Thursday, August 27, 2015

Review: In the Dark Places by Peter Robinson

In the Dark Places (Inspector Banks, Book #22)
by Peter Robinson
Release Date: August 11th 2015
2015 William Morrow
Ebook Edition; 336 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062240545

Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

It's a double mystery: two young men have vanished, and the investigation leads to two troubling clues in two different locations.

As Inspector Banks and his team scramble for answers, the inquiry takes an even darker turn when a truck careens off an icy road in a freak hailstorm. In the wreckage, rescuers find the driver, who was killed on impact, as well as another corpse . . . that of someone who was dead well before the crash.

Snow falls. The body count rises. And Banks, perceptive and curious as ever, feels himself being drawn deeper into a web of crime . . . and at its center something—or someone—dark and dangerous lying in wait.

My Thoughts
In the Dark Places, originally published in January 2014 as Abattoir Blues, is the twenty-second novel in the Inspector Banks Series.  I enjoyed this one far more than the previous novel, and I continue to like the fact that the author wastes no time getting into the story, relying on your own knowledge of previous events and characters so there is no long drawn-out explanation of characters and events and why people are behaving the way they are. There is this acceptance that you already know what is going on, and it's left at that.  

As always, it's the development of the characters that continues to draw me into this series.  The author creates characters with many different types of personality quirks and that keeps them interesting, considering this is now book 22 in the series.  In this book, Inspector Banks takes a bit of a backseat role and the author allows some of the other characters to shine; team member DS Winsome Jackman took over in this scenario and it was great to get to know her a bit better.  Perhaps the author will allow the new relationship she develops in this novel to grow and it is definitely something I would love to see happen.  As always, I enjoy Annie Cabbot's view on things as she is far more prickly and sensitive to people and situations; she also seems to be developing a softer side which is kind of interesting.  

The mystery itself though, was intelligent and well-crafted.  It's a nice break from some of the so-called suspense novels that are full of car chases and stuff that is blown up continuously as you don't see any of that kind of thing in here.  The characters are just plain, simple folk who got caught up in events that spiraled out of hand and didn't know who to turn to when they needed help.  Perhaps they crossed a line or two, then realized things were much bigger and more serious than they understood and didn't know how to get out of their situation.  In this case, the events had to do with the illegal abattoirs (slaughterhouses) as well as the illegal transport of farming equipment out of the United Kingdom.  There were many threads to this story, and I liked how the author used police procedural to pull all of them together in the end; all of it done through hard work by the detectives and investigative work which is why this series draws me back time and again.  

In the Dark Places is an intelligent mystery that can definitely be read as a stand-alone.  It must be said however, that if you are squeamish, you might want to give this one great thought before reading it as it made even me consider becoming vegetarian, and I don't eat a lot of red meat to begin with.  The descriptions of the abattoirs add a unique and necessary element to this mystery, but they're not for everyone.  The dialogue is witty and the development of the characters continues along nicely, although I don't think Banks new amour will last too much longer.  I'm actually glad to see Winsome stand out in this one as it's not always necessary anymore for Banks to be the standout character. That being said however, I am still glad the author included his musical selections as they work so well with what is happening and I even look forward to checking a few of them out. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Book Spotlight: The Girl in the Glass by James Hayman

About The Girl in the Glass

The Girl in the Glass• E-book 
• Publisher: Witness Impulse (August 25, 2015)

Two identical women.

Two identical murders. 

Two lives brutally cut short 108 years apart

June 1904. Aimée Garnier Whitby, a beautiful French artist and wife of one of Maine's richest and most powerful men, is found near death on the Whitby family's private summer island, the letter "A" mysteriously carved into her chest.

June 2012. Veronica Aimée Whitby, the eighteen-year-old descendant and virtual double of the first Aimée, becomes the victim of a near perfect copycat murder. With another beautiful, promising young Whitby woman slain, the media begin to swarm and pressure builds for Mike McCabe and Maggie Savage to bring the killer quickly to justice. But the key to solving Aimée's death just might have been buried with her beautiful ancestor.

