

It would seem she would be far removed from that kind of lifestyle by now.

Preachy

There is a lot of talk about Islam that came across as highly preachy. I don’t mean bits and pieces here and there. I mean whole pages about how Allah does what Allah pleases, Allah chose the language of Arabic as the language of the Holy Quran, so forth and so on. As one reviewer summed up:

“My only criticism is the strong Muslim leaning; without spoiling, I felt the portrayal of the nuns in the convent was unnecessarily offensive. An interesting read! But if you’re looking for a TCWE II you will be disappointed.”

Winter’s Life After Death journey is an experience into the world of the deeply spiritual practices of Islam as Souljah sees it. After she enters this world, everything feels like a sermon with Winter’s life as the conduit, the vehicle from which the message is given.

Put plainly: it feels like Souljah wanted to write a book about religion because of the trauma of the 2020 Pandemic and used her most famous character to do it. According to her Instagram:

“I wrote LIFE AFTER DEATH in 2020, a year of great loss, huge disasters, raging fires, violent storms, virulent viruses and the whole world shaken by the body count. Everything everyone worshiped besides GOD was either brought to a complete stand still or vanished into thin air.” – Sister Souljah

I get it, but readers feel deceived. They thought they were buying the follow-up to what is arguably one of the best urban fiction books of their young adulthood, only to read about Souljah’s “EXTREMELY polarizing and generally terrible opinions and belief,” as one reviewer puts it. 

“I didn’t buy this book to read Souljah’s religious and uber conservative rhetoric, I bought this book to finish Winter’s story. If she couldn’t write that she should’ve just said that instead of giving us a weird ass bestiality scene and making Winter make increasingly erratic and poor decisions to justify the religious crap she stuffed the plot with.”

The marketing gave us the impression the book would pick up where The Coldest Winter Ever left off. In truth, it is a different book. Fans of the novel say it’s not supposed to be the same, but the promotion says otherwise. Even the covers are similar.

“People who are saying “This is not supposed to be the Coldest Winter Ever” – it is literally the follow-up to TCWE lol!!! Of course we were expecting an extension of it!” – Amazon Customer Review

I believe this would have been better received had she created an entirely new character with no connection to Winter.

Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

I do want to give Souljah credit for attempting to pen something deeper than your traditional Street Lit. You can tell she wanted Winter to evolve and that she had a message she wanted to give her readers.

You can also tell by how many people said they “waited 20 years for nothing” did not read the first sequel. If you read A Deeper Love Inside, Souljah’s religious messages are not a total surprise. Although, I didn’t enjoy that book either.

“Unrealistic. Dragged. Boring. Depressing. It was in need of a serious plot twist that never came.” – Amazon Customer Review

I would have worded it differently (knowing what it feels like as an author to get such feedback), but this person is spot on.

The religious parts in Life After Death would also make more sense to readers of the Midnight series:

“Its written for Souljah fans who have read the Midnight series. Not that the story is particularly relevant, but there are A LOT of references to Islam that might not make sense entirely except Midnight explained them in his series.”

I do believe there is an audience for this book and that had it been marketed to that audience as a standalone novel in the paranormal or even religious genre, readers would have had a better idea of what they were getting.

“If she wanted to write about these kinds of things don’t mislead the readers into thinking we were getting another Winter experience, clearly it was not. The story is  hard to digest. The only reason a lot of us purchased it was under the guise of it really being an actual sequel to one of the best reads.”

“Souljah wrote the book that SHE wanted to write, not what her readers wanted to read.”

I can only rate this book two stars. It is two stars instead of one because I did enjoy the start of the book. It seemed promising until Winter went into the sunken place.


Note: I was not paid for this review. I bought the book, read it on my own time, and these are my thoughts. To have your work reviewed through my paid service, you must register your book here and it must rate 3-5 stars to be published on this blog. Reviews of books I read on my own are published regardless of rating. 

Yecheilyah’s Book Reviews – Living in the Land of I am: Your Life Journey Reveals Your Purpose by Tiffany James

Title: Living in the Land of I am: Your Life Journey Reveals Your Purpose
Author: Tiffany James
Publisher: Encourage Touch Enterprise
ASIN: ‎ B07SB68C1F
Publication date: ‎May 22, 2019
Print length: ‎ 158 pages

Living in the Land of I am: Your Life Journey Reveals Your Purpose is a hopeful read about the importance of embracing your authentic self and operating in that truth. According to the author, losing our identity also means relinquishing the authority given to us to fulfill our purpose. (p. 67)

I enjoyed the author’s testimony, examples, and analogies to expand on her point further. We are invited into her world and we learn the many things she overcame and how we too can live in that land of I am, that is our truest self. We learn there is beauty in acknowledging and accepting one’s set-apartness.

