The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware


Since writing Monday’s post about the mediocre year in book publishing, I finally have a winner. Three cheers and all that!

I read Ruth Ware’s debut novel In a Dark, Dark Wood earlier this year and even though it was so completely preposterous, I thought it was great. Reese Witherspoon even scooped it up for an upcoming film.

Ware’s writing was great and she certainly knows how to keep a reader turning pages, so I was extremely excited when her newest was released. I read this one in two days. I couldn’t put it down and read it into the night to see how it finally ended.

Its premise was reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes and 4:50 From Paddington by Agatha Christiein that a woman–an unreliable narrator for a number of reasons–witnesses a crime that no one believes. There is no body and the more and more she digs, the more the other characters disbelieve her. She is labeled hysterical.

There have been more of these novels–that I dub the women who know too much–probably since the popularity of Gone, Girl. It was a fine read (I was certainly like everyone else on the subway that summer with my nose in the book), but it is the lesser of them all.

Crime and thriller are genres I enjoy when done extremely well. It’s unfair to see excellent books pigeon-holed into a genre ghetto instead of celebrated as literature. Why are we punishing financially successful books?

With that said, there are PLENTY of crap crime books and thrillers. Like all genre, some times the plot synopsis pitch is more interesting the actual composed sentences and for some reason, it is sadly a genre inundated with terrible writing. If a reader is able to find the gems, they will surely be rewarded.

I argue that all books are mystery books. If there is no question the author proposes that needs to be investigated in some way, what’s the point?

Besides The Woman in Cabin 10, I devoured Megan Abbott’s newest title You Will Know Me. Abbott is a stunning writer and I reviewed her book The Fever here a couple of years ago.


The Woman in Cabin 10 follows travel writer Lo Blacklock on a week-long luxury cruise. She is invited for the maiden voyage, along with other people in the business: writers, photographers, investors. The idea is that they will drum up publicity for future voyages. After her apartment is burgled the previous week while she was inside, her nerves are shot, she’s not sleeping well, and when she’s assigned next to a room on the ship that is supposedly empty, everything really goes sideways.

She speaks with a young woman in cabin 10 that no one on the ship seems to know exists. Late one night, Lo hears a loud noise and then what she presumes to be a body go overboard. Blood is smeared on the veranda glass door, but when she returns with the head of security, it’s gone. Of course no one believes her, because, you know, she’s an hysterical woman.

I don’t know how Ruth Ware did it (or how Megan Abbott does it in her novels), but the writing is spot on and the story makes you forgo sleep.

This one was far less absurd than her debut novel. One thing that I’m able to track in these novels is that the authors are able to believably hold back information. They don’t withhold just to withhold and the information, when revealed, doesn’t feel like a convenient bombshell. Also, like aforementioned, they’re actually good writers.

Has anyone else read The Woman in Cabin 10 or any of the other mentioned books? I’m always looking for recommendations. Tana French was once recommended, and while I enjoyed her first book In the Woods, when I went on to her second book, I couldn’t finish it because it was truly awful. Thoughts?


A Year of Mediocre Books

A photo by Lacie Slezak.

True, the year is still not up, but I have concluded long ago, that the publishing schedule for major houses was a dud. Yes, there were a few good reads, but when I look back at my reading list, I find that many were did not finish. I have been told in the past, however, that I can be hard to please when it comes to reading, but I mostly believe that, my reading preferences aside, this year marked a year of mediocre books.

I haven’t written much on the blog these months, sadly, and I owe this mostly to 1) I am working on a wonderful project with a co-editor: a literary magazine that we are so very proud of and 2) the books that I have read have been uninspired.

To remedy this, I’ve received a couple of imaginative galleys, chucked everything dull to the side and took out a huge stack from the library, and also, ordered a couple of books from the UK that are not available or won’t be available stateside for a while.

I am very excited for these reads! How has your year of reading been? Hopefully, better than mine. I find that my brain is more stimulated, I feel less anxious, and my writing improves when I am reading a great book.

Here are some that I have on deck:


His Bloody Project
“A brutal triple murder in a remote Scottish farming community in 1869 leads to the arrest of seventeen-year-old Roderick Macrae. There is no question that Macrae committed this terrible act. What would lead such a shy and intelligent boy down this bloody path? And will he hang for his crime?”

