A moving and wonderful book about the worlds biggest maritime tragedy

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am actually a little breathless having finished this book, it’s taken my breath away and I’m feeling that awful grief you get when you have finished a book that is really special and you know your time with the characters has come to an end. I had heard wonderful things about Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys but I really had not expected to fall in love with this book quite as hard as I did.

The first thing that struck me about this book is that it is based on fact and actual events that occurred at the end of the second world war. Being naturally inquisitive I went and found out more about the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, a German transport ship that was transporting German military and refugees in the Baltic Sea when it was struck by torpedoes from a Russian submarine causing the loss of around 9,400 lives. This makes it the biggest maritime disaster of all time and yet I know that so few people have heard of this and now having read this story I find it even more heartbreaking.

The story is told in really short chapters. Each is only a page or two long so the story drives forward really quickly and in bursts that whilst initially giving us only snippets about our characters does help to add to the mystery about their backgrounds. We have four main characters who narrate the book, each of them has a different secret they are hiding and they are all seeking the same thing, escape from their past and a new future with the promise of reuniting with loved ones they have lost or a fresh start. As their stories intertwine we learn more about the tragedies each have faced, the difficult choices war has forced upon them and the horrors they have seen along the way.

Of our narrators 3 of the 4 are wonderful characters, the fourth is a complex and difficult one to like but his voice is equally important as he brings us the voice of the German Nazi machine as it begins to fall apart and the unhinged beliefs of the Fuhrer and how they have infiltrated the German people. We may not like him but his voice provides the context that brings the books dark undertones even more to the fore.

The stories in this book are gritty and heartbreaking. Of the Young Adult novels I’ve read about World War II this alongside The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas are probably two of the most emotional and touching. Not to say that others are not but the subject matter is difficult to read, it includes some very adult themes and doesn’t hold back during the storytelling about the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff.

I read this book in a day, I could not put it down. Once I had understood each of the characters back stories I was rooting for them, I fell in love with the surrounding characters and the character of the Shoe Poet will remain with me for a long time to come. The quote he makes on deck of the ship just before it is hit is beautiful as he tells Florian “Just when you think this was has taken everything you loved, you meet someone and realise that somehow you still have more to give” This was so poignant from an elderly man talking about the loss of his wife and how a young orphan boy gave him the strength to go on. It was such a beautiful moment in a book filled with much darkness.

It is a book I didn’t have to think about what rating it deserved, from the moment I picked it up till I finished it I was drawn in, it engaged me fully and it made me fall in love with it. Absolutely inspiring writing and I cannot wait to try more books from Ruta Sepetys.

The third Cormoran Strike novel is satisfying and engaging

Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike #3) by Robert Galbraith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve always been a real supporter of J.K. Rowling’s foray into the world of crime writing through the Robert Galbraith series of books. After all, publishing of The Casual Vacancy wasn’t a huge success under her own name purely because people couldn’t separate the author from her most famous character, Harry Potter.

Book 3 in the series, Career of Evil was one that got out of the starting gate very quickly. Within a few pages, we’ve had our first introduction to the murderer and his plans and have had him deliver an amputated leg to Robin, the partner and Secretary of our hero Cormoran Strike.

From there we are led into a story where someone is trying to destroy Cormoran Strike by targeting his reputation and plotting to abduct and hurt his partner Robin. Strike and Robin are unaware of his precise plans but simply know he is attacking young women, stealing body parts from his victims and is following Robin. There are several suspects from Strike’s past, some from cases he investigated from his Special Branch of the army career and one who is connected to his mother’s suspicious death.

It was at this point I felt the story could have used a little clarity. Strike and Robin spend much of the book tracking down these 3 individuals, recounting their back stories with Strike and following up on where they were when certain crimes took place. Unfortunately, their backstories were at times quite similar and sometimes I had to stop and remind myself of which one linked to which tale we’d had recounted. Just as we seemed to be gaining clarity on one we would be off on another’s trail and you had to be alert to keep track of each story and possible Villain we were tailing now.

