Dark Place to Hide Blog Tour & Review

Exciting times, folks!  I haven’t been part of a blog tour in ages so when AJ Waines got in touch to see if I’d be interesting in reviewing her newest book, Dark Place to Hide, as part of her tour, I of course jumped at the chance!

You’ll probably remember AJ Waines from her guest post a few years back and from my review of her brilliant novel, The Evil Beneath.  Well she’s back again with another super suspenseful read for all you thriller junkies out there.

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Dark Place to Hide
Publisher:  Self-published
Release Date:  30 July 2015 (that’s today, people!!!)
Rating:  4.5/5
Source: Sent over by the author
Synopsis:  
She’s trying to tell you – if only you’d listen…

About to break the news to his wife, Diane, that he’s infertile, criminology expert, Harper Penn, gets a call to say she’s been rushed to hospital with a miscarriage. Five days later, when Diane fails to return from the village shop, police think she must have taken off with a secret lover, but Harper is convinced the online messages are not from her.

In the same Hampshire village, plucky seven-year-old Clara has retreated into a make-believe world after an accident. Then she, too, goes missing.

As Harper sets out on a desperate quest to find them both, he has no idea what he’s up against. Could the threat be closer than he thinks? And is there a hidden message in Clara’s fairy tales?

DARK PLACE TO HIDE is a chilling psychological mystery with a cold-blooded deviant lurking at the core.

As I’ve said in the past, Waines is good at what she does.  Her characters are well thought out from their virtues to their deepest flaws.  In Dark Place to Hide, our hero Harper is a bit of an anti-hero at times.  He’s searching for his missing wife and a missing child from the village, and, while it’s obvious that he himself has done nothing nefarious, he’s still got some issues.  There’s the borderline alcoholism (very ‘in’ with novels this season!) and his anger issues to contend with and, at times, he made me slightly nervous.  Despite that, he’s the closest thing to a hero we get and he does pay off in that department.

I felt like out of all of the characters, Diane could have been a bit more fleshed out.  True, she spends much of the book in captivity so the glimpses we do get of her are mostly flashbacks.  Sadly to me she came across as slightly ‘baby crazy’ and not much else.  I didn’t honestly know if this was a Gone Girl type scenario here and she was the reason seven year old Clara had gone missing as well… I had no idea what to think about Diane as I didn’t have as much to go off of.  All I know is that she could do with some nicer colleagues!

Dark Place to Hide was a bit of a doozy with an ending that came straight from left field.  There were moments throughout the book where I felt like I had a pretty good handle on what was going on, only to find out pages later that I was totally wrong.  That’s what I look for in a good mystery and Waines has certainly aced that!

Dark Place to Hide is available today from Amazon UK.

And make sure you check out some of the other stops on the Dark Place to Hide blog tour!

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AJWainesleftAJ Waines was a Psychotherapist for fifteen years, during which time she worked with ex-offenders from high-security institutions, giving her a rare insight into abnormal psychology. She is now a full-time novelist with an Agent and has publishing deals in France and Germany (Random House). Both her debut novels, The Evil Beneath and Girl on a Train have been Number One in ‘Murder’ and ‘Psychological Thrillers’ in the UK Kindle Charts. Girl on a Train has also been a Number One Bestseller in the entire Kindle Chart in Australia. In 2015, she was ranked in the Top 100 UK authors on Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing).

Her new psychological thriller, Dark Place to Hide, is released on July 30, 2015 – you can pre-order it HERE.

Alison lives in Southampton, UK, with her husband. Visit her website and blog, or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

New Beginnings…

Sometimes in life the stars seem to align and things just happen, or you’re in the right place at the right time talking to the right person.  Sometimes, all of the pain, sweat and sleepless nights pay off.  Sometimes serendipity really is a thing.

That’s been my life the past few weeks.  Or more to the point our lives.

All of the job rejections, the unhappiness with city life, the terrible homesickness that’s only gotten worse over the years… they’ve all neatly lined up, one after the other and led us to where we are now… or where we will be in several months.

We’re moving to Virginia.

Didn’t see that coming, did you?

Neither did we.

Like I said, sometimes things just fall into place and the universe (finally) conspires to give you a bit of a helping hand and nudge into a new, exciting direction. N and I are about to embark on a new adventure… an adventure that, we think, is going to pretty much change everything and open up a whole new world of possibilities for both of us.

