The stories that inspire us – Half-Life

The stories we read, see and hear sometimes leave a lasting effect on our lives. Stories inspire us to be who we are. They shape our own journey and can take the mind anywhere. There are some stories that effect us so much, they even shape our future…

Growing up in the 90’s means that I’ve been witness to some incredible technological advances throughout my life. Video games in particular literally leaped from 16 bit all the way to 64 in a matter of years, but that’s just talking about numbers. The experience of a story is what resonates through us all and one particular story that I first discovered all the way back in 1999 still resonates through me. I’m talking about Half-Life and yes I am one of the people who played it quite soon after release at 10 years old.

TOP 30 BEST Video Games of the 90s (BEST RETRO GAMES) | Chaos - YouTube

Back then parents didn’t really take much note of game ratings and I’m not sure there even was anything strict to really regulate them at the time. Summer holidays consisted of being out all day and then watching the likes of South Park at night or the late movie which again probably had an age rating, there wasn’t a snowflake in sight and well most of my generation turned out okay…

And then this game came along that was included in one of my friends brand new Dell PC’s. It carried an air of mystery as neither of us had heard about it back then and so we went in to Half-Life totally and completely blind. By that year, ’99, the concept of a first person shooter game was relatively fresh from the birth of the genre earlier that decade with Wolfenstein paving the way to Doom, Quake, Duke Nukem, Alien Trilogy and even Goldeneye for the N64. all of which, deserve a nod. Neither of us knew then what we were getting into.

Lifetime fans such as myself sometimes forget that Half-Life is a first person shooter game because the story is so rich and immersive from the very start – something rare for the era and so after installing this game we began.

Games slowly immerse you these days through a sometimes cinematic sequence where very little is required to do other than get a feel for the environment or what is to come. You have the makers of Half-Life to thank for that as early on, in fact for the first half hour of the game and after what appears to be a calm and very visual but solitary train ride commute, you are Gordon Freeman, theoretical physicist who is late for an experiment.

Half-Life 1 Train Ride - YouTube

This clever but immersive way of starting the game heightens the sense of weight for a situation which is about to unfold. You are late for work and rushing around – something many of us can relate to. You are introduced to other scientists who also work at this extensive Black Mesa Research Facility. The sense of mystery is overloaded while you are unaware of a sinister build up to this experiment which subsequently goes wrong and then the real game begins…

The experiment gone wrong results in something called a resonance cascade and as you the player are in the test chamber when it unfolds. You see just a snippet of what has been unleashed. Another world full of primitive creatures has began to merge with the one of Black Mesa and Freeman must now fight his way through a heavily damaged work environment to look for answers and try and clean things up.

It’s part Stephen King part alien blasting shooter because eventually Freeman comes across allies and enemies who are human as a cover up attempt begins. The army is brought in and so this trifecta of scientists, aliens and soldiers collide, yet you remain silent throughout the unique set up. There are no cut scenes, no level finishes, no speaking from the most iconic game character in modern times, he is the silent crusader working his way through the puzzling hazards of a huge science facility sometimes armed to the teeth and then just with a crowbar. Of course watching the whole thing is a thin man holding a briefcase who appears every so often, a presence now known as G-man. All of these concepts were unique and were never done until Half-Life. Apart from those now iconic loading screens this game just runs from start to finish.

Half-Life on Steam

As a 10 year old kid, this game had a resounding effect on me. That first play through is something I will always treasure and now in modern times and as a person who works in a huge science facility with radiation hazards, cutting edge technology and of course plenty of scientists; I can’t help but think that Half -Life inspired that journey in some senses.

My debut novel carries similar traits that you’ll find in Half-Life, especially the concept of soldiers arriving after everything falls to shit. This game and its setting, story and concept was something that had never been seen before and dare I say it, has ever been successfully emulated. The story stands the test of time and was expanded upon for the subsequent sequels but this one, stands above them all.

Have you played Half-Life?

A guide to getting published: Part 1

Hello friends, today’s post is a re blog all the way back from 2017 although it’s still very relevant today. As I continue to research and put together a blogging and authoring guide book, this is just a snippet of what you can expect for bloggers and authors of all levels….