My favorite example is the one of Simba from Disney’s 1994 animated feature film, The Lion King. The story of how he was born into royalty and stood proud and strong in that purpose until the death of his father Mufasa made him lose his voice was very nicely recounted.

Simba with Pumbaa and Timon
Published: Jan 28, 2021
By AnimeAngelArtist1990

When Simba meets Pumbaa and Timon and starts basking in what looks like a carefree life, the author reminds us that while he seems happy, he forgets that he was born to be a King. Now a grown lion, Simba has been reduced to a confused, scared, angry, and hurt little cub (p.37). When he returns to fulfill his purpose, he becomes the strong and mighty lion he was born to be. I thought this laid a strong foundation for the rest of the book.

The author’s voice is poetic, and she leaves inspiration pieces between chapters she calls inspirational moments. If you remember, Mrs. James is this year’s first-place winner in the 4th Annual Poetry Contest. I noted many sayings I found powerful such as “Love is not the absence of truth.” (Tiffany James)

I was not a big fan of the author’s Christian views because I’m not a Christian. Still, overall, I found the book to be a great reminder of the importance of standing in our truth and being authentically and unapologetically ourselves.

Strong Introduction: 4/5

Authenticity / Believable: 5/5

Organization: 4/5

Thought-Provoking: 5/5

Solid Conclusion: 3/5

Final: 4/5

You Can Pick up Your Copy of Living in the Land of I am on Amazon

Yecheilyah’s Book Reviews – Family Medicine: A Psychological Suspense Thriller by Natasha Jeneen Thomas

Title: Family Medicine: A Psychological Suspense Thriller
Author: Natasha Jeneen Thomas
Publisher: Newham Wilcott (October 8, 2021)
ASIN: ‎ B0992VHVWH
Publication date: ‎ October 8, 2021
Print length: ‎ 340 pages

Family Medicine is a psychological thriller with many twists, turns, and a healthy dose of suspense. With vivid description and detail, we meet Therese Hughes-Baldwin, an aspiring dancer who works at a cafe. She is offered an escape to a beach house mansion by her favorite customer and psychiatrist Dr. Dara Clemens. When she and her best friend Phoebe make it to the house, things start to get weird. First, there are no pictures in the place, and Phoebe is acting strange. The story alternates between Therese and Phoebe’s experiences at the ocean-view getaway (including Therese’s romance with a man named Tomas) and an unbalanced oral surgeon named Victor.

As the story progressed, I wondered how the two threads were connected, as I knew they had to be, and I kept turning the page to see how it would all play out. I was especially drawn to Victor’s thread in an attempt to understand his behavior. What is with this man fantasizing about killing someone and dressing up in women’s clothes as a disguise? Victor even self-abuses himself as punishment for not thinking through a stakeout that ultimately got him questioned in one scene.

The truth of how everything is connected will blow your mind. While I can’t give away much more detail, I will only say that everything you think you know, including the little I’ve told you, you don’t know.

I also felt so bad for character Summer being arrested as she was menstruating. It made me think of how people don’t understand what women have to endure in these situations. I felt humiliated for her and I am sure all of my women readers will understand.

I did think there was a tad bit too much description of minor details throughout the book, but I assume that’s because nothing is as it appears to be! I did find myself going back to the beginning, and as I reread some scenes, I could see the ending.

This is the novel for you if you are looking to read a book full of mystery, suspense, and a psychological thrill that will keep you guessing until the very end. Speaking of the end, I suspect the author is working on another part of this. You’ll understand what I mean when you read the book.

Plot Movement / Strength: 4/5

Entertainment Factor: 5/5

Characterization: 4/5

Authenticity / Believable: 4/5

Thought Provoking: 5/5

Overall: 4/5

You Can Pick up Your Copy of Family Medicine on Amazon

Yecheilyah’s Book Review Registry: Early Registration for 2022

My review registry is closed for 2021. I am only reviewing books left in the queue. However, please do consider registering early for 2022 as spots fill up fast, and there’s only one me.

What is a Book Review?

