Review of Gollancz Writers’ Day and tips to enjoy a writing conference #SFF #fantasy #writerstips

I had a wonderful time at the Gollancz Writers’ Day last week. There were 32 aspiring authors attending, all of us writers of fantasy, sci-fi and horror. I chatted to some lovely people and swapped details with a couple of them. I’d like to have done more mingling, but I’m still very shy and find it hard to put myself out there. Now that I’ve done this though, I’m hoping to go to more events tailored to my genre and will try harder to make connections with other writers.

A brief overview of the day

We met the editors and learnt about the life of a book, from the moment an editor loves your book (and they have to love it to take it on), through the acquisition meetings and all the editing stages involved. A few other areas they discussed were titles, book covers, royalties and rights, and audio books.

I was really surprised to learn Gollancz try to have a book ready a year before its publication date. I was also surprised how much time an editor will invest in the book before the copy editor and then the proofreader get their hands on it. It sounds like an exhausting process, but all with the aim of making the book come alive to the reader.

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We then met the sales, marketing and publicity team and learnt a great deal about their processes including how they reach readers and gain reviews. This was really interesting for me as a self-published author to compare with my own attempts at marketing.

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After lunch we met two lovely Gollancz authors, Pat Cadigan and Adam Roberts. Their talks from an author’s perspective were both informative and entertaining. I was also able to chat to them during the coffee break and at the pitching event at the end of the day. Both were friendly and had some great stories and knowledge to share.

Note – Right at the end of the day, our small group were with Pat Cadigan. She talked about making it as a writer and sticking at it. She said something that will stay with me, ‘…I don’t know of any author who hasn’t made it in the end…’ That gives me hope!

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Finally, top agent Juliet Mushens gave a presentation on submitting to agents and then held a Q&A session. I made plenty of notes to refer to later and it was very insightful to learn how she deals with submissions from that first contact to negotiating the deal with the publishing house. It was also daunting to hear she receives around 500 submissions per month.

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After a short break, we split into small groups. Each group had 15 minutes with either Juliet Mushens, one of the Gollancz team or the writers mentioned, to take turns practicing our pitches. There was also an unexpected appearance from Ben Aaronovitch – author of Rivers of London who gave our group some personal tips on the life of an author on tour.

After 15 minutes, each group moved along to the next professional to pitch to. Imagine speed dating and you’ll get how it went.

This pitch session was my most anticipated part of the whole day and I jumped at the opportunity to pitch to Juliet Mushens who has been an agent on my ‘wish’ list since 2013 when I first looked into the possibility of finding an agent. I also managed to pitch to Marcus Gipps the Editorial Director of Gollancz. Both seemed impressed by my pitch for Visions of Zarua and gave me some great pointers to improve it. That kind of experience is priceless and I hope to put what I’ve learnt into practice very soon.

 

Conclusion

The people at Gollancz were warm and friendly. The writers’ day has demystify the agent and publishing industry, and I can now appreciate how incredibly hard it is for a debut author to get published. I won’t give up on the dream though, because it’s got to happen to someone.

I highly recommend all writers take the opportunity to attend a day like this, especially if it’s specific to your genre. Although I was nervous leading up to it, I would jump at the chance to do it again!

One other thing I wanted to mention – I may have been the only one to have self-published in this group of aspiring authors, I don’t know as no one I talked to mentioned it, but I wasn’t made to feel inferior as I have done at other conferences. The people were all supportive of each other, no matter what stage anyone was at in their writing careers. I’m proud to have self-published and to have realised my dream on my own terms, and I would recommend it to other authors if you have the time and money to invest in your book, but there’s no denying it’s hard work. I can see the many benefits of having the backing of an agent and a publisher behind you, and how if you were an author for Gollancz you might feel like you were joining an extended family.

Having the Czech publishing deal for Visions of Zarua and attending the Gollancz Writers’ Day has inspired me to start subbing again.

It was also really interesting listening to the panel talk about the acquisition meetings and how many stages a book must go through before it’s accepted by a publisher. It gave me a warm glow to realise that Visions of Zarua has gone through that process at Fragment / Albatros Media. Just yesterday I saw the cover proof for the hardback edition and it is amazing – very close to the image I had in mind before I found my own cover back in 2015 – I still love my version too!

