The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

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Lo Blacklock, a journalist for a travel magazine, has been given the opportunity of sailing away on the Aurora for a week long luxury cruise. The Aurora is a small, intimate ship with only a few cabins and the select special guests who were picked for her first voyage. Mixed in with socialites and other journalists, Lo is ready to relax and enjoy the plush beds, fancy food and endless champagne.

On her first night on the ship Lo is getting ready for the formal dinner and she realizes she forgot some of her makeup. She knocks next door, at Cabin 10, and borrows mascara from the woman there before going back to her cabin to finish her preparations.

The night goes as planned; beautiful dinner, schmoozing with the other attendees and drinking a little too much.  After a mostly pleasant evening, Lo returns to her cabin to snuggle down into her bed for her first real night of sleep in a week.

Then, a scream. A splash. Lo rushes to her balcony only to see swirling dark waters and what she thinks might be blood on the glass of Cabin 10. But before she can process what might have happened, the blood is gone, the night is silent again.

When she investigates the cabin next door with security, it’s empty. They inform her that the planned guest for Cabin 10 never arrived and that no passenger is missing. The cabin is bare, as if that woman had never existed.

Now Lo must get to the bottom of what she heard and saw, while trapped on a small boat with a group of people she doesn’t know. Who was that woman? Was she murdered? Was Lo dreaming? What really happened that night?

“The Woman in Cabin 10” is a claustrophobic murder mystery with a few surprising twists to keep us turning those pages. Eery and engrossing, this book is hard to put down. Ware has a talent for picking locations for murders that are deliciously creepy in their own natural ways. A glass house in the heart of a forest (In a Dark, Dark Wood) and now a small boat in the middle of an empty ocean.

After finishing this novel, you’ll check the locks on your doors before sleeping at night and possibly think twice about that vacation you were planning.

After all, boats can be very dangerous places.

Release date: July 19, 2016

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The Painter by Peter Heller

Moody. Atmospheric. Haunting.

“The Painter” by Peter Heller will fill you with the yearning to pick up a brush, buy a canvas and run away to Santa Fe. It will suffuse you with the sound of a brook on a clear moonlit evening and the feel of a fishing rod in your hand. It will fill you with the appreciation for natural beauty and the bottomless grief of losing the one person whom you love most. 

Jim Stegner is an artist trying to paint his way out of his past.

In the wake of the destruction of everything he ever held dear; he paints, he fishes. He doesn’t drink. He controls his anger. He loses himself in his work – and his work is amazing. Genius. Transcendent. It touches, inspires and moves people to laughter, to tears. But behind the work is a man barely holding it together. An artist, struggling to survive just being human. 

One day Jim comes upon a man beating a small helpless horse and he puts himself in danger to save it. This one act of thoughtless kindness derails his entire quiet existence. He is unable to halt the uncontrollable progression of events and his life, and art, become darker and more volatile. He walks the line between what is right and what is just, between reality and the half-world he hides in. 

Jim is violent, protective, loving and lost. He is drowning in his grief and slipping over the edge. When he surfaces into the everyday to feel, to experience, to help… he makes it harder and more complicated somehow. He mostly only manages to fuck things up. Again. 

And in every page, through every mistake or bewildering blessing, is painting. Jim creating beautiful, funny, moving, delightful, horrifying and stunning things. Fish dancing on water, birds flying on desks. Mischievous crows and thoughtful horses. Oceans filled with miraculous light and pure joy. We experience who Jim is – his struggles, his choices, his thoughts – with every stroke of his brush.  

Heller’s writing vibrates with life on every page. You smell the turpentine, hear the scratch of the palette brush, feel that cool water around your waders as you fish. But most of all, you endure every piercing emotion with Jim. 

Jim is a man who cannot let go of the one thing he ever truly loved and lost. Who makes so many mistakes for all the right, and wrong, reasons.

A man who wants a simple life and who in his heart wants to be a better person.

To love more. To hurt less.

But isn’t quite sure how to get there – or even if he can believe ‘there’ still exists. 

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley

…that left only Father Christmas. He would be coming again in less than a week and, in order to settle the question for once and for all, I had long ago laid plans to trap him. Scientifically.

Flavia de Luce, the 11-year-old mastermind chemist detective, is determined to find out if the slippery St. Nick is real. He always seems to come and go without a trace and she is determined for this year to be different. Christmas is only a few days away and Flavia, being the clever minx she is, plans to catch him. She concocts a nice batch of bird lime in her laboratory to slather onto the roof to prove, once and for all, that he exists.

A few days before Christmas, Flavia’s father, Colonel de Luce, announces that a movie company will be taking over Flavia’s home, Buckshaw, to use it as a set for a film. Shortly thereafter, the famous Phyllis Wyvern has descended upon their crumbling English mansion with her director and film crews. As they begin to film, the town Vicar convinces Wyvern to perform a little Romeo and Juliet for the townspeople to help raise money for charity at Buckshaw. The night of the performance a blizzard hits, trapping all the townspeople at the mansion overnight. As everyone beds down the evening, strewn across the entryways and floors like a big sleepover party, Flavia sneaks out of her room to wander. Amid the late night snores and shuffles she hears the slap-slap-slap of a film endlessly circling at the end of its reel. She follows the sound and finds, as Flavia always does, that someone has been murdered.

With each Flavia de Luce mystery that is written, I am scared I will not enjoy them as much as the last. As with most series that have no end in sight, I tend to open the books with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. Will this one be as good as its predecessors? I always wonder. No fear this time readers! Bradley hasn’t lost a whit of his writing fire.

I am Half-Sick of Shadows was a great book. I started it last night, reading until I had to sleep, and then finished it this morning. This Christmas themed addition to the series is just as amusing, heart warming and enjoyable to read as the three that preceded it. Flavia is as clever as ever. Though this mystery is full of her whirlwind schemes, chemistry experiments and constant battles with her sisters as usual, this book offers a bit more.

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows revolves around stalking Father Christmas and solving the movie set murder, but we also get to learn about the people in Flavia’s life. Dogger, their faithful handyman, her father Colonel de Luce and even her relationship with her sisters grows as the story progresses. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and I think it may be my new favorite of the series.

If you haven’t read the Flavia books before I’d suggest starting with the first, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. They’re all wonderful and can be independently read, but it is more fun to read from the beginning of Flavia’s adventures.

If you have already read the Flavia books and are waiting to start this one, stop waiting! Its a jolly good read with lots murder mystery fun, but also, cartloads of Christmas cheer.