A book review is a form of literary criticism in which a book is analyzed based on content, style, and merit. A book review may be a primary source, opinion piece, summary review, or scholarly review. A book review’s length may vary from a single paragraph to a substantial essay but can also be as short as a single sentence. Book reviews help encourage readers to purchase a book, act as social proof, helps with an author’s Amazon ranking, and increase the book’s visibility.

About Yecheilyah’s Reviews

I have been a professional book reviewer for five years now. Authors who have trusted me with their book babies vary from newly, first-time Self-Publishers to experienced Best Sellers. From Indie Authors to Traditionally Published, I’ve worked with them all. The PBS Blog has been on Reedsy’s list of Best Book Review Blogs since 2017 as one of its vetted catalog of active book blogs and thoughtful, quality book reviews. My reviews are honest and thorough without giving away spoilers.

“It’s not just because she reviewed my novelette, All Good Stories, and gave it 5 stars, I’m writing about her because she gives great (and helpful) reviews. In a market so full, it’s hard to choose what to read, isn’t it? We really need reviews these days that go beyond the minimalistic “I liked it” to know what we’re investing our money in. Because money doesn’t grow on trees. Neither do books anymore, for that matter.”

– Linda G. Hill, author, All Good Stories.

How to Apply for Review

1). Email the First 3 Chapters of Your Book. 

Starting January 2022, I will now require authors to submit the first three chapters of their manuscripts for review. Whether your book is chosen depends on how well you can hook me with your first few chapters. Be sure to send the link to your book on Amazon along with your chapters to yecheilyah@yecheilyahysrayl.com.

2). Approval

I will email you back and let you know if I would like to move forward and review your book. Please allow at least 2-3 business days before you hear back from me for your approval status.

3). Pay the Readers Fee 

If I choose to review the book, there is a reader’s fee. Pay the fee through my site. The reader’s fee does not guarantee a positive review, nor is it payment for an Amazon review, which is against Amazon’s terms of service.

4). Gift Me a Copy of Your book.

If your book is published gift it to me through amazon or the platform of your choice. Do not attach a PDF or Word Document via email.

  • PDF documents are only acceptable if the book is not yet published and you are looking for an early review.

You may ship me a paperback / hard copy but let me know this in our email correspondence. 

Pro. This option will allow me to post a picture of the book on the gram! 

Con. This option is a longer turnaround time on the review since I have to wait for the book in the mail, read it, and then review it. This is a great option for more exposure on social media, but I do not recommend it if you are in a hurry for feedback.

I rate on the scale of 3-5 only on this blog. If your review falls below a 3-star rating, I will privately email you the report and my thoughts.

Please Click Here to Read My Review Policy in Full.

Ready to move forward? Email me and let’s get to it.

Yecheilyah’s Book Reviews – Fields of Grace by Wendy Waters

Title: Fields of Grace
Author: Wendy Waters
Publisher: Wendy Waters
Publication date: October 24, 2019
Genre: Biographical Fiction
Pages: 444
ASIN: B07ZL2FHBG

It is September 23, 2009, and there is a dust storm in Sydney. But, Grace is from a family of pagans, so it is not only a dust storm for them. As the amber glow, which Grace calls the glowing, tangerine-colored fog, blankets the city, Grace Fieldgrill, now in her seventies, senses her time has come to die. The amber glow will want a sacrifice, and she is ready to give herself.

Grace believes the day she unlocks the trunk in the corner of her room, the spirit of John, her feu sacré or sacred flame, would come, as prophesied by her mother, to whisk her away. But, before she dies, she wants her son, Christian, to know the truth about his birth father and her granddaughter Samantha (Sam) to succeed in her career. These are affairs she must sort through before sunset. Grace commands Sam to unlock the trunk, and this is where our story begins.

“73-years is a long time to remain earthbound when you want to fly.”

I am not convinced Ms. Waters is not a poet. As with Catch the Moon Mary, Fields of Grace is full of poetic language and reads like a romantic love story and a historical fiction novel. When Sam opens the trunk and pulls out items, we follow Grace back to 1934, where she lives at the Wyncote House, a ladies-only establishment. The women of the house are hilarious. Although, Julia’s low self-esteem and constant complaints about not being pretty made me want to jump through the page and shake her.

As a history buff, I loved how the author used actual historical figures to interact with the fictional characters, which I love doing in my own writing. Sir John Gielgud was an English actor and theater director whose career spanned eight decades. And Peggy Ashcroft was an English stage actress who appeared in both classic and modern plays. Peggy and Gielgud’s relationship in the novel reminded me of brother and sister:

‘Our new thespian is rich, flings money like confetti at a wedding. A little flattery will grant me artistic freedom.’

