What I’ve Been Reading: In the Shadow of Lakecrest

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In the Shadow of Lakecrest by Elizabeth Blackwell is a lively story in the gothic style that I mostly enjoyed. Kate Moore meets handsome, wealthy, kind Matthew Lemont on a transatlantic crossing and is thrilled when he wants to continue their relationship after they dock in New York. On a whim, she travels with him in his private train car to Chicago, where they wed after a short courtship. This should be the answer to Kate’s prayers, who was determined to marry well to escape her violent and poverty-stricken past—a past that she is careful to hide from Matthew.
When Matthew takes Kate to his family’s estate—a crumbling hodgepodge of a mansion on Lake Michigan, cobbled together from odds and ends Matthew’s grandfather imported from Europe—Kate begins to realize that the Lemonts have their own dark secrets. What happened to the aunt, who disappeared one night after holding a strange ceremony in the labyrinth built on the grounds? And why does Matthew’s twin sister seem so jealous of Kate?
The story is a page turner that is hard to put down. I have mixed feelings about the ending though; I wish there had been more hints that the person who takes the final action of the novel had the potential to do such a thing.

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What I’ve Been Reading: Wolf Winter

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WOLF WINTER by Cecilia Ekbäck is amazing. The mood is atmospheric, and the setting—far northern Sweden in 1717—is unique in my reading experience. The book is a historical thriller, but there are so many cultural, psychological, and even political layers underlying the story, that in many ways, it felt more like a literary novel.

Maija, her husband Paavo, and their two daughters have come from Finland to their uncle’s old homestead in Lapland. Almost immediately, the oldest daughter, Frederika, discovers a mutilated body high on the nearby mountain when she takes the family’s goats up to pasture. Maija and her daughter are pulled into trying to solve that crime and unearth the many dark secrets of their new community even as they fight to survive the most brutal winter in Sweden’s history. As events unfold, Frederika discovers her own supernatural gifts and must choose whether to use them.

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Janus: the Two-Faced God

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Head of Janus, Vatican Museum, Rome

The month of January is said to be named after the Roman god Janus, who was the god of beginnings, transitions, and endings among other things. He had two faces, which enabled him to look to the future and to the past.

I find this fitting because that’s what my husband and I always do on New Year’s Eve; we talk about the milestones of the past year and we set our hopeful goals for the future.

One of the biggest milestones of 2017 for me was the publication of my second novel, Blood Moon: A Captive’s Tale. In some ways, getting that second novel out into the world was even more satisfying than the first because it proved that getting published wasn’t a fluke and that I wasn’t going to be plagued by the “sophomore slump.”

However, 2017 had its writing difficulties too. One of the big adjustments I had to make was to completely abandon the idea for my next novel after having spent six to eight months researching it. The more I read, the more I realized that the person I thought was I was going to write about just wasn’t a good fit for me right now.

So I am starting over from scratch, and the reboot coincides almost exactly with the beginning of the new year. The good news is that I am very excited about the new story idea, and I can already feel the creative juices stirring in a way they didn’t last year.

Watch this space. Over the next few months, I plan to share some of the intriguing tidbits that I uncover during my research process.

And I wish each and every one of you a wonderful 2018 in which you achieve some of your own deeply cherished goals and received some pleasant surprises!

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What I’ve Been Reading: Tan

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TAN by David Lawlor is a solid adventure / war story. The pace is quick, there is plenty of action, the plot has twists and turns. If you want a quick read set during the Irish War of Independence—and one with a pro-Irish slant—you’ll probably enjoy it. But the book has weaknesses. I thought the characterizations were disappointingly black and white. The book is populated with good characters and bad characters without much of the complexity that most humans display.

I was also disappointed to see that the book had errors that should have been caught before publication. I found many punctuation mistakes and several typos—such as the character of Eoin suddenly being called Eon. And there were distracting misused words: cygnet ring instead of signet ring; heap of slack instead of heap of slag, and others. No published work is ever completely clean, but there were more issues than I would expect from someone with this author’s experience.

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What I’ve Been Reading: The Secret Language of Women

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The Secret Language of Women by Nina Romano is such an unusual and exotic story. Lian, a half Italian-half Chinese woman, falls in love with Giacomo, an Italian sailor whose ship is patrolling the waters around China during the violent Boxer rebellion of the late 1890s when Chinese nationalists tried to drive all foreigners from their country. In such a difficult situation, the lovers’ lives are endangered simply because of who they are, and their relationship only places them in more jeopardy. I don’t want to say anything more about the plot for fear of giving too much away. But what I loved most about the novel was the way rich aspects of both Sicilian and Chinese culture are interwoven into the story and the way these two very different people realized they are kindred spirits.

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What I’ve Been Reading: The Painted Girls

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I recently finished The Painted Girls and gave it five stars on Goodreads.

Although on the surface about ballet and art, this book certainly shows the underside of Paris. Three sisters, whose father is dead and whose mother cares only about absinthe, live in grinding poverty and dream of finding a way out. Each tries to make it as a ballet rat (young dancer), with varying success. Of the two oldest girls, Antionette is a strong and insolent fighter who falls in with a boy of bad character. The other, Marie, comes to the attention of Edgar Degas and models for him as a way to earn extra money. Each makes questionable choices that she must struggle to overcome. I was moved by the book’s ending.

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Review at A Bookish Affair

Check out this new review of Blood Moon: A Captive’s Tale by Meg at A Bookish Affair.

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