Murder Mystery Party Case Files: Underwood Cellars #murdermysterygame

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For all the super sleuths out there, the new Murder Mystery Party Case Files has arrived and there is a murder to be solved!  Perfect for individuals or as a great dinner party game, the Cary Underwood cold case has been reopened and it is down to the team to solve the murder. With over 50 pieces of evidence, and hints and conclusions online, the case will take a true detective’s mind.

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star three and a half

I chose the Underwood Cellars mystery because it had a 4.5 star rating (on 1.042 reviews) and it came at a fair price too of only 14.95 £ (+4.18 £ for international shipping). The box that arrived is a sturdy one and I loved the design, it’s not just any box but it looks like an actual file folder.

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What’s more, when I opened it I found over 50 pieces of evidence in two different folders:

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There were polaroids of the suspects and several other normal photos, newspaper articles, witness statements, written letters, the detective’s notebook, even the timeline… I loved how much the dossier included and the variety of documents.

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So I started to read everything. The goal was to list the suspects and add 1) motive, 2) means, and 3) opportunity. If I had all three then I would find the killer. And so I read about this Napa Valley wine maker, his brother, his business partner, his secretary, his wife, his foreman and one of his friends. One of them had taken his life and tried to cover it up.

To be honest, I had only read the Missing Person File and I already had my eyes set on one of the suspects. So when I read the Murder Investigation File I tried to keep this in mind and see if there were other things that fit and they did. Overall I didn’t find it so difficult to find the identity of the killer, and of the 6 possibilities 3 people fell off my list quite soon already. When you only hear once from them in a witness statement and the others don’t speak of them either, how are they supposed to be real suspects then?

I did find the motive was kept very simple and I did miss some extra drama and intrigue between the different characters, like mistresses who had affairs with different men and then tension and jealousy between them… I didn’t feel much ’emotion’ coming off any of the characters and it’s all quite straight-lined, there are no complications. I know, I read too many stories, right?

All in all I enjoyed this but I missed some extra game play, you’re done when you’ve read everything (I did take notes too so that I saw the important points in the statements) and you decide on a name. All you have to do then is check the solution on a private site (and there are a few clues too to get there if you need them), where they confirmed my suspicion, my suspect was in fact GUILTY. They also list all the clues (5 or 6) for you to have come to that conclusion.

Same book, different cover #18

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Happy hump day! I’m here to bring you again 5 new book covers. It’s up to you to pick and choose your favorite cover. This is just for fun so there are no wrong answers! OK then, I’ll go first, then it’s up to you:

The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

The Last House on Needless Street 01  The Last House on Needless Street 02

Difficult choice to make. The second cover gives me creepy vibes all right but maybe a bit too much? I think I’ll still go for cover 1, the one I’m accustomed with and I’d recognize even without the title.

His & Hers by Alice Feeney

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I’m very sure about my choice, it’s cover 2. I don’t like it when an author’s name is the same size as the title. The second His & Hers has a very attractive cover, I love the contrast and I really like that I could visualise the friendship bracelets they speak of in the novel like this. I always enjoy it when there’s a link between the story and the cover.

The Nothing Man by Catherine Ryan Howard

The Nothing Man 02  The Nothing Man 01

The second cover is very clever, it is the cover of the book within the book and then where the author’s name is (Eve Black is the fictional character who wrote The Nothing Man) the cover is torn and you see that Catherine Ryan Howard actually wrote both books with the same title. I like the idea, very much. And yet, I’m still drawn to cover 1 more.

Educated by Tara Westover

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Both covers appeal for different reasons. The second one immediately gives me the message that this is a real story about real people, it’s not a fiction novel. But it doesn’t reflect how much pain is captured within those pages, she looks too happy and I’m not even sure when she was happy. This is a hard book to read. So I like cover 1 more, you see the pencil, the mountain where Tara lived and even the ups and downs of her life if you think on it some more.

The Hawthorne Legacy by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

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It’s a draw for me so I’d really love to hear which one you enjoy more. The first one is very obvious a young adult novel for me. I also like that the other two covers in the series really match with green and red covers. But the second one gives an idea of the grandeur of the house and it shows directly that 5 characters will be important in the story. So there’s something to say for both really and I’ll leave it up to you to decide.

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So that’s it. Tell me your thoughts! If you can’t get enough, check out Battle Of The Books – #17

The Curious Correspondence Club: Chapter 1: The Custodian Keys #Review #mysterygame

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What is the Curious Correspondence Club exactly?

The Curious Correspondence Club is a Canadian company that delivers immersive analogue puzzle experiences right at your door. It’s the same as an escape room with the benefit that you don’t have even have to step outside. Each envelope contains a chapter with paper-based cryptic puzzles and it’s described as a unique deductive experience.

You can sign up for monthly installments ($19.95USD), a yearly subscription but also for Single Chapters, which was I did! A single purchase costs $21.95USD. I can’t remember how I heard about them but when I browsed to their site I knew I wanted to try this, especially because it’s so fairly priced.

Chapter 1: The Custodian Keys

A curious discovery grants an audience with the enigmatic custodian of the M.B. Franklin Museum of Natural History. To meet his challenge and prove your worth, you’ll need to uncover the Museum’s best kept secret.

A secret within a museum? I love secrets and I hadn’t been in a museum for so long!

This is what I received (I hid my address and phone number although chocolate was also consumed while playing):

FRONT:

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AND BACK (I already felt part of a secret society :-)):

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I was surprised how much I found in the envelope, and several items had clues on both sides too:

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I won’t show you any close-ups of the individual items because it would spoil the fun to discover everything yourself should you decide to order Chapter 1.

