Warren the 13th on Friday the 13th

Ah, Friday the 13th. Unlucky for some, or so they say. Me? I’m quite happy with *this* Friday the 13th because it’s my birthday! Not so lucky for Warren the 13th though…

We first meet Warren in The All-seeing Eye…
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Meet Warren the 13th. He’s the lone bellhop, valet, groundskeeper, and errand boy of his family’s ancient hotel. It’s a strange, shadowy mansion full of crooked corridors and mysterious riddles—and it just might be home to a magical treasure known as the All-Seeing Eye. But if Warren is going to find the hidden treasure, he’ll need to solve several other mysteries first: What is the strange creature lurking in the hotel boiler room? Who is the ghostly girl creeping around the garden’s hedge maze? And why is the hotel’s only guest covered in bandages?

then again in book 2, The Whispering Woods…
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This sequel to Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye begins soon after the first book’s conclusion. Twelve-year-old Warren has learned that his beloved hotel can walk, and now it’s ferrying guests around the countryside, transporting tourists to strange and foreign destinations. But when an unexpected detour brings everyone into the dark and sinister Malwoods, Warren finds himself separated from his hotel and his friends—and racing after them on foot through a forest teeming with witches, snakes, talking trees, and mind-boggling riddles.

I *loved* these two books. They’re aimed at middle grade, 8-12 year olds and are quirky, charming, with some gorgeously gothic illustrations, reminscent of Edward Gorey or Tim Burton. The stories bounce along and are great fun.

You can read a short story featuring our hero in this downloadable activity booklet, along with puzzles and a recipe for Chef Bunion’s Sugar Cookies. Enjoy!

Both Warren the 13th books are available now and are published by Quirk Books. Many thanks to Jamie for the sneak peek!

The reality behind the fiction – guest post by CJ Carver

I’ve had CJ Carver as a guest on the blog before and I’m delighted to welcome her back for a second appearance. CJ has a new book, the follow-up to her fantastic Spare Me The Truth. It’s called Tell Me a Lie – more of that later.

First, CJ is here to talk about the reality behind the fiction and how the culture of a country influences the story.

Ready? Sitting comfortably, with a large mug of your beverage of choice? Of course you are. Over to CJ…

For a thriller writer, Russia has everything you could possibly want.  Spies, oligarchs, corrupt officials, gulags, the FSB and vodka.  Lots of vodka.  Which is why, when my character Jay McCaulay in Back with Vengeance awakes in a Moscow hotel with no idea how she got there, she initially blames her memory loss on the vodka.

I’m fascinated by Russia.  I visited Moscow during its dissolution in the early nineties.  I met with factory workers in Samara and farmers in Bishkek.  I learned that the people chain smoke, that they’re flashy and love their bling.  They’re deep thinkers and blunt to the point of rudeness, but more interestingly, they’re passionate and fiercely loyal to their country.  And so, the beautiful Ekaterina Datsik was born in Tell Me a Lie.  She’s a combination of all the Russians I met, good and bad, generous and mean, which makes her the perfect enigmatic foil against Dan Forrester’s quest for the truth.

The plot for Tell Me a Lie is driven by Russia’s culture.  The peoples need for a great leader even if he (never a she) imprisons, exiles or executes millions of people without due process.  Look at President Putin.  He’s a ruthless, cold-blooded, corrupt ex-KBG officer but the majority of Russian’s revere him for being a “strong man” thanks to being brainwashed by the media.

I always play the “what if?” game when plotting a new book.  And with Tell Mea Lie I wondered: what if the people found out about Putin’s media manipulation?  His siphoning off billions into his and his cronies’ accounts in the Cayman Islands?  Would they rise up against the government officials like they did against the Tsars and tear down their dachas, kill them?

As I said, Russia is fertile ground for a thriller writer.

And so is Australia.

The land down under doesn’t just have sharks, deadly snakes and spiders, it has a dark and bloody history of their treatment of Aborigines, where over 100,000 children were taken from their families in the 1950s in an effort to try and “breed them white”.

I didn’t set out to write about what is now called the stolen generation, but when my protagonist India Kane in Blood Junction starts looking for her roots, this ugly history begins to make itself known through an Aboriginal policeman who befriends her.  I used it as a sub-plot, which enriches the story and hopefully informs as well as entertains.