 

My tips for a successful day at a writing conference

Arrive early – It take away the stress of bursting in late when you’re hot and sweaty and panting like you’ve run a marathon. It gives you a chance to settle your nerves and meet the others who also managed to get there early. Plus it’s so much less daunting than being the last to arrive and everyone else already appears to have made friends.

Sit at the front – Don’t be shy. It’s good to make eye contact with the speakers and you can hear everything being said. Plus it feels easier to ask questions when you don’t have to shout to the other end of the room.

Come prepared with a list of questions – You may or may not ask them, but it’s better to be prepared with something. And though you may be filled with nerves, it gets easier each time you force your hand up and step outside your comfort zone.

Make notes – You’ll never remember everything that’s said, and it’s great to go back over the day and remember those little nuggets of info you’ve scribbled down.

Mingle and make connections with the attendees – Some great advice we received was to remember that the SFF crowd is a small community and that we may well keep bumping into the same people at these events. They suggested making friends now and growing together, supporting each other. That’s such an important part of developing as an author and I feel more confident about doing this now.

Speak to the speakers – From the audience you may see the speakers as confident professionals and feel awed by them, thinking you could never be in that position. But if you get the chance to speak with them during a break or at the end, it can really help you see them as normal people and help your own confidence levels. I loved the opportunity to speak with published authors, to know that maybe none of us are really that different.

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I hope I’ve inspired you to try out a writing or publishing event and if you were at the Gollancz Writers’ day please contact me and say hello.

If you know of any SFF events in the UK please share them in the comments. I’d love to get a list together and try to attend some.

I’ll start with this;

The British Fantasy Society have just announced their BFS London Social on 7th December at Central Station Pub. Here’s a link to the BFS website.

And

Gollancz have promised to bring back Gollancz Fest in 2019 (something I’ve heard of but never attended). I am making a promise to myself and to you that I will attend in 2019. Who knows, maybe I will meet you there.

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Visions of Zarua – #Audiobook in the pipeline – #narrators wanted #fantasy

I have toyed with the idea of an audiobook for a few years now, but I was always put off by the length of my book and the cost that would mean for the customer. But now I see many of my fellow indie authors going for it I’ve finally decided to try it out for myself.

I’ve registered Visions of Zarua with ACX and it’s ready for narrators to audition. Now comes the difficult part – getting in touch with narrators. I’ve spent a few fun hours listening to voice samples and I have found a couple I really like. I plan to approach them soon, but it is impossible to know what kind of voice will work for a novel with three male viewpoints and one female.

I suppose I will know the voice when I hear it, the same as I knew this cover was the one the moment I saw it.

Visions of Zarua book cover

If you are interested in auditioning here’s the ACX link to see Visions of Zarua’s audition request page. I’d love to hear from you and see how you plan to bring the book to life.

Advice wanted – If you have produced an audiobook, or are an author whose book has been narrated, maybe you could share some of your knowledge and tips?

I will do a follow up post in the future on my experience with audiobooks.

For now I shall leave you with the blurb and Amazon / Goodreads links of you want to find out more about Visions of Zarua.

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Two wizards, 350 years apart. Can they save the realm of Paltria from Zarua’s dark past?

An ancient darkness haunts the realm of Paltria.
Apprentice wizard Paddren is plagued by visions of a city on the brink of annihilation. When his master dies in mysterious circumstances, the Royal Order of Wizards refuses to investigate.
Helped by his childhood friend, the skilled tracker Varnia, and her lover Leyoch, Paddren vows to find the killer.
The investigation leads Paddren down a sinister path of assassins, secret sects and creatures conjured by blood magic. But he is guided by a connection with a wizard from centuries ago – a wizard whose history holds the key to the horror at the heart of the abandoned city of Zarua. Can Paddren decipher his visions and save the Paltrian people before the dark menace of Zarua’s past is unleashed?

Amazon

Goodreads

WEBSITE BANNER

My Top 10 reads of 2017 #greatreads #booklove #amreading

I’m surprised to say I beat my reading challenge target on Goodreads. I read 34 books throughout 2017, my target was 30. I read 33 in 2016, so I think I’ve found a good reading level for me, but I might aim a little higher in 2018. I plan to be more organised in my reading next year, finishing a few trilogies I’ve started etc. But I’ll post about that later. Right now, I’d like to share my Top 10 Reads of 2017…

My kids have recommended a few books this year, which have been really addictive. It’s hard to choose between them, so I’ve selected two…

Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver.

