Review: Chase Darkness With Me by Billy Jensen

 

Title: Chase Darkness With Me: How One True Crime Writer Started Solving Murders

Author: Billy Jensen

Published: August 16th 2029, Sourcebooks

Status: Read August 2019 courtesy Sourcebooks/Netgalley

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

Choose Darkness With Me is a fascinating account of Billy Jensen’s passion for investigating unsolved crimes, and developing new strategies with which to solve them.

“Whenever people ask me why I only write about unsolved murders, I always say the same thing: because I hate the guy who got away with it.”

Jensen’s obsession with true crime began in childhood, inspired in part by his dad’s rather inappropriate bedtime stories. After earning a degree in Religion, and forays into a range of diverse professions including house painting, web marketing, and professional roller hockey, Jensen became a journalist. Landing a job as a stringer he was on course to be a crime beat reporter but quickly realised that he wasn’t comfortable just writing about the awful things that happened to people. He wanted to help, and turned his focus to the hundreds of thousands of missing persons, and unsolved murders mainstream media deemed ‘low profile’, eventually leading to the development of the website ‘True Crime Daily’, and a desire to reinvent the way true crime stories are told, and solved, through the use of television, mobile and web.

The potential of crowdsourcing crime solving is something Jensen often discussed with the late Michelle McNamara while she was in pursuit of identifying The Golden State Killer. After her untimely death, Jensen helped to complete her book, I’ll Be Gone In the Dark, and was motivated to take more direct action.

“I’m not chasing people. I’m chasing shadows, phantoms that flit in and out of a surveillance video. That’s on a good night. On the other nights, I’m chasing darkness.”

Of course online armchair detectives have been active for years, Websleuths was launched in 1999, and they recognised the potential of social media as a source for solving crime early on. Jensen however claims to be one of the first to recognise the value geotargeted social media campaigns could have to help solve crime and set out to prove his theory. In Chase Darkness With Me he documents several intriguing cases in which geotargeting, primarily using Facebook’s and Twitter’s ‘boost’ tools (funded from his own pocket), in combination with other methods, has assisted in generating new leads, and even arrests, in cases deemed ‘cold’ by the police. This, Jensen believes, is something anyone can do, and to that end he also provides tips and advice for anyone interested in becoming a ‘Citizen Detective’.

“We are at the precipice of being able to solve more cold cases than ever before…. we need to get loud. Start fund-raisers. Recruit volunteers. You reading this book are deputized. Go get a megaphone.”

I found Chase Darkness With Me to be absolutely compelling reading. I’m certain those interested in true crime, law enforcement or related topics, will also find it entertaining and informative.

++++++

Available from Sourcebooks

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Review: The Sparkle Pages by Meg Bignell

 

Title: The Sparkle Pages

Author: Meg Bignell

Published: April 16th Penguin AU

Status: Read April 2019, courtesy Penguin 

++++++

My Thoughts:

Susannah Parks is convinced her marriage of fifteen years has lost it’s spark and, from the comfort of her wardrobe, begins to formulate a New Years Resolution. She will be interested, and be interesting, she will be stylish and have great hair, she will be relevant and useful, and she will have passionate sex with her husband.

“We certainly had passion once. Sometimes I catch a fleeting flash of it again, but for the most part, passion just seems to have fallen by the wayside….(There are lot of good things by the wayside, if only I could find where it is – somewhere near the too-hard basket, probably.)”

It’s been a while since a book has both made laugh out loud, and moved me to tears.

As a wife and mother of four myself, I perhaps related better to Susannah than it is wise to admit. From the barely controlled chaos of Susannah’s days, to the tedium of cleaning, cooking and caretaking for a young family, to the dwindling priority of intimacy (ok..yes, sex) in a marriage. Unlike her though, I have always understood that marriage, and family life, has its ups and downs as it is a constantly changing dynamic.

This too is what Susannah eventually comes to realise, with the help of her best friend, the indomitable Ria, her family, her friends and her neighbour, Valda. It is Susannah who has lost her spark, buried under piles of wet towels, baskets of insecurity, and a load of guilt so heavy, it has all but been extinguished.

Though there is plenty of humour, and moments of sheer absurdity, to be found in this novel, the story also reveals a shocking truth and heartbreaking tragedy. The author’s writing shines as she deftly steers the reader through sadness and joy.