Lee's Hall of information

Very recently I was asked in person about my experiences of being a published author. What does it take to reach that moment of holding your own book in your hands?

How do you go from imagination and thought harnessing all the way to print?

Thinking about it, if we can go deep only for a few reflective moments and if I were to turn around and look at the road that lays behind me. Just beyond that moonlit horizon is a whole series of stories and experiences that made up my official journey to publication.

This series of posts is a guide of how I did it, what I learned, what went well, what didn’t and above all and like everything in the world of ‘publishing’ it’s subjective towards the beholder. By that I mean there is more than one way to get ‘published’ and be ‘successful’. There are…

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Weekly Writing Inspiration #7

Memes and inspiring things to help get us through the week. That’s the hope anyway so here’s a few things that are either funny, fun or have some level of inspiration…

Mixtusmedia is my go to Instagram account for all things book marketing advice.

It’s nearly the spookiest time of the year – my favourite time of the year also!

Don’t mention Green Day….

That also extends to anyone working within the hospitality or serving industry, although I haven’t been anywhere like that since February… manners are free!

I’ve had some wonderful interactions with fellow authors and bloggers recently and this is one of them! Check out Henry’s book ‘Deceit of the Soul’ here – it’s a thrilling ride about the outbreak of the pandemic….

Yeah, there seems to be a growing group of folks trying to poach their way into the Twitter writing community by just randomly and emptily asking for book recs knowing desperate writers will interact… I mean you could just be more genuine in terms of interaction… Twitter ain’t hard to master…

And we will finish on this subject. Quite recently I’ve been processing my high school experience, maybe because this year I’ve been able to reflect or because it’s 15 years since it ended for me.

For anyone having to face the daunting idea of going back to school, or those who have been through it, I know how it feels and things do get better. Hang in there!

To everyone who reads and continues to support the Hall of Information, thank you! We’re on the path to August being the best month of the year for this blog in terms of reads and views. Rock and roll man!

Weekly Ramble #80

They are going to knock down my old high school. This is a fact that I have recently learned which is both bitter and sweet at the same time for me. This year has presented many opportunities for deep reflection, time on our hands will do that and it’s sometimes important to revisit things with the eyes and mind you’ve grown into.

Many people over the years have relayed or recalled their school days as either mostly positive or straight up terrible while others stand somewhere in between. I’m still processing today that the school I went to and the experiences I had may have been of the worst possible persuasion.

The truth is, that place took years for me to fully recover from. During those years after, I came to realize that there were normal people in this world that you could mostly trust, share real conversations with and generally function as a person alongside. So was it really that bad you ask? And my response would be, yes.

Not only is the concept of high school a mostly regressive thing to me; throw together a bunch of hormonal kids all at different stages of being hormonal, drill into them conflicting information about how important preparing for the future is and then top it off with a pressure to fit in and also succeed.

If you combine that with the environment I had to endure you would most certainly agree and the ecosystem that I weathered and survived was socially hostile, violent and toxic. It was a place that I could never truly fit in or let alone dare to be myself. Today we celebrate being ourselves. Inclusion is celebrated and still a noble cause worth fighting for. Back in that place, you couldn’t wear certain clothes, listen to certain music, think a certain way or even look at someone the wrong way without being punished for it and sometimes that punishment was violent. If you ever thought of stepping outside from the current and flow, you were targeted by a stifling mob culture of kids.

Head down, voice quiet and just bide the time. This was the only method of survival in that place I knew how to adopt and even then you weren’t safe. Perhaps that is why wherever I have gone since, I’ve survived. My invisibility strategy was enough for me to stay mostly unscathed physically and for the most part I went through this journey without being noticed. As for today; I’m not remembered probably by most who I shared those narrow packed corridors with. They were people who I had nothing in common with and many of the less desirable types had socially peaked at 16, I guess I could live without being remembered by the likes of them.