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I can tell you that there are 6 puzzles you need to solve that are linked to 6 keys which together in some way unlock the secret of the museum. I was afraid that I wouldn’t know where to start. I experienced this when I solved Crimibox, when I had to read so many papers and I was still unsure where to start the investigation. Here though there’s enough guidance to set you off to a good start and there’s not too much text to read so I could dive in with the first puzzle right away.

The museum has different exhibits with corresponding puzzles and I would name them: Dinosaurs, Egypt, Pirates, Mayas, Knights and Greek. I found out how 5 out of 6 puzzles had to be solved without a problem, I only had to search a little longer on the Dinosaurs and that’s where I used an online hint (there are two separate clues for each exhibit and then the solution so you’ll always get there). Once I knew how to proceed (a puzzle-solving technique I hadn’t used yet) I did feel a little silly so I can say that the puzzles are all very doable. They were not too easy and thankfully not too hard either, if you want to go at it alone.

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I had more problems with the keys and how to unlock the secret of the museum with them. I used them the wrong way it seemed but I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. When I look back to when I opened the package I see that the makers did give enough hints. I was curious if I was the only one who struggled with the locks so I went looking for other players and I found a full playthrough on youtube of Cache The Line, he certainly struggled with it as well.

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But in the end I found what I was looking for and in finding this number I unlocked the secret exhibit! I went to the webpage with the hints, clicked in the appropriate place at the bottom and filled in the number and the keys that led me there and now I’m a Custodian too!

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Would I recommend it?

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YES, I certainly recommend it! I love this type of puzzle-solving. The game-play is professional and high quality. I spent a few hours playing it so an afternoon off or an evening should do it. Even when it took some time to figure out the puzzles, I could always proceed and it gave me a good feeling. There are always hints and a full walkthrough via the link on their website too so you don’t have to worry too much. Unfortunately, Belgian customs held the envelope back because it came out of the EU (yeah thanks a lot for that!) and I was invited to pay as much duty charges as the actual package cost so I won’t be able to continue to chapter 2. I’m actually feeling a little sad about that. If that wasn’t the case I’d certainly order the next chapter! They normally never have any problems with custom duties but that’s Belgium for you.

Have you played one of the Curious Correspondence Club chapters, or from another provider of this type of game-play? Anyone interested to try it out too? I’d love to hear it!  

The Sherlock Holmes Escape Book by Ormond Sacker #Review

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You are Sherlock Holmes… at home at 221b Baker Street, when a mysterious letter is posted through your door. What is the meaning of the message cut from newsprint? Is there a clue hidden in the letters? Could there be more to discover in the fog-bound alleys of London town? This ingenious new series is a spin on the current urban craze for Escape Rooms, in which participants are locked in rooms and must solve the puzzles they find there to make good their escape. Here, the book becomes the locked room, the pages become the path, and the reader can take on a challenge every bit as brain-teasing from the comfort of their own home. Visual clues are hidden among the intriguing illustrations; fiendish riddles, logic puzzles and timed challenges unlock hidden doors and reveal the direction of travel; and mathematical problems provide the codes required to follow the correct path. There are maps and mazes to explore; references to the original Sherlock Holmes adventures to unravel; and a code-wheel that holds the key to unlocking the next page. Solve the puzzles correctly to escape. Get them wrong and you will find yourself further and further along the path to your own demise.

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I bought The Sherlock Holmes Escape Book last year because I’m an amateur sleuth at heart (don’t tell me this is news to you). I’m a newbie at this type of puzzle-solving so I didn’t want it getting too complicated and I read a few reviews before I decided to pick this one as my safe bet.

What I loved

This Escape Book has 128 pages of puzzles so I had more than one afternoon of fun with it and for a small price (prices vary a lot for this one but currently it’s 6,72 £). I loved that it was about the characters of Sherlock and Watson too. I don’t know all the books about them and it’s useful at some point but I Googled them when I needed it so it’s not really necessary.

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Here’s how it starts: you have text to read and then – often after solving a puzzle on that page – you can turn to another page in the book (so going from 1 to 104 right away) so that you go back and forth constantly.

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Here’s another of the puzzles, where there are three possible pages to turn to:

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What I didn’t love

The puzzles were not always easy or fun to do. Some involved a lot of thinking! There was one that involved maths (the one with the gauges where you have to substract and add numbers to reach a goal) and that’s really not my thing but then there were others where you have to spot items for example and at least you don’t have to have any special skills, just be observant. I did like the variety, where you fail one you can always have more luck with another puzzle, and I was happy that the solutions were simply listed in the back of the novel. I did have to turn to them regularly though, whether to check if I was correct or to know the solution.

What I was most disappointed in was that even though I followed the novel, I ended up with a final entry way too soon. I think I missed half of the book’s puzzles and I have no clue how this could happen. Was it my fault? I tried to go back to see if I made a mistake but I think it’s easier to start from the beginning to follow the trail. I didn’t have the courage to do so now though, maybe I’ll try again later. I’m more into different kinds of puzzles to be honest.

I only recommend it if you’re more into such brain training. I did see on Amazon that there are still plenty of people who do love this kind of challenge.

My top 10 favorite books of 2021

My top 10 favorite books of 2021

Happy New Year to you! I wish you love, health, success, and general happiness! Oh and lots of great books in the future of course! There are new books being published this year by Ruth Ware, Megan Goldin, Sarah Pinborough, Fiona Cummins, Jennifer Hillier, Alice Feeney, and many others, and I want to read all of them!

But all in good time. For now, you’ll have to make do with my most favourite novels of last year. As always it was a difficult choice and there are at least two, three other titles that deserve to be on this list. I admit I changed the list at the last minute again too, because I still found the last novel I read this year deserved to be on the list too. So here are my ten favorites of 2021:

If you want to know which one gets the golden buzzer from me I’d have to say it’s No Exit. This was a new author for me and I was blown away. I’d love to reread all of my favorites at one point but this is definitely highest on my list. If you want to feel an adrenaline rush created by book, you need to read No Exit. Highly recommended!