The latest McCabe and Savage thriller from USA Today bestselling author James Hayman is a crackling, twisty novel of suspense, perfect for fans of J.A. Jance and John Sandford.

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James HaymanAbout James Hayman

James Hayman, formerly creative director at one of New York’s largest advertising agencies, is the author of the acclaimed McCabe and Savage series: The Cutting, The Chill of Night, Darkness First, and The Girl in the Glass.

Find out more about James at his website and connect with him on Facebook.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

My Obsession With Haunted Places: Paris Catacombs 

Les Catacombes de Paris (L'Ossuaire Municipal)

The Catacombs of Paris hold the remains of approximately 6 million people and is an underground cemetery used to accommodate the overflow of bodies in the cemeteries in Paris.  As the conditions in most of the cemeteries in Paris were overflowing, the big concern was Les Innocents as the big central mound was growing daily and bodies were known to appear out of nowhere; the fear of disease was rampant, and the weight of the bodies in the cemetery caused a wall to collapse into a nearby basement.  Cemeteries were closed until a decision was made regarding the problem. 
By the 18th century, due to the growth of the city, much of the suburban sprawl had spread over what used to be old mined territories (limestone used for building the city); mining wasn't regulated like it was today, and many of the shafts were dug haphazardly and mined in random directions until the veins were depleted, then simply abandoned.  In 1785, it became law for bodies to be removed from all cemeteries and moved to the underground mines that were being repurposed for such an idea. It took two years to empty Les Innocents and move all of the bodies to the catacombs. On April 7, 1786 the Blessing and consecration of the former Tombe-Issoire quarries, took place. Renovations by various people and groups would transform the mines into a proper ossuary / mausoleum with archways, pathways, artwork using the various bones, cemetery decorations, monumental tablets, and minerals.  This would take years to accomplish.  Since January 2013, the Catacombs have been incorporated in the public institution Paris Musees.

At first, visitation to the catacombs was very sketchy, partly due to the vandalism of the sites, partly due to the opposition of the Catholic Church and the sanctity of the grounds, and partly due to the construction that was occurring inside the site. One of the first known visitors of note was the Count of Artois; Napoleon himself has also visited the site.

Today, the tour lasts approximately 45 minutes, but I would recommend a jacket and a pair of running shoes as it can get mucky down there, and it is cold and damp.  Also, you will have to climb up and down a number of steps, I believe over one hundred to go down, and about 80 to go back up. 
Interesting Facts
* The Catacombs are approximately 20 metres deep.
* The Catacombs are approximately 200 miles long, 11 000 square metres (in addition to the 2100 km of sewer tunnels and the 199 km of subway tracks)
* There are dozens of entrances to the Catacombs, but most of them have been bricked up.
* During WWII, German soldiers used the tunnels to establish an underground bunker.
* The temperature averages about 14 degrees Celsius.
* Many of the areas are still not open to the public.
* Tomb dedicated to a man who was lost in the Catacombs and his body was recovered 11 years later.
* Cataphiles - People who break the law and dare the hefty fines to explore the restricted areas of the Catacombs.

Haunted Catacombs
I have actually visited the Catacombs on two occasions and to say they are creepy is an 
understatement.  However, I love creepy and I found them to be absolutely fascinating, to the point where I longed to dig and clamber in the parts where I wasn't allowed to go.  One of the things I did do naturally, was take a haunted tour of the area as I was curious.  And the Paris Catacombs are no stranger to eerie happenings: both tourists and workers have claimed to have been grabbed or to have felt ghostly hands touching them as they walk through the corridors.  Some have even reported being grabbed and pulled.  There are reports of ghostly hands grabbing their hands as they are walking or touching their backs.  There have been reports of tourists dissolving into tears as the sight and feelings are too overwhelming and have to be escorted out of the Catacombs.  People have even been known to faint or pass out.  

While extremely intriguing, the Catacombs are quite eerie, and to be honest, quite depressing.  With all the bones lying on top of each other, it really makes you think about your own life and death.  No wonder people almost explode out of the exit, into the sunshine, when they come out of the Catacombs, looking for that breath of fresh air that reminds them to be thankful for it.  That being said, if you like this kind of thing, the Catacombs are a must visit in Paris.