Australian culture is perceived to be barbecues on the beach, but there’s a nasty underbelly under all that golden sand.  There’s political corruption, xenophobia and misogyny, all good fodder for novelists, but this is counterbalanced by the Aussies immense generosity, forged from surviving the outback perhaps, or even their convict history.

The culture of a nation isn’t just defined by the social behavior of its people, but by its arts and psychology, and its history, and when I delve into each, a plethora of plots and sub-plots appear until I’m clutching my head wondering which to choose.

Thanks CJ.

Tell Me A Lie by CJ Carver is published by Zaffre on 12th January 2017 in paperback and eBook. I loved Spare Me The Truth, so can’t wait to read this one! You can follow CJ Carver on twitter @C_J_Carver

tell-me-a-lie

A family in England is massacred, the father left holding the shotgun.
PC Lucy Davies is convinced he’s innocent
A sleeper agent in Moscow requests an urgent meeting with Dan Forrester, referencing their shared past.
His amnesia means he has no idea who he can trust.

An aging oligarch in Siberia gathers his henchmen to discuss an English accountant.
It’s Dan’s wife
From acclaimed and award-winning author CJ Carver, this is the next gripping international thriller in her brilliant Dan Forrester series.

The Dry – Jane Harper

The Dry - Jane Harper

I just can’t understand how someone like him could do something like that.

Amid the worst drought to ravage Australia in a century, it hasn’t rained in small country town Kiewarra for two years. Tensions in the community become unbearable when three members of the Hadler family are brutally murdered. Everyone things Luke Hadler, who committed suicide after slaughtering his wife and six-year-old son, is guilty.

Policeman Aaron Falk returns to the town of his youth for the funeral of his childhood best friend, and is unwillingly drawn into the investigation. As questions mount and suspicion spreads through the town, Falk is forced to confront the community that rejected him twenty years earlier. Because Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret, one which Luke’s death threatens to unearth. And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, secrets from his past and why he left home bubble to the surface as he questions the truth of his friend’s crime.

First book read of 2017 and it’s a corker. The Dry is set in the town of Kiewarra, a small farming community which hasn’t seen rain for two years. Aaron Falk is back in town for 18 hours to attend the funeral of his friend Luke, but soon gets embroiled in the investigation. After all, he and Luke grew up together and some secrets shouldn’t ever come to light…

The Dry is a gritty, superbly atmospheric crime noir where the heat and tension in the small tight-knit community practically ooze off the page and the pages demand to be turned. Jane Harper weaves a net of intrigue packed with twists and turns, secrets and lies more than the odd red herring along the way. There’s a deft sleight of hand going on as the plot unfolds leaving you thinking that you’ve finally figured it out, only for the cards to be turned over one by one and, of course, the lady has vanished.

The story reveals itself through the current day investigation by Falk and local cop Raco into the murders, but also via a series of flashbacks to Falk’s younger days growing up in the town with his best friend Luke. It’s neatly done and each time we jump back in time, something new is revealed which alters our perception on events both past and present.

All the more spectacular for being a debut, The Dry should be quite firmly on your list of books to read in 2017. I will be very surprised if it doesn’t grace my books of the year list come December.

You can find Jane Harper on twitter @janeharperautho, or at her website. The Dry is published by Little, Brown on 12th January 2017.

Many thanks to Grace at Little, Brown for the review copy of this book.

thursday

Deep Down Dead – extract and GIVEAWAY

Delighted to be part of the blog tour for Steph Broadribb’s fantastic thriller, Deep Down Dead.

DEED DOWN DEAD BF AW.indd

 

I’ve reviewed it already here and it made my list of books of the year for 2016. It really is a fantastic read.

Today I’ve got an extract from the book for you, and also a very special giveaway, courtesy of Karen at Orenda Books.