The Sparkle Pages is witty, wise, honest and moving, a glittering debut from Australian author, Karen Bignell, it’s my favourite read so far this year.

“Sparks. Passion and sparks. And when there are no sparks, at least just a little sparkle.”

++++++

#lovebetweenthepages

Read an Excerpt

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Weekend Cooking: Slow Cooker Central 2 by Paulene Christie (and me!)

 

So while I was on hiatus, one of the more exciting things that happened for me was the publication of a couple of recipes I submitted in the book Slow Cooker Central 2 by Paulene Christie.

I joined the Slow Cooker Central community in the search of ways to make more use of my slowcooker. With a large family, whom have large appetites and a busy schedule, I am always on the lookout for easy, economical and satisfying meal ideas.

Slow Cooker Central 2 (HarperCollins AU I HarperCollins US) contains 270 recipes organised into 14 chapters that will help you make meals to match your appetite or what’s in the fridge. They are family friendly recipes from people who cook for their families everyday. You’ll find great ideas for casseroles, curries, soups and roasts; plus plenty of recipes you might not expect, such as those for desserts, cakes, fudge and even face paint and play dough.

The recipes I contributed to Slow Cooker Central 2 are two of my family favourites, Creamy Chicken Fajitas and Luau Chicken.

The website at Slow Cooker Central contains an archive of recipes, hints, tips and more, and the Slow Cooker Central Facebook group is busy and active group. There is even an App It’s membership is primarily Australian so metric measurements are most common, but all nationalities are welcome. Other publications available are Slow Cooker Central 1, Slow Cooker Central Family Favourites, Slow Cooker Central Kids and Slow Cooker Central Super Savers.

One of my favourite slow cooker recipes that I didn’t submit is a tasty fakeaway meal. I’ve recently had to replace my trusty 20 year old 7L Breville Banquet Maker (pictured) with a newer model after it finally gave up the ghost, so this recipe is made in a 7L Breville Flavour Maker.

Homemade Turkish Doner Kebab (Gyro)

1.5 kg lean or extra lean beef mince
500g lamb mince
2 1/2 tbsp Greek Seasoning (I used Masterfoods brand)
1 Tbsp Harissa Seasoning
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp all purpose seasoning
1 tsp salt
Optional: 1/4 -1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (omit if you dislike heat)

Measure Greek seasoning, Harissa Seasoning, garlic powder, all purpose seasoning, salt and cayenne pepper into a small container and mix well.
Place beef and lamb mince in a large bowl and mix by hand until well combined.
Add spices to mince and mix well again.
If available add mince mix to food processor and pulse til a thick paste
Line a rectangular container (approx lunch box size) with foil and add mince, pressing firmly with knuckles to expel air and fill. Cover and refrigerate for minimum 2 hours or up to overnight.
Remove container from refrigerator, ensure meat is tightly wrapped in foil, re-wrap if necessary.
Make 6 balls of foil (or use a rack) and place in slow cooker to create a stand for the foil wrapped meat. Add 1 – 1 1/2 cups water to slow cooker, make sure water level is below the level of the stand.
Add foil wrapped meat and turn slow cooker to HIGH
Cook on HIGH for 1.5 hours. This ensures meat will keep its tight shape.
Remove foil wrapped meat from slow cooker, take out balls/rack and pour out water.
Turn slow cooker to LOW, unwrap meat and place directly into the slow cooker bowl.
Cook on LOW for a further 2-3 hours (a meat thermometer should register at least 70c (150F) when inserted into the middle of the loaf)
When cooked, remove meat, wrap in foil and allow to stand for 10-15 minutes.
Slice thinly with a large very sharp knife (an electric or shaving knife would make this easier).
Serve wrapped in warmed pita or tortilla wraps with your preferred dressings
I like lots of shredded lettuce, thinly sliced onion rings, BBQ sauce and a squirt of aioli (garlic sauce). You can also add sliced tomato, shredded cheese, tabbouleh, humus etc
Leftovers still taste great heated in the microwave.

But it happens to be my birthday today..so I’m not cooking tonight YAY!

