On Barb’s Bookshelf: The Other Side of Freedom

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Cynthia T. Toney’s historical novel for teens, The Other Side of Freedom, shows the seamy side of Prohibition-era organized crime from the perspective of a young man whose family becomes its unwitting victims. Finally — good historical fiction that will appeal to male and female readers alike.

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In 1920s Louisiana, Sal struggles with questions of right and wrong as an organized-crime ring forces family members into involvement with bootlegging, with heartbreaking results. Keeping the secret will keep Sal and his parents alive, but is it worth the cost of losing contact with friends and his beloved uncle?

Sal and his best friend Antonina take great risks to uncover the mystery surrounding the crime ring. Aided by Hiram, a young African-American farmhand who faces further obstacles caused by the segregation of the time, Sal and Antonina refuse to be intimidated by the crime ring, even after it becomes evident that the criminals are willing to kill anyone who gets in their way.

One detail in this novel that particularly fascinated me was the presence of Italian immigrants in Louisiana during this time period. I grew up in northern New Jersey, and my own community had a large influx of immigrants from Italy in the early twentieth century. In fact, a local Italian-American family (only two blocks from where I would later live) provided their home as the center of a labor dispute in 1913. I did not know that besides settling in the Northeast (New England, New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey), Italian immigrants also settled in Minnesota, Louisiana, Indiana and California, according to the map found at Italian Immigration to America.

I love how the cover image focuses on the very worried eyes of the young man in this novel. The Other Side of Freedom is highly recommended for middle-school readers and young teens studying this period of American history. This would make a terrific classroom read or summer-reading option.


Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz

This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

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An Open Book: August 2017 Reads

The first Wednesday of each month, Carolyn Astfalk hosts #OpenBook, where bloggers link posts about books they’ve read recently.

Working full-time doesn’t leave me much room for pleasure reading, so my book consumption has definitely slowed. Here’s a taste of what I’ve been reading:

Fiction

maggies wayLinda Bradley, Maggie’s Way (Montana Bound Series book 1). Maggie, arguably, has it tough this summer. Her husband of 20+ years has just “come out” and divorced her, and she’s undergoing radiation for breast cancer with only her mom for support, because she won’t tell anyone else about it. And now she has a new next-door neighbor, a very needy little girl who’s been abandoned (over and over again) by her own mother, and whose father finds himself attracted to Maggie. While the main character of this novel was irritating at times, little Chloe stole my heart.

comfort of secretsChristine Nolfi, The Comfort of Secrets. Cat Mendoza wants her marketing job to work out so she can help save her small town. A new business associate, Ryan, proves to be more than a coworker–but complications from his past threaten their future. I liked how the story came full circle–and then some! This was a story and cast of characters that I had a hard time parting with; they’re still inhabiting my thoughts.

wedding miracleMelissa Storm, A Wedding Miracle. It’s no joke: a minister and a rabbi meet at the wedding of their good friends, and it soon becomes clear that they’re destined to be together. This short rom-com would make a terrific movie! It has that same “these two really do belong together” feel that you get when you watch “You’ve Got Mail.”

Children’s/YA

other side of freedomCynthia T. Toney, The Other Side of Freedom. In Prohibition-era Louisiana, Sal struggles with questions of right and wrong as an organized-crime ring forces family members into involvement with bootlegging, with heartbreaking results. Keeping the secret will keep Sal and his parents alive, but is it worth the cost of losing contact with friends and his beloved uncle? I love how the cover image focuses on the very worried eyes of the young man in this novel. Recommended for middle-school readers and young teens studying this period of American history. (ARC provided by author)

Nonfiction

busy lives and restless soulsBusy Lives & Restless Souls. I picked up this book because I knew nothing about Ignatian spirituality and I welcomed the chance to learn something new. As a pragmatic person, I found comfort in the practical advice that I learned is a hallmark of the Ignatian way of life and which is so clearly explained by author Becky Eldredge. (ARC received from publisher) Read my full review.
101 places to pray before you die101 Places to Pray Before You Die. Since many holy sites are closing due to lack of visitors and funding, like the St. Katharine Drexel Shrine near Philadelphia, PA, this book is a well-timed reminder to take the opportunity to visit such places while the opportunity still exists. Your visit supports the efforts of those who maintain and staff these churches, shrines and other sites. (ARC received from publisher) Read my full review.
friendship projectThe Friendship Project. This new book from Michele Faehnle and Emily Jaminet (Ave Maria Press, 2017) inspires women to foster friendships based on holy virtues. Friends since college, Michele and Emily write from their own experience, sharing the joys of their twenty-year friendship. Each chapter features a pair of women saints who were friends, and focuses on one virtue that will help us to become better friends and deepen our spiritual friendships. (ARC received from publisher) Read my full review.