In this book we spend a lot more time with Robin, learning more about her life before she met Strike, her desires to become a detective and her relationship with her fiance Matthew. Rowling takes time to really round out the character giving us a real modern day Watson to Strikes at sometimes bumbling Holmes.

It is a book that goes through some high points, I found the interviews conducted to establish back stories and information about their suspects to be the high points of the book. The dialogue in these chapters is inspired, it was at these points I truly wanted to keep reading and perhaps contributes to my disappointment when we’d leave that behind and go chasing down another lead, leaving the suspense and real character based detective work behind. There are also some great characters in this story who added much to the story and who I’d love to see in future books, Shanker is a stand out for me. This shady thug from Strike’s early life comes bursting to life in this book and leaves you rooting for him, he is clearly a thug with a heart of gold and was a high point for me.

Low points were that the book kept building towards a storyline that didn’t actually materialise. Instead, we got a few pages of it potentially happening then nothing. All that tension as a reader was left a little unfulfilled. Also, our dynamic duo ended this case pretty fractured and with their own agendas. They didn’t catch their guy together but instead kind of caught him separately and didn’t share that success, which was a shame.

I enjoyed this book a lot more than book 2, The Silkworm. This was based on the chapters that were dedicated to Strike and Robin really outlining and defining who their potential suspects were and the lives they had already affected. For me, this was a real return to the brilliance of The Cuckoos Calling.

Strike remains one of my favourite series characters and I always look forward to reading the next instalment and this time is no different. I’ll be excited to see his next adventure and how his relationship with Robin continues to grow, very much in the way I wait patiently to see what modern-day Holmes and Watson will do next.

Crown of Midnight raises the bar in the Throne of Glass series to a new high

Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2) by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Now I’ve hit my good reads target for 2017 I needed to have another focus to drive my reading till the end of the year and so I’m now trying to get through as many books in series I’ve started before the end of the year to try and increase my completed sets of series before the year is out. Having just started Throne of Glass a few weeks ago I decided now was the ideal time to delve back in and read Crown of Midnight, the second book in the series, before I forgot too much about it.

I enjoyed Throne of Glass and the story of Celeana Sardothien, the girl assassin who won the competition to become the King’s Champion and his trained killer. Picking up immediately after the end of Throne of Glass we follow Celeana as she begins her new job and the demands the king makes upon her to dispatch his ‘enemies’ on his behalf. All is not as it seems though as Celeana is struggling with the job as she begins to find that those she is sent to kill are not bad people but simply those who are trying their best to stop the power hungry King of Adarlan’s ongoing monopoly of their lands and the death and destruction his power brings.

Struggling with her conscience we follow Celeana as she continues to build her friendships back in the Glass Castle. She is growing closer to the Head of the King’s Guard, Chaol, and their feelings are moving towards something more than just friendship. Her best friend, Princess Nehemia, is helping her to understand the terror’s that face her people now the King of Adarlan has taken over their lands and finally she is trying to stay away from the Crown Prince Dorian who she doesn’t want to lead into danger through a close relationship with her.

This book was absolutely non-stop action. From the very first chapters it had me gripped. I liked Throne of Glass but Crown of Midnight really raised the bar on this series for me. I hadn’t grasped what the hype around this series was really all about till I read this second instalment. Whereas book one spent quite a bit of time world building and had lots of characters who came in and then left again as part of the competition to find the King’s Champion in Crown of Midnight we have a more tight knit cast, most of whom we have met before and we are all about expanding their stories and knitting them all together more.

This book was a reasonable read, at about 440 something pages but I read it in just over a day, sitting up to the small hours of the morning finishing it because I literally could not put it down. Every time I thought I’d caught my breath and it was calming down it would be off again in another direction full speed ahead. It has magic and mystery from the first book and we continue to explore the mysterious Wyrdmarks and how they link to the world of the past and present. We have a kick-ass heroine who is amazing to read about because you almost never quite know what she is going to do, you just know that it will be awesome. There is backstabbing and intrigue in the court of Adarlan, questions over who can be trusted and who cannot and that is one of my favourite aspects of the books. Finally there is a wonderful romantic element with the ongoing relationships Celeana has with both Chaol and Dorian.