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I love wolves, have done since I read Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy. This book has emotion, excitement, adventure and friendship. It has been enjoyed by three generations of my family, so don’t let the fact its a children’s book put you off. I haven’t reviewed this book on my blog yet, but it is a 5 star read.

The Iron Trial By Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

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Again I haven’t reviewed this book yet, but it’s an amazing read and my first try of both these authors. I highly recommend this unputdownable 5 star book.

I tried a couple of historical fiction novels this year and I was so impressed with IREX by Carl Rackman, which I read when I was a reviewer on Rosie Amber’s book review team.

IREX by Carl Rackman

This book really draws you into the Victorian era and the mystery elements keeps you intrigued right to the end. I was sad this book had to end at all. Here’s my review.

I also tried Urban Fantasy for the first time and loved…

Eleonore by Faith Rivens

This was another 5 star read, here’s my review. I was really surprised how much I enjoyed changing my usual fantasy genre. I highly recommend this demon hunting, kick-ass heroine’s story.

Two of my stand out fantasy reads in 2017 were…

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

This was my book club choice and I loved it. Here’s the link to my original review. I loved this magical book and I’m jealous of Naomi Novik’s story telling skills.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V E Schwab

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I was taken by surprise by this novel. I loved the characters and can’t wait to read the rest of this series in 2018. I plan to share my review of the series then. It was another 5 star read.

I have listened to a few audiobooks in 2017 and two that really stand out are;

Therapy by Sebastian Fitzek

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The premise of this book really drew me in and I couldn’t stop listening. I may not have been over the moon with the ending, but it was still a great book and a 5 star read. Here’s my review.

The Breakdown by B A Paris

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This book was another addictive listen, with plenty of twists and shocks. You feel as unsure of whom to trust as the main character, Cass, and I loved the ending. A must read, and I hope to share my review of it early in 2018.

I have read a few writing guides this year. Again it was hard to choose between them, but I’ve selected two favourites…

The Writer’s Lexicon by Kathy Steinemann

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This book is a great editing companion. I found it really helpful in helping me focus on over used and redundant words, with plenty of helpful word alternatives. Here’s my review.

Overwhelmed Writer’s Rescue by Colleen M Story

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A great book to help you re-evaluate your life and focus on what matters. There is so much in this book to help you find more time to write. Here’s my review.

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So looking back at my reading in 2017 I’m impressed that I managed to read so many books considering I’ve published my second novel, The Lost Sentinel, edited a third and wrote 40k of another during NaNoWriMo.

I don’t know what 2018 will hold, but I’m looking forward to immersing myself in more fantasy books and following more review blogs to build up my TBR shelf even more.

Happy New Year everyone!

 

#tuesdaybookblog Therapy by Sebastian Fitzek #audio #bookreview #thriller

Therapy by Sebastian Fitzek is an addictive read / listen that grips you right from the start. Before my brief review; here’s what the book is all about…

Blurb (Goodreads)

No witnesses, no evidence, no body: Star psychologist Viktor Larenz’s twelve-year-old daughter, Josy, who had suffered from an inexplicable illness, has vanished under mysterious circumstances during a visit to her doctor, and the investigation into her disappearance has brought no results. Four years later, Viktor remains a man shattered by this tragedy. He has retreated to a remote vacation cottage on a North Sea island, where a beautiful stranger named Anna Glass pays him a visit. She claims to be a novelist who suffers from an unusual form of schizophrenia: all the characters she creates for her books become real. While writing her most recent novel, Anna has been tortured by visions of a little girl with an unknown illness who has vanished without a trace, and she asks Dr. Larenz to treat her. Viktor reluctantly begins therapy sessions with the stranger, but very soon these sessions take a dramatic turn as the past is dragged back into the light. What really happened to Josy? Do Anna’s delusions describe Josy’s last days? And is Larenz a danger to himself and others?

Therapy is an absolutely gripping psychological thriller, an intelligent, fast and furious read that will stay with you for a long time after you have followed Viktor into the depths of his own psyche, and have figured out who Anna Glass really is.

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My Review

I was totally addicted to this book and found myself listening to it every spare minute I could find.