Prologue

Today

I open my eyes and the first thing I see are the cuffs. Flexing my wrists, I test their weight and try to ignore the dull ache in my right hand
where the gash across my skin has dried crusty brown. The bruising on my forearms has turned a deep purple. From the way my ribs feel, I figure they must look the same. I keep my breathing shallow; seems it hurts a little less that way. I look up.
He’s sitting opposite me, arms folded, legs stretched out beneath the table. Waiting. In this windowless box it’s impossible to tell how much time has passed. Still, I can’t look at him, not yet, so I focus just below his eyes, where the dark shadows lie. My heart’s racing, a voice in my head screams, run, just run. I want to, I surely do, but I can’t. For all that’s gone down, someone has to pay. It’s time for me to pony up.
‘You lookin’ at me now? Good. So answer the question.’
Same Kentucky accent, but he’s not at all how I’d imagined. Guess that’s the way it goes when your only contact has been by cell. I force myself to meet his gaze, swallow down the nausea, try not to let fear distort my voice. ‘Can’t believe all you hear.’
‘Tell me why.’
Now the moment’s come, I don’t know if I can. Was he in on it? Should I trust him? Sure, he looks the part. He’s wearing the uniform black suit, smart and efficient, shades hooked inside the breast pocket. He’s a little older than I’d imagined, nearer fifty than forty, and wears his hair on the long side, slicked back to keep it tamed. He runs his hand through it, smoothing the strands into place. I wonder if he’s nervous. I sure as hell am.
His cold stare says he figures that I’ll talk eventually. All he need do is wait, because time’s almost up for me. Every second I baulk, the people I love get dragged further from me. So we both know I have to give it up on his promise, tell him enough to end this, to stop all the talk of death row. But there’s an order to these things, and we both know that too.
He puts a plastic beaker on the desk, pushes it from his side to mine. Inside there’s a red liquid, two shades paler than blood. ‘Drink.
Medical said you’re dehydrated.’
They’re right. My mouth’s drier than gator hide in August. Can’t remember the last time I drank or ate properly. Shit like that hasn’t figured much these past few days. The drink looks real tempting, but I need something from him first. This situation, it’s all about power. If I do something for him, the balance swings over to his side, but if he does something for me, I get it a little more on mine.
I glance down at the cuffs. Look back at him. Wait.
He takes the hint. Leans across the table with the keys in his left hand, ready. As he moves, I catch the scent of his cologne – lemon, clean and sharp. Hope he’s that way too. I have to trust him; we’re all out of time to do anything else.
I push my hands over the wooden veneer towards him, palms up. The torn muscle in my shoulder feels like it’s on fire. I don’t let it show; bite back the pain. He uncuffs me, slips the bracelets and key into his jacket pocket. Eases back in his chair. Watching, again.
That’s first base, right there.
So I drink. Show willing. Know I need the fluids, can’t risk the dehydration muddling my mind, confusing the story. Have to tell it right. The liquid’s raspberry-flavoured water. It’s sweet, too sweet, and stings the corner of my mouth where I’ve taken one too many punches. I grimace at the taste. ‘So how does this work?’
He stares right back at me. ‘Tell me everything.’
I jerk back, spooked. Try not to wince at the spur-sharp pain in my side. He’s moving way too fast. You can’t jump from first base to fourth, it ain’t polite and I can’t allow it.
The pain doesn’t fade. Nausea rises real fast and bile hits the back of my throat. I cough. Makes my bruised ribs hurt like a bitch. I bite my lip and press my arm against my side. Show no weakness. ‘I have to get out of here, take my daughter home.’
He shakes his head. Leans forward, elbows on the table, face level with mine. ‘Not going to happen. This situation? It’s real serious. You’re in no kind of position to be making demands.’
He’s testing me. Wants to know how desperate I am. The answer? Real desperate, but I know way better than to let that show. This game here is all about timing. What I say, and whether he believes me, that’ll be the difference between life and death. ‘So what then?’
He stares at me, unblinking. Leans closer. ‘Tell me the real story. Multiple homicide an’ the rest that’s gone down? There’s no one else can help you. I’m the guy you’ve got to convince. Right now, and right here.’