The book ends with a really stunning revelation which sets up book 3 wonderfully and raises the excitement levels for what will happen next. It gives us a glimpse that the next instalment will expand the world even further and introduce even more aspects and characters than we’ve had before, including some Fae!

This book was really good, I liked it so much more than book 1, it hit all the points I needed it to and reassured me that this series does have the potential to live up to A Court of Thorns & Roses. It is a thoroughly deserved 5 out of 5 stars for this one.

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A fulfilling conclusion to Ahdieh’s Arabian adventure in The Rose & The Dagger

The Rose & the Dagger (The Wrath & The Dawn #2) by Renee Ahdieh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This year I’ve tried hard to really focus on completing series when I’ve started them. I’ve so far managed to blitz through around 6 sets this year and I was keen to complete The Wrath & The Dawn duology by Renee Ahdieh as well. Having really enjoyed the first book I was really keen to see how they would continue the wonderful Arabian story in The Rose & The Dagger.

The second book picks up very quickly after the end of The Wrath & The Dawn with Khalid trying to rebuild his broken city of Rey and Shazi having been taken to safety by Tariq to a settlement in the desert where she has been reunited with her sister and father. Tariq is still working with his uncle and the head of the desert tribes to try and overthrow Shazi’s husband who is still greatly misunderstood for killing his brides each night after their weddings. Shazi has been the only one to survive and Tariq is disappointed that his true love has fallen in love with another.

I found the first 100 pages of this book a little slow to get going, the chapters would flit between Khalid and Shaharzad and we really miss them being together and the sparks that would fly when they were. The initial chapters though are forgotten once the action does get going. We have so much going on, lots of new characters and romances and relationships and some really jaw-dropping OMG moments that keep you glued. Once the action was underway I flew through the last chapters, scared to take my eyes off the page in case I missed anything. There is magic, betrayal, true love, grief and loss and it makes for a wonderful end to this duology.

Again the atmosphere of the world Ahdieh builds jumps off the page in spades. Whilst there are lots of unfamiliar words for the different clothes, weapons and cultural references to the Arabian world in which this book is set it doesn’t detract from the enjoyment. Instead, it brings a really exotic flavour and a world in which I could spend all day.

I couldn’t recommend this book, or the duology as a whole any higher. It’s been a really fun journey and because these books have quite a different setting I have a feeling they will linger with me for some time to come.

An explosive start to the Throne of Glass series

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1) by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having read and loved the Court of Thorns & Roses novels by Sarah J. Maas and with it being around a year till we can expect the next installment from that series I decided that in the meantime I should try the other series from this wonderful author, Throne of Glass. I’ve heard lots about this series as well and the reviews are very positive so with that in mind I started off the series with this first novel in what is an ongoing and developing story, Book 6 having just been released this week.

The first thing that struck me about this book was the absolute no nonsense delving into the story, right from the first page the story kicks off with Assassin Celeana being taken to meet the Crown Prince who is looking for someone to be his Champion in a contest his father the King is holding to find someone to fulfil the role of Royal Assassin. In this contest, she must compete against a variety of thieves, murderers, professional soldiers and other Assassins to win her freedom from the mines where she is currently a prisoner. This story is Celeana’s fight to win each round of the competition and to ensure that she never has to return to the brutal mines at Endovier again where she knows she will die.

The essence of this story is Celeana’s relationships with the people she meets in the royal palace, the Head of the Kings Guards Chaol who mentors her through the competition and helps her train, her relationship with the Prince, Dorian who she is building a close relationship with which could turn to more than just friendship. The other contestants in the competition, a foreign Princess in the palace who as a political pawn is trying to cope with the wrongs done to the people in her country by the King. Against this backdrop, people are being murdered in vicious circumstances and Celeana is scared she may be next.