The premise of a daughter disappearing without trace and a schizophrenic novelist having the answers had me desperate to find out more. With this story you’re never sure what is reality and what is delusion, and it was all very cleverly handled.

I love stories that keep you guessing and I would love to see this one made into a film.

The only possible disappointment for me was the very end. But I’m not giving away any details, so you’ll have to read it and let me know if you were satisfied with the outcome.

This is my first read of a Sebastian Fitzek book and it was so good, I’m almost nervous about picking up another one.

Overall, I rate this book 4.5 stars (only deducted 1/2 for the over use of unnecessary description of characters towards the beginning of the book.)

Why don’t you check the book out on Goodreads and if you have read it, let me know what you thought in the comments.

#Tuesdaybookblog #Audio #bookreview The Widow by Fiona Barton #thriller

The Widow by Fiona Barton

Narrated by Clare Corbett

The Blurb

THE SUNDAY TIMES AND NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER, AND RICHARD & JUDY BOOK CLUB PICK

‘If you liked GONE GIRL and THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN, you might want to pick up THE WIDOW by Fiona Barton. Engrossing. Suspenseful’ Stephen King

We’ve all seen him: the man – the monster – staring from the front page of every newspaper, accused of a terrible crime.

But what about her: the woman who grips his arm on the courtroom stairs – the wife who stands by him?

Jean Taylor’s life was blissfully ordinary. Nice house, nice husband. Glen was all she’d ever wanted: her Prince Charming.

Until he became that man accused, that monster on the front page. Jean was married to a man everyone thought capable of unimaginable evil.

But now Glen is dead and she’s alone for the first time, free to tell her story on her own terms.

Jean Taylor is going to tell us what she knows.

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My Review

Even though terrible subject matter is touched upon in this book, it was a very enjoyable read / listen. The story switches between the present day and back into the past when the little girl Bella is abducted. It’s easy to follow the storyline, and this technique helped to drag you into the story.

It’s soon clear the widow is an unreliable narrator. It’s hard to like most of the characters involved, however Sparks seems like a dedicated and likable detective as he risks his career trying to find the missing toddler.

The story moves along at a compelling pace and you have to pay attention to the little details that might turn up later. You’ll wonder if there are any big revelations or twists as the story unravels, but you’ll have to read it for yourself to find out what’s really going on.

I would recommend to thriller lovers.

4 stars

Audio extra – I loved the end of the audio book where the author, Fiona Barton and the narrator, Clare Corbett chat about writing and audio books. Brilliant added extra.

#TuesdayBookBlog #Audio #bookreview Sisters and Lies – Bernice Barrington #thriller

An audio review of Sisters and Lies by Bernice Barrington.

Narrated by Caroline Lennon and Marcella Riordan.

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Blurb

One hot August night, Rachel Power gets the call everyone fears. It’s the police. Her younger sister Evie’s had a car crash, she’s in a coma. Can Rachel fly to London right away? With Evie injured and comatose, Rachel is left to pick up the pieces of her sister’s life. But it’s hard fitting them together, especially when she really doesn’t like what she sees. Why was Evie driving when she doesn’t even own a licence? Who is the man living in her flat and claiming Evie is his girlfriend? How come she has never heard of him? The more mysteries Rachel uncovers the more she starts asking herself how well she ever really knew her sister. And then she begins to wonder if the crash was really the accident everybody says it is. Back in hospital, Evie, trapped inside an unresponsive body, is desperately trying to wake up. Because she’s got an urgent message for Rachel – a warning which could just save both their lives . . .

My Review

The story starts with a seemingly simple situation – Rachel’s sister Evie is in a coma after a car crash.

It’s soon clear that Evie’s life is not as simple as Rachel’s believes and the mysteries soon begin to add up, some of them linked to their past. It’s a real page-turner, or avid listen in my case.

I really enjoyed the audio version of this book. The two narrators voices are so distinctive, I can still hear them in my head now. I really miss their accents and the story itself was one I could have listened to for much longer.

The plot built up steadily and I enjoyed switching between Rachel in the now of the story as she investigates her sister’s accident, and Evie in her coma and how she re-lives the events building up to the moment she remembers how she got into the car accident.

I highly recommend Sisters and Lies to thriller addicts like me.