Sister Bio: The Sisters of Versailles by Sally Christie

The Sisters of Versailles (The Mistresses of Versailles, Book #1)
by Sally Christie
Release Date: September 1st, 2015
2015 Atria Books
Paperback; 432 Pages
ISBN: 978-1501102967
Genre: Fiction / Historical

Goodness, but sisters are a thing to fear.

Set against the lavish backdrop of the French Court in the early years of the 18th century, The Sisters of Versailles is the extraordinary tale of the five Nesle sisters: Louise, Pauline, Diane, Hortense, and Marie-Anne, four of whom became mistresses to King Louis XV. Their scandalous story is stranger than fiction but true in every shocking, amusing, and heartbreaking detail.

Court intriguers are beginning to sense that young King Louis XV, after seven years of marriage, is tiring of his Polish wife. The race is on to find a mistress for the royal bed as various factions put their best foot - and women - forward. The King's scheming ministers push Louise, the eldest of the aristocratic Nesle sisters, into the arms of the King. Over the following decade, the four sisters:sweet, naive Louise; ambitious Pauline; complacent Diane, and cunning Marie Anne, will conspire, betray, suffer, and triumph in a desperate fight for both love and power.

In the tradition of The Other Boleyn Girl, The Sisters of Versailles is a clever, intelligent, and absorbing novel that historical fiction fans will devour. Based on meticulous research on a group of women never before written about in English, Sally Christie's stunning debut is a complex exploration of power and sisterhood; of the admiration, competition, and even hatred that can coexist within a family when the stakes are high enough.

About the Author
Sally Christie was born in England of British parents but grew up mostly in Canada. As a child she moved around with her family and then continued her wandering as she pursued a career in international development; she’s lived in 14 different countries and worked in many more. She’s now settled in Toronto and loving it.

Sally lives and breathes history; ever since she read Antonia Fraser’s masterful Mary, Queen of Scots when she was 10, she’s been an avid history junkie. She wishes more attention and technical innovation was devoted to time travel, because there is nothing she would rather do than travel back in time! Writing historical fiction is a poor substitute, but it’s the best one we have at the moment.

When not reading and writing history, she’s a tennis and Scrabble fanatic.

Connect with Sally

Website | Goodreads

Book Blast and Giveaway: Tropical Depression by Jeff Lindsay

Tropical Depression

by Jeff Lindsay

August 25 Book Blast


NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Jeff Lindsay mastered suspense with his wildly addictive DEXTER series. Before that, however, there was former cop and current burnout Billy Knight. When a hostage situation turns deadly, Billy loses everything—his wife, his daughter, and his career. Devastated, he heads to Key West to put down his gun and pick up a rod and reel as a fishing boat captain. But former co-worker Roscoe McAuley isn't ready to let Billy rest.

When Roscoe tells Billy that someone murdered his son, Billy sends him away. When Roscoe himself turns up dead a few weeks later, however, Billy can't keep from getting sucked back into Los Angeles, and the streets that took so much from him.

Billy's investigations into the death of a former cop, and his son, will take him up to the highest echelons of the LAPD, finding corruption at every level. It puts him on a collision course with the law, with his past, with his former fellow officers, and with the dark aftermath of the Civil Rights Movement. Jeff Lindsay's considerable storytelling gifts are on full display, drawing the reader in with a mesmerizing style and a case with more dangerous blind curves than Mulholland Drive.

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Police Procedural
Published by: Diversion Books
Publication Date: August 25, 2015 (Re-Release)
Number of Pages: 256
ISBN: 2940151536677
Series: Billy Knight Thrillers, Book 1
Purchase Links: Amazon Barnes & Noble Goodreads

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Book Spotlight: Second Chance With the Billionaire by Janice Maynard

Second Chance With the Billionaire (Kavanaghs of Silver Glen, Book #5)
by Janice Maynard
Release Date: August 4th 2015
2015 Harlequin Desire
Paperback Edition; 192 Pages
ISBN: 978-0373734054
Genre: Fiction / Romance

Former ski champion Conor Kavanagh enjoys a challenge. And he’s encountered no challenge more arousing than Ellie Porter. Once, she broke his heart. Now that she’s back in town? He can’t seem to stay away…

But Ellie has changed. Widowed, with a baby, she has responsibilities — and secrets — weighing her down. Still, his desire for her is undeniable. Surely, he can have her without giving up his heart — or his daredevil ways? He’s willing to risk it all to find out…

Bon Appétit and a Book

My grandmother was an amazing cook. Most Sundays when I was a kid we would go to her house to have lunch or dinner. The smells were tantalizing. She always had some kind of special, freshly baked item in the kitchen.

