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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Playing with power can land a girl in all sorts of trouble with her man, as six ladies soon discover. Whether she’s a witch who disobeys the no-magic rule, a fairy making lust cakes, an amateur sorceress casting a spell on her boyfriend, a victim of an enchanted necklace, a revenge fairy messing with a deity, or a pleasure fairy abusing her abilities…
Once they’ve experienced the sensual consequences of playing with their magical powers, can these ladies find their happily for now with a hint of forever? Or have they spoiled their chances?
Publisher’s Note: This steamy anthology contains elements of power exchange.
Posted in book trailer
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Dee Dee is a surfer, an aspiring tennis player, and a girl who is always up for a good party. One summer in particular stands out in her memory as she reflects upon her life. With her close band of friends around her, Dee Dee sets out to thoroughly enjoy her summer off and does not hesitate as she goes about seeking the company of friends new and old. Her “blow out summer,” as she calls it, teaches her some valuable lessons and gives her time to reflect on her own choices as she learns who is worthy of her affection and trust and who falls short.
Set in Huntington Beach, California, Blow Out Summer, by Denise Ann Stock, reads less like a novel and much more like a memoir. The conversational tone of the book makes it a quick and easy read. Dee Dee’s reflections on her experiences with the drug trade and her laid back approach to her participation in drug trafficking read shockingly smoothly. For as deeply involved as Dee Dee seems to be in buying and selling illegal substances, she seems much less concerned than she should be. I attributed her naivety and lack of real concern to the time period, the mid 70’s.
I found myself waiting for that one point in the story that would point to a gripping climax. Everything in Dee Dee’s eventful summer points to an action-packed high point. However, with all her close calls, second guesses regarding her associates, and her relationship woes, there never came that one moment where the entire book seemed to pull together. Reading much more like a diary of the summer, I was a little disappointed not to see a resolution to many of the dilemmas created by the main character and her friends. I believe I was more determined to find answers than Dee Dee herself.
The one scene providing the most harrowing visual comes when Dee Dee’s friend, Jaycee, makes a frantic call about a possible overdose. I felt, as a reader looking for answers, this was an ideal opportunity for the plot to tie neatly together with some life-changing decisions being made on the part of both Dee Dee and her friends. As in real life, however, secrets prevail, and not much changed for those most deeply entangled in drug use and trafficking.
As pleasant as Dee Dee seems throughout the story and as much as her remembrances of her eventful summer kept me interested, I felt the overall story was missing something. The memoir style of writing Stock uses is appealing and will suit readers seeking a fairly light read without highly stressful rising action.
Pages: 360 | ASIN: B01C58JXJI
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Masks follows Anna as she struggles to find herself and her love as she navigates the social, religious, and sexual taboos of the Arab world. Why was this an important book for you to write?
It had always been my dream to write novels, and I wanted to start my first book by being the voice of so many in the Lebanese and Arab society who pay the price of the social, religious and sexual taboos and never dare to speak up for themselves. If you had the chance to let the rest of the world read and find out about certain issues that people suffered from wouldn’t you write about them?
Masks is based on true life events. What were some things you felt had to remain true in the story and what were some things you took liberties with?
Though Masks is inspired by true life events yet it contains fiction, the part of the story that had to remain true is my own feelings and thoughts, this is a very hard question… well, I took liberty in writing about some facts but created characters that were the combination of more than one person in real life.
I understand that the story is based on your own life. Was there anything that was difficult for you to write about?
The story is partly based on my own life but I had to add fiction to the characters including Anna the protagonist in order to be able to write about so many things that I have heard, saw or lived, but then again it was not easy at the beginning. I had been thinking about starting this novel 8 years ago and I always hesitated because concentrating on my inner thoughts and to able to express fears and open closed doors was never easy. My husband, my family, and my friends supported me a lot. It is so strange that I really felt relieved when I put down my thoughts. As a journalist and a TV host, I always did my best to reach out to my readers and fans with messages that touched their hearts, I hope the characters in my book will be able to touch the heart of each and every reader and inspire them in many ways, I Hope…
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I already started writing my second book hoping it will be available within two years, it is somehow the continuation of Masks, though the first book has an end, the second book will talk about different adventures and taboos. Some characters from my first book will be in the second story but the readers will meet new characters with different problems and dissentious personalities.