“Foxlowe is a crumbling old house in the moors—a wild, secluded, and magical place. For Green, it is not just home, but everything she knows… At Foxlowe, the Family shares everything. Outside, the Bad is everywhere. At Foxlowe, everyone in the Family is safe…”



“As boys, George, the son of a Midlands vicar, and Arthur, living in shabby genteel Edinburgh, find themselves in a vast and complex world at the heart of the British Empire. Years later—one struggling with his identity in a world hostile to his ancestry, the other creating the world’s most famous detective while in love with a woman who is not his wife–their fates become inextricably connected.”

“An atmospheric debut novel about a woman who discovers the century-old remains of a murder victim on her family’s Scottish estate, plunging her into an investigation of its mysterious former occupants.”

“It is the story of Lilith, born into slavery on a Jamaican sugar plantation at the end of the eighteenth century. Even at her birth, the slave women around her recognize a dark power that they- and she-will come to both revere and fear. The Night Women, as they call themselves, have long been plotting a slave revolt, and as Lilith comes of age they see her as the key to their plans.”

“A biting satire about a young man’s isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court, Paul Beatty’s The Sellout showcases a comic genius at the top of his game. It challenges the sacred tenets of the United States Constitution, urban life, the civil rights movement, the father-son relationship, and the holy grail of racial equality―the black Chinese restaurant.”

Hauntingly Beautiful: Ghosts, Ghouls, & Good Books

Christmas is almost upon us and for some reason the spooky feeling we all crave during October somehow vanishes beneath all of the holiday card glitter. But not for me, I say! (and I’m sure there are plenty of you out there that agree; I might not be commenting lately, but I’m still reading my favorite bookish blogs; I know what you people like.)

I’m one of those people that always has many tabs open in their browser. I can’t quite close the two that show this pseudonymous photographer’s new work of derelict houses called Hauntingly Beautiful. I saw a quick clip on the BBC that’s worth a watch, along with a few of his photos on his website.



Although, Nina at Multo (Ghost) has fantastic folklore and spooky content year-round, she has been posting her annual Winter Tales: ghosts, haunted houses, and creatures abound. She kicks off this year’s with Number Ninety


The graphic novel Three Shadows has been sitting on my night stand for far too long, but I’m hoping that the long weekend will free up some time to give to it,

“Three shadows stand outside the house – and Louis and Lise know why the spectral figures are there. The shadows have come for Louis and Lise’s son, and nothing anyone can do will stop them. Louis cannot let his son die without trying to prevent it, so the family embarks on a journey to the ends of the earth, fleeing death.”


Many thanks to everyone who read and recommended some really great podcasts from my last post. I immediately began investigating (and subsequently binged listened) all of the ones listed. Even after listening to the creepy podcasts recommended, I did some internet sleuthing and loaded up my podcruncher with even more based on the comment recs. Here’s a quick rundown for those interested,

  • The Black Tapes Podcast
  • Tanis
  • Limetown
  • The Message
  • Knifepoint Horror
  • Criminal
  • The Leviathan Chronicles*
  • Imaginary Worlds*
  • Wormwood: A Serialized Mystery*
  • The NoSleep Podcast*
  • 99% Invisible (okay, maybe not exclusively spooky, but Helen recommended the Ouija episode)

*These are queued up but haven’t had a chance to listen.

***Also, for Spotify users, did you know they have loads of audiobooks, radioplays, etc. I recently listened to Christopher Lee read Dracula.


I am sure everyone has a Goodreads account that is ever growing and shaming you for not being even close to catching up to it. I’ve recently added 3 titles.

Short blurbs excerpted from Goodreads,

  • The Girl From the Well: A dead girl walks the streets. She hunts murderers. Child killers, much like the man who threw her body down a well three hundred years ago.
  • The Screaming Staircase: When the dead come back to haunt the living, Lockwood & Co. step in . . .For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts.
  • The Ghost Hunters: Welcome to Borley Rectory, the most haunted house in England. The year is 1926 and Sarah Grey has landed herself an unlikely new job – personal assistant to Harry Price, London’s most infamous ghost hunter.