 

Links to books in this post are Amazon affiliate links. Your purchases made through these links support Franciscanmom.com. Thank you!

Follow my Goodreads reviews for the full list of what I’ve read recently (even the duds!)

Visit today’s #OpenBook post to join the linkup or just get some great ideas about what to read! You’ll find it at Carolyn Astfalk’s A Scribbler’s Heart and at CatholicMom.com!

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz

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Monday Recap: January 2, 2017

 

 

It’s the first Monday of the month, so I’ve gathered up links to the work I’ve done in other spaces.

At CatholicMom.com

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I Played My Best for Him: A meditation on my favorite Christmas song. It’s not a traditional carol, but it sums up what we need to do every day.

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2016 Nativity Scene Linkup: Our Celebration of the Creche: Join our Nativity scene linkup! Share a photo of your family’s Nativity scene on your blog, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Don’t forget the hashtag: #CMnativity. Open through January 8!

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Book Notes for Teen Readers: Romance and Mystery by Cynthia T. Toney: Cynthia T. Toney writes novels for teens that combine Catholic characters, compelling mysteries and a touch of romance. I introduce readers to the “Bird Face” series, which would make great gifts for girls in middle school and up.

Book Notes: “What Pope Francis Really Said” by Tom Hoopes: Tom Hoopes’ book “What Pope Francis Really Said” unpacks the truth behind the media’s rush to judgment. I recommend the book to all Catholics committed to defending and living out their faith.

Book Notes: 4 Books for Young Readers from Pauline Books & Media: A new book is always a welcome Christmas gift. I reviewed 4 inspiring reads for children from Pauline Books & Media.

Book Notes: “Fearless” by Sonja Corbitt: I reviewed a new book by CatholicMom.com contributor Sonja Corbitt. “Fearless” invites the reader to take up spiritual warfare against fear, stress and anxiety.

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Praise Moments: “Winter Snow” by Audrey Assad: I spotlighted “Winter,” a new EP by Catholic musician Audrey Assad.

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Meatless Friday: Mexican Omelet: Try this Jersey-diner favorite for your Meatless Friday breakfast, lunch or dinner!

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Tech Talk: 10-Minute Advent Retreat from Catholic Relief Services: For those who don’t think they have time to make an Advent retreat, Catholic Relief Services packs a powerful spiritual experience in a 10-minute online retreat. Here are my impressions of “Holy Family, Refugee Family.”

At Cook and Count

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Cod with Caper-Mustard Sauce

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Mexican Omelet

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Lamb Stew with Roasted Vegetables

At Dynamic Women of Faith

Book Review: Who Does He Say You Are? A review of Colleen C. Mitchell’s spiritual work on women in the Gospel.

 

Monday recap 2016 edition

50+ Better Things to Read #ShowUsYourList

In the name of accentuating the positive and coming up with solutions instead of just complaining about problems, Catholic author ErinMcCole-Cupp has proposed that people who love to read good books share their lists of works of quality fiction that celebrate truth, beauty and goodness rather than tearing down the dignity of the human person.

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Here are 50+ WAY Better Novels:

  1. A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith. My all-time favorite book EVER.
  2. Rachel’s Contrition by Michelle Buckman
  3. Death Panels by Michelle Buckman
  4. Angela’s Song by AnnMarie Creedon
  5. Cracks in the Sidewalk by Bette Lee Crosby
  6. The Twelfth Child by Bette Lee Crosby
  7. Spare Change by Bette Lee Crosby
  8. Jubilee’s Journey by Bette Lee Crosby
  9. Previously Loved Treasures by Bette Lee Crosby
  10. What Matters Most by Bette Lee Crosby
  11. Passing Through Perfect by Bette Lee Crosby
  12. Wishing for Wonderful by Bette Lee Crosby
  13. Don’t You Forget About Me by Erin McCole-Cupp
  14. Jane_E., Friendless Orphan by Erin McCole-Cupp
  15. Nest by Esther Ehrlich. YA.
  16. Greater Treasures:  A DragonEye Novella by Karina Fabian
  17. Georgios by A.K. Frailey
  18. The Scent of Lilacs by Ann Gabhart
  19. In Name Only by Ellen Gable
  20. A Subtle Grace by Ellen Gable
  21. Emily’s Hope by Ellen Gable
  22. Stealing Jenny by Ellen Gable
  23. The Truth About the Sky by Katharine Grubb
  24. Falling for Your Madness by Katharine Grubb
  25. Genius Under Construction by Marilee Haynes. YA.
  26. Past Suspicion by Therese Heckencamp
  27. Casting the First Stone by Lisa Hess
  28. A Hunger in the Heart by Kaye Park Hinckley
  29. The Lion’s Heart by Dena Hunt
  30. The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzab. YA.
  31. Julia’s Hope by Leisha Kelly
  32. Cracks in the Ice by Deanna Klingel
  33. A World Such as Heaven Intended by Amanda Purcell Lauer
  34. The Paper Cowboy by Kristin Levine. YA.
  35. Hijacked by Leslie Lynch
  36. Unholy Bonds by Leslie Lynch
  37. Opal’s Jubilee by Leslie Lynch
  38. A Christmas Hope by Leslie Lynch
  39. When Mike Kissed Emma by Christine Marciniak, YA.
  40. Reality Ali by Christine Marciniak, YA.
  41. Lights, Camera, Ali by Christine Marciniak, YA.
  42. Honestly, Ali! by Christine Marciniak. YA.
  43. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
  44. Fatal Rhythm by R. B. O’Gorman
  45. Finding Grace by Laura Pearl
  46. Erin’s Ring by Laura Pearl. YA.
  47. Hush Hush by Michelle Quigley
  48. O Little Town by Don Reid
  49. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
  50. Best Wishes, Sister B by Fran Smith
  51. Bird Face by Cynthia T. Toney. YA.
  52. Digital Me by J.M. Varner. YA.
  53. Mister Teacher Person by J.M. Varner. YA.
  54. Breathing On Her Own by Rebecca Williams Waters

I’ve read all of these books and consider them all Really GOOD Fiction. Quality fiction. Well-written fiction. Fiction you wouldn’t be ashamed to leave around your living room, read in a public place, or have your teenager pick up and read.

I’ve met the authors of some of these books. I’ve been a beta reader for some of them. I know the care they take in crafting novels that are well-written, with interesting characters and fascinating plots–novels that show respect for both the character AND the reader. Some of these are YA, but I’ve got nothing against reading good YA stuff. This list does reflect my taste (almost no no time travel, sci-fi or dystopian stuff, although I’m sure there’s plenty of those novels out there that are of good quality.)

Not all of these authors are Catholic authors. Not all of them are indie authors. But many of them are. I have read ALL of these books and am happy to recommend them far and wide. Also, this list is limited to novels. Because it’s my list, so I’m setting the parameters.

Learn more about Erin’s Show Us Your List movement! Share your list of good-quality entertainment, tag the Big Cheeses of Catholic Media, and support your positive, not-scandalous, writers.

© 2015 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.
Image credit:  Erin McCole-Cupp. Used with permission.

Read This Instead: 50 WAY Better Novels

I’m building on Erin McCole-Cupp’s challenge to Catholic media types to spend at least half the time they spend telling people why they shouldn’t go see That Movie (or read That Book) recommending positive, worthwhile entertainment in its place.

(Not that I fancy myself a Catholic media type. But I know how to tag people on Twitter, and tag I shall.)

It’s like that bit at the end of Alice’s Restaurant.

Or you may be in a similar situation, and if you’re in a situation like that, there’s only one thing you can do:

Walk into the shrink wherever you are, just walk in, say, “Shrink, . . . you can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant”, and walk out.

You know, if one person, just one person, does it, they may think he’s really sick and they won’t take him.

And if two people do it, in harmony, they may think they’re both ******* and they won’t take either of them.

And if three people do it! Can you imagine three people walkin’ in, singin’ a bar of “Alice’s Restaurant” and walkin’ out? They may think it’s an Organization!