I loved this book. I liked the sheer range of characters, there are so many we are introduced to in this novel that I’m sure we are going to learn more about through the series that you feel you can forgive Maas for not exploring all of them in depth at this stage. I like that we have a love triangle setting itself up that you cannot quite decide on which side of to fall. You want to root for both sides. Celeana is a kick ass lead character, she is feisty and strong and intelligent. You want her to succeed and we are sure that there are lots of stories still to explore about her past. I really enjoyed the introduction of paranormal elements to the story, the demons and fight against good and evil during the final duel.

I am excited to see where this story takes us next. Having read Court of Thorns & Roses and its expanding world I know how capable Maas is of building stories that are all encompassing and I can see a great deal of potential in this world and its history and the development of its future. I gave this one a 4 out of 5 stars because I have a feeling the best is yet to come.

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A magical book full of Eastern Promise and beautiful romance

The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath & The Dawn #1) by Renee Ahdieh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I was young I always loved the fairy tale Aladdin because the setting of the Far Eastern world seemed so exotic and colourful and full of life. I loved the Disney adaptation and think that to this day it remains one of my favourite Disney musicals of all time. To find a book set in this wonderful fairy tale setting is exciting and to then find it is loosely based on the tales of Scheherazade’s A Thousand And One Nights is even more so.

The Wrath And The Dawn is the first book in Renee Ahdieh’s Wrath & The Dawn duology and follows Shaharzad, a 16-year-old girl who chooses to marry the King. Under normal circumstances, this would be every young girl’s dream but this King has been taking a new bride every night and his brides always meet the same fate, killed as the dawn rises the day after their marriage. Shahrazad’s best friend Shiva is one of the brides that Khalid has killed and Shazi marries him for one reason, to kill him and gain her revenge for the death of her friend.

Shazi begins to realise that this King whom everyone hates is hiding a secret, the real reason why he is killing these young women and as she begins to get to know him she finds herself doing the unthinkable and falling in love with the man she had set out to kill. There begins a love that encompasses them both but which could put their whole kingdom in jeopardy.

This book was just wonderful right from the outset. There are lots of new words and descriptions for the old Eastern weapons and dress but once you become familiar with them you are transported to this beautiful world full of spice and colour and beauty. Ahdieh manages to bring this to life and really pulls you into the atmosphere of the novel and it feels like true escapism. If I put the book down I couldn’t wait to get back to it so I could enjoy being in that world for a while instead of Scotland in what has been a cold, wet, windy summer.

We meet a wonderful cast of characters, Jalal the cousin of Khalid and Captain of his Guard, Despina the handmaiden of Shazi who is initially sent to spy on her but who becomes her close friend and confidante. Tariq, the childhood friend and love of Shazi who sets out to rescue her from the palace the fate that has befallen all the other brides of the Caliph. Ahdieh spins a wonderful tale, we know that Khalid hides a secret but we aren’t given this too early on in the novel so this means that the relationship built between Shazi and Khalid feels built upon their real feelings for each other despite the uncertainty Shazi faces about her future.

The ending leaves things wide open as we don’t arrive at a neat conclusion but instead we have a cliffhanger that will lead us into book 2, The Rose & The Dagger which I cannot wait to read. I find duologies are often really nice as 2 books is a good number that means you get to spend a good long time with characters that you love without having to commit to lots and lots of novels. I am excited to add this to my completed duology list of 2017.

This is absolutely one of my 5 star reads this month as it’s a book that was entierly different in setting from lots of books available and a unique take on old fairy tales.

A missing person thriller from Emily Barr, did she keep her story on track or did it go off the rails?

The Sleeper by Emily Barr
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Emily Barr is an author I used to read very regularly several years ago but after finding a lull in her story lines I had taken a break for a while and it was only when I saw The Sleeper advertised that I felt I wanted to try one again. The cover and the story outline on the jacket grabbed my attention and drew me in.