The teachers, who didn’t help but as an adult I know now they couldn’t help. Many of them couldn’t relate and were probably horrified by the fact they were trying to answer their calling in life at such a place. They were trying to function and survive themselves in what was an every person for themselves environment. Over the years I was there (5 – trust me I was counting), the place became more and more unstable over that time. A combination of worse schools closing locally and a change in leadership interrupted the order of things. Now you had younger kids fighting older kids, and sometimes these younger kids would win which just spun the volatile environment around some more. A wider level of ‘Gotham’ style chaos began to ensue. There was no safety. There was fighting everyday. No wonder I took the world of working in my stride, the sensation of it was both refreshing and liberating. The civility of it, a culture shock to begin with.

Anyone going through the struggles of high school, or anyone who has been through it, you are not alone. And it does get better. Leaving it behind is both weirdly sad and happy all at once. Being a writer means I am seasoned at compartmentalizing and putting thoughts away. There is no trauma now, but I can still explore old memories to cope and reflect. There may just be a hint of bitterness because I never went to the prom by choice, or even had many decent memories of that time, let alone any true friends.

I no longer represent the shy, quiet, keeps things to himself kid, that was just a survival mechanism. Over the years I learned to socially come out of that defensive shell because the toxic environment of those narrow corridors has long gone. As that confidence grew and whatever that place did to me faded, I began to do everything in life that I would get punished for in that place. From the music I now listen to and embrace, to even the hairstyle I adopted just two years after that place’s grip on me faded. Some of this stuff I do is to stick my middle finger up to the fact I couldn’t do it back then. Everything I have aspired to be was once just an escape from that place, and now I am who I envisioned to be, well and truly and without the school that I survived.

Now I’ve learned the place is being knocked down I’m able to take a long breath of relief because even though on the 25th of August 2005 I vowed to never return to those corridors in physical form, I will never be able to now, for definite. Since I left, the place took an even bigger downturn before half re-branding. Now that brand looks to fully absolve itself perhaps from such a shadowy past with new modern building beside the proposed playing fields which will serve as simply a grave of the days I struggled alongside so many others.

After reading this, you’ll see Open Evening – my debut novel in a whole new light because that story highlights the social struggle of high school; something that came from my own personal journey. I fused that element of what I knew and fashioned it into a story for some and a statement for others. Maybe I knew all along while I walked through that place, one day I was going to get these fuckers back, and the book did. Like always for me, the writing says everything I never could.

It became both therapy and reflection for me as a writing experience with an element of realism among the actual monsters that jumped out from beyond the unknown. The school burned down in that story, and now in reality it’s going to fall for real.

Good riddance.

‘Deceit of the Soul: Saving the World from COVID-19: Before the Pandemic’ By Henry Cox – Review

A thrilling and interesting page turner that looks to seek out the truth…

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Henry Cox has used the concept of the global coronavirus pandemic to explore it’s potential origins while also telling a thrilling story. Upon the surface it would appear exploitative but from quite early on in the book its obvious to see that isn’t the case, in fact the pandemic seems to lurk on the fringes and in the background while we meet those who appear to have involvement in it’s origins.

The story focuses on two characters and their links to the interior workings of China’s secretive operations. It’s both detailed and informed. We see how the potential beginnings of the virus play out along with the effects it has on these individuals and where it could lead. This moves toward the deeper exploration that highlights how the people’s republic deals with the outbreak paired with the public relations cover up and who it intends to put the blame on – all of this is seen through the eyes of these two character’s who’s journey’s are separate, polarizing and similar all at once. Above all the execution of this story is where you’ll find the real strength with mystery, thrills and deception throughout the journey.

Even though this is a work of fiction, it’s delivered in a way that will provoke thought towards everything that is suggested, in particular the sinister surveillance culture where everyone is either watching or feeding information to a higher power or the theoretical mapping of the implications this virus will have. Has this pandemic been manufactured intentionally to assert world economic dominance? Is ‘bat soup’ really where this outbreak came from.

“…modern war is fought with our surrogate allies, artificial intelligence, social media modification, tariffs and sanctions…”

With an ultra modern subject matter and the feel of a spy/espionage thriller that carries a highly political venom, readers will find this story to be about a lot more that just the beginnings of an outbreak with a real moral conflict at the very center of it all.