So see anything you like that you haven’t read yet? Any title(s) we share? What’s on your list? Do let me know, I looove putting more books on my readlist 🙂 

Same book, different cover #17

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Happy hump day! I’m here to bring you again 5 new book covers (ok I was so fired up I even added an extra one so you get 6 book choices this time). It’s up to you to pick and choose your favorite cover. This is just for fun so there are no wrong answers! OK then, I’ll go first, then it’s up to you:

Bone China by Laura Purcell

Bone China 03   Bone China  Bone China 02

I choose cover 2. It has that historical and gothic feel to it which is missing in the third cover, and the first one feels a little too bare and colorless to me, it’s like it was the first draft and the second one is the one where they added all the color and extras and is actually the finished cover.

No Exit by Taylor Adams

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I choose cover 2. I actually read the first one but it’s the great reviews that convinced me because I wouldn’t have picked it up based on this cover, it feels too ghostly and if anything, I try to stay away from ghosts. If you feel the same, I can reassure you, it’s a real handprint left on a window and you’ll find out soon enough there’s nothing ghostly about this book.

Then She Vanishes by Claire Douglas

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I pick cover 1. The second isn’t too bad either but the purple doesn’t feel as ominous as it should for me. Also I find it more chilling with the promise of someone vanishing in plain daylight than at night.

The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas

The Cheerleaders 01  The Cheerleaders 02

I definitely choose cover 2. I do like the tagline of the first one but I’m not a fan of the image. It gives me such an all American feeling and despite the title it feels too cosy and cheerful. The second cover with those little smudges of blood is more ominous and mysterious.

Eight Perfect Hours by Lia Louis

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I guess this one depends on how much you love winter and novels set in winter time. I don’t love winter at all so I definitely pick cover 1. Sorry!

House of Correction by Nicci French

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Hmm well I’m spoilt for choice this time but I’m going for cover 2. I actually have nr 4 which looks nice as well and certainly stands out in my library with the vivid blue color but cover 2 reflects that feeling of confinement so well that I’m eager to find out more. The third cover makes me expect a story set somewhere in the seventies or eighties for some reason so I wouldn’t really pick this one either.

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So that’s it. Tell me your thoughts! If you can’t get enough, check out Battle Of The Books – #16

New BFF: Aleks and the Books

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Happy hump day! Can you believe we’re the middle of the week – again?!

Today on The Belgian Reviewer I want to introduce you to sweet, friendly and smart Aleksandra who blogs at Aleks and the Books. She’s Polish-born but settled in Britain where she resides in Cardiff. She’s a very diverse blogger and reads several genres but to start off I can already say that she also likes to read The Classics and she has compiled a list of 50 novels that she wants to read so if you want to join The Classics Club, you need to check it out (the deadline is far, far FAR away you’ll see!). She’s only started with her blog so do show her some blog love, and you can always follow her on Goodreads too. Now let’s get to know her a little better, shall we?

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Name: Aleksandra

Wikipedia: Etymologically, the name is a compound of the Greek alexein; meaning ‘to defend’ and andros; meaning ‘man’. Thus it may be roughly translated as “defender of man” or “protector of man”. The name was one of the epithets given to the Greek goddess Hera and as such is usually taken to mean “one who comes to save warriors”

Age:

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Birthday:  20th January

What did you study or do you study now / what is your current job?
I am currently studying English Language and German, and I’m in my 3rd year now going on Erasmus exchange to study psychology and sociology in Berlin! And hopefully in the future I will be able to do my Master’s as well.

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Do you have any other hobbies?
I love running! I have run 2 half-marathons (one in the UK, one in my hometown in Poland), and a couple of 5k and 10k races. I am not a professional runner or anything like that (I am quite terrible at running tbf), I just like to be physically active, challenge myself and have fun with other people! And I also love shiny medals.

I also love nature and everything that’s connected with it. I love going out with my camera and taking pictures of the landscapes, I love hiking in the mountains (my biggest dream now is to climb Mount Kilimanjaro), I love travelling and exploring new places, and I love animals! The first photo is from one of my recent hikes in Tatra Mountains, and the photo of the waterfall is Henhryd Falls in Wales.

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Do you have any pets? 
I personally don’t have a pet, but my family has a cat called Masha (it’s short for Maria in Russian). She’s British Shorthair, she’s very fluffy and cuddly, and she loves relaxing next to books.

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Your favourite color? 
Definitely pink! But I do like pastel colours as well such as lilac, mint, pastel blue and pastel yellow.

Do you collect anything (besides books)?
I have a small collection of all the medals I earned for my races. If I’m correct, I should have seven of them, and two new ones will join our family very soon!

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I also collect pin badges from the places I’ve been to! It’s not a big collection as I got this idea about collecting them not so long ago, but it’s such a small and nice thing to get while on holidays, and I always feel like a proper traveller when I can showcase them on my traveller’s backpack!

What’s the name of the book that you’ve had the longest? Have you read it?
I think Harry Potter series are my first books I have till this day. Soon after, I bought a complete trilogy of The Lord of the Rings which is also chilling on my bookshelf at home! I think I was around 12 or 13. I got rid of most of my books from childhood (I know I know, very silly of me), but as a kid I didn’t buy many books anyway, I preferred to borrow everything from the library.

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Have you ever regretted a book you purchased? A book that sounded so promising but you wished you’d have spent your money on another book after reading it?
Oh yes… Harry Potter and the Cursed Child! I remember I got it in English when I was once visiting my family in London and I spent a fortune on that. I DIDN’T hate it, but I was so totally disappointed after finishing that I thought it was the biggest waste of money ever.

