The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Imagine a cruise ship sailing in the middle of the ocean, no land visible in any direction. It’s a dark and dreary night. There’s a small cramped cabin on the boat. This is where Lo Blacklock finds herself staying on the inaugural sailing of the Aurora.

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware shares the story of Lo, a travel journalist about to set off for her first big story covering a high-end cruise. Just before the trip, her apartment is broken into and she’s left very shaken. While on the ship she’s still very anxious and wakes up in the middle of the night to a mysterious sound from the cabin next to hers, cabin 10. Then, unbelievably, she hears a large splash… No one on board believes her – could she be losing her mind? Lo is determined to find out what happened in cabin 10.

I liked the pace of The Woman in Cabin 10 and the eerie cruise ship setting. The thought of being trapped below water is horrifying! I also thought that this book is better than Ware’s first book, In a Dark Dark Wood, because the storyline was more unexpected. At the same time, there were aspects of the book that felt disconnected and too coincidental, i.e. unlikely to happen.

Overall, I recommend this one for a quick, engaging mystery read!

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The Fire by Night by Teresa Messineo

“‘You say this is a man’s world, sir, and I am not so naïve as to disagree with you. But’ – here Kay leaned forward, staring the man straight in the eye- ‘if the world of men ever tears itself apart again, it will take an army of nurses to put it back together.’”  

The Fire by Night by Teresa Messineo shares the stories of two American nurses during World War II – one stationed in France and the other imprisoned in a Japanese POW camp.

Jo McMahon is trapped in a field hospital with 6 critically wounded patients under her care and the Germans are approaching. Very much on her own, Jo goes to extremes to save these men. It turns out that one of them may be more than just a patient to her.

Across the world, Kay Elliott was stationed in Hawaii and until the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, everything in her life seemed perfect. She had met the love of her life and her heart was filled with hope for the future. Soon, Kay was imprisoned in a terrible Japanese POW that sucked her dry of any hope.

I appreciate that The Fire by Night shares the perspectives of nurses during the war – it was unique from other books I’ve read that are based during this time. Nurses not only experience their own horrors, they also experience the tragedies of their patients and carry those burdens. Both Joe and Kay are lively, strong characters who are pushed far past the brink.

While The Fire by Night is well written and compelling (and I do recommend it!) I didn’t think it was better than other World War II historical fiction novels out there like The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.

The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton

The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton has been sitting on my bookshelf for almost 18 months and now I wish that I’d picked it up sooner. This unexpected story is compelling, unsettling, and hopeful at once.

Yasmin, brilliant and slightly cross, and her deaf 10-year-old daughter Ruby arrive in Alaska to meet their husband/father, Matt. Once they’ve landed at the airport, they learn that the small village where Matt was staying suffered a terrible fire. When police tell them that no one could have survived, Yasmin and Ruby refuse to listen and instead set out on a wild and wicked journey to find him.

What they find at the end of their journey is shocking, but what they learn along the way is just as compelling, if not more so. We learn that Yasmin desperately wants Ruby to speak with her mouth while Ruby wants to speak with her hands. It’s touching as the pair begins to understand each other.

“It wasn’t that Yasmin wanted Ruby to speak so much as she wanted her to be heard.”

The story shifted between Yasmin and Ruby’s perspectives and I loved this aspect of the book. Both points of view were true to character and provided really contrasting views of the same situations.

I enjoyed The Quality of Silence very much and hope that you’ll pick it up as well!

The Wicked City by Beatriz Williams

I’m happy to report that I’ve read another one of Beatriz Williams’ books (this time, The Wicked City) and have been completely captivated by the story. She has an extraordinary way of bringing characters to life, especially through their dialogue and quick-witted thoughts. I’m reminded yet again of why she’s one of my favorite authors!

The Wicked City shares the stories of two women, both living in New York City, during very different time periods. Meet Gin Kelly, a firecracker of a girl living in New York City during the 1920’s. She came to the city to escape her despicable stepfather, but before too long she gets caught up in his bootlegging business and is pulled back to her small hometown. Along the way, she comes across Anson, the stoic, noble, quiet do-gooder who might just be the only man that can throw her for a loop.