4 Stars – A surprising read that hooked me from the very start. Thank you to the author for providing a copy in exchange for a review left on both Amazon and Goodreads. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

‘Senescence’ by Denver Scott – Review

One giant leap into the future of humankind via the cosmos through the vessel of science that makes for a fascinating read!

SENESCENCE by [DENVER SCOTT]

Denver Scott delivers a deep dive look into the future of human life where the line between science and fiction merge flawlessly. The science element takes centre stage and carries the presence of a main character consistently throughout what is a truly fascinating read.

Senescence covers a lot of ground (or space) and initially focuses on a futuristic world of extremes in both medical advances and the potential threats there are to humanity. From the eventual hazards of ‘space junk’, eradicating illness and even the future of genetics, all of the directions this book takes a reader on come from mostly real scenarios that are backed up with science which is then extended further – it’s a unique concept and style that keeps the story moving while also proving that the author’s imagination and knowledge go hand in hand. Creativity meets realism with terminology that’s both new and familiar such as ‘Histolog’ and ‘VIP’ – Vitally Improved Persona, none of which feel like fiction at all.

Much of each chapter is made up of an explanation or story that surrounds the subject matter in what is an unlimited guided tour into the future where attention to detail is at the very forefront. We meet characters who are on that journey much like us. Commander Jenna Morton is a genetically perfected human creation and along with her crew are on a pioneering voyage of discovery. It is on that voyage that we experience these wide range of subjects from our own planet’s nature/history to it’s future along with humankind, civilisations, terraforming planets, deep space travel and even time travel.

Even though I am more on the layman level of understanding, not once did I feel out of my depth as the writing style is accessible to any reader of the curious persuasion, especially those interested in the cosmos. This is a book that celebrates humankind and science that will stir your imagination while also being informative.

5 Stars – Fantastic Read. Review first premiered via Reedsy Discovery 

Weekly Writing Inspiration #6

It’s Friday! We made it, again, what to, nobody knows, the weekend if your not working…

The licence to use memes and twitter re posts in order to make someone laugh is back…

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Seriously, you don’t need to please anyone else in your writing, just you. Reviews and film adaptations would be nice though… 

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Sneakily wholesome…

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Interesting and polarising results, enough to tell me there is probably a market for the covid book/film stuff. My current read is about the covid outbreak which is why I asked, review coming soon.

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So naturally we have just a light pandemic meme…. 

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This was the first of two glowing reviews my works got this week. Open Evening may be the oldest ride in my fairground of books, but the line is still one of the longest…

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I really enjoy asking questions on twitter and Instagram…. so much so I have also started to interview fellow creatives. The 3rd Hall of Information review dropped this week and Blair from Feed the Crime shared some blogging wisdom – she’s close to 1000 WordPress followers! 

hall of information interviews feed the crime

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I mean being a gentleman can probably just extend to having manners and not being an asshole… anyone can do that – and it isn’t a challenge not to… 

And we shall close with the second glowing review my work received this week. The Teleporter owns it! Take care all, and see you in the next one! 

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Weekly Ramble #79

The decision to carry on through whatever this year has thrown me is shaping up to be the best thing I’ve ever done in both authoring and blogging. 

During March and even April, things weren’t easy for any of us, and that’s still the case now. There’s uncertainty, anxiety and a boat load of crap that’s the resultant of these times. I’ve been extremely fortunate in being able to have a choice to carry on. Not only has this become my best coping strategy for what is happening, it’s started to yield rewarding results. 

There’s a story in everyone’s individual journey and mine is no different to anyone working their way through life, trying to figure things out. Considering the continuous ‘successful’ numbers this blog has experienced along with actual book sales, I’ve turned around recently and realized that road behind me is full of detailed lessons in how I got to today.

Combined with the interactions I’ve had recently with fellow peers in this writing community, this journey seems to be getting better and better. Without realizing; my quest to discover new books and authors has earned me a word I would never imagine anyone using to describe me or my efforts; respect. 