Do you listen to audio books? 
To be totally honest, I don’t like audiobooks. I’m a very visual person and I have to have raw text in front of me to fully understand the book! I even have to watch films and shows with subtitles on, I just like looking at the text I guess!

Do you have a favorite genre?
I think currently it’s historical fiction, but I also like contemporary fiction, classics and nonfiction. I like topics of identity, culture and social issues, so I don’t mind a good thriller, as long as it explores these things in even small details!

Do you read more ebooks or physical books?
I love my Kindle and it travels with me everywhere. I like how small and convenient it is to have even the biggest books in a tiny device, and it’s very useful when you don’t have to drag It by Stephen King with you on a train! I have a lot of physical books, but recently I’ve been using my Kindle much much more.

Do you have a favorite book? 
If I could only name one… My favourite book of all time is The Little Prince. It’s a universal and beautiful story and it played a really important role in my life. My second favourite book is Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. I absolutely love it, I think it’s beautifully written and it’s very thought-provoking. And the third favourite book is just recently finished The Midnight Library. There are a couple of other books that are my all-time favs, but I think these three mean a lot to me and have a special place in my heart.

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What’s the cover in your collection that you’re most proud of? 
This edition of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. For some reason I really like it, and it’s not this basic cover of a woman in a red hood that you can usually see on The Handmaid’s Tale editions! And behind it, you can see Patrick Ness’s The Knife of Never Letting Go which has red pages, how cool is that?

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What is the book highest on your wishlist right now?
All the Light We Cannot See. I still can’t believe I haven’t read that.

How is your library organized? 

This is my shelf from my room back at home. I still haven’t read a lot of the books so most of them are unopened and fresh editions, some of them are my young adult books that I haven’t touched since I was 14, and there are quite a few poetry books as well! Most of them are in Polish, some of them are in English, there should be a couple of books in German and one edition of Harry Potter in Russian. I really wish I could show you my shelf with my books at uni, but unfortunately they are all hidden in boxes now, waiting for me to come back from my Erasmus exchange.

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Do you have any idea how many books you own? <100, >100, >200, >300 …?
If I think about all the books I own in all the places I’ve left my books, and also including books on my Kindle, that should be definitely more than 100! I know that only in my room I have around 40 books I still haven’t read…

What’s the title of the last book you purchased? 
I bought my last books at the airport in August, and they were The Midnight Library by Matt Haig and Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge. I have already finished The Midnight Library, and the another one is on my to-read list!

Reni Eddo-Lodge is a London-based, award-winning journalist. She has written for the New York Times, the Voice, Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Independent, Stylist, the Pool, Dazed and Confused and the New Humanist. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race is her first book. It was chosen as Foyles Non-Fiction Book of the Year and Blackwell’s Non-Fiction Book of the Year, longlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize and shortlisted for the Books Are My Bag Readers Award for Non-Fiction.

From which author do you have most books? 
Naturally J. K. Rowling – all 7 books of Harry Potter in Polish editions, 3 books in English (and one of them is an American edition), The Tales of Beedle the Bard, The Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Quidditch through the Ages and The Casual Vacancy. Jane Austen is next and her books are in my favourite, flowery and very girly editions – and that’s Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey!

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How many books are there on your Goodreads challenge this year and how many have you read already? 
My challenge for this year is 32 books and I’ve already finished 27 of them. I used to read much more, but since I started uni, I haven’t had much time to do well in my adult life and still read 50 books a year. But I think I’m going to change my challenge soon and add a bit more since I’m doing pretty well this year.

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Can you spell your name with the first letters of titles in your book case? 

I did my best to find those books I actually made it! There was a problem with K, but if you’ll accept a title in Polish then it should all be fine The books are:

A – Americanah by Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi
L – Lion by Saroo Brierley
E – Emma by Jane Austen
K – Krew elfów (Blood of Elves in English) by Andrzej Sapkowski
S – Serena by Ron Rash

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In case you missed it, here are the 5 last BFF’s (Blog Friends Forever) I posted about. You can find the tab with links to these and the previous posts on my home page.

Kelly – FromBelgiumWithBookLove
Deborah – The Reading Chick
Jonetta – The Blue Mood Cafe
Zoé – Zooloo’s Book Diary
Annelies – In Another Era

I would really really love more friends in my BFF club so give me a shout if you want to be featured! I’m especially thinking of all newbie bloggers here who we don’t know very well yet!

New BFF: In Another Era

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Hi guys! Remember this feature ;)?

It’s been a year but I finally made a new wonderful blog friend! Annelies blogs over at In Another Era and she’s from Belgium too! Some of the things I learned about her so far is that she loves a minimalistic lifestyle, she’s addicted to chocolate and eats it every day (yes girl!! Also, is this a Belgian thing I wonder?), she’s a control freak, very creative and she can still remember the first latin words she learned in school (the little bunny cries). My admiration only grows now because I can’t even remember what I ate yesterday. Anywayyy if you want to hear more about my interesting blogfriend, do keep on reading to hear the rest of our talk.

Name: Annelies

This is me:

Age: I’m 27

Birthday: Born on August 26

I’m just too late then to celebrate your birthday on my blog…

What did you study or do you study now / what is your current job? I have a master’s degree in business communication sciences and I did a postgraduate in Advertising. I’m currently working as a marketing strategist in a web agency in the beautiful city of Leuven in Belgium. We want to make the world, and especially the internet, a better place. That’s why we only work for companies that want to make a good and sustainable impact on society. I work for all different kinds of clients and projects and I have a wonderful bunch of colleagues.

Do you have any other hobbies?

I love travelling to other countries and visiting museums. Here’s two photos taken during my travels in Paris and Valencia, and the other photos in this blogpost were taken in Berlin and Malta.