This is the story of Lara and her husband Sam, they have relocated from London to Cornwall in a bid to slow life down and start a family but after IVF has failed and their savings have run out Lara finds that actually she isn’t fulfilled by her marriage and she craves escape from her quiet domestic life in Cornwall and agrees to take a job in London, to which she will travel each Monday by sleeper train and return each Friday by the same method. Her husband Sam doesn’t want her to go, preferring to have her close by but Lara persuades him and she begins a 6-month contract in the city.

Some months later she finds herself loving life away from her husband, she likes the challenges of her job, the big city life and most of all she has found herself a lover Guy, a fellow traveller on the weekly sleeper train. She is suddenly making plans to leave her husband and begin a new life with Guy, just as soon as they both tell their respective spouses. Before they have the chance, however, Guy’s body is found on board the sleeper train and Lara has vanished and everyone is left with no other conclusion than she must be responsible for his death. The only person who seems to think Lara isn’t responsible is her quiet, introverted neighbour Iris who has only met Lara a few times but has reason to suspect her friend was hiding secrets in her past that may explain her disappearance.

This book was a really difficult one to immerse myself in initially and that is because I didn’t particularly like Lara at the outset. She is portrayed, I found, as a selfish individual. She has a loving and attentive husband who is providing her with a wonderful lifestyle and yet she doesn’t seem happy, she is chasing escape from him and intends on doing so whether or not he wants her to. Once she begins her commute to London she almost finds him an inconvenience that she has to deal with each weekend, putting on a front and pretending to be happy. She has fractured relationships with almost everyone in her life and family and at times I found her personal skills to be somewhat lacking. She seems devoid of emotion and I didn’t enjoy the first section of the book because I just couldn’t gel with her at all. From the point where she if offered the job in London to the point she disappears the book is told firmly from her perspective and this meant there was no escaping her.

Moving into the second section of the book we move to Iris as the narrator as she takes on the mystery of who murdered Guy, the man Lara was sleeping with and the potential explanation for where Lara has gone. Iris is a more sympathetic character but again we immediately realise things aren’t quite right. She also has a partner with whom she lives and things are clearly not well in their relationship either, she has had a lottery windfall and yet she is hiding it from her boyfriend and making plans to leave, perhaps without telling him. Her fascination with Lara and her life is unusual if not only in the fact that they had only met a handful of times and yet so convinced is she that her friend is innocent she travels to London and starts digging up Lara’s past in order to prove it. Iris is much easier to have sympathy with as a character and in this section of the book we realise the reasons for her strange relationship and find ourselves understanding her lifestyle and the need to perhaps break away from the home in which she lives.

This book really was a bit of a mixed bag, there were great points where I’d be pulled in by the narrative and the mystery and I’d be right on board, desperate to find out what was going to happen and then there were those moments I’d be scratching my head and thinking why the author had possibly thought this plot twist was a good idea. There is so much going on by the end of the book that the eventual conclusion is a bit underwhelming. It’s all so sordid and strange and inappropriate. In fact, it leaves the whole book feeling like a bit of a muddle. We had all these stories early on in the book that seem to be cast aside in favour of a new direction that we never fully go back and address some of the plot created at the start. We never pay more than a backwards glance to Lara’s poor husband nor the wife of the man killed on the train. It seems a bit of an investment on the author’s behalf to create them at all if only to ignore them later.

I wanted to love it, I wanted to say that I had rediscovered a wonderful author but instead I found that what had stopped me reading her novels was still the same issue I had with them now. In pursuit of a twisted, word wide mystery Emily Barr is still taking her plot lines a few steps too far, in their complexity she is losing the readers empathy for her heroines who are often self centered and not particularly endearing. I think it may be another while before I read her books.