This has become a real pinnacle moment or even an epiphany, because when I first started out and all the way to now, its confirmation that this journey has been worthwhile and perhaps that’s worth more than anything else. While I began this journey of writing books and trying to get them read – it’s the everything else that happened which became the true moral of it all. 

I’ve always written books for me; first and foremost. But now, I know I write this blog for you. These two philosophy’s go hand in hand. Over the many years, I’ve learned a hell of a lot. And now I have the numbers, figures, sales, follows or whatever you want to measure that with, to prove it all works.

The light bulb moment appeared last week when of course like usual an idle writers mind is a dangerous thing. Now I am over 10,000 words into a guide book of all the lesson’s I’ve learned over the years to get to here. It’s part biography and part self help guide with a hope it isn’t too self indulgent. It won’t be for everyone. And already I’ve poured out part of my story which is full of struggle and triumph. As I said there’s a story in everyone’s individual journey and if I can relay mine in a way that helps just one other person, I would have succeeded.

It’s still in the very early stages, but you can expect this guide book to authoring and blogging in the social media age to arrive next year. 5 books in 4 years, soon to be 6 in 5 is definitely more than enough in terms of credentials and a blog where the numbers quadrupled in the space of a year. The whole premise of this guide will be if I can do this, so can you. And you can!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hall of Information Interviews: Blair Leftly – Feed the Crime

The venture of discovering unique voices extends into the important world of book blogging for this Hall of Information Interview. Blair Leftly from Feed the Crime is a prolific blogger who has contributed so much to the writing community through her passion for reading and reviewing. Her efforts have guided many readers and helped many authors including myself. It’s incredibly important that bloggers who work so hard get the coverage they deserve. 

Feed the crime

Feed the crime

Feed the Crime Instagram

Q1. Let us jump right in and talk about reading. You dedicate an impressive amount of time to books. Have you always been an avid reader? And how many books do you read on average a month?

“For as long as I can remember I’ve always read, in school we used to have silent reading time which now looking back I seemed to be the only one who looked forward to it. My reading has taken a nose dive these last few months, I used to read at least 10 books a month where as I’m struggling to even read 1 book a week at the minute. I think I put too much pressure on myself to read a large amount each month and it’s taken it’s toll. I need to remember that it doesn’t matter how much I read each month just as long as I’m enjoying what I do read.”

1 book a week is still an incredible feat!

Q2. Of course you review these reads via your Feed the Crime blog. Please tell us more about your blogging efforts?

“I’m not afraid to admit that sometimes I find it hard to pull inspiration for enough blog posts to post each week so that is why I do take part in book memes such as Top 5 Saturday and Down The TBR Hole, they are the posts I love reading each week so it makes sense for me to take part in them. I’ve not been blogging as much the last few weeks, there’s so much going on in the world right now, I work my ass off in the lab and I’m moving house on the 25th. I love my blog and I never want it to feel like a chore, so if I don’t have enough time for everything right now then I’m ok with that, after all we’re only human.”

Top 5 saturday

Q3. In recent times, you’ve branched out to read other genres as opposed to crime fiction. What other genres do you enjoy?

“Until last year I had only ever read crime fiction hence the name, however the blogging world showed me all these amazing books that have never even been on my radar before and it was so exciting! I found out that I love fantasy, sci-fi and I’d never read a vampire novel until your book Darke Blood which completely took me by surprise. My two favourite books of the year so far are actually fantasy which I never would have expected!” 

Thank you for mentioning ‘DB’, of course the unexpected can bring wonderful things especially when it comes to reading.

Q4. Feed the Crime is very close to an incredible 1000 followers. What does it take to achieve such an impressive following?

“I didn’t actually get involved with the blogging community that much for the first year as I was too nervous and felt that I would never be able to fit in. I finished the first year with less than 50 followers. I think I started gaining followers more consistently from the beginning of 2019 as that’s when I was posting 3/4 times a week, as well as participating in weekly book memes and blog tours, I was starting to put my blog out there.
I still can’t believe the number of followers, I used to go on all the blogs with 1000+ followers and just think there’s no way I will ever get there and now it’s so close to happening.”

That is quite incredible and goes to show that consistent content and participation work in building a following!