I go to my dancing classes twice a week. I love watching cycling and especially cyclocross (which is a typical Belgian sport). And apart from that, you can find me walking in the woods or playing with my cats. I also love blogging. I am writing on a Dutch personal blog for more than 5 years now and it really empties my mind to just write about what keeps me busy. And now it was time for an English counterpart focused on my love for books and history.

Do you have any pets?
At the moment I have 12 cats. I know! It wasn’t a deliberate choice. They’re all street cats that were dumped by their owners or kittens from dumped cats. More than 9 of them are above 10 years old so sometimes it feels like I’m living in an elderly home for cats :). I love my cats dearly, but when I will be moving in a few years I don’t know if I want to have some of my own. It breaks my heart when I lose them.

I was able to get 5 of them in one picture :-), they’re the eldest and all siblings.

The cat’s names are: Felix (Feke), Whiskas (Wiske), Toyke, Aico, Gigi, Gimber, Domino (Doke), Fleur, Nette, Lela, Jetta and Simba.

Your favourite color?
Yellow. It’s just a bright and happy color.

   

Hmmm I think I know a few bloggers (but at least one in particular) who looove yellow too!

OK raise your hand if you like yellow 🙂

Do you collect anything (besides books)? 
I don’t collect any stuff. I have a minimalistic mindset. You might be disappointed in a few instances if you see my book collection :).

What’s the name of the book that you’ve had the longest? Have you read it?
That will be a bundle of fairytale stories my grandparents used to read me every day (I was with them before and after school). I believe it was a collection of the brothers Grimm, but I also had a book with nice illustrations and stories about animals. I loved that book.

Jacob Ludwig Karl Grimm, German philologist, jurist and mythologist, was born at Hanau, in Hesse-Kassel (or Hesse-Cassel). He is best known as the discoverer of Grimm’s Law, the author of the monumental German Dictionary, his Deutsche Mythologie and more popularly, with his brother Wilhelm, as one of the Brothers Grimm, as the editor of Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

Have you ever regretted a book you purchased? A book that sounded so promising but you wished you’d have spent your money on another book after reading it?
Probably, but I’m picky when I purchase a book for my own shelves. So mostly it’s a considered choice. I can’t name a book that I regretted purchasing by heart now.

Do you listen to audio books?

No. My boyfriend is an avid podcast listener and I’m trying for some years now to incorporate that habit in my life also. But I don’t seem to succeed. I’m the kind of person who wants to combine listening to a book with something else, but I also want to give my full attention to the story… So that just doesn’t work out.

When I was a child, I had some cassettes with fairytales (I know, I was raised on fairy tales) that I could listen to for hours. But I’ve lost that habit apparently.

Do you have a favorite genre?
Easy one! Historical fiction is my favorite genre, hence the name of the blog. I love to read stories about times when life was more difficult than now. I just hate these contemporary books where the main characters’s only worry is the fact that her lover didn’t text back just yet.

No, let me read about ancient kingdoms or medieval cities where people have to travel for months to reach their family or lover. Full of adventure, war, drama and real romance.

What is the book highest on your wishlist right now?
I guess that would be the new Elizabeth Freemantle, named ‘the honey and the sting‘. I have all her books in my library and this cover is so pretty.

How is your library organized?
By color and a bit by genre. So all non-fiction books are on one shelf and then my historical fiction collection takes already a few shelfs. I also have my magazines and personal photo albums, my travel guides, some random books… I need more space, ok? :D.

I’m currently building my own house and there will be an office room with walls purely dedicated to become book shelfs. My boyfriend also has a fair collection of books (he reads mostly thrillers and detectives), so we’ll need some space for that. I’d love to work between my piles of books.

Do you read more ebooks or physical books?
I only have a Kindle for a month now, so I still read a lot of physical books. I love to go the library to discover new books and sometimes read another genre. The library is around the corner of my office and has a vast collection, both Dutch and English. But due to the pandemic I am working from home for some time now, so that’s why I bought a Kindle and thus for the moment I’m reading more ebooks.

Do you have a favorite book?
Yes and no. It changes constantly. But if I should choose one, it would be Augustus from John Williams. That book could be a direct translation from one of the ancient Latin texts. It’s so real and written with so much respect for the Roman era. I just love it. I really believe studying Latin made me become such as history lover and also learned me to appreciate different languages and styles of writing.

Synopsis: Augustus is a sweeping narrative that brings vividly to life a compelling cast of historical figures through their letters, dispatches, and memoirs.

A mere eighteen years of age when his uncle, Julius Caesar, is murdered, Octavius Caesar prematurely inherits rule of the Roman Republic. Surrounded by men who are jockeying for power–Cicero, Brutus, Cassius, and Mark Antony–young Octavius must work against the powerful Roman political machinations to claim his destiny as first Roman emperor. Sprung from meticulous research and the pen of a true poet, Augustus tells the story of one man’s dream to liberate a corrupt Rome from the fancy of the capriciously crooked and the wildly wealthy

“One does not deceive oneself about the consequences of one’s acts; one deceives oneself about the ease with which one can live with those consequences.”
― John Williams, Augustus

What’s the cover in your collection that you’re most proud of?
I don’t think many people will agree, but I love the cover of ‘the sins of the house of Borgia‘. Yes, it’s with a nude woman and appeals to an erotic topic. But I love the colors and the gold on the letters. I just find it a very beautiful and attractive cover. Let me, please 😀

The book is also more about life at the Ferrara court in the 15th century, then about the Borgias. Highly recommended (it also goes by the alternative title ‘the book of love’)!

I’m also in love with my deluxe edition of the seven works of Jane Austen. You can slay someone with that book I believe, as it is so so big. And the font is really small. So it took me some years to finish her whole oeuvre, but now I can say I read every Jane Austen book. (Bonus answer: Sense & sensibility is my favorite and I hated Emma so much I could hit her).

