What I'm Reading – the Woman in Cabin 10

I’ve always been a little idiosyncratic in what I read. Some YA, of course. A lot of contemporary fiction. Romance novels. Not much nonfiction. Mainly I’m looking for stories that carry me away, ones where reading doesn’t feel like work.

Lately I’ve been enjoying a lot of crime fiction. I think it’s the formula that appeals to me. There’s a crime. Someone tries to solve the crime. Usually, but not always, some form of justice is served. Unlike a lot of “general” fiction, I know what I’m getting into. Like most genre fiction. Crime fiction also has the ability to surprise readers, to go in a variety of directions within the structures.

All of this is to say I’m just starting to figure out what I like to read within the large world of crime fiction. Nothing too freaky, or I’ll never sleep. And I don’t want to read sensationalized violence against women. But crime fiction done well is a treat.

The Woman in Cabin 10, by Ruth Ware, has gotten a lot of buzz, following her previous title, In a Dark, Dark Wood, which I haven’t read. (And full disclosure, I received an ARC of The Woman in Cabin 10 from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, but am just now getting around to reviewing it, even though the book was released a few weeks ago.) It’s a classic locked room mystery, taking place on an elegant, refined yacht, which also manages to be confining and claustrophobic.

The woman in cabin 10 has gone overboard. Or has she? Lo Blacklock, travel writer, has to first determine whether or not a crime was actually committed, given the fact that no one’s been reported missing on board after the ship has gone to sea. Was the struggle and splash that Lo heard in the cabin next door real? Or a figment of her imagination? As Lo struggles to determine which of the guests might be friend and which foe, she edges closer to a trap – and a watery prison from which she might not escape.

Recommended – 4 stars.

O is for…Outdoors

20150417_134725First, how are you all doing? You okay? I’ve been writing a lot lately and we’re still not all the way through the alphabet. So thanks for staying with me. And welcome to all the new visitors, too!

I was going to write about output today, but then it turned into the most perfect spring day imaginable so I jettisoned all my plans in favor of the great outdoors. On my long afternoon walk, I hashed out a ton of plot points and world building. I’m taking another stab at Some Flew North, tearing down (almost) all the walls and building it up even better and stronger. My goal is to start writing by the beginning of summer. I’m using the next month and a half to outline the book, which involves creating and then trying to solve a whole bunch of issues. Oh, fantasy novels, you are so fun and so frustrating to write.

Anyway, being outdoors has always boosted my writing. I take walks when I’m stuck or need to reflect on my work. I write outdoors (or close to it) whenever I can, usually on my screen porch. There’s something about the ambient noise of birds, wind chimes and the thud of the neighbors’ car doors that provides enough distraction so I can focus on writing.

Enjoy some pictures of blooming things!

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The Amethyst Shield contest entry

Ready for a quick, enticing read?  Here’s my second entry for the Build Creative Writing Ideas 1,000 Prompts, 1,000 Dollars Writing Contest.

The Amethyst Shield

Julie Gilbert

Her feet danced over knotted tree roots as she ducked under a pine branch.  It was humid in the forest but she pulled the hood of her cloak tight to keep the whining mosquitoes away from her ears.  The path branched ahead.  She kept along the ridge, her soft-soled boots noiseless on last year’s leaves.  She planned to descend at the stream and double back to the campsite.  This time she would surprise him.

“I could hear you half a mile away,” Runyon said as she stole into the clearing.  He didn’t bother to roll over.

“Not possible,” she told the flat planes of his back.

“A third of a mile, then.  You shouldn’t have taken the ridge.”

“How did you know I took the ridge?” she asked, crouching next to him and peeling back the bandage.  The wound was festering.

“Vibrations,” he murmured, a yawn splitting his face.  Strands of copper hair fell over his forehead.  With his eyes closed, he looked like one of the young cousins who were always underfoot at Fendrake.  She forgot sometimes that he was only a few years older than she.

“The student is only as good as the teacher,” she said, opening the sack of items she had stolen from the marketplace.

“Good gods, are you making a joke, Alene?  I never thought I’d live to see the day.”  He grunted and pushed himself up on an elbow.  “I still not might live if these herbs don’t work.  You got the ones I specified?”

“Yes,” she said, wiping away the last of the old poultice.  “The knightsweed was the hardest to find.”

“Let me see.”

Once Runyon nodded his approval, Alene set about mixing a new concoction.  He hissed in pain when she laid it on the gash that cut across his ribs.

“I wish you would let me try using my kalain to heal you,” she said, flexing her fingers as if she was about to summon her magic.

He grabbed her wrist, his hand a manacle.  His eyes burned bright into hers.

“Kalain always leaves a trace.  If you use it, Bathal will find you.”  He let her go and sank back onto the bedroll.  “As far as we can tell, your magic isn’t for healing, anyway.”

“What is it for?” she ventured.  He shrugged, which didn’t surprise her.  They’d exhausted this topic of conversation in the first few weeks after escaping Fendrake.  Runyon had spent time with the Keth’roi but he didn’t have kalain of his own, and while Alene was Keth’roi, she was untrained.

She bandaged the wound, her dark fingers contrasting against his white skin.  When she finished, she leaned against a trunk and started taking down her coil of braids.  She had also stolen some coconut oil, newly imported from Freehold, and began working it into her hair.  The motion was hypnotic, and soon she was drifting.

“Who are my sweet babies?” a voice hummed in her mind, the affection so strong Alene felt like she could touch it.

A tangle of brown arms and legs scampered over thick carpets as she and Deena chased a ginger kitten.  Their shrieks of laughter reverberated off the stone walls as the kitten leaped to the highest shelf.  Their mother cradled them in her strong arms, her black hair a puffy corona around her head.  She held their hands and made light dance on their palms, her kalain like kisses.  The scent of cedar-infused candles permeated the tower room of Fendrake, far above the cousins circling and plotting like hungry wolves in the gatehouse below.

“They will not hurt you,” their mother whispered.  Alene always wondered if her mother knew it was a lie.

The coconut oil jar rolled out of Alene’s lap, her earliest memories fleeing as she jolted awake.  Tears streamed down her face.  She batted them away, even though Runyon was asleep.  Alene turned her back on him and centered her breath.  She summoned a trickle of energy down her arms.  Soon the trickle was a river and sapphire light glowed from her hands.  The color always surprised her.  Even though they were twins, Deena’s kalain had been amethyst.  An eruption of amethyst light had been the last thing Alene saw as Bathal brought the knife down on her sister’s throat and the shield sprung up around Fendrake.

The sapphire light sparked and sputtered like a wet fire.  A blue tongue singed her trousers.  Her mother had told them that they should never be ashamed of their kalain, even though they needed to keep it secret.  That was before Bathal rose to power and showed Alene that having kalain would get her killed, just like Deena.

Alene clenched her hands and smothered her magic.

Word Count: 787

For this piece, I used the first prompt on the Memory page.  Once again, learn more about the 1,000 Prompts, 1,000 Dollars Writing Contest here.