And can you imagine fifty people a day? I said FIFTY people a day . . .
Walkin’ in, singin’ a bar of “Alice’s Restaurant” and walkin’ out? Friends, they may think it’s a MOVEMENT, and that’s what it is: THE ALICE’S RESTAURANT ANTI-MASSACREE MOVEMENT! . . . and all you gotta do to join is to sing it the next time it comes around on the guitar.

With feelin’.

In the hopes that this becomes a Movement, I’ve gone through my Goodreads list and found you a whole bunch of Really GOOD Fiction. Quality fiction. Well-written fiction. Fiction you wouldn’t be ashamed to leave around your living room, read in a public place, or have your teenager pick up and read.

I’ve met the authors of some of these books. I’ve been a beta reader for some of them. I know the care they take in crafting novels that are well-written, with interesting characters and fascinating plots–and novels that show respect for both the character AND the reader. Some of these are YA, but I’ve got nothing against reading good YA stuff. This list does reflect my taste (almost no no time travel, sci-fi or dystopian stuff, although I’m sure there’s plenty of those novels out there that are of good quality.)

Not all of these authors are Catholic authors. Not all of them are indie authors. But many of them are. I have read ALL of these books and am happy to recommend them far and wide. Also, this list is limited to novels. Because it’s my list, so I’m setting the parameters.

tree grows in brooklyn
My very favorite book EVER. I’m on my third copy.

In no particular order of preference, except for #1. I sorted my Goodreads list by author. If you want to see what I liked about these books, you can read my reviews at Goodreads.

Here are 50 WAY Better Novels:

  1. A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith. My all-time favorite book EVER.
  2. Cracks in the Sidewalk by Bette Lee Crosby
  3. The Twelfth Child by Bette Lee Crosby
  4. Spare Change by Bette Lee Crosby
  5. Jubilee’s Journey by Bette Lee Crosby
  6. Previously Loved Treasures by Bette Lee Crosby
  7. What Matters Most by Bette Lee Crosby
  8. Passing Through Perfect by Bette Lee Crosby
  9. Wishing for Wonderful by Bette Lee Crosby
  10. Don’t You Forget About Me by Erin McCole-Cupp
  11. Jane_E., Friendless Orphan by Erin McCole-Cupp
  12. Nest by Esther Ehrlich. YA.
  13. Greater Treasures:  A DragonEye Novella by Karina Fabian
  14. Georgios by A.K. Frailey
  15. The Scent of Lilacs by Ann Gabhart
  16. In Name Only by Ellen Gable
  17. A Subtle Grace by Ellen Gable
  18. Emily’s Hope by Ellen Gable
  19. Stealing Jenny by Ellen Gable
  20. The Truth About the Sky by Katharine Grubb
  21. Falling for Your Madness by Katharine Grubb
  22. Genius Under Construction by Marilee Haynes. YA.
  23. Past Suspicion by Therese Heckencamp
  24. Casting the First Stone by Lisa Hess
  25. A Hunger in the Heart by Kaye Park Hinckley
  26. The Lion’s Heart by Dena Hunt
  27. The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzab. YA.
  28. Julia’s Hope by Leisha Kelly
  29. Cracks in the Ice by Deanna Klingel
  30. The Paper Cowboy by Kristin Levine. YA.
  31. Hijacked by Leslie Lynch
  32. Unholy Bonds by Leslie Lynch
  33. Opal’s Jubilee by Leslie Lynch
  34. A Christmas Hope by Leslie Lynch
  35. When Mike Kissed Emma by Christine Marciniak, YA.
  36. Reality Ali by Christine Marciniak, YA.
  37. Lights, Camera, Ali by Christine Marciniak, YA.
  38. Honestly, Ali! by Christine Marciniak. YA.
  39. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
  40. Fatal Rhythm by R. B. O’Gorman
  41. Finding Grace by Laura Pearl
  42. Erin’s Ring by Laura Pearl. YA.
  43. Hush Hush by Michelle Quigley
  44. O Little Town by Don Reid
  45. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
  46. Best Wishes, Sister B by Fran Smith
  47. Bird Face by Cynthia T. Toney. YA.
  48. Digital Me by J.M. Varner. YA.
  49. Mister Teacher Person by J.M. Varner. YA.
  50. Breathing On Her Own by Rebecca Williams Waters