Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Book Review: Moonrise Over New Jessup, by Jamila Minnicks

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

“Some Colored towns boasted of riches in their advertisements, offering want upon arrival. Not here, though. Folks coming here knew what they were getting into. Those wanting to work found a community willing to share down to their last. Willing to teach trades, offer a comfortable bed, keep bellies full. I come from a farming family, and we often had folks turning up like you, your kin. They worked, saved up to buy their own land if they wanted, or moved on, but our work was crucial. I like to think my family fed New Jessup so it could grow and grow.

“When the ones who left came back,” she continued, “they were floored by what we had done with the money. They came back, and they’re still coming back two, three generations later. New folks are still coming to stay here, too,” she said with a suggestion in her tone and the slight curve of her smile, though, until then, staying in New Jessup, particularly without Rosie, had never been a thought. My sister had been in Chicago for six years. She wrote of friends, and said she liked her job and that she missed me and wished me and Daddy would come. Those weeks, all I thought about was finding her doorstep. Finding, seeing Rosie was the journey, so I knew she would never just pick and move back to Alabama, to a place where we were both starting over. So stay? Without Rosie? I changed the subject.

Alice has left the life she knew in Rensler, and traveled only partway to her intended destination. Life was just too tempting to pass up in New Jessup—no Colored-only water fountains, or entry doorways. The whole town is Colored, and life feels perfect.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: Moonrise Over New Jessup, by Jamila Minnicks
It’s 1957, and after leaving the only home she has ever known, Alice Young steps off the bus into the all-Black town of New Jessup, Alabama, where residents have largely rejected integration as the means for Black social advancement. Instead, they seek to maintain, and fortify, the community they cherish on their “side of the woods.” In this place, Alice falls in love with Raymond Campbell, whose clandestine organizing activities challenge New Jessup’s longstanding status quo and could lead to the young couple’s expulsion—or worse—from the home they both hold dear. But as Raymond continues to push alternatives for enhancing New Jessup’s political power, Alice must find a way to balance her undying support for his underground work with her desire to protect New Jessup from the rising pressure of upheaval from inside, and outside, their side of town.

Alice is a woman who means business. While her original goal is to reach her sister, New Jessup goes from a stop on her bus route to Montgomery, to a city she just can’t stand to leave. This all-Black utopia leaves her without an abusive landlord or other white person to lord over her. At first glance, it may be all that’s needed for the town to be perfect for her.

Soon enough, Alice is no longer a newcomer to town. With two jobs and a nice apartment over the dress shop, she soon finds herself courted by the son of one of the founding fathers of the town. She assumes his goals for maintaining the status quo in town will be the same, but he and other young adults in town want to make sure the town is truly theirs.

Life is never as simple as black and white. There lies dissent even in Alice’s perfect town. Is segregation truly the best solution? As with almost everything, there seem to be acceptable degrees of integration to the different residents in and outside of New Jessup

This story was a beautiful coming-of-age story of Alice and those she adopted as her new family in 1957 New Jessup. The book was 4 out of 5 stars, with a few loose ends unanswered, but isn’t that life? This would be enjoyed by those who like family stories, strong female characters, and stories of race relations in the 1950s & 1960s.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley likes sleeping in, long weekends, and setting her own pace. When she’s not reading books for review or working with regulatory complaints, you’ll find her posting snapshots of her life on Instagram as PoshBecki.

Monday, January 9, 2023

Book Review: Positively Izzy, by Terri Libenson

Guest review by: Becki Bayley


Ash and I arrive home. The apartment feels like a sauna. I can’t believe it’s March. I assume my mom is still at work since she’s not around. Dani, who came home at the same time we did, cranks up the window unit and we huddle around it like a campfire.

The front door opens. Mom.

She throws me a look. Uh-oh.

“Izzy, could you come in the kitchen, please?”

Not sure what’s going on, but I don’t like it. My mom, who’s normally pretty chill, looks like she’s trying to keep from wringing my neck.

The stories of Izzy and Brianna are told in parallel. Both girls have a connection to the school’s talent show, but their priorities about it all are very different.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: Positively Izzy, by Terri Libenson
Middle school is all about labels.

Izzy is the dreamer. There’s nothing Izzy loves more than acting in skits and making up funny stories. 