Shift forward to 1998 and we meet Ella, a woman also living in New York City, who just learned that her beloved husband is a rather dirty fellow. As she tries to recover from this shock, she finds herself in Gin’s old stomping grounds and although 70 years have passed, she can almost sense her presence. I appreciate that Williams brought a bit of the magic from the 1920’s to the 1990’s.

My only criticism is that the plot left a couple loose ends and some of Ella’s story line was a bit unrealistic, but it was fun. I still really enjoyed the book and definitely recommend it!

“She wanted the radiant, satisfied skin her mother had. The adoring gaze that followed her mother around the house.”

Falling by Jane Green

Emma has never felt at home with her family in England so when she had the chance to move to New York City for her finance career, she took it. 5 years later, she’s sick of her stress-filled life and decided to quit her job and move to a coastal town in Connecticut. Throughout Falling by Jane Green, Emma attempts to get in touch with who she is and what she wants.

It turns out that her handsome landlord and his cute young son may be the answer to what she’d been looking for, but hadn’t been expecting. At its core, this book explores what it means to be a family.

While the book had a fun and playful tone (the writing style was light and straightforward), it was also unexpectedly sad and I didn’t see that coming. Some aspects of Falling were a little cheesy, but the emotions shared were real.

I enjoyed the New England setting and the playful tone of the book. On the other hand, the main character, Emma, tended to dramatize situations and those sections of the book dragged. Overall, Falling isn’t a book I plan to read for a second time.

American War by Omar El Akkad

In the year 2074, a civil war rips apart the United States of America. The North has prohibited the use of fossil fuels in the country to help preserve the environment and the South disagrees. American War by Omar El Akkad is thought provoking and horrifying at once in the way that it examines a second civil war and two deeply passionate and opposing sides.

At the center of this story is Sarat Chestnut, who was born in Louisiana. As the war builds, Sarat and her family are displaced and move to Camp Patience with other refugees. The tragedies she faced hardened her and drove her to make a tremendous impact in the war. While she’s the hero for one side, she’s another person’s villain. It interesting to think that one person could play both roles simultaneously.

American War explores themes of loyalty, revenge, pride, and what right and wrong means in capacity of war. This is a really well written book and I would like to read it again.

Into The Water by Paula Hawkins

A river runs through the town of Beckford and within that river, there’s The Drowning Pool. The pool lives up to its bleak name when a mother and a teenage girl are both found dead within the water’s depths one summer. There’s a large cliff above that leads to the question: Did they jump? Paula Hawkins’ latest release, Into The Water, shares the story of the women who’ve been lost to The Drowning Pool.

When Nel Abbott died, her daughter is left alone in a large creaking house with an estranged aunt who she’s never met. It turns out that Beckford, like many small towns, is filled with underlying connections and affairs. Throughout the book it seemed like half the town was looking for answers as to how these women died while the other half was keeping secrets.

My feelings about Into The Water are mixed. On the one hand, I was fascinated (and horrified) by the idea of The Drowning Pool and the myths that it’s a place where “troublemakers” are “taken care of.” The writing was infectious and I didn’t want to put the book down (similarly to Hawkins’ previous book, The Girl on the Train). On the other hand, the book is told from at least 10 different perspectives and all of the switching back and forth between characters took away from the depth of the story. I was lucky enough to attend an author event with Paula Hawkins a couple weeks ago and these alternating perspectives was an aspect of the book that she experimented with while writing.

Overall, I recommend reading Into The Water, but I also recommend having a pen and paper handy in order to jot down quick notes of each of the characters mentioned.

Standout quotes: 

“Beckford is not a suicide spot. Beckford is a place to get rid of troublesome women.”  

“It must take a strange sense of entitlement, I would have thought, to take someone else’s tragedy like that and write it as though it belonged to you.”