Do you have any idea how many books you own? <100, >100, >200, >300 …?
I believe it will be above 100 books, but no more than 200. My mum also has a library in her room that we share. I have never counted them.

What’s the title of the last book you purchased?
I bought The silken rose by Carol MCGrath as a kindle ebook. It’s about Eleanor Of Provence. I’m excited to start reading it.

What was your favorite author when you were a child?
Patrick Lagrou, a Flemish author of children books. His most famous work is also translated in English as ‘Born among the Dolphins‘. Maybe someone here has heard of it?

From which author do you have most books?
I have no idea. I think it will be Tatiana De Rosnay, Elizabeth Freemantle or Joanna Hickson that I own the most books from. But I have copies of a lot of different authors. And I read so many stories from the library that I have no idea about my most read author (and Goodreads deleted that stat apparantly).

Are there books you’ve read 2 or 3 times?
A few, I reread books when I was younger. But now, there are so many books and so little time… There are a lot of books and classics that I want to reread but a new book always appeals to me more in some way.

How many books are there on your Goodreads challenge this year and how many have you read already?
Compared to other book bloggers, I don’t read a lot of books. Building your home by yourself while working full-time is not the best combination for your reading time. I can promise you that :D.

My Goodreads challenge says I need to read 35 books and secretly I hope to finish around 40. My best reading year was 2018, when I read 40 books. At the moment I have read 23 books this year and I’m 2 books ahead on schedule. To my defense, I read books with an average length above 450 pages, so at the end of the year I have read a lot of pages. Sometimes more than fellow Dutch bloggers who read 10 books more. It’s the quality of the books that counts (and I just like big books).

I would be happy to connect on Goodreads by the way.

Can you spell your name with the first letters of titles in your book case? 
I’m blessed to have a long name :D.

A column of fire by Ken Follett
Nancy Bilyeau – The crown
Northhanger abbey by Jane Austen
Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine by Gail Honeyman
Lynn Andrews – the queen’s promise
I Mona Lisa by Jeanne Kalogridis
Elizabeth Freemantle – The queen’s gambit
Sunne in splendour by Sharon Kay Penman

And that’s a wrap for today! This was so much fun again. Thank you soooo much Annelies for participating!

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In case you missed it, here are the 5 last BFF’s (Blog Friends Forever) I posted about. You can find the tab with links to these and the previous posts on my home page.

Alexandra – Alexandra Wolfe
Kelly – FromBelgiumWithBookLove
Deborah – The Reading Chick
Jonetta – The Blue Mood Cafe
Zoé – Zooloo’s Book Diary

I would really really love more friends in my BFF club so give me a shout if you want to be featured! I’m especially thinking of all newbie bloggers here who we don’t know very well yet!

Q&A with Tom Bale, author of the ultimate summer thriller ‘Survive’ @t0mbale

Author spotlight 2

On the blog today I’m very happy to welcome Tom Bale, a British author who has written eleven novels so far, including the great titles See How They Run and All Fall Down. Today, however, the spotlight is on his shiny new novel Survive which is claimed to be the ultimate summer thriller.

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My review will be up this weekend but until then I hope you’ll enjoy the interview I had with the very kind author. You’ll see that I wasn’t shy asking him about his favorite holiday destination and preferred drink, so if you want to know all, by all means keep on reading!

QandA

1. Can you tell me briefly what your latest novel Survive is about?

Survive is the story of Sam and Jody, a young couple with two children, taking their first ever foreign holiday. They’re expecting a week of all-inclusive luxury, but instead they end up fighting for their lives.

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2. What inspired you to write this novel, it’s a bit different from your other novels, isn’t it?

It is quite different, yes. I saw it from the beginning as an allegory of sorts, driven by anger and frustration at various news stories illustrating how the one percent treat the rest of us. I was also influenced by a Graham Greene novel, Dr Fischer of Geneva, which has essentially the same theme. As the idea formed, I drew on real-life experiences of holidays with my family – including the rather frightening incident at the start of the novel – and I also sought to create the otherworldly feel that I remembered from John Fowles’ The Magus, a novel that had a big impact on me when I read it as a teenager.

3. The location in the novel is an idyllic island named Sekliw. Did you base it on a real place? I was thinking of Malta when I read it, but I could be completely wrong and it could well be purely fiction as well of course.

The nature of the story meant it had to be a completely fictional island, but when I described it I was thinking of various locations in southern Europe – Greek islands, Cyprus and so on. I’ve never been to Malta, but it sounds like that would make a suitable candidate as well.

(There’s also a clue in the island’s name as to another of the books that inspired me: reverse the word and think Stephen King!)

4. I felt that Jody was the stronger person in the novel, often taking the lead instead of the usual ‘alpha man’. What were your thoughts for this unusual plotline?

To me it was a natural reflection of many relationships that I’ve known and witnessed, especially those involving the parents of young children. Very often the woman is the stronger of the two, the key decision maker, even if that’s not always immediately obvious to others. I also thought it would make for a more interesting dynamic if Sam is less at home in the holiday environment, given that as a society we often still expect the man to take the lead and be the more dominant partner. But once they’re in danger, I think it becomes more balanced. Jody and Sam are both strong at different times and weak at others, and most importantly they have to work together to protect their children.

Tom Hanks

🌴 🌴 🌴 🌴 🌴 🌴

OK time for some slightly different questions now, inspired by the novel 🙂

5. What is your favorite holiday destination? Do you like an active vacation and do you sign up with a rep (like Gabby (Gabrielle) in Survive) right away or do you like exploring on your own, or perhaps you prefer to relax at the pool all day?