Review: The Land Before Avocado by Richard Glover

Title: The Land Before Avocado

Author: Richard Glover

Published: ABC Books, October 2018

Status: Read December 30, 2018

My Thoughts:

Technically I grew up in the 80’s, having been born in the early 1970’s, but so much of what Glover writes evokes memories of my childhood, from the pineapple ‘hedgehog’ cheese and onion appetisers, to the unbelted, smoke filled, weaving, courtesy of the ubiquitous cask wine in the bar fridge, car trips. I laughed aloud often at the nostalgic absurdity of it all.

However, The Land Before Avacado is also a sobering reminder of how far we have come as a culture. The status quo for baby boomers and most of Gen X would be inconceivable to today’s generations who can drink gourmet coffee (with smashed avacado toast) in the comfort of their own home, or by the roadside, any day of the week.

Tongue in cheek aside, many advances are sobering, from the drastic reduction of the road death toll, thanks to the introduction of drink driving and seatbelt laws, to laws protecting the employment status of pregnant women.

Glover also shares facts that will likely shock most readers who are convinced by their Facebook feeds that crime is at an all time high, when, in fact, the commission of serious crimes has more than halved across the board in the last fifty years.

While the nostalgic remembrances in The Land Before Avacado, appeal directly to those over the age of 40, I feel compelled to recommend to this to anyone over the age of twenty, many of whom could benefit from a little perspective.

Oh, and I am so going to cook the Spicy Meat Ring!

Available to Purchase at your preferred retailer

Review: Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

 

Title: Furiously Happy

Author: Jenny Lawson

Published: Picador: Pan Macmillan Australia October 2015

Status: Read from October 03 to 04, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

In case you are unaware, Jenny Lawson is a blogger whose brutally candid and often profane posts as The Bloggess, about living with depression, anxiety and a variety of other psychiatric disorders are wildly popular.
Laugh out loud funny, poignant and a little crazy, read this and make yourself #FuriouslyHappy

I generally choose not to rate memoirs for several reasons (but if I did, I’d give this 5 stars).

 

Available to purchase from

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Review: Menagerie by Rachel Vincent

 

Title: Menagerie { Menagerie #1}

Author: Rachel Vincent

Published: Harlequin MIRA September 2015

Status: Read from September 21 to 22, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

A darkly imaginative and captivating tale, Menagerie introduces a new fantasy series from Rachel Vincent for an adult audience.

On her twenty fifth birthday, Delilah Marlow’s boyfriend presents her with tickets to Metzger’s Menagerie, a travelling carnival, whose attractions include cryptids, creatures of legend and myth kept captive since the horror of The Reaping. Delilah has never been comfortable with society’s treatment of cryptids, and she is horrified when she witnesses a keeper abuse a young female werewolf, but she is as stunned as everyone around her when her fury manifests physically.

“But if monsters could look like humans, and humans could look like monsters, how could anyone ever really be sure that the right people stood on the outside of all those cages?”

Vincent presents a stunning alternate reality in Menagerie where supernatural creatures are caged, enslaved and exploited by humans. Afforded no rights cryptids are feared and hated, blamed wholesale for an event known as The Reaping which killed hundreds of thousands of children decades earlier.

Delilah is utterly unaware she is anything but human until the night she plunges black talons into the skull of the abusive keeper, and is utterly terrified when she is arrested and then denied any recourse when the Sheriff sells her to Metzger’s Menagerie. Vincent creates a powerful and disturbing portrait of Delilah’s disenfranchisement as she is chained and caged, placed at the mercy of sadistic keepers who force her to become a sideshow attraction despite being unable to identify her ‘type’, alongside the circus’s collection of trolls, ogres, mermaids, djinn, were creatures, and a rare minotaur.

Vincent spares little as she describes the conditions under which the cryptids live in Metzger’s Menagerie. Abused, tortured, starved and drugged, their experiences are harrowing and for Delilah the dislocation is extreme. As she tries to hold onto her dignity, she displays courage, resilience and determination. Only one keeper shows her any kindness, Gallagher, who comes to believe that Delilah is the rarest of cryptid’s, and the only one who can save them all.

Menagerie though is much more than just a thrilling tale of fantasy, it is a story that explores the concepts of humanity, and its capacity for savagery when threatened or fearful, injustice and vengeance. It reflects some of society’s worst impulses such as the internment camps, acts of genocide, human trafficking and forcible slavery. This provocative edge to the story may be overlooked by some, but the parallels were clear to me.