The room seems to shrink. The space feels airless, more claustrophobic. What he’s just said, I hate it. I want to howl at the unfairness of it all, punch him until he feels the pain too. But I don’t, because I know that he’s right. I’ve got no other choice but to trust him. So I put down the beaker. Watch the liquid ripple once, twice, before lying still. Count in my head, all the way up to ten, then look up and meet his gaze. I can’t delay any longer, need to move us on to second, defuse the situation. ‘Honey, I can give you answers, just as soon as I know we’ve got a deal.’
He sits back in his chair, and crosses his legs, real relaxed. Keeps eye contact. ‘Depends.’
There’s a certainty about him, a determination that’s somehow quite attractive. He plays hard to get real well; oftentimes I like that. Not today, though. Not now. Hard to get is hard to read, and one wrong move, one wrong word, will only end one way: everyone I love gone. ‘I’m listening.’
‘You tell me what happened. No bullshit, just the absolute truth from start to finish. Do that, then I’ll tell you if we’ve got a deal.’
No guarantee, but I figure it’s my best shot. So I nod, and let him take third. Act like it’s my idea, though. Force a smile as I swallow down the fear. ‘You best get comfortable, sweetie. This’ll take a little while.’
He nods, and I know that it’s time. Now I have to get us to fourth, tell the story right, secure a deal.
There’s a click as he switches on the audio recorder. He leans forward and places it on the table, dead centre. Looks me right in the eyes. ‘You’re up.’
And so I tell him.

~~~~~

Phew! Told you it was good. And now, time for a giveaway. Hopefully this rafflecopter thing will work as I’ve got a *signed* copy of Steph’s book to give away!

Follow me (@dakegra), Steph (@crimethrillgirl) and Karen (@orendabooks), tweet about the giveaway and leave a comment. Simple!

The giveaway runs until Sunday night (15th Jan) and a winner will be picked early next week. Good luck, and get tweeting!

click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway

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Books of 2016

All the cool kids are doing it, so I thought I’d join in with a list of my Top Ten Books[1] of 2016. Buckle up kids, here we go.

12. The Woman in Cabin 10 – Ruth Ware

Utterly brilliant locked-room mystery from the super-talented Ruth Ware. A journalist is invited onto a luxury yacht for a press junket only to witness a murder. But no-one is missing from the boat…

Tense, fast, twisty plot. Loved it.

11. Revenger – Alastair Reynolds

Revenger - Alastair Reynolds

‘Firefly meets Iain M. Banks’ – a swashbuckling pirate adventure of a small ship and crew against a starry backdrop with enough hard SF to appease the most ardent fan. There are hijinks galore, treasure chests hidden in far-flung nooks, daring adventures and more than a touch of the high seas. Revenger is splendid fun. Easily one of the best sci-fi novels I’ve read for a long time, and I really hope we get to meet Fura Ness again.

10. Poison City – Paul Crilley

Poison City

Poison City sits firmly on the List Of Books Dave Will Insist You Read (Or Else). Imagine Harry Potter grew up, moved to South Africa and adopted a sherry-loving spirit guide called Dog – Poison City is a hard-boiled urban fantasy detective noir (and we do so love such things). It’s like a bit of Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London mixed with Paul Cornell’s Shadow Police, with a healthy dash of Lauren Beukes. Very *very* recommended but not for the faint-hearted.

9. Epiphany Jones – Michael Grothaus

Epiphany Jones cover - 500

One of the more… unusual books I’ve ever read. Jerry Dresden is a man with issues. Serious issues. He keeps seeing people, figments he calls them and we, the reader, are never quite sure what to make of them. It’s sharp and graphic and uncomfortable, and nothing is simple or straightforward in Jerry Dresden’s world. I flat-out adored Epiphany Jones. She’s a brilliant, brilliant character and you’re never quite sure what she’s going to do next.

I’ve read a lot of thrillers over the years, but never one quite like Epiphany Jones. It’s unusual, quirky, dark, graphic and unsettling in equal measures. Michael Grothaus is a seriously talented guy and one to watch very, very closely.

8. Black Night Falling – Rod Reynolds

black-night-falling

Black Night Falling is a dark and deeply atmospheric thriller and Rod evokes the time and place (Arkansas in the 1940’s) of the story beautifully and there’s a wonderfully gritty, noir feel. Rod certainly knows how to tangle a plot, expertly draping it with red herrings which leave you guessing. Highly recommended.

7. Deep Down Dead – Steph Broadribb

Deep down dead - steph broadribb