The downside? She can never quite focus enough to get her schoolwork done.

Bri is the brain. But she wants people to see there’s more to her than just a report card full of A's. At the same time, she wishes her mom would accept her the way she is and stop bugging her to “break out of her shell” and join drama club.

The girls’ lives converge in unexpected ways on the day of a school talent show, which turns out to be even more dramatic than either Bri or Izzy could have imagined.

This middle grade graphic novel is the second in a series of four books about characters who could know each other, but aren’t necessarily close. There were a few mentions of Emmie in this book, who was the main character in the first book. This read fine as a stand-alone, though.

Brianna has a reputation for her good grades and being smart. Her mom is the drama teacher, who she feels she has very little in common with, which may surprise people when they find out they’re related. 

Izzy could probably get better grades, if she cared about something at school besides drama. She sees her sisters getting better grades, and knows she’s probably smarter than her report card shows, but as everyone tells her, she just doesn’t focus on the rest of school.

Overall, this was a nice story with a good lesson. It was 3 out of 5 stars for this reader. The whole series is probably good for getting kids to read more, and the alternating style for the storylines in this book had comparatively more text than some graphic novels.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley enjoys BBQ chips, appetizers for dinner, Cherry Coke, and occasionally sharing pictures on Instagram as PoshBecki.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Book Review and GIVEAWAY - Luminary: A Magical Guide to Self-Care, by Kate Scelsa {ends 1/10}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

With our witchy saying, “as above, so below,” we understand that we are made up of the same stuff as the universe, and we are occupying space in this world and learning to work in harmony with its forces just as the cells of our bodies learn to adapt to our energetic environments. 

Working with this energy is truly a superpower. When you are comfortable interrogating your emotions, you become someone who knows how to understand what is important to you, what you want to nurture in your life, and what kind of energy you want to bring in. When you are someone who pays attention to the energy around you, you learn what exists in the present moment for you to work with, and how you can begin to manifest more of what makes you feel most alive and most in alignment. This does not come naturally to everyone, and if it is a part of who you are, consider it a gift, even in moments when that sensitivity can feel like a burden. 

Learning about who you are, and self-care, can come from many different tools and beliefs, and many of them are explored and explained briefly here.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY - Luminary: A Magical Guide to Self-Care, by Kate Scelsa {ends 1/10}
Self-care is not only necessary, it’s magical! Your road to self-care can be a mystical journey that leaves you feeling more confident, determined, and ready to accomplish all those bucket-list items and dreams you have scribbled in your journal. So why not start that journey now?

Find both mystical and practical tools to help deal with stress, depression, and other challenges in this gorgeously illustrated and highly designed guide offering different creative ways of living a heart-centered, mindful, and magical life through concrete tools for self-care and advice from a diverse group of practitioners in areas like tarot, astrology, energy work, and much more.

Luminary is a book of practical magic that empowers you to pursue mental wellness with curiosity and confidence. But it’s also a book of possibility that pushes the boundaries of what self-help can be.

The author shares from her well-rounded knowledge of disciplines that help the reader get to know themself—which in turn can help one care for themself. She discusses tarot, astrology, palmistry, and other practices and talks with experts in each field. It really doesn’t matter much if the reader is a skeptic or not; this is just a presentation of information in the hopes that something will resonate and help you feel better about your life and yourself.

The path the book takes is described as similar to the path of the author, with introductions to those she met along her journey, and what she has found to help her in dealing with her own mental health and depression. A strong point made throughout the book is that your mental state should really be appreciated as a continuum—no mental state is entirely "good" or "bad," but instead triggers to examine your mental and physical health for what your body and mind may need. 

Overall, the book could be very helpful to many as a way to consider and cope with life and the world around us. The book is well-researched and earns 4 out of 5 stars. It could be recommended to those with an interest in mental well-being and self-care, with a willingness to seek answers from possibly unique sources.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley likes being warm and cozy, and enjoys listening to music, petting cats, and munching on appetizers while reading. Check out her other book reviews at her blog, SweetlyBSquared.com.


One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Luminary!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, January 10th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be notified via email the next day, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Luminary: A Magical Guide to Self-Care, by Kate Scelsa

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