 

Will Paula Hawkins second novel be as successful as her first

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book has been one of the most highly anticipated spring/summer releases this year, written by Paula Hawkins of The Girl On The Train fame it is her second novel and it’s almost as though the literary world is waiting to see can she deliver another smash hit or will it be a case of ‘one trick pony’. I read Girl On The Train fairly quickly after it’s release and whilst I enjoyed it I must confess to being surprised that it attracted as much attention as I did and that it made it all the way to movie status. I was therefore intrigued to read Into The Water to give me a second opportunity to assess the writing abilities of this new but very successful author.

This story is set in a small town next to a river and opens when the body of single mother Nel is pulled from the river, with everyone making the assumption it was most likely a suicide. A few months earlier a teenage girl from the town met a similar fate in the same river and questions remain unanswered about her death also. In fact, the river holds many secrets about the different women who have died in it over the years and this book is about their stories and the secrets the town holds about how they met their fate.

We are generally fairly used to thrillers with multiple perspectives, it is a popular format in literary fiction today but Hawkins takes this one stage further. In the first 50 pages of this book, there are literally so many characters introduced that it makes your head spin. None of the stories they are telling link together smoothly it is absolutely a snapshot of their own points of view on Nel’s death and whether it was a suicide and about what a controversial character she was in her life and the very differing opinions of her. This multiple to an excess perspective meant that it took me some time to really relax into this book, the first quarter leaves you a little confused, having to check you are beginning to place just who each character is and their links to the others. I imagine that like other lower rated reviews of this book it could be that this writing approach has meant that, like me, you are left actually not really caring what happened to Nel.

As the book progresses past the first quarter you suddenly begin to realise you are becoming more familiar with everyone, you don’t need to keep thinking so hard about it and you begin to relax more into the story. You are able to focus more on the history of the town, the dark secrets that it holds and begin to understand that there is much more that needs to be answered about Nel’s death. However, one thing that is clear is that this town is particularly disturbed. The secrets that run through it touch everyone in it and there are a lot of stories we touch upon along the way, some which evoke more sympathy than others.

I liked this book, a bit like Girl On The Train I found that the author did pull me through with her short snappy chapters. You’d sit down and say you’d read one more and suddenly you were 5 chapters later and thinking how you got there. Naturally, as this is a mystery novel I don’t want to delve too much into the plot for fear of ruining the experience for other readers but I will say that I felt the ending didn’t leave me totally fulfilled. Whilst some of the characters stories concluded nicely and we were able to see them beginning to move on, other parts left us with frustrating unresolved issues that niggled.

I have to be honest and say that I think this book is going to be one you will either really love or be like myself a little ambivalent about it. I am not sure that in a few months time it will have stuck with me. I am fairly sure that it will sell many many copies but I would put it on my ‘good but not outstanding shelf’

One of the world’s best selling thrillers ever – does it live up to the hype?

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book exploded into the bestsellers chart a few years ago and not long after it’s release I delved in and read this having heard that the movie rights had immediately been snapped up and that everyone was raving about what a sensational thriller this was.  When a book receives such endorsements it’s almost unbearable not to check out whether the hype is deserved.

This is the story of Nick & Amy, a young married city couple who have moved back to Nick’s small hometown in order to help care for his ill mother. One day, however, Amy disappears and suddenly every aspect of their marriage is under the microscope. The problem is though that Nick’s view of his marriage seems to be out of synch with what the police are finding out about Amy. Suddenly Nick is suspect number 1.

I loved the first half of this book, the way the chapters flit between Amy & Nick, exploring their marriage from two view points and this was intriguing. It built the suspense and a picture which promised a strong book. About half way through though it flipped on its head and went a little crazy. I won’t go into any specifics because it would ruin for those who haven’t read it yet but suffice to say it made the ending less than I was expecting.

Personally, I didn’t find the ending credible, it left me frustrated and the character unresolved. I found myself struggling to like Amy, she came across as spoiled and immature and not fully invested in her own marriage.  She isn’t the kind of person I would see myself getting along with and so I couldn’t find sympathy for her and that is not to say I sided with Nick but I just could not fathom that intelligent detectives and family around her couldn’t see below the surface to the story lurking beneath.