Woohoo! I think I am officially tapped out of spooky offerings for deep December. For those, who are too full from eating to even consider reading–really?–there is always the horror-comedy Krampus.

Reading & Chatting at the Bridge Series

bridgeYesterday was all rain and chill in New York City. So what better way to spend a damp evening than to go to The Bridge Series event hosted by Goethe Insitut. The Bridge Series “is the first independent reading and discussion series in New York City devoted to literary translation.”

I was pleasantly surprise. I can be a tough critique when it comes to readings (meaning, normally they are incredibly boring). But these translators chose mighty fine selections and their discussion after the reading was quite interesting. The translators included Ross Benjamin, Isabel Fargo Cole, Tess Lewis, and Tim Mohr. All four are working from German to English.

The standout of this whole event was how exciting all of the selections were. If they are not already released, the novels will be available very soon this year in the US (the UK already has some available in translation). Also, for any Kafka aficionados out there, Ross Benjamin is currently working on a translation of Kafka’s complete Diaries.

There were two questions that most peaked my interest. The first being, what happens if the author includes a blatant error in the original. An example given was an author writing about New York City had listed Gansevoort Street as being down near the World Trade Center (when in reality, it is over west in the Meatpacking District). The original author did this because he liked the sound of the name. It was convenient that he is a contemporary author because the translator was able to discuss this point with him and it was subsequently corrected in the translation. But whether or not such a mistake should be corrected was discussed further with one of the most notorious errors: Frank Kafka putting a sword in the hand of the Statue of Liberty in his work, Amerika. 

The second question was about how contemporary German literature (and foreign lit as a whole) has changed recently and how does that apply to translating. The translators hit upon the fact that many references are no longer solely Germany/Austria/Switzerland based. They also incorporate many North American trends and concepts. The translators didn’t weigh on whether they thought this was a good or bad thing but they did note that they didn’t have to look up as many culture reference anymore.

All in all, I was delighted to go to last night’s Bridge Series. I recommend it. Not only do they cover German literature but other languages as well. You can visit their website for more information.

Renata Adler! The Center for Fiction! Books…Books!

adlerBack in January, I declared, “You must read this book now. Right now. This very second.” Renata Adler’s book, Speedboat, is one of my favorite books of all time. I always nominate this book when people ask for recommendations, but then it would pain me to add but it’s out of print! But not anymore. Grab up a beautiful copy from the New York Review of Books where they are having a special discount of 20% off right now.

But anyhoo, I was one of the lucky souls that was able to grab a seat at the incredibly packed Center for Fiction last night. Adler was there to read a few excerpts from Speedboat and Pitch Dark, followed by an interesting Q&A where she discussed writing the two novels, her time as a staff writer at the New Yorker, amongst other topics. Adler was quick and witty and the entire audience loved her. I even brought a couple of lovely friends who were visiting from Germany who had heard all of my fellow New York writerly friends and me kvell about Renata Adler and Speedboat. Beforehand, we all bought books. I have never read Pitch Dark and I can’t wait to get started. My German friends are so excited to begin Speedboat.

After the talk, Renata Adler signed everyone’s books. I told her about the class I taught a few years ago to undergrads and how much they enjoyed her book. She wanted to know what other books were taught in the class, too. When I told her Philip K. Dick, she replied back saying she really needed to read him.

If you were unable to attend yesterday evening’s event, the Center for Fiction posted a recent interview they conducted with her. A favorite snippet is when she talks about the process of writing her novels (which are not in any traditional structure),

Oh, I always shuffle. And there, the computer is just a disaster because the only thing I’ve ever been compulsively neat about is typing. I type with two fingers, and so I would always make a mistake near the end of the page, and since White Out is no use, I would throw the thing out and start again at the beginning. Then along came the computer and I thought it was going to help because you can move everything around all the time and you can change every sentence 50 different ways in seconds. But that’s exactly what I don’t want, because then what was doing? If the computer can shift everything in a split-second, then what am I doing here? That’s what I used to do so carefully. One of the things that’s almost comically a problem is AutoCorrect, and what AutoCorrect thinks I’m saying.