Featuring a kick-ass heroine, Deep Down Dead is a helter-skelter thrill ride pretty much from the off. I love nothing more than a good thriller, and Steph has delivered a *great* thriller, steeped in Americana with settings and characters which feel completely authentic and with a plot which insists that you don’t put it down. I read this on holiday recently and found myself staying up entirely too late to read just one more chapter. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

6. In Her Wake – Amanda Jennings

In Her Wake HBcover copy 4

What if someone told you that you’re not who you think you are? Who you’ve been brought up and lived your whole life as? At the most basic level, this is a story of family dynamics, secrets and relationships. The fears that face parents when something endangers the safety and well-being of their children. The catastrophic sense of loss and sadness when someone is taken from us.

But it’s so much more than that. In Her Wake is a complex, layered tale of identity and control – husbands controlling wives, wives controlling husbands, and how it feels to break those shackles, to become your own person and not who everyone else is insisting that you are.

5. Morning Star – Pierce Brown

morning-star

Regular readers will be well aware of my complete fanboyness when it comes to Mr Brown and his books. So you might be surprised to see Morning Star, book 3 of the Red Rising trilogy coming in a number five in this list. That’s no reflection on Pierce’s book but merely serves to show just how bloody brilliant the others in the list are. Morning Star is the utterly brilliant conclusion to one of the best trilogies I’ve ever read. It’s astonishing in its scope and ambition and delivers on every level.

If you’ve not read the Red Rising books, do yourself a favour and go buy them all, find a nice comfy sofa with a large glass or mug of whatever you fancy and settle in for a treat.

4. Zero-G (Outer Earth #2) / Impact (Outer Earth #3) – Rob Boffard

Zero-GImpact

Huge fan of Rob’s work. HUGE. And he delivered not one but two books into my reading list for 2016, both of which were brilliant, white-knuckle rides of awesomeness. Having turned the action up to 11 for Zero-G, could Rob find a new setting on the dial for the finale? Of course he could. He knocked it out of the park.

Again. Cracking trilogy, not to be missed.

3. Nevernight – Jay Kristoff

Nevernight

Nevernight is just simply wonderful. The worldbuilding is astonishingly good. Shades of Locke Lamora, with a ton of Pratchett-esque footnotes[4]. Superb, complex characters. And a sand kraken called Alfi[5].

Imagine if Hogwarts was a school for assassins where a young girl goes to learn how to avenge her father’s murder[6]. A school where you learned how to kill or be killed, with a blade, with poison, or with your wits. And you might learn some of the more… subtle[7] arts too.

The characters are plentiful and wonderful. Even the bad ones. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry[8], you’ll tell yourself ‘just one more chapter’[9]

2. A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers

closed and common orbit

Sequel to the utterly wonderful The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, Closed and Common Orbit is another delight, heartwarming and gorgeously written. One of those books you’ll go back to time and again just to spend time in the company of the characters. Read Long Way first, for here be spoilers…

And the book of the year is…

[fx: DRUMROLL]

The Wolf Road – Beth Lewis

The Wolf Road | Beth Lewis

2016 has been a bumper year for fantastic books, but The Wolf Road was just astonishingly good, with a truly distinctive and unforgettable narrator. I said in my review that if this book didn’t place very highly in my books of 2016, I would be very *very* surprised. I am completely unsurprised to see it at the top of the list. I can easily recommend any and all of the books on this list, but if pressed to choose just one, this would be it.

And that’s that. Lots of lovely books. Still reading a few, but thus far, these are my books of the year. Go, enjoy.

But first, tell me about your favourite book that you’ve read this year!

[1] yes, I know there are 12[2] books on the list[3].
[2] yes, I KNOW. I’ve counted Rob Boffard’s books as one.
[3]It’s my blog and I’ll do whatever I want. So there.
[4] I *love* footnotes. Possibly a little too much, some would say.
[5] I mean, how could you not love a sand kraken? Especially Alfi. Alfi is awesome.
[6] Shades of The Princess Bride as well then. Seriously, have you not already ordered and read this book? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?
[7] You might blush. No, seriously. I didn’t blush. Much.
[8] no, really. Page 553. I’ve still not forgiven Jay for *that*