Moving back to the USA has always been an option, an idea saved for musing upon on a sleepless night.  We just didn’t think it would happen this way with such an amazing opportunity.  We always envisioned it would involve Kentucky, my family helping out and having to move back in with my grandparents for a time.  Instead, it’s scarier than that–we’ll be on our own.  It’s a terrifying thought but not terrifying enough to stop us.

There aren’t any set moving dates yet.  We’re at the mercy of the US visa and immigration system (which I’m sure you’ll get many angsty posts about) so it could either be super quick or super long.  We’re setting our sights on the end of September or early October as a benchmark.

Watch this space!

steph2

June 2015 Book Wrap Up

One is the loneliest number for sure.

I read a single, solitary book this month.

I’m almost disappointed in myself except for the fact that I know just how much crap is going on in my life right now.  So you know what?

Whatever.  I read a book.

6289283Born to Run:  A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen – Christopher McDougall

May 2015 Book Wrap Up

Sorry, sorry… life has been crazy.  I’ve been working on loads of other projects, doing more ‘me’ writing and–dear lord–we’ve got decorators in this week so my life is being lived out of plastic storage tubs.

You understand, right?

Anyhow, time for the usual book wrap up!  I feel like I’m back on my game this month with seven solid, outstanding books under my belt.

May books

 

Books Read: 7

Currently Reading: ….hm…. nothing.  I only just finished Fat Girl Walking at the weekend and haven’t chosen anything as yet!

Isteph2f you’re interested in getting in touch, tweet me at @stephanie_khani or email me at emailthelondondiaries [at] gmail.com!

 

Exciting news!

I’ve got a new blog!

Don’t worry… it’s not you, it’s me.  What Steph Cooked will be where the majority of the food stuff moves to–because it just makes sense!  Things may go quiet here as I get What Steph Cooked up and running.  Stick with me as I get things sorted and settled!  In the meantime, you can follow @whatstephcooked on Twitter!

I’d love for you to take a look and let me know what you think…

steph2

Weekly Watson: Sour Chicken and Tarragon Stew

Oh Watson, I’m not sure where your ‘location’ malarkey is coming from.  First there were the ‘Persian’ Avocado Patties and then we had last week’s ‘Jamaican’ pasta offering.  Now you’re telling me I’m cooking ‘Nashville’ Tarragon Chicken??  There is nothing in this dish that remotely makes me think of Nashville!

After last week’s strangely yummy pasta both N and I decided it was time to try a bit of meat for the Watson meal.  Chicken is a fairly basic protein and, as long as it’s cooked right, is pretty hard to screw up.  That being said, we are talking about Chef Watson here!

Ingredients

  • 5 chicken breasts
  • 7 peeled tomatoes
  • 3/4 oz, chopped, toasted cashew
  • 11/4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 oz teff flour
  • 1/4 cup, divided lime juice
  • 4 halved limes
  • 2 tbsp, chopped tarragon
  • 3 cup chicken broth
  • 11/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tbsp, ground cardamom
  • 3/4 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 oz, crushed pink peppercorns
  • 2 tsp ground ginger

Directions

  1. Sprinkle chicken pieces with salt, pink peppercorns, and teff flour.
  2. Heat olive oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat.
  3. Add 1⁄4 of chicken pieces to pot and cook turning occasionally.
  4. Transfer chicken to baking sheet or platter; repeat with remaining chicken.
  5. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from pot and discard.
  6. Reduce heat to medium.
  7. Add tomatoes to pot; saute.
  8. Add cardamom, ginger, ground coriander, turmeric, and pink peppercorns.
  9. Stir about 1 minute.
  10. Increase heat to high; add broth and 1⁄2 of the lime juice.
  11. Bring to boil; reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer.
  12. Place chicken pieces atop tomatoes in pot.
  13. Bring to boil over medium heat.
  14. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer.
  15. Transfer chicken and tomatoes to platter; tent with foil.
  16. Boil lime juice in pot.
  17. Stir in limes and remaining lime juice.
  18. Reduce heat and simmer gently.
  19. Pour sauce and limes over chicken.
  20. Sprinkle with cashew and tarragon, and serve.

Aside from changing quantities (there’s only two of us) I added shallots (we had a few left to get rid of) and a last minute packet of ready rice (N’s idea), the ingredient list remained untouched.  Method-wise, again, I kept pretty close to Watson’s suggestions.  I did sort of combine some steps  and I didn’t bother with tent foiling the chicken (why??) but again, this one was pretty spot on.  It’s a basic chicken stew, so I ended up baking/charring some nice veggies to go on top.

