But this changed when I read IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS by Cat Winters.
IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS made Booklist's 2013 Top Ten Horror Fiction for Youth along with my 2012 novel TEN. It was one of the few on the list that I hadn't read, a situation I remedied immediately.
I'm not afraid to admit it: I was totally jealous of this book from the moment I read the description. For years I've been knocking around an idea for a novel based on the spiritualist movement in America in the early 20th Century, so right there I had subject envy. Part me didn't want to read it, didn't want to love it because then I'd probably lock my own idea away in a drawer for a decade of more. But read it I did. In like two days, ripping through it like an addict.
First off, I love a well-researched historical. I think they make up the bulk of my reading these days. I love it when voice and tone combine with historic details to completely draw me into a time period, and IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS does that brilliantly. I was immediately in the early twentieth century, never jarred by an anachronism of time and place, and part of the reason I kept turning the pages, was that I didn't want to leave that world.
Second, I've always been drawn to gothic novels, an addiction I blame on reading Jane Eyre when I was twelve, and Winters perfectly captures the eerie atmosphere of the Victorian ghost stories I devoured as a teen: LeFanu, Collins, Doyle, Gaskell, and M.R. James. The setting is brilliant: the convergence of the Influenza epidemic (modern estimates list the death toll from the 1918 pandemic between 50 and 100 million people…) and the First World War created an "end of times" mentality for people across the world. It felt as if death was everywhere, and Winters makes that literal.
The dead are haunting the living, in this case, a sixteen year old girl who has lost just about everything in her life. My empathy for Mary Shelley Black was strong, and I suffered along with her. The scares are subtle, the tension high, the impossible romance suitably heart-wrenching. Add to that the haunting period photos used in the book and I was thrown into a full on Book Envy frenzy.
If you haven't had a chance to read IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS, I guarantee you'll be hooked within five pages. It's lush and creepy, unnerving and atmospheric – all in the best possible way. There's mystery and romance as well, but mostly I was drawn to the amazing world building, and the dark, almost oppressive tone of the book that fit perfectly with the time period and the subject matter.
So, yeah. Book Envy. I haz it. *shakes fist at Cat Winters*
About The Author
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About The Book
Until she starts having dreams about a girl named Jo. Every night at the same time—3:59 a.m.
Jo's life is everything Josie wants: she's popular, her parents are happily married, and Nick adores her. It all seems real, but they're just dreams, right? Josie thinks so, until she wakes one night to a shadowy image of herself in the bedroom mirror – Jo.
Josie and Jo realize that they are doppelgängers living in parallel universes that overlap every twelve hours at exactly 3:59. Fascinated by Jo's perfect world, Josie jumps at the chance to jump through the portal and switch places for a day.
But Jo’s world is far from perfect. Not only is Nick not Jo's boyfriend, he hates her. Jo's mom is missing, possibly insane. And at night, shadowy creatures feed on human flesh.
By the end of the day, Josie is desperate to return to her own life. But there’s a problem: Jo has sealed the portal, trapping Josie in this dangerous world. Can she figure out a way home before it’s too late?
From master of suspense Gretchen McNeil comes a riveting and deliciously eerie story about the lives we wish we had – and how they just might kill you.
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