Free Podcasts from the Writers Guild of America, East

Through iTunes, the Writers Guild of America, East has made available many free podcasts.

Here’s Boardwalk Empire showrunner Terence Winter discussing the merits of premium cable with Denis Leary,co-creator and star of Rescue Me. There’s Tony Award–winning playwright John Guare explaining the challenges and rewards of adapting work from stage to screen. From 90-second clips to hour-long panel discussions,WGAE’s iTunes U site provides entertaining and educational media for any artist, writer or aficionado.

While perusing through their listings, I noticed podcasts discussing such topics as Writing NY: How the Big Apple Inspires and Informs the Movies, Reflections on Adaptation, and many other components of writing. Although, these podcast have more to do with television & film writing, I thought this could be quite interesting. They offer podcasts on mistakes to avoid, marketing yourself, and chat with successful playwrights and screenwriters.

Also while clicking around in iTunes, I came across some other free podcasts that might be of some interest,

  • Film Forum, not solely writing but can offer some interesting discussions from filmmakers
  • University of Warwick, hear writers read their own work along with discussions and notes

Festival Neue Literatur 2013

The annual Festival Neue Literatur has announced the featured authors for this year’s festivities. Every February in New York City, the festival brings together six writers hailing from Austria, Switzerland, and Germany with the intent of offering interesting discussions and readings along with enhancing the visibility of these contemporary writers to an American market. With our dearth of foreign novels in this country, FNL can be an exciting time to learn about new authors.

This year’s events take place during 22-24 February and all are free and open to the public (however, a couple do require an emailed RSVP, so check the website for details). These events have filled up in the past; last year, most notably was NYU Deutsches Haus’ brunch. I heard they had to turn people away because there was no room.

Events are held all around the city. For the complete listings, check their website. You can also find information on the authors, moderators & curators, sample translated texts and more. Enjoy!

Santaland Diaries read by David Sedaris

Hearing David Sedaris read his excerpt about his time working as an elf at Macy’s during the holiday season is one I never tire of. Regardless of what you do on the 25 December, make sure you at least listen to the wonderful anecdotes of Sedaris as Crumpet the Elf dressed in “green velvet knickers, a forest green velvet smock and a perky little hat decorated with spangles.” Available through NPR. Enjoy!

Argos Books at The Oracle Club

This weekend, I had the pleasure of catching Argos Books‘ celebration of their most recently released chapbooks. The lovely and talented editors held their little shindig at the The Oracle Club which deserves its own post all together. Four readers read from the new books and each had such engaging poems. Two of the chapbooks also were in collaboration with visual artists that offered stunning images to accompany the words. Argos always produces lovely books; besides the words and images, the books themselves are outstanding pieces of art. They are hand-sewn and whenever I pick one up, I just want to touch every inch of the cover and pages. The reading itself was brief which was perfect. The poets kept the audience engaged and each one of them brought a different aesthetic to the event.

Another aspect of Argos that I love is that they take a special interest in publishing works-in-translation. They have a side by side series that offers both the original text and the new translation. They are working hard to bring writers that haven’t been published before in English to a wider audience. The editors at Argos are especially interested in this because of their own personal translation endeavors (one of the lovely Argos ladies works on translating from Swedish!).

Hearing them introduce each poet just showed how passionate they are about their writers and why they chose to publish them. They have a real appreciation and regard for the texts and I hope this small presse can continue producing big things.

Circumference is back!

After a two year hiatus, the once-defunct journal is back in action. On Friday night, the editors of Circumference held a re-launch party in Brooklyn at A Public Space. Circumference is a bi-annual journal of poetry in translation. The fantastic readers that evening included Stefania Heim, Idra Novey, Matthew Rohrer, and Eliot Weinberger.

It was exciting to hear this lively group of translators/writers and it was also equally, if not exceedingly, exciting to see the enthusiasm of the new editorial team. The re-launch party was also held to celebrate their new website which offers great information about the journal and upcoming events, as well as articles, podcasts, etc. concerneing translation. The new Circumference is headed up by two of the founding editors of the literary press, Argos Books.

The quality of writing in Circumference is tip-top. An annual subscription in the US is $10 and an international subscription is $15. You can’t beat that.