Sour Tarragon and Chicken Stew

Without a doubt this was the best Watson meal so far.  We’ll most definitely be putting Sour Chicken and Tarragon Stew into regular rotation.  This dish was wholesome, had a great flavour and was nice and tart from the lime.  It was so delicious!

Rating: Delicious!!! (on a rating scale of ‘Delicious,’ ‘Meh’ or ‘In the bin’)

steph2If you’re interested in getting in touch, tweet me at @stephanie_khani or email me at emailthelondondiaries [at] gmail.com!

spa London, York Hall

If you’ve been reading TLD for a while, you’ll know I’m a big fan of spa London.  They’re a great, affordable and really friendly spa chain in London.  I’ve been to the Wimbledon location quite a few times now for treatments and also to relax in the thermal spa area.

spa LONDON LogoLast week, Gail from their PR team got in touch about new treatments on offer at their Bethnal Green location in the historic York Hall building.  She asked whether I’d be up for reviewing the new ‘Signature Cleopatra’s Milk & Honey Ritual’ treatment, along with extra time in the thermal spa–it had been a tough week so I of course said yes!  I did have to resist the urge to line my eyes in khol and bedeck myself in jewels a la Liz Taylor’s interpretation of the Egyptian queen.

Having never been to York Hall, I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect.  Down some well worn stone steps and into the belly of the impressive building, spa London was created as part of a massive refurbishment of already existing Turkish baths.

Wimbledon and York Hall are two very different locations, style-wise.  While Wimbledon is bright, airy and very open feeling, York Hall has a much more cozy, warm and private vibe.  I suppose preference depends on your mood! One thing that I really liked about York Hall was that they do have ‘Women Only’ days, and my treatment just so happened to fall on one of those days. I’ve never been made to feel uncomfortable on any visit to spa London, but it was kind of nice to know there weren’t going to be any men around.  It allowed me to relax just that tiny bit more.

Though the locations are very different, the same professionalism applies to both sites.  Staff were very friendly, welcoming and took time to explain everything to me despite how busy it was when I arrived as the spa opened for the day. York Hall is definitely more buzzy than Wimbledon due to it’s location, but in spite of that it didn’t feel crowded at all.

Ahead of my treatment I spent about an hour in the thermal spa–similar to the one in Wimbledon but with different options.  I loved the two steam rooms–I prefer the humidity and the steam to the dry heat of the sauna.  The two rooms held different scents which were gorgeous and helped with the slight bit of congestion I’d been having.  To cool off, there’s a plunge pool which I wasn’t brave enough to try.  I did use the monsoon shower a few times to clean off though!

On to the important bit… the treatment!  The ‘Signature Cleopatra’s Milk & Honey Ritual’ is new to spa London and uses products from the French/Moroccan brand La Sultane de Saba, a brand I’ve come into contact before.  The treatment description on the website says:

Inspired by Cleopatra’s bathing ritual thought to have preserved her youthful beauty. A full body wash and scrub helps to deeply cleanse body and soul before a luscious milk and honey mixture is poured onto the body and a nourishing hair treatment coats the head and scalp. Whilst the goodness sinks in, a face and scalp massage is performed sending you into a hypnotic state. You are then veiled in a mist of rose and orange blossom before a milk application massage is given.

Sounds gorgeous, no?

Oh, it was.

The whole thing started off with a hammam style cleansing.  Black soap, stuff of miracles, was rubbed onto my body and my therapist used a kessa glove (basically a mitt that feels like sandpaper) to slough off all of the dead skin leaving me perfectly clean and super smooth.  Despite the rough nature of hammam, I’m actually one of those weird people who actually quite enjoy them!

After the cleansing, a masque of honey, ginger and other goodies was applied to my back to help draw out impurities and to also smooth and hydrate the skin.  While that soaked in and worked its magic for half an hour, I was treated to the most amazing face and scalp massage with warm, proper shea butter.  Goodness me!

My therapist left me to shower and after that I got a full rub down with the most amazing scented lotion which I could smell up until I went to bed that night.  Lush stuff.

I can safely say that I was so well looked after and pampered at spa London’s Bethnal Green that, despite the Wimbledon branch being right down the road, I’ll most certainly be entertaining the thought of going back soon.

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This review is not in exchange for payment however I was offered the treatment and thermal spa experience free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

steph2If you’re interested in getting in touch, tweet me at @stephanie_khani or email me at emailthelondondiaries [at] gmail.com!