Summers were particularly wonderful, because she bought fresh corn, squash, green beans and watermelon from local farmers to include in her bountiful feasts.

Second Chance With the Billionaire takes place during the long hot days of summer. In weather like that, any meal deserves a light, perfect treat for dessert. Even the name of this recipe makes me smile. Lemon Love Notes.

This sweet, tart delight is straight from my Grandmother Morrison’s home in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It’s made from scratch, but even an inexperienced cook can handle it. And as a bonus, your kitchen will smell wonderful when you’re done.

Lemon Love Notes:

Combine the following three ingredients and pat evenly into an 8 x 8 inch pan. (1/2 cup of softened butter, 1 cup of regular flour, 1/4 cup powdered sugar) Bake 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Set aside to cool.

Next, in a medium bowl beat two eggs with a fork. Add 2 tablespoons of flour, 1 cup of sugar, ½ teaspoon baking powder, and the grated peel and juice of one lemon. Mix well by hand.

Pour into cooked shell. Bake 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool, and sprinkle with powdered sugar before cutting. Enjoy!
Saturday, August 22, 2015

Spotlight: A Lawman's Justice by Delores Fossen

A Lawman's Jusice (Sweetwater Ranch, Book #8)
by Delores Fossen
Release Date: July 17th 2015
2015 Harlequin
Paperback Edition; 240 Pages
ISBN: 978-0373698486
Genre: Fiction / Intrigue

The tip that sends FBI Special Agent Seth Calder to an abandoned warehouse in search of exonerating evidence brings him face-to-face with a familiar adversary. Thorn-in-his-side journalist Shelby Braddock is on her own search for the truth about a decades-old crime. Until they stumble on a crime scene…and end up fighting for their lives. Now, their only hope of survival is to work together. But something even more dangerous is drawing Seth closer to the gorgeous brunette. As he gives in to a passion so strong it can erase the sins of the past, he must evade a relentless killer…and confront a shocking revelation no one could have predicted.

Bon Appétit and a Book: A delicious recipe of your choice to enjoy alongside the book

This is such a simple cake recipe. Some call it Crazy Cake, others Wacky Cake. I’ve even seen it called Cockeyed Cake. You mix all the ingredients in the pan and bake at 350 degrees:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. white vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
5 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 cup water

Friday, August 21, 2015

Review: Push by Eve Silver

Push (The Game, Book #2)
by Eve Silver
Release Date: June 10th 2014
2014 Katherine Tegen Books
Ebook Edition; 341 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062192219
Genre: Fiction / YA / Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

It’s either break the rules or die.

Miki Jones lives her life by her own strict set of rules, to keep control, to keep the gray fog of grief at bay. Then she’s pulled into the Game, where she - and her team - will die unless she follows a new set of rules: those set by the mysterious Committee.

But rules don’t mean answers, and without answers, it’s hard to trust. People are dying. The rules are unraveling. And Miki knows she’s being watched, uncertain if it’s the Drau or someone - something - else. Forced to make impossible choices and battling to save those she loves, Miki begins to see the Committee in a glaring new light.

And then the Game crosses a new boundary, pushes harder into Miki’s and her friends’ lives, and there’s nothing in the rules that can save them now.

My Thoughts
Push was a great follow-up to Rush, the first book in the series.  Even though there are a couple of things I am still confused about, things that I am hoping will be clarified in the conclusion, the concept of this series is quite fascinating, and I continue to enjoy reading about the different reasons for why Miki and the others keep getting pulled and are thrust into a war they don't necessarily understand, in a parallel dimension, and why it's suddenly spilled into their world.  