I thank Thomas Anderson for this short yet interesting interview, the questions were few but very well chosen to satisfy the curiosity of any reader about the novel. I wish you a very prosperous career, I appreciate your time & work & hope to bring a change to my readers with the story of Masks.
Masks is a dark fictional tale, based on true-life events. It narrates the adventures of a young Armenian girl born in Lebanon in the seventies. She dreams of fame and power in Lebanon and the Arab world and shows resilience and motivation beyond her years. The novel delves into the world of the protagonist, Anna, who is surrounded by social, religious, and sexual taboos. She fiercely breaks the chains to enter the world she has strived to reach, in a seemingly conservative society barely emerging from a civil war. She builds her success on her remaining values, challenging her fate and sparing no way means to attain her goals.
As a disappointment to her parents, she walks the challenging paths alone, making her way toward fame and fortune despite lacking the support system to do so. Doors begin to open for her, and she enters the world of Arab celebrities. She is now a public figure in the Middle East, living an immoral married life in a materialistic world surrounded by influential business people and royal family members. She tries, in vain, to fill the void in her soul with sexual adventures and controversy by taking a wide variety of lovers. Her adventures invariably end in misery, doing nothing to awaken her from her numbness. Still, her vivid, out-of-control personality helps her move forward while simultaneously getting her in trouble. In the early stages of her life, she has suffered the unthinkable, being bullied and raped, with the civil war a constant backdrop throughout most of her childhood. The novel delves deep into Anna’s mind as she has flashbacks of the trauma she has suffered, offering the reader a hint of an explanation for her behavior.
In a society in which men dominate women, she is one of the few who realize that fashion, social status, plastic surgeries, and bright smiles are not the answer to happiness. She lives in a world where a girl is only worth as much as her virginity, where women do not dare to ask for a divorce, where the fear of retribution keeps them locked in a cage that is very rarely gilded.
As fame, money, and power slowly eat at her soul, the arrogant Anna falls in love with a total stranger—a young, single bachelor from Canada—after a night of secret passion. That is where the story begins to unravel as she returns home with a scandal in her back pocket, her eyes and ears and heart tuned to this man instead of her husband. Anna realizes that neither her marriage nor her achievements have ever made her happy, so she decides to throw it all away. The lies and deceit that fill the so-called glamorous life she has been leading are floating up to the surface, including her husband’s infidelity and the critical steps she has taken to reach the top.
Marriage, family, career—all destroyed to be united with the stranger. She starts a new battle, this time struggling to change her destiny for someone she barely knows, who lives oceans apart and offers her nothing except his heart.
She risks everything, turning her whole life upside down. Anna realizes that her happiness, inner peace, and love are found worlds away from her own, with someone she would never have expected to be her soul mate. Still, Anna’s sacrifices are not behind her, and the struggle has not yet ended, although she has found what she has needed all her life: redemption and unconditional love.
The stranger enigmatically hints at emotions in Anna that have been hidden for a long time behind the masks of her dark and shallow lifestyle.
The characters in the story are the voices of so many who do not dare to speak up in a world where social and religious standards openly chastise the very actions that behind closed doors have become the ultimate paradigmatic way of life.
Posted in Book Reviews
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“Ya know, it’s my understanding that the success rate of funerals is impeccably high.”
The Sounds from the Hills Go Away When the Sun Goes Down is the latest book by author Dave Matthes. I very much enjoyed the style and tone of Dave Matthes’s writing. The story is about what Matthes describes as “an examination of the present moment during a fragment of time in the lives of several of what society considers downtrodden, gutter-decrepit, low-living, and expendable, taking place in a corner of the world most only have fleeting nightmares about.” In the story, we follow several characters. Wendel Trope battles his anxiety attacks with alcohol, Jerry, the owner of the run-down hotel where the story takes place, Bush Betty, a prostitute, and Lotus, a young girl struggling with her past. This collection of characters creates a strange community that holds each other up. The relationships between the characters were one of my favorite parts of this story. The peculiar and subtle interaction of people who haven’t known each other long but are connected by struggles and traumas.