Q5. Where did blogging begin for Blair?

“I first started my blog in September 2017 not long after I started having seizures, I had to leave my job as I worked in a children’s play centre and I had 2 fits in front of children. When it was diagnosed as epilepsy I had to surrender my driving license and sell my car, so I was in a really low place with too much time in my head. My friend suggested that I find somewhere to review all the books that I’d been reading and after some research that’s how Feed The Crime happened.”

Q6. Moving away from books and blogging, do you have any interests outside of being an awesome blogger? You’ve mentioned WWE once or twice; something I used to follow religiously and more casually these days. Do you have a favourite WWE performer?

“I don’t have very many interests outside of books and blogging to be honest. Me and my partner have been to see WWE live here in Liverpool twice and it was an amazing experience, we were stood at the ramp so we were able to see each performer up close, it’s something I will never forget. In terms of favourite performer, that’s like asking me to pick my favourite book I can’t just have one haha!”

Becky Lynch - WWE 2K19 - Roster

“Female I would say Becky Lynch, I loved her old steampunk style and lass kicker attitude. Male I have two, Roman Reigns and Goldberg they are just legends no doubt about it.”

WATCH: When Roman Reigns had the Most Awkward Contract Signing ...

Excellent choices. I will have to agree with you on Becky Lynch, she is the lass kicker!

Q7. Tea, coffee, beer or wine?

“Hmmm this is a tough one it definitely depends where I am, at home I drink gallons of tea, if I’m catching up with friends or writing blogs in coffee shops then I normally drink a Caramel Macchiato. Of course after a stressful day or week at work then a cold beer is just what the doctor ordered!”

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Q8. Back to books. Do you have a short list of must read books that everyone should experience?

“The books that I think are must reads won’t be to everyone’s taste, so I’ve picked 4 different genres.”

– “The Joona Linna series by Lars Kepler (This my favourite translated series that I would love to see more people read)”

Lars Kepler

– “You Let Me In by Lucy Clarke (This had me hooked and I was stood up shouting by the end)”

You let me in

– “The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson (He is my favourite non-fiction author, If you love Louis Theroux documentaries then you need to read his books)”

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– “The Teleporter by Lee Hall (Of course I had to include this book as I had so much fun reading it, it’s hard for a book to make me laugh but this did it!)”

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Its an honor to be a part of this list. thank you.

Q9. What are you currently reading/plan to read next?

“I’m currently listening to the audiobook of Written in Blood by Chris Carter which is number 11 in the Robert Hunter series. The series as a whole is addictive but extremely gruesome and not for the faint-hearted!”

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Q10.  And finally, in one sentence, what advice would you give to someone just starting their blogging journey?

“Don’t ever feel alone, embrace the book community, find blogs that interest you and comment on them, you can make so many friendships that way, also don’t be afraid to ask questions.”

 

Wonderful advice and a unique insight into reading and book blogging from Blair of Feed the Crime. Thank for sharing and for the continual support of the writing and blogging community.

I highly recommend you follow the awesome Feed the Crime Blog. 

You can also catch Blair on the Tweet machine  and Instagram

Readers old and new, I appreciate you taking the time to read this Hall of Information Interview, hopefully see you in the next one!

-| Underrated Books That I Recommend… Top 5 Saturday |- — Feed The Crime

A shout out and thank you to awesome book blogger Blair from Feed the Crime for mentioning The Teleporter alongside some fantastic reads! 

You can find out more about Blair and her blogging efforts this week as I am happy to announce she is the third Hall of Information Interviewee! Watch this space folks. Make sure you check out the post below and give Feed the Crime a follow! 

Top 5 Saturday is hosted by Mandy over at Devouring Books, today’s theme is Recommended Reads but I missed last weeks topic Underrated Books/Hidden Gems which I really wanted to take part in so I’ve decided to mash them together! The Upcoming Top 5 Saturday Schedule Is: 25/7/20 — #OwnVoices Books 1/8/20 — Enemies to Lovers […]

via -| Underrated Books That I Recommend… Top 5 Saturday |- — Feed The Crime