With literally extraordinary characters, dazzling world building and a captivating plot, Menagerie is a sensational read. I can’t wait for the story to continue.

Available to Purchase via

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Also by Rachel Vincent at Book’d Out

Review: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J Maas

 

Title: Queen of Shadows {Throne of Glass #4)

Author: Sarah J Maas

Published: Bloomsbury September 2015

Status: Read from September 01 to 03, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

“She was fire, and light, and ash, and embers. She was Aelin Fireheart, and she bowed for no one and nothing, save the crown that was hers by blood and survival and triumph.”

Queen of Shadows is the fourth book in Sarah J Maas’s riveting fantasy adventure series, Throne of Glass. At just over 650 pages, this is an epic installment offering plenty of intrigue, danger, fast paced action and romance.

In Queen of Shadows, our heroine returns to Rifthold, not as the assassin Celaena Sardothien, but as Aelin Galathynius, rightful heir to the throne of Terrasen, determined to put an end to the King and his alliance with the demon Valg. Her first task is to rescue her cousin Aedion from public execution, her second to destroy Arobynn, all the while plotting to free magic, save Dorian from Valg possession and ensure the safety of the people she loves.

In the interest of avoiding spoilers for fans of this gripping series I’m just going to heap general praise on it. The plot is fast paced and action packed with plenty of exciting confrontations that left me breathless. It is also clever, Maas allows Aelin to keep secrets not just from her friends but also from the reader resulting in some startling surprises. The plot twists and turns as Aelin doggedly pursues her goal, and the final confrontation between the Queen and her enemies was nothing short of epic.

Queen of Shadows embraces both old and new allies and enemies. Aelin’s loyal circle includes Aedion and fae warrior Rowan, Chaol, despite his emotional turmoil, rebel Nesryn, and courtesan Lysandra. I really enjoyed the shifting dynamics between all of these characters as the novel progressed.

Personally the fan driven controversy regarding Aelin’s romantic choices seems extreme to me, perhaps because I’m a mature aged reader I understand more clearly why Aelin and Chaol are no longer a good fit, and though I am not completely convinced Rowan is her soul mate, I do believe he is her ideal partner for the moment.

Though not truly an enemy, Dorian, inhabited by a Valg prince, is a wild card and Aelin struggles to decide how best to deal with him. She has no such hesitation when it comes to Arobynn when his true capacity for deceit is unequivocally revealed.

Aelin also shares the narrative with Manon Blackbeak who was introduced in Heir of Fire. Manon, a ruthless witch, is in Morath readying herself and her kind for battle on the side of the King, but she unexpectedly finds herself questioning orders at the urging of her second Aestrin, a crippled slave girl, Elide, and a young broken woman with an extraordinary ability.

Queen of Shadows is an enthralling read, and I resented having to put it down even briefly to attend to the ordinary demands of existence. It is going to be a longgg wait for the next (possibly final??) book.

Available to purchase from

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Read my reviews for the first three books in the series

Review: Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton

 

Title: Little Black Lies

Author: Sharon Bolton

Published: Transworld UK July 2015

Read an Extract

Status: Read from July 07 to 09, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Little Black Lies is a taut, twisty thriller from Sharon Bolton. It begins when a child goes missing, the third in three years from the sparsely populated Falkland Islands.

The narrative is divided into thirds, unfolding from the perspectives of three unique and complex characters. For Catrin the disappearance is an inconvenience. She has a schedule to keep, plans for the woman she blames for the tragic death of her young sons as an anniversary approaches. Callum, an ex-soldier with PTSD, has a theory about the abducted children that the local police are choosing to ignore. Rachel, who spends most of her days in bed, is largely oblivious until her youngest son goes missing.

The well crafted plot, which I don’t wish to elaborate on, reveals the links between these characters, whose lives have been tainted by grief and tragedy, and their connection to the missing children over a period of five days. Though the pace is measured, the story is propelled by cinching tension and breath taking twists.

The setting is atmospheric, the isolated island itself has great presence in the novel from its rugged coastline to its rocky terrain, and its history, as the site of the bloody if short lived war for sovereignty between Britain and Argentina in the early 1980’s, also plays into the story.

Fans of poetry should enjoy the references throughout the novel to ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Bolton skilfully utilises the imagery the verses evoke.