The morbid humor of the book fits perfectly with the setting and the characters. That being said the subjects of this book are pretty dark, including a suicide early on, so if you find yourself triggered by these kinds of subjects this might not be the book for you. The way Matthes deals with these emotional subjects throughout the book is done with a gritty artistic class. He is not afraid to talk death, addiction, and mental illness, subjects that are often considered taboo to speak about. Matthes deals with them in a relatable and real way. They are apart of peoples lives, even if society would prefer to ignore it. The matter of fact tone of the book allows life to stand on its own two feet, not shied away from or glorified. This story was a whirlwind to read as it took me on an emotional roller-coaster. The story itself really captures the moment in time aspect where there doesn’t need to be a grand arc because it is simply a fragment in the lives of people. I very much enjoyed reading this intense book and look forward to delving into more of Matthes’s extensive collection of works. I would definitely give this book five stars and would highly recommend it.
Pages: 350 | ISBN: 1975607597
Tags: addiction, alchoholism, alibris, anxiety, author, author life, authors, barnes and noble, book, book club, book geek, book lover, bookaholic, bookbaby, bookblogger, bookbub, bookhaul, bookhub, bookish, bookreads, books of instagram, booksbooksbooks, bookshelf, bookstagram, bookstagramer, bookwitty, bookworks, bookworm, contemporary, dark, dark fiction, dave matthes, drama, drug, ebook, emotion, fantasy, fiction, goodreads, gritty, ilovebooks, indiebooks, kindle, kobo, literature, nook, novel, prostitute, publishing, read, reader, reading, sex, shelfari, smashwords, story, The Sounds from the Hills Go Away When the Sun Goes Down, writer, writer community, writing
How We End Up is an intricate contemporary story that follows the lives of three strangers and shows how people can intersect at life changing moments. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?
I used to walk the beach in a park near my house. The park gets numerous visitors, mostly families, and I would frequently walk by young children playing in the surf. This area is known for its rip currents, and there are always news stories about people being caught in one and having to be rescued. It occurred to me that one day I might have to jump in after someone, particularly a child. Fortunately, I never had to. It got me thinking about how these rescues are often called “miracles,” but the story stops there. It did not, of course, tell us the aftermath, so I began formulating a story that shows us how they were brought together and tells us what happens to these people over a long span of time.
I felt that this novel was about the characters and how people change over time. What were the driving ideals behind the characters development throughout the story?
The central male character, Jackson, rescues nine-year-old twin girls. Although they they are twins, I saw them as being very distinct from each other, and I imagined they would lead dissimilar lives. Not only are their sexual orientations different, but one is worldly and self-destructive, while the other begins as a bit naïve, which leads them both to disastrous circumstances. Jackson, who achieves literary fame by writing about the rescue, suffers from a case of hubris, which results in his star falling. Their personas and their relationships, particularly their romantic entanglements, are affected, often negatively, by both the inner conflicts of the three characters and by chance. I see this as something we all endure. Some things we decide upon by choice, while others are left to happenstance and over which we have no control. All of these experiences lead to “how we end up.”
When you first sat down to write this story, did you know where you were going, or did the story develop as you were writing?
The “skeleton” of the story was apparent to me from the start, but as I continued writing, the details—specific events, relationships, and the consequences of the characters’ reckless behavior—appeared. This is pretty much my writing modus operandi in general. For me, writing is a discovery process.
What is the next book that you are working on and when can your fans expect it to be out?
My next book is about a character who leads five different lives, each detached from the others. It is somewhat experimental, maybe, but this is all I presently can say about it. If fortune smiles upon me, I might finish it within 6-8 months; after that, I would think publication would follow in about the same amount of time.
BEING RESCUED IS NOT THE SAME AS BEING SAVED.
Jackson Levee, a professor and writer, plucks two drowning twin girls from the Gulf of Mexico. Their attractive single mother has her own ideas about how to thank the hero. Jackson and their family go from being complete strangers one day to intimate friends the next. Jackson soars to literary fame after writing about his rescue of the twins, while the girls mature into beautiful but troubled young women. Over the next twenty-five years, everyone’s recklessness in love, marriage, and life produces wild and devastating results, forcing the three of them to struggle as they try to realize their destinies and find balance in life.