I love Miki as a character; she is tough, disciplined, funny, self-confident, and strong, but at the same time quite vulnerable, especially in the scenes where she has to deal with her dad's drinking.  It is so easy to relate to her, and to the other characters, and they seem so down to earth and real.  While the scenes with the Drau were interesting, I actually enjoyed the times when Miki got to be a teenager and do normal things with her friends and deal with normal issues rather than these huge confusing issues where the rules were always changing.  I have to admit that I tended to race through the chapters dealing with the Drau, as at first they seemed a bit repetitive of the first book, and took my time through the scenes where Miki and her friends were back on Earth dealing with the repercussions of their 'visits'.  

I also have to admit the romance is more up my alley than some of the other books I've read.  I really like Jackson, and although I'm not a big fan of the secret, silent type, it seems to work in this book; Miki is a tough cookie and doesn't put up with Jackson's behaviour so the chemistry and the tension between them just oozes off the pages, with both of them respecting each other for their strength, courage, and determination.  At first I thought we'd be caught up in one of those love triangles, but the author didn't go down that road, and I'm so grateful for that as it would have created unnecessary drama that I think would have ruined the book for me.  

Push continues an interesting series, and I'm glad the second book was just as fascinating as the first. The concept is quite unique, with teams of young people being pulled out of one dimension and being sent to another in a war they don't quite understand, being controlled by a group of 'people' whom few have met, with rules that constantly change.  I enjoyed the development of the characters and like how the information is revealed slowly, piece by tantalizing piece, and I am still trying to figure out exactly what is going on.  However, I was satisfied with the ending of the book, even if it was done in such a way that makes you really wonder what is going on; it just makes you want to read the conclusion even more. 

Spotlight: The Cowboy's Suprise Baby by Deb Kastner

The Cowboy's Surprise Baby (Cowboy Country)
by Deb Kastner
Release Date: July 21st 2015
2015 Love Inspired
Paper Edition; 288 Pages
ISBN: 978-0373818525
Genre: Fiction / Romance

After years away serving his country, Cole Bishop finally returns home; with a newborn baby in tow. As a single dad, Cole needs help. But the last thing he expects to encounter at his new job is his high school sweetheart; all grown up and more beautiful than ever. Tessa Applewhite might have broken Cole's heart years before, but she's never forgotten him. And he can wrangle her heart like no one else ever has. But Tessa rejected him when the stakes weren't nearly as high. Can Cole trust her again; and in the process, form a forever family?

Folks in Serendipity, Texas love to socialize and will make any excuse for a potluck celebration. The annual June BBQ is a key setting in The Cowboy’s Surprise Baby and is actually the catalyst in the plot.

Serendipity potlucks aren’t organized, yet there’s always more than enough great country cooking in every category, from salads to main dishes to desserts.

Phoebe Hawkins from Cup O’ Jo’s Café is a world-class baker whose pies and pastries are renowned throughout Serendipity, but there’s always room for more. Here’s a recipe for an ooey, gooey Earthworm Mud Pie.


1 Large Package Oreos
1 Jar Hot Fudge Topping Sauce
2 Cups Milk
1 Large Box Chocolate Pudding Mix
1 Small Bag Gummy Worms
1 Can Spray Whipping Cream

Crush the Oreos in a large bowl, leaving 10 aside for topping. Mix the hot fudge into the Oreos to a dough-like consistency. Mash Oreo mixture into a pie tin on bottom and sides. Let sit in refrigerator while mixing other ingredients.

In a large bowl, mix chocolate pudding mix and milk according to the pie instructions on the pudding box. Crush 5 Oreos (not too finely) and mix them into the pudding. Pour the pudding mixture into the pie tin over the crust. Let sit in refrigerator for 1 hour.

Remove pie from refrigerator and place on counter. Press several gummy worms into pie mixture, some all the way, some sticking out a little. Spray whipped cream in a swirl pattern on the edges of pie. Crush remaining 5 Oreos (not too finely) and sprinkle over top of pie. Place 3-5 gummy worms on top of pie. Serve chilled.