Catalina DuBois’s Book of Matthew: Part I. House of Whispers is a tale of forbidden love that, at times, seems Shakespearian in its delivery. The story begins in rural Missouri in 1850, a tumultuous time in the United States. Slavery was still very much in practice at southern plantations. Along with the master/slave dynamic came secret, taboo romances between captive slaves and free, white plantation owners and their family members. Matthew, the plantation owner’s son and heir, and Sarah, a slave owned by Matthew’s father, are two star crossed lovers trying desperately to navigate through social stigma, away from the plantation-dominated south, and toward freedom.
Barely a few pages into the first chapter, Matthew’s lust for the slave girl, Sarah, is evident. This is shown through a very sexually explicit scene that turns out to be a dream. There are a few of those scenes like this scattered throughout the book. Over all, I didn’t feel they detracted from the book, but might be a little too graphic for some readers.
The book seems accurate in its depiction of slavery. Slaves are subjected to unwanted sexual advances, beatings, whippings, and, in some cases, death. Families are ripped apart. Mixed race children are born in slave quarters. Secrecy is rampant. Slaves aren’t legally recognized as people. They are merely property. They are bought and sold as simply stock on store shelves. They are forced into unwanted marriages. They are denied a proper education, and are often punished if they find a way to become literate. They have no rights. They have no choices. This is a grave, but important reminder of America’s past.
Thank goodness for the few characters besides Matthew and Sarah who seem to have some common sense about them. A handful of characters, even during that timeframe, believed in equality. They are reminded at a point that race didn’t matter at all in God’s eyes, even if men’s eyes had such skewed filters. They find help from some unlikely sources as they try to outrun those who would rather see them dead than together.
The book keeps interest piqued through all the obstacles that Matthew and Sarah overcome to try to be together. There are similar story lines that play along parallel to theirs. Other pairs of seemingly mismatched lovers run and hide and jump through hoops to be together as well. This story based on love is not without its hindrances. Villains walk amongst them in their treks toward love. Menacing characters sabotage, violate, abuse, and even murder their victims throughout the story. They still don’t give up on each other. Even in such dire circumstances, love finds a way to unite. Ultimately, love conquers all.
DuBois’s story reads easily and quickly. I didn’t want to put it down. I found myself cheering for the more righteous characters, and hating the more deviant of them. The plot flows nicely, and loose ends are tied up neatly by the end. I’d love to read a Part II and see where DuBois takes Matthew and Sarah’s journey.
Pages: 233 | ASIN: B076ZS21T6
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A mystery novel that tackles uncomfortable issues with a splash of adventure is what readers will find within the pages of The Vatican Protocol by Brian Gallagher. This book contains all the basics of a mystery: intrigue, conspiracies, subterfuge and best of all, aliens. Whether or not the aliens are real and what relationship they have to the story that is told is up to the readers to discover. It’s a grand journey that crosses over the Atlantic Ocean to Europe in search of answers. Almost Indiana-Jones-esque, this adventure will surely have readers turning those pages to discover just what the relationship is between these aliens and the ever esteemed Vatican church. The answer might just surprise all who pick this up.
We follow our protagonist, Sean O’Sea, as he begins his journey from his comfortable home to Europe where his life is placed in jeopardy several times. It’s not a good action story without some sort of armed confrontation. Sean seems like a regular man with very irregular friends as he pursues his latest obsession with alien theories and whether or not there is any truth to the stories that have been told. He’s a likeable character and his ‘everyman’ flavouring will allow all readers to feel a bit of them in him. This allows readers to connect with the story on a more personal level and demonstrates the clever wordsmithing at play. The cast of characters is easy to keep track of even if it may seem like there are a few more than necessary.
The small downfalls of this book is the dialogue and how convenient everything seems. There are points in the novel when characters are conversing between themselves and their words seem stilted and forced. As if they are speaking just for the sake of speaking. This detracts slightly from the overall tone of the novel, but it is easy to move past.
As for the convenience of everything, this could just be a story element to help solidify the conspiracy flavour of the book as a whole, but it seems contrived in some areas. Our protagonist just happens to have a summer home that is looked after by a man who just happens to have worked with the CIA on top secret missions. Our protagonist also just happens to make friends with some very influential people during his travels and just happens to uncover a massive plot while being an ordinary man. Perhaps this is what makes a great conspiracy tale, however it felt a little too easy. But these are minor and don’t take away from the joy of reading.
For readers who enjoy reading conspiracy theories that involve the church and global cover-ups, you will definitely find an enjoyable read in The Vatican Protocol by Brian Gallagher. This action story knee-deep in such a controversial subject is entertaining to read and the twist at the end will have all readers questioning exactly what transpired in the pages of the book.
Pages: 286 | ASIN: B01G0Y8ZFG
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Henry and the Hidden Treasure is the story of one little boy’s quest to keep his treasure a secret from his sister. How did the initial idea for this story come about and how did it evolve as you wrote?
Imagination. Secrets. Spies. Treasure. These were all the things that I loved to read about when I was a child, so it made sense that I would incorporate these themes into a picture book sooner or later. Probably the very first thought I had when I set about writing Henry and the Hidden Treasure centered on the idea of treasure. What makes the concept of treasure so appealing to children? From there it wasn’t hard to extend this idea and ask the question: What constitutes real treasure within a family?
The story leads the reader on a journey into a child’s imagination and its endless possibilities. What do you hope your readers take away from the story?
Exactly that! I try to write every one of my books to encourage imagination. I think the mark of a great picture book is when children go beyond the written narrative and begin to explore the world of the story for themselves. Of course, it’s important to have positive themes and morals, but I try to make them subtle, or at least secondary to the imaginative qualities of the tale.
I love the brother vs. sister dynamic in this book. What were the morals you were trying to capture while creating your characters?
I think anyone reading Henry and the Hidden Treasure will immediately identify with the dynamic between Henry and his younger sister. Henry has the traits of a child who is perhaps a little possessive and who is certainly suspicious of Lucy’s place in the family. Lucy is a lot more enigmatic throughout the story, but her own qualities end up challenging Henry’s perceptions.
There are a number of morals that can be highlighted in the story. Henry’s possessiveness with his ‘treasure’ not only examines his exclusive approach to playing, but has a valuable lesson in listening to parental advice. His suspicion of Lucy also challenges his ideas of what it is to have a little sister, and what it means to be the big brother. In addition to this, there are other teaching points in the story, such as the use of ordinal numbers, understanding the broad use of financial institutions, and of course, the power of imagination.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
The next book coming out is called Titch the Itch. It centres on the idea of friendship and how this can be difficult when you’re an itch. It will be available on November 30 2017.
Henry and the Hidden Treasure is an imaginative adventure a young child has in defending his pocket money against his little sister. Henry constructs elaborate defensive measures that he is sure will stand up to the clever ambitions of Lucy. Little does he know, Lucy has a few tricks of her own.With a focus on introducing children to the use of ordinal numbers, Henry and the Hidden Treasure also draws out some important qualities of being a kid – such as creativity, the value of listening to parental advice, and of course, being nice to your sister.
Posted in Interviews
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