Douglas Wells crafts an intoxicating story teeming with passion and exhilaration to danger, addiction, and despair.
Posted in Interviews
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A mole within the SEALs and I’m the one to find him. Simple for someone with my type of ability to read through lies. Everything was laid out, we had a plan. A good plan. Go in undercover as a reporter, gather intel, identify the mole and come home. But it didn’t turn out that way. Not even close. Of course, the Sr. Officer over the platoon in question is a former one night stand who became way too clingy. And to top it off his best friend, and my escort around the base is someone whom I desperately want clinging, without clothes would be preferred. The number of obstacles in this operation is too many to count but I have to find the mole, no matter what, my reputation within the CIA depends on it.
Who would have thought a quick-witted, hotshot CIA agent would be my kryptonite. But is she ever. From the moment, she walked into CO’s office I was hooked. She a drug and I’m the willing addict doing anything and everything just to get one more hit of her. She says we are a bad idea, that it would complicate things, what does she know. We could be great together. We will be great together. All I have to do is convince her we can play and get the job done too. I want the mole caught but I might want her just as bad.
A Covert Affair is a contemporary romantic suspense, standalone novel.
Posted in book trailer
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The Separation follows Finn as he struggles to live in a world that separates the sexes and removes children from parents. Did you know where you were going when you started writing or did you let things happen organically?
This novel is actually part of a trilogy. I am currently working on the sequel, “United.” I had this great idea and created three stories based on the characters and storyline. Of course, some of the plot was initially simply outlined and then fleshed out significantly during the actual writing process. I am proud of this book. I think it touches on topics that are universal and of great interest to society today.
This book has a unique resolution to a real overpopulation problem. What were some themes you wanted to capture in this story?
I wanted to address issues that are of great urgency in society today. Without bringing any of my own politics into this interview, I think the novel touches on provocative themes and pressing problems in society today. I won’t reveal all of them because I don’t want to give away the book. I feel this, above all my other work, is a must read. But, overpopulation is a real issue and I think this book addresses the topic head on.
Because the sexes are separated in the story, this makes for some great ‘worlds colliding’ type moments. What was your inspiration behind Finn and Angela’s relationship in the novel?
Their relationship is based on the fact that men and women are going to be different and have viewpoints on the separation (and on life in general) that are not necessarily identical. However, men and women do need each other in many respects. They complete each other in their own complex way. I wanted their relationship to reflect that.
What is the next story that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am working on part two of this trilogy—-“United”–which will be out early in 2019!
In the distant future, there is a separation of the sexes at birth for the good of society. Financial needs, above all else, have led to such drastic measures. The Separation is the story of the life of a male named Finn. The book traces his life at birth and continues past his “education” as well as beyond the time when he ultimately learns of the opposite sex. What will result from the revelation of a female society? Finn may wish he never found out. This is a story of the consequences of needs, desires and answers to questions that sometimes should not be asked.
Posted in Interviews
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It’s the 22nd century and the world is overpopulated and under-educated. To combat this, the government has decided that male and female students will be segregated for their first 22 years of life. They will have no knowledge of the opposite sex or of their parents. Finn is a brilliant and questioning student, but his intelligence leads him to test boundaries and break rules. When he enters the real world he meets Angela, and they have a son, Leonardo, who awaits the same fate of separation. But Finn cannot let go of his son that easily, and he begins to tread on very dangerous ground…
The Separation by Thomas Duffy is a dystopian speculative fiction novel. Duffy has written a story with a fascinating premise, and some hefty themes are handled deftly by the author. Topics of religion, sex, gender and class are woven through the narrative, and many of the questions posed are philosophical ones such as ‘what is really important?’ and ‘what constitutes a ‘good’ life?’ There are interesting reflections on the complexity of human desire, governmental control, finding meaning in the world, and whether career or love is more important–all of which feel quite relevant in today’s world.
Finn makes for a very likeable hero, behaving in ways which are extremely relatable and understandable considering his circumstances. Duffy has written an empathetic protagonist, which isn’t always the case with dystopian fiction, and I was really rooting for him throughout. Some of the other characters, including Angela, remain quite one dimensional which limited me in really believing in, or caring about, her relationship with Finn. I would have liked some more well rounded female protagonists, but perhaps this was a technique used by the author to represent how detached the sexes are.