When my children were little we had some wonderful holidays where we signed up for the excursions and the kids took part in daytime activities and loved watching the evening entertainment. Nowadays I’m more likely to favour a quiet beach where I can read and swim in peace. My favourite destination has to be Greece – I’ve been to half a dozen islands and several different places on the mainland, and every single time it was a wonderful, idyllic experience.

6. Which books would you take with you if you were going on holiday next week and why did you pick these?

I love choosing books to take on holiday – and no matter how many I take, I always go mad and buy several more at the airport! Right now I’d go with Masked Prey, the latest book from my favourite thriller writer, John Sandford. For non-fiction I’d take Putin’s People by Catherine Belton, partly because the issues I explored in Survive are more relevant than ever. Finally, a book I’m about to re-read after many years: Sandmouth People by Ronald Frame, which is an evocative, multi-layered story set in the quintessential seaside town.

Beach Reads

7. If you were dropped on a deserted island, which 3 items would you take with you?

I know it ought to be food and drink, but my first thought is a large library of books. My second is a large collection of music – perhaps a solar powered MP3 player? And my third would be a speedboat – but failing that, a solar powered fridge full of beer and chocolate!

8. Do you have ANY survival skills? Basically, are you a Jody (with some skills) or a Sam (not so skilled) and would you be able to survive if put to the test?

I don’t really have any survival skills – I was never in the boy scouts, for one thing. But I’m a fairly practical person, and years of plotting out stories has made me a pretty good problem solver. I suspect I’d be okay at building a shelter and finding a way to collect water, but useless when it came to identifying edible plants or berries, let alone catching and cooking fish.

9. OK let’s round up with a more positive note than thoughts of death. What is your favorite cocktail to drink on holiday? 

I don’t really drink spirits, so I’m more likely to take a sip of someone else’s just to try it out, and then return to my ice cold beer!

Beer

Huge thanks to Tom for taking the time to answer my questions!

Anyone already having second thoughts too about that all-in holiday? If not, I’ll ask again after you read the novel 😉

Capital Crime: for the Belgian jury… 12 points! @CapitalCrime1 @MidasPR

Capital_Crime

I’m back from Capital Crime, the first thriller festival in London with over one hundred authors! I arrived on Friday and went back home on Saturday and it doesn’t seem long but it feels like it wasn’t two days but two weeks that I went away.

Even though it was exhausting and overwhelming, it was still totally worth it (and don’t you want to feel like you’ve been away much longer than you really have ;-)). I only need a bit of time to process all that’s happened to me, but now that it’s fresh I’ll share with you some of my highlights.

But first of all I want to give a special thanks to the lovely Anne Cater, Amber Choudhary at Midas PR and to my blogfriend Meggy because without these three I wouldn’t have been there!

My arrival

I had a bit of stress (ok I didn’t sleep well the night before) but as soon as I arrived I saw the lovely Meggy of Chocon’Waffles waiting for me outside of the gate of the Eurostar terminal. She’s been my rock throughout the festival, seriously. She’s just as lovely and kind as I hoped, she’s a true friend and I’m eternally grateful for sticking by me. It meant so much to me that she didn’t leave me alone there, even walked me to the trainstation again the following day!

BAM

The venue itself was gorgeous, with big halls and chandeliers… a really nice location, I was impressed. There were 2 big rooms (and the bar which was also frequented at a regular basis)

So, then, literally 2 seconds after stepping inside of the Grand Vere Connaught Rooms, I saw my first author! Mark Edwards was coming down the steps. Meggy asked me if I wanted to talk to him but of course no, no, too soon, much too soon :-).

Friends

I then met the rest of the bloggers I would hang out with these two days: Ronnie of Ronnie Turner, Penny of What Do I Read Now, Danielle of The Reading Closet, Zoé of  Zooloo’s Book Diary and on day 2 I also met blogger Jen of Jen Med’s Book Reviews. They are all wonderful and kind people, they made me feel very welcome and actually pleased to meet me. I love them all!

If you want to have the bestest of blogfriends, add them on Twitter here:
@Choconwaffles, @W2readnow, @Ronnie__Turner, @book_obsessed1, @zooloo2008, @JenMedBkReviews.

I was afraid of walking into a group that already knew each other and I’m certainly not a kisser or hugger (I spent my birthday at home alone to avoid the kissing at work (and also because I’m making my own special day and don’t want to work then)) but I felt really at ease among them. I still won’t initiate a hug but I was very happy with the hugs they insisted on giving me. Zoé is an amazing hugger, not too long or too short, not vice-like or half-hearted, just perfect. I knew in advance that there would be a question for a photo with me in it and I’m happy they didn’t insist but respected my wishes. It was a pleasure to have met the crimesquad!

Panel

I had my first panel of the day then with Claire McGowan asking questions to Lisa Jewell and Mark Edwards (it’s karma I tell ya) about The Psychology of Tension. I knew I was in trouble soon because I wanted to read both authors after their talk (I only read one novel by Mark Edwards years ago). I finally chose one author and bought the book. Two guesses which one :-).

The psychology of tension.JPG

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Mark Edwards is a very friendly author, I’m quite happy he’s the first author I ever saw in real life. I can’t wait to read his book Here to Stay now, his mind is fascinating… and he doesn’t kill off the cat in his books, he pays attention to giving the readers what they want and what do we want? That’s right, to SAVE THE ANIMALS!

This panel and all the other panel discussions I attended were great, it was really interesting to hear the authors talk on so many topics and answer questions about their favorite murder weapon or if they like to kill more men or women in their books, or how they react when people ring the doorbell when they’re writing… I should have taken notes really.

Here are some of the other panels I chose to attend. I wish I had a time-turner so I could have gone to the other panels that were happening at the same moment but unfortunately I had to make some tough choices.