The movie has been a smash hit and a few years down the line we are now seeing a swathe of thrillers each one longing to live up to the success that this book achieved.  It seems so many thrillers today are benchmarked against this one and whilst I understand it was a sensation at the time I find it hasn’t ever been my favourite book within this genre.

An intriguing thriller from Ruth Ware but was something missing?


The Woman in Cabin 10
by Ruth Ware
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ruth Ware is a new author for me, I’d heard really good things about her first novel ‘In A Dark Dark Wood’ but haven’t as yet got around to that because when I heard the title of her newest novel ‘The Woman In Cabin 10’ I have to be honest and say I really couldn’t wait to dive into this one first.

Ware is joining the raft of female writers who are all turning their attentions to the thriller genre following the success of novels such as Gone Girl and The Girl on The Train. Having spent the last week getting through a sizeable novel I wanted a quick read that would grab my attention and have enough suspense to keep me hooked and pull me through the slump you often get after you finish a really great book. I had high hopes for The Woman In Cabin 10.

This book is the story of Lo, a magazine journalist for a travel publication who is set to join an exclusive set of guests on the maiden voyage of the boat the Aurora Borealis. The boat is owned by millionaire Richard Bullmer and Lo is attending so she can publicise the boat and hopefully gain Bullmer’s advertising input towards her magazine. Things begin to go wrong though before Lo even leaves home after her flat is broken into a few days before her departure for the cruise, this shakes her confidence and leaves her fearful and tense.

The first thing I found about this book was the exclusiveness of the boat that Lo was sent on. Only containing around 20 passengers it means we have a small cast of people to get to know. It also is described really well by Ware as she seeks to outline the luxury of the vessel and the lengths to which the staff and owners will go to please their guests. Lo, however, is woken one night by the sound of a woman’s scream from the cabin next to hers, Cabin 10, and things get more mysterious when she hears what sounds like someone being thrown overboard. She immediately informs security only to be told that everyone onboard is accounted for and the cabin next to hers is completely unoccupied and has been since the boat left port after a guest cancelled at the last minute. Lo is suddenly doubting what she heard and everyone is questioning her reliability and sanity.

Firstly with this book I have to be honest and say that I found Lo a really difficult main character to read. Whether this was a conscious decision by Ware having now read the whole book I am a little unsure. I found Lo to be quite unstable, she is often reliant upon alcohol and says early on in the book she is on medication which means that you doubt her versions of events as a reader. Also, she is meant to be on the boat as part of her job as a journalist yet she came across as enormously uninterested to me and like she wasn’t very good at her job. I wanted to give her a shake and tell her to pull herself together. I struggled with the early chapters of the book purely because she was grating on my nerves. I almost at one point was debating whether I could read a whole book from her perspective.

Secondly, I have to reflect upon the hints of similarity to Agatha Christie, the set up of this book reminded me a little of the Queen of Murder. The small exclusive set of guests, many wealthy and them all being stranded offshore on a floating luxury hotel whilst someone witnesses a murder really did initially have tones of Christies writing about them. Whilst this wasn’t fully explored and only lasted through the first chapters of the book it did make me think that Ware was possibly more skilled than I gave her credit for and was one of the reasons I began to wonder if instead of writing an annoying main character on purpose she did so to add to the suspense of the novel.

The second half of this novel is much more engaging than the first, the tension ramps up quite quickly and I read pretty solidly the last 100 pages in a few hours without wanting to tear myself away. There are snippets of emails and communications from Lo’s family and friends at home between sections of the book which add to the questions surrounding the mystery onboard and help to raise the tension. I also worried as we neared the end that the conclusion was going to be a little uninspiring but the last few pages of the book manage to redeem it and add an additional twist that you aren’t quite expecting and give a sense of fulfillment and conclusion to the story.

I liked the book, I wouldn’t say it’s the best thriller I’ve read and I found it a good enough read to now try another of the authors novels but I’m still to be convinced as to her calibre of writing in comparison to others in this genre at the moment hence my rating of only 3 stars.