If you’ve been tuned in to new historical fiction hitting the shelves, you may have seen hype surrounding the debut release of Own-Voices author Jamila Minnicks. In her new book Moonrise Over New Jessup, Minnicks offers a poignantly beautiful account of an all-Black community in Alabama during the Civil-rights movement. Using a unique lens, she explores an often untold side of history – highlighting matters of integration and segregation – while portraying a rich characterization of family, community, and love. It is a very intricate portrayal of life and a nod of respect and acknowledgment to incredible Black women.
In an email from the publisher, MOONRISE OVER NEW JESSUP is touted as a “tender and beautifully written debut that shines light on the untold stories of the women who supported the foot soldiers of the bourgeoning civil rights movement” (Heidi W. Durrow, The Girl Who Fell from the Sky). As Margaret Wilkerson Sexton (The Revisioners) said, “You will fall in love with New Jessup: the town and the book.”
As I started reading this debut novel, I was struck by the lyrical – almost poetic – opening line. Throughout the novel, Minnick has woven beautiful threads of wording into this historically and culturally relevant tapestry. While recognizing that this is not “my story” to critique, I can appreciate the storytelling and develop a deeper understanding of an overlooked/under-discussed element of Black history from a new face in the book-writing sphere. If you’ve read it for yourself or seen praise for the novel, I’d love to hear your impressions – leave me a comment below!
We’re half-way into September, and while life hasn’t returned to normal, our days in the Brown household are fairly normalish. The last few months have had some hurdles, milestones, and adjustments – we’ve celebrated (a 14th birthday, 17 years of marriage, a 40th birthday, and a birthday we’ve stopped counting) and we’ve grieved (our good boy, Diesel, passed away suddenly this summer.) We’ve had to adjust to changes – both boys in high school, different/more work responsibilities, later school hours, decisions for the future (trades vs. university track) and life in general.
I, myself, have made the decision to invest in me. I had my second personal training session today and I was frustrated and embarrassed to the point of tears. Thankfully, the woman I’m working with is safe and patient and reminded me that I showed up and I pushed through. I may not be able to move tomorrow, but these little steps will make for a healthier, happier me and u can’t wait to see my core strength, respiratory & cardiovascular systems, and range of motion inprove. Aside from my physical health, I continue to try to maintain boundaries, protect my heart, and work on healthy habits – spirit, soul, and body.
I’ve been big into books as always. Unfortunately, August felt like a bit of a blah reading month, but gratefully, September has been ripe with good book pics. Some misses, but overall I’ve found thought-provoking, attention-grabbing, or just downright entertaining novels.
Here are 5 titles I’m recommending but reader discretion is advised for various content warnings. Some of them had some difficult scenes.
The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah, originally a complimentary ARC courtesy of NetGalley, this has been out for a while. One of Hannah’s best, in my opinion, it was both captivating and heartbreaking.
Frying Plaintain by Zalika Reid-Benta, familiar due to it’s setting and Jamaican Canadian references. While I obviously couldn’t relate to many of the issues, I felt connected in this coming-of-age collection of short stories that explores the tenuous mother-daughter relationship and cross-cultural experiences.
What Storm, What Thunder by Myriam J.A. Chancy, just released in Canada, is a poignant look at the lives of 10 fictional interconnected individuals in the time leading up to and immediately following the devastating earthquake that shook Haiti in 2010. Told in distinctive voices, it goes beyond the grief and loss of the catastrophe and provides deep introspection and a commentary on some issues with foreign aid. It wasn’t always pretty or easy to read – it needed digesting – but it was spectacular in its own right.
The Santa Suit by Mary Kay Andrews, another complimentary digital ARC via NetGalley, publishes September 28. This was a novella, short and sweet but with that magical cozy feel you want in a Christmas story.
Daughter of Black Lake by Cathy Marie Buchanan, a find in a local Little Free Library. I enjoyed this from an educational and historical aspect. Set in early Roman Britain, tge author explores life and love in a pagan community, the influence of the Druids, and changes that came with the Roman invasion, it was an immersive book rich in historical detail. Published in 2020.
When it comes to entertainment, every once in a while I really enjoy a good heart-poundingly intense police drama – bad guys, mystery, the gruff but lovable detective – crime thriller at it’s most interesting. Sign me up for all the tropes, I am in. I was fortunate to get my hands on an advanced readers copy of The Jigsaw Man by debut novelist Nadine Matheson, courtesy of the publisher, and the description had my interest piqued!
FROM THE PUBLISHER: In THE JIGSAW MAN (March 16, 2021; Hanover Square Press), Detective Inspector Anjelica Henley has a lot to deal with on her first day back her from leave from the Serial Crimes Unit of Scotland Yard. After nearly becoming a victim of the vicious serial killer, The Jigsaw Man, just before he was put behind bars, she also has to contend with the subtle digs and microaggressions that come with being the unit’s only black female detective. Add a new trainee and a rocky marriage to the mix, and DI Henley nearly has a full plate. Until the first call comes in…
Along the Thames, a fan of the Jigsaw Man and copycat killer has scattered two dismembered bodies along the shores like a jigsaw puzzle. When DI Henley sees one of the victims, a young black woman, is already being written off by her colleagues, she makes it her mission to solve the case, driving her to seek help from the original Jigsaw Man himself, Peter Oliver. Oliver, however, is determined to get to his copycat before Henley can, and sets into motion a series of events that puts Henley and her family in the crosshairs of two monstrous serial killers.
MY THOUGHTS: This book had a gentle acceleration. While I was expecting for edge of my seat thrills throughout, I found it slowly worked it’s way to the peak, lulling me into a bit of reader’s complacency, and then we plummeted for a white knuckle roller coaster ride. Packed with twists and turns that I didn’t see coming, the heart racing drama is definitely found in the second half of the title while the first half reads more like a procedural with the investigation and the build up.
Matheson’s protagonist is both strong and vulnerable, fierce and feminine. She is no stranger to racial prejudice or gender bias. She’s intelligent but flawed and I absolutely loved her. The secondary characters were also well drawn, creating a team with both likeable and dislikeable traits – flawed, damage, loveable. In speaking of flawed, the charismatic psychopath was absolutely detestable and yet, reflected the charisma that was his trademark. I hated him intensely, and yet… the copycat, however, didn’t shine, but I also don’t believe they were meant to. We were kept guessing as to their identity and the why behind their crimes, but ultimately, the focus was on DI Henley and her encounters with the Jigsaw Man.
Overall, I found this debut title to be a very fascinating work of fiction. My attention was held throughout and the pacing worked well. As with many crime & justice novels, it’s dark and gritty, dealing with the ugliest side of human nature and it highlights the burden and wear the quest for justice can take, physically, mentally, and socially. The subject matter can be disturbing and mature language and mature themes occur – reader discretion advised. By the final chapter, the author wrapped up the mystery in such a way that the audience is satisfied, but there are enough loose threads that we could easily enjoy a sequel (pretty please?) I, for one, want more of Anjelica Henley.
AUTHOR BIO: Nadine Matheson is a criminal defense attorney and winner of the City University Crime Writing competition. She lives in London, UK.
THE JIGSAW MAN Author: Nadine Matheson ISBN: 9781335146564 Publication Date: March 16, 2021 Publisher: Hanover Square Press
My thanks to the publisher for the complimentary copy of this title and the opportunity to share my thoughts.