‘Peg pushed my remaining ribbons aside and swiveled to face Mr. Gieldgud. ‘How rich?’

‘I knew that was all you heard.’

Wendy Waters, Fields of Grace

The author also gives us updates on Hitler and the pending war and where the world stood on women’s rights at the time.

Some parts were so fun I found myself reading some of the lines aloud as if I was in a play. Here is a funny exchange between Peggy and Grace about a handsome man named Dashiell Tanner, who has just replaced another actor:

‘I think he has talent, don’t you?’

‘No.’

‘He’s incredibly handsome.’

‘He’s incredibly arrogant.’

‘So, you’re not in love with him?’

‘Do I sound like I’m in love with him?’

Wendy Waters, Fields of Grace

You will learn the significance of this exchange when you read the book.

The story goes back and forth from past to present. I was worried about getting lost, but the author did this so well it was not confusing at all.

My only criticism is the book is very long, and it might be too much for readers with not a lot of time on their hands. (It took me a while to finish myself). Otherwise, I found Fields of Grace to be an exciting and entertaining read. 

Plot Movement / Strength: 4/5

Entertainment Factor: 5/5

Characterization: 5/5

Authenticity / Believable: 4/5

Thought Provoking: 4/5

Overall: 4/5

You Can Pick up Your Copy of Fields of Grace on Amazon

Yecheilyah’s Book Reviews – Immersed in West Africa by Terry Lister

Title: Immersed in West Africa
Author: Terry Lister
Print Length: 159 Pages
Publisher: Book Power Publishing
Publication Date:  August 29, 2019


Immersed in West Africa is the exciting journey of one man’s travels across Senegal, Mauritania, Gambia, Guinea, and Guinea Bissau. Anyone who knows me or has followed this blog for any significant time knows how much I love traveling. The pandemic put a stop to our travels, so it was refreshing to at least be able to read about some lesser-explored parts of West Africa from the author’s perspective.

We learn about Goree, the infamous island in Senegal with roots in the history of the slave trade. The island had twenty-eight slave houses and transported nearly two million people. We learn that the Maison des Esclaves (The House of Slaves) and its Door of No Return are museums and memorial to the Atlantic slave trade on the Gorée Island that they renovated in 1990.

I enjoyed the author’s authenticity when recounting his experiences as he moved from one place to the next. I found his accounts to be thorough, honest, and thought-provoking. Lister doesn’t gloss over parts that did not serve him well, such as the indigenous village on Lake Retba in Senegal’s Pink Lake (the people kept asking him for money) and the trouble he faced journeying into Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania. The harassment Terry endured from the police is an all-too-familiar narrative between black men and law enforcement. Forcing him to the station, asking him about his money, making him wait, and all of that was completely unnecessary.

I learned from this that it is an excellent idea to guard against those who see you as a new face and try to take advantage of you. I commend the author’s courage because I would not want to travel from country to country alone, precisely because of situations like this.

Also, about the Pink Lake, the author explains it is pink because of its high salinity, second only to the Dead Sea.

We discover few people visit Mauritania because of its strict policy against alcohol and how Mauritanians love mint tea. I loved reading about making it as performed by a woman in Chinguetti. We learn desert homes use propane gas units that they carry from room to room. In Mauritania, we also discover that they use the sun to power their street lights and have installed solar panels to light up the streets.

If you are already intrigued, you will love this book as I have only scratched the surface of the author’s adventures. There is a lot to learn from someone’s personal experience that adds a seasoning that far outweighs looking it up on Google.

I love learning about how things are different in other countries, like the communal way of eating meals, sitting around a table or on the floor in a circle, and eating with your right hand, no utensils. I also did not know polygamy was legal in Senegal.

I cannot wait until it is safe again, and we can do some international travel. I might consider some places this author visited.  I would love to taste the cold water he got to drink from The Terjit Oasis, where the water fell from the rocks!

Strong Introduction: 5/5

Authenticity / Believable: 5/5

Organization: 4/5

Thought Provoking: 5/5

Solid Conclusion: 5/5

Immersed in West Africa is Available on Amazon and Free with KU!


My book review registry is OPEN. Be sure to visit the Blog Book Review Policy page here to learn how to apply.