[9] and we all know how *that* ends, don’t we?

Cut to the Bone – Alex Caan

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One Missing Girl. Two Million Suspects.

Ruby is a vlogger, a rising star of YouTube and a heroine to millions of teenage girls.

And she’s missing…

But she’s an adult – the police aren’t too worried.

Until the video’s uploaded…

Ruby, in the dirt, pleading for her life.

Enter Detective Inspector Kate Riley; the Met’s rising star and the head of a new team of investigators with the best resources money can buy. Among them, Detective Sergeant Zain Harris, the poster boy for multiracial policing. But can Kate wholly trust him – and more importantly, can she trust herself around him?

As hysteria builds amongst the press and Ruby’s millions of fans, Kate and her team are under pressure to get results, and fast, but as they soon discover, the world of YouTube vloggers and social media is much darker than anyone could have imagined.

And the videos keep coming…

Enter the strange and murky world of the vloggers. I’ve got more than a passing familiarity with it, given my daughter’s fascination with YouTube and the parade of celebrity vloggers with millions of followers whose lives we follow. Oh, I admit it, I’m just as much of a fan of YouTube, and as you’ve probably guessed, am rather fond of the world of social media. Happily my experience of it is rather less sinister than Ruby’s…

It’s Ruby’s disappearance takes centre stage in the drama which unfolds and the cast of characters who inhabit her world, but the key (and more interesting) dynamic is that between DI Kate Riley and DS Zain Harris. Both are fascinating in their own ways, and both have their secrets. Riley has moved across the world to start again in the UK, and Harris has his own troubled past.

Cut to the Bone is a dark and atmospheric police procedural with a modern twist. It’s a fast-paced read and a classic page-turner. Just one more page, just one more chapter, where will the fickle finger of suspicion alight next?

You can find Alex on twitter at @alexcaanwriter or at www.alexcaanauthor.com

Many thanks to Emily at Bonnier Zaffre for the advance copy.

1,342 QI Facts to leave you flabbergasted – a guest post by Literary QI ELF Anne Miller

Today I’m delighted to take part in the blog tour for 1,342 QI Facts To Leave You Flabbergasted by John Lloyd, John Mitchinson, James Harkin and Anne Miller.

Today we’ve got Anne Miller here to tell us about how she became the chief Literary QI Elf.

Without further ado, over to Anne!

I did a Sociology and Politics degree and spent a lot of time on extra curricular activities – one year I ran the campus magazine, another year the university tango dancing society. When I graduated I was lucky enough to win a place on the Edinburgh TV Festival’s talent scheme The Network. (It’s fantastic – if you’re interested in working in TV you should definitely look them up!) We had a wonderfully busy weekend of going to workshops and talks from people like Jay Hunt, who runs Channel 4, and Charlie Brooker about how the TV industry works.

I worked in various TV jobs and then met the team at QI when I had a day shadowing on the QI set all the way back in Series I. They said to stay in touch and I emailed in a fact that I saw on the wall of the Dundee Science Centre that said ‘an eagle can swallow enough botulism toxin to kill 300,000 guinea pigs.’ They liked the fact and said that if I sent them more they might employ me. I like a challenge so sent more facts and a few months later I joined an internship scheme at QI and began helping out on the Twitter feed (@qikipedia) and organising their databases.

That was five years ago and now I write scripts for the TV series, am the Head Researcher for our sister BBC Radio 4 show The Museum of Curiosity and have just co-authored our new book 1,342 QI Facts To Leave You Flabbergasted. My favourite facts from the new book include:

  • In the time it takes to listen to The Proclaimers’ ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’, the ISS travels 500 miles, then 500 more.
  • Until the 1950s,
the rural poor in Norway warmed their feet
 in cowpats.
  • Hans Christian Andersen wrecked his friendship with Charles Dickens by staying with him three weeks longer than planned.
  • The Pieza genus of fly has species called Pieza kake, Pieza pie, Pieza rhea
and Pieza deresistans.
  • During the launch of BBC2 in 1964, a kangaroo got stuck in a lift
at Television Centre.
  • In 2016,
the Swiss city of Lausanne banned silent discos for being too noisy.

Thanks Anne! I do love a quite interesting fact…

1,342 QI Facts To Leave You Flabbergasted is out now at Amazon and Waterstones.

The blog tour continues…
qi-blog-tour-use-this