The book is written mainly in the third-person limited narrative with the focus on Finn, but we get insight into Angela’s thoughts and feelings too which helped me to feel slightly less detached from her. The writing is full of dialogue and at times it is weighed down with exposition—unfortunately, this made a lot of the dialogue feel quite heavy handed and not particularly natural. I particularly struggled with the conversations between Finn and Angela which were lacking in real emotion. Again, this could have been a mechanism used by Duffy to portray their stunted development when it comes to relationships/the opposite sex and communication. Despite this, the narrative moves at a fairly steady pace. I enjoyed watching Finn’s misdemeanours unfold, and there was plenty of action and intrigue to keep me turning pages.
Overall, this is a fascinating addition to sci-fi/dystopian fiction which might leave you in a slight existential crisis! It throws up profound questions about what is truly important in life, and if this sounds a little too intense, there are also lots of unexpected twists, turns and excitement to keep you on your toes.
Pages: 306 | ASIN: B078YRNM8M
Tags: action, alibris, author, author life, authors, book, book club, book geek, book lover, bookaholic, bookblogger, bookhaul, bookish, books of instagram, booksbooksbooks, bookshelf, bookstagram, bookstagramer, bookworm, control, dystopia, dystopian, ebook, fantasy, fiction, gender, goodreads, government, ilovebooks, kindle, kobo, literature, mystery, nook, novel, over population, publishing, read, reader, reading, science fiction, scifi, sex, shelfari, smashwords, stereotype, story, the separation, thomas duffy, writer, writer community, writing
The Life and Times of Tommy Kaos: Raising Hell, by T.L. Henry, is the first-person account of the main character’s life from his earliest memory to his incarceration as a teenager. Tommy, a boy raised in the worst of circumstances, sustains abuse, exposure to alcoholism and drug use, and endures the most unstable of upbringings, From a tender age and following the loss of his best friend–his grandfather–Tommy learns to fend for himself and does his best to protect and shield his sister, May from his mother’s drunken tirades and efforts to exploit them both.
From the first paragraph, I was sure I was reading a journal–a true account of the author’s own life. I found myself checking more than once to make sure I had read the introduction correctly. This book–purely fictitious–transports the reader into a completely different mindset. I didn’t feel as though I was reading; I felt as though I were listening to a boy relating his life story while sitting beside me on park bench–Forrest Gump style. The conversational style of writing makes for a smooth read and is actually quite fascinating.
I quickly lost count of the number of times Tommy and his family were forced to move from one ramshackle home to another in North Carolina within a handful of years. With absolutely no stability and no father figure for most of his life until his incarceration, Tommy is quickly schooled in the ways of the street. Early on, Tommy learns to steer clear of his own mother and the endless string of men she brings home. Both of these aspects of Tommy’s life are incredibly sad and only seem to magnify as the story progresses.
Tommy’s life, as horrifying as it is, is believable. From his earliest encounter with abuse, he takes a turn for the worse and, admittedly, becomes everything to which he was exposed as a child. This unique, memoir-type writing style helps to drive home the sad truth about abused, neglected, and exploited children. As he endures and participates in dangerous and self-deprecating behaviors, he begins to find advantages in them. Several chapters in, I began to realize that I could actually be reading this from the antagonist’s point of view. What began as the tale of a tragic childhood, turned, all too easily, into the life story of a career criminal.
The main character’s cries for help falling on deaf ears were the most painful aspect of the plot. The author has managed to create a storyline that illuminates the tragedy perpetuated by abuse early in life. As much as the reader wants to feel sorry for young Tommy, he/she will feel an overwhelming desire to scream at teenaged Tommy to remember where these same behaviors got his mother. It is a frustrating and heart-wrenching read, but a necessary one.
While the writing style is unique and the conversational tone appealing, I felt the concentration on young Tommy’s sexual obsessions were a bit overstated and became uncomfortable to read after a while. The author does, however, do an excellent job of revealing the impact of abuse and neglect early in a child’s life.
Pages: 132 | ASIN: B01F6ET17C
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