BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Other Side of Freedom’ – Cynthia Toney

I’ve heard so much about this book and all the prizes it’s won, and been intending to read it for some time, although the blurb didn’t entirely grab me. I’m glad I finally read it! It took me a few chapters to get fully into it, but then I was hooked.

Sal is an engaging hero, and all the characters are fun and well drawn, especially Hiram (I liked the little flashes that highlighted the situation of black people at the time, without letting it take over the story), and Antonina (just moving from girl to young woman). It’s a dramatic story told in a down-to-earth and non-sensational manner, very realistic and all the more powerful for that.

There were a couple of places in the last third when I’d have actually liked a bit more explanation/clarity, but I was reading pretty fast by then, impatient to find out what happened, so the fault may be more with me than the book.

I was relieved the law turned out to be on the side of Sal’s father because I really wasn’t convinced it would be, and spent most of the book on tenterhooks as to how that could come out all right. But I’m no lawyer and I’m sure the author researched carefully.

The title is a clever play on the town name and some of the events of the book!

Overall an excellent story highlighting the troubles (especially for Italians) of the prohibition, through the eyes of a conflicted teen protagonist, and a good study of a crisis of conscience. A great read for teen boys or girls (and the young at heart!).

Get it HERE.

[I am acquainted with the author through an author group but have reviewed this book by my free choice. Opinions are my own.]

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Ornamental Graces’ – Carolyn Astfalk

I don’t read a huge amount of romance and I enjoyed this way more than I was expecting to. In fact, I was blown away by how good it was. Dan and Emily have a long and difficult road to happiness and I kept looking at the progress bar and going, ‘what the? I’m only 20% through. What the? I’m only 50% through! How much more are they going to have to go through before they’re together!’ BUT I wasn’t looking at the progress bar in an ‘I’m bored, hurry up’ sense, just a wondering, in-sympathy-with-the-characters sense.

I think I’m used to short formulaic romances where the requisite few road bumps are hit, overcome, and everything wrapped up all in a concise bundle. I really, really liked the fact that this novel walked the long road with the couple, that it wasn’t clean and quick, but messy and realistic and difficult, but they persevered and they made it (hardly a spoiler, I think, for a romance!). I imagine some readers might get bored and call it slow, but I was engrossed, and it made the pay-off way more satisfying. This had very much the deep, satisfying feel of ‘Intermission’ by Serena Chase and I’d be hard put to say which I enjoyed more.

For Christians who read widely in secular fiction, this will be a warm, refreshing, inspiring read. Christians who’ve been on a diet of more exclusively Christian fare may find the outlook of the main characters a mite sensual for their taste. They’re well written, and realistically portrayed, and they’re trying so hard, which is inspiring, but they don’t, shall we say, always engage in thoughts and behaviour best calculated to help them with their goal of waiting for marriage. I’d be reluctant to give this to a sheltered teen reader, for example, but that’s hardly the target audience.

I should note that the cover and blurb present this as a ‘Christmas’ novel, but that’s unnecessarily limiting. It’s an excellent all year round romance, so dive in at any time!

Get it HERE.

[I’m acquainted with the author through an author group, but have freely chosen to review this book. Opinions are my own.]

BOOK REVIEW: ‘A Subtle Grace’ by Ellen Gable

Late nineteenth-century teenager Kathleen O’Donovan cannot wait to marry. She’s already 19, and dreads being an old maid! Although her parents urge patience, she rushes headlong into courtship with the first man to take a fancy to her, whilst newcomer to the town, young doctor Luke, shyly admires her from afar. Meanwhile, her brother Will feels a different calling stirring in his heart. But unknown to him, secrets lie hidden in his past. Will they steal his dream away from him?

I thoroughly enjoyed this period romance drama, often having trouble putting it down. I love the way we get to know all the main characters so thoroughly, and the gentle, slow-building romance between Kathleen and her true love. The book also makes it clear that any form of sexual assault can have devastating consequences for a woman’s confidence.

One character’s plotline has a very unexpected twist/revelation near the end, which makes the—in other ways predictable (though nonetheless satisfying)—showdown all the more poignant and gripping.

 

Get it HERE.