Since then, at an uncertain hour,
That agony returns:
And till my ghastly tale is told,
This heart within me burns.

Little Black Lies is a tense, dark and disturbing story about revenge and redemption, that leads to a stunning conclusion. I could hardly put it down.

Available to purchase from

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Seasoned Traveller 2015

Review: The Perfect Son by Barbara Claypole White

 

Title: The Perfect Son

Author: Barbara Claypole White

Published: Lake Union Publishing July 2015

Status: Read from July 05 to 07, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

When Ella Fitzwilliam is hospitalised after a life threatening heart attack her workaholic husband, Felix, is forced to assume the daily care of his teenage son, Harry. Harry is a bright, handsome sixteen year old, with Tourette Syndrome, ADHD and anxiety, and father and son struggle to cope in Ella’s absence.

Told from the perspectives of White’s three main characters, Harry, Ella and Felix, The Perfect Son is a heart warming and poignant story about family, acceptance, trust and love. The changing dynamic of the Fitzwilliam family is beautifully crafted and White writes with insight and compassion for the complexities of a family in crisis.

Ella has always been her son’s advocate and his strongest supporter. She doesn’t regret devoting her life to ensure Harry’s well being but hovering between life and death she is forced to let go and trust her husband and son will find their way.

As a perfectionist who is uncomfortable with both physical and emotional disorder, Felix struggles to negotiate both the everyday and extraordinary challenges involved in parenting Harry. Initially Felix is largely an unsympathetic character, while devoted to his wife, his attitude towards his son is cold and critical, however as White reveals his painful back story I began to understand his inability to relate to his son, and I really enjoyed the way in which the author developed him.

Harry is a wonderful character and I was impressed with White’s well rounded portrayal of him. Harry’s neurobiological issues are a part of who he is, but that isn’t all he is. Like any other teen Harry is contemplating his options for college, falling in love, learning to drive and testing parental limits. He deals admirably with the extra pressure of his mother’s illness and his father’s cluelessness and is a special and genuine young man.

White’s secondary characters are also a delight. Ella’s closest friend, Katherine, the family’s feisty elderly neighbour, Eudora, and in particular Harry’s best friend, Max, add humour and sentiment to the plot.

Tender, funny, sad and sweet, The Perfect Son is a wonderful story that pulls at the heart strings and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.

Available to purchase from

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Review: Forensics by Val McDermid

 

Title: Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime

Author: Val McDermid

Published: Grove Press July 2015

Status: Read from June 18 to 20, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

“The story of forensic science, of that road from crime scene to courtroom, is the stuff of thousands of crime novels.”

Val McDermid is the bestselling crime fiction author of more than thirty novels, including her popular series featuring criminal profiler Tony Hill and Detective Inspector Carol Jordan. In Forensics, Val McDermid pays homage to the science that informs her work.

Drawing on interviews with leading forensic scientists about the history, practice and future of their varied disciplines, the latest research, and her own experiences, McDermid delves into the grimly fascinating anatomy of crime.

In exploring a wide range of forensic disciplines; fire scene investigation, entomology, pathology, toxicology, fingerprinting, blood spatter, DNA, anthropology, facial reconstruction, digital forensics, and forensic psychology, McDermid illustrates the science with both historical and modern day landmark cases, from the fire that razed London in 1666, to the dozens of serial murders committed by Doctor Harold Shipman.

The factual and scientific detail presented is easily accessible, clear, concise and not overly complex. I was fascinated to learn about the advances in DNA profiling for example, and the development of the science of entomology, first documented more than 750 years ago in a Chinese handbook for coroners called The Washing Away of Wrongs.

McDermid also takes the time to dispel some popular myths given life by television shows such as CSI and Law and Order. Despite her admiration for the usefulness of forensic sciences, she is careful to explain that no forensic discipline is infallible, DNA can be contaminated, fingerprints can be misinterpreted, crime scenes can be manipulated. Solving crimes, and perhaps more importantly ensuring convictions, relies on thorough investigation along with a combination of forensic disciplines.

Informative and entertaining, Forensics is an utterly engrossing read that should interest crime fiction readers, writers and anyone with interest in the field of forensics or law.

UK/AUS Cover

Forensics is available to purchase from

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