When Women Make Murderers

Fiona Cummins and CJ Tudor really stood out for me in this panel, but maybe it’s because I only read their novels so far…

Chilled to the Bone

Of course I couldn’t miss the authors from Orenda Books. I was a bit horrified when the conversation went towards killing puffins… but there were a lot of funny quips, it was a great panel too!

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And then there was this one of course. I only read MW Craven so it was mostly for him that I wanted to attend, but the others were really interesting too and Amer Anwar even took a picture of the audience (the other way around!).

Britain's Toughest Streets

There was also a quiz between two teams of authors and it was just brilliant. There were questions about the other author’s books, genre what type of car was used in this or that book, but they also had to reenact a scene and the other team had to guess. It was such fun to just see them all going for it (well especially one person) and the quiz host, Paul Clayton, was superb.

Here’s the winning team although they only won with a difference of half a point, so both teams are winners for me 😉

Whosecrimeisitanyway

Approachable

In general, all the authors were all very approachable and I had no idea they would be so open. They’re people I often look up to and they have the same status as a rockstar to me, I’m in full admiration of what they can do with their pen and mind, so it took me by surprise you could easily talk to them outside of the signing sessions too.

If you followed me on Twitter you’ll also know that I called an author by the wrong name. Well I was forgiven right away because the lovely Deborah O’Donoghue (author of Sea of Bones) invited me to drink tea (I’m not English so coffee) with me. I also met Heidi Perks, Rachel Kennedy of Cornerstone publishers and the sweet Merilyn Davies (author of When I Lost You) with whom I had a good talk. It’s not evident for me to talk to people I don’t know but she was so friendly that I was comfortable talking to her. I sometimes wonder how people so sweet can write such crime but then I’m sweet too (if I’m allowed to say that of myself) and I love the hard, gritty thrillers too.

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I also received a keyring from Carol Bridgestock who writes novels together with her husband Robert under the name RC Bridgestock. I’m ashamed to say I didn’t know them but it appears the couple has nearly half a century in combined police experience and they take this experience turning real cases into fictional stories. Carol was also suuupernice to me. Another author whose books I really want to try now.

So today I have Carol and Robert’s as well as my own fingerprint on a keyring!

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Perfect ending of the day

I finished the day with a lovely dinner with Meggy where we – guess what – talked even more about books. It was perfect for destressing and I very much enjoyed our time together… if only she lived closer and not in another country.

I picked a hotel only a 5 minute walk from the venue and I’m quite happy I did that, although I did have a few problems in the room.

Meeting Mike Craven

I had a sleepless night so day two wasn’t my best day. I was already overwhelmed by so much that happened on day 1 so I was too emotional and a bit in lockdown, much quieter than the day before. I’ll tell you more about it in another blogpost. I did have one good streak though and I HAVE to share this with you: my encounter with MW Craven.

I was standing in line with Meggy for Zoé to get a book signed and I saw Danielle and Ronnie talking to him! I brought my book (from Belgium) to get it signed so I was excited to spot him (he’s hard to miss with the metal t-shirt and he’s not so small either). Meggy was urging me to go to him and then she was shouting at Danielle who was still talking and didn’t hear her at all 😉 and she was saying go, go, go to me… I went on automatism really, obeying that voice… so I came there and I seriously don’t remember but it’s possible that I just butted into the conversation (so sorry Danielle) and asked for a picture of him with me. He was reallyyy nice and I was already packing the book away again when he said, do you want me to sign it? I was of course too shy to ask but YES! He then asked my name and even wrote it on his hand to get it right (it seems my name is a difficult one for English people so in case you’re wondering INGE is pronounced as in sing-ING and then followed in one swoop with a dull E that sounds like UH). So that’s the story how M.W. Craven got to sign my book. Not everyone has a story like that eh?

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Photos

I also have photos of me with authors C.J. Tudor (I won a copy Those Other People!), Merilyn Davies (When I Lost You), Deborah O’Donoghue (Sea of Bones), Lizzie Barber (My Name is Anna), Will Dean (there was a lot of fangirling beforehand and I seriously didn’t know why but yes, I must admit he is in fact really good-looking in close-up too) and Mark Edwards. These photos are for my private collection only though, I don’t particularly feel the need to share.. you must know what the authors look like by now :-).

Conclusion

I’m not going to lie, the 24h I was there was long enough for me. Maybe I would feel a little differently if I had slept better but I’m not sure it would make all the difference either. It was just really full-on with authors everywhere, I didn’t know where to look first. The panel talks also gave a lot of information, I was quite happy there were signing sessions in between and a break for lunch. London is a strange city too so with every step I was looking around at everything new and it was a lot to take in.

I highly recommend this book festival though. I know it’s the first and only one I attended but it was very well organised, it had big author names on their programme, the panels were great and of outstanding quality (you won’t get bored, promise), there was a good vibe and atmosphere and the location is easy enough to reach. Don’t miss out on attending next year is all I can say !

My sweet friend Meggy made it so much better for me of course, I didn’t feel lost and I didn’t get lost (ok I did, twice even, but I’ll tell you about that in another blogpost). On day 2 she came with me to the trainstation again where I took the Eurostar home. In Brussels I took another local train then and after 4 hours (3 in reality but with the time difference 4) I was home again. The adventure might have ended in the present day but I’m still reliving it in my mind…

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It was an amazing experience and I’m grateful for meeting so many authors, new and old but all very friendly, for everyone I met there and the friends I made. I’m happy I did it!

Ah before I forget…. I came to London with one small rucksack and I went home with 10 books (and two I had brought from home) so that’s 12 books (and one of them is so thick it can even count for two). It’s a wonder I haven’t dislocated my shoulder or hurt my back.

Here’re the books I bought (I bought 3 in a secondhand bookstore too at lunchtime) and 2 were in the Capital Crime goodie bag.

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So what do you think? Who wants to attend Capital Crime next year? I hope I could convince you it’s really worth it!