4 stars

#Audio #bookreview Behind Closed Doors – B A Paris #thriller

Audio book review of Behind Closed Doors by B A Paris

Narrated by Georgia Maguire

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Blurb

Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace. He has looks and wealth, she has charm and elegance. You might not want to like them, but you do.

You’d like to get to know Grace better.

But it’s difficult, because you realise Jack and Grace are never apart.

Some might call this true love. Others might ask why Grace never answers the phone. Or how she can never meet for coffee, even though she doesn’t work. How she can cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim. And why there are bars on one of the bedroom windows.

Sometimes, the perfect marriage is the perfect lie.

My Review

I don’t have much to say about this book except your HAVE to read it!

It was a totally addictive read / listen. I loved the story and the author achieved something that doesn’t normally happen when I read thrillers – I cared for the characters. I couldn’t help but feel for Grace in her impossible situation and hoped desperately that she would find a way out of the horror her life had become.

Switching between past and present, the story that unfolds is mesmerising and shows true evil at work. It would make a fantastic film.

The narration was perfect. And I can’t fault the plot. This book is a must for all thriller readers.

5 Big Fat Scary Stars

#Tuesdaybookblog Kill Me Again by Rachel Abbott #Thriller #audio #bookreview

Kill Me Again by Rachel Abbott

Narrated by Lisa Coleman

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When your life is a lie, who can you trust?

When Maggie Taylor accepts a new job in Manchester, she is sure it is the right move for her family. The children have settled well although her husband, Duncan, doesn’t appear to be so convinced.

But nothing prepares her for the shock of coming home from work one night to find that Duncan has disappeared, leaving their young children alone. His phone is dead, and she has no idea where he has gone, or why. And then she discovers she’s not the only one looking for him.

When a woman who looks just like Maggie is brutally murdered and DCI Tom Douglas is brought in to investigate, Maggie realises how little she knows about Duncan’s past. Is he the man she loves? Who is he running from?

She doesn’t have long to decide whether to trust him or betray him. Because one thing has been made clear to Maggie – another woman will die soon, and it might be her.

My Review

Well first off I didn’t even realise this was book 5 in the DCI Tom Douglas series until I went to review it on Goodreads. There is no hint of this fact on Amazon UK, but it really didn’t matter to the reading experience, which was excellent. It shows great skill on the writers part that you can pick up her books and read them as standalones, although I do prefer to read books in order.

The premise of Kill Me Again had me intrigued, the story was engaging, the twists were unexpected and I really couldn’t stop listening to it.

There were one or two moments when I found it hard to agree with Maggie’s actions and I would’ve gone to the police sooner rather than risk my children, but overall the story worked.

The ending took me by surprise and I would definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good thriller. I’m looking forward to reading the previous books in the series, starting in order this time.

My rating 5 stars.

My favourite reads of 2016 #amreading #greatreads

I’ve read more in 2016 than I have in years thanks to taking up the Goodreads reading challenge and joining Rosie’s Book Review Team.

Here are some of the books that have stayed with me long after I finished reading them.

Favourite Children’s book – Fire Bed and Bone by Henrietta Bradford

My review & My Family Review

Featured Image -- 3569  I loved this book and shared it with my family. It was an interesting experiment to get the different opinions from a 9-year-old and an 11-year-old and my husband (whose age I’m sure he wouldn’t want me to mention!).

Favourite YA book – The Sapphire Legend by E.L. Tenenbaum

My Review

26248087 This fantasy book took me by surprise and I have been longing to read the sequel. I definitely will in 2017.

Favourite Indie and fantasy – The Crown of Stones by C.L. Schneider

My Review

20319844 I was drawn to the cover of this book from the start and the book didn’t disappoint. A great fantasy, and another trilogy I hope to finish in 2017.

Favourite Thriller – Distress Signals by Catherin Ryan Howard

My review

distress signals cover image This book led to some very late nights! A compelling thriller and I bet you won’t see the twist coming!

Favourite Romance – Late Summer in the Vineyards by Jo Thomas

My Review

51qenardljl I loved this book for the atmosphere and the wonderful feel good factor it had.

Favourite Audio book – Look Behind You by Sibel Hodge

My Review

51fbBPM9h9L._SY346_  This was a thriller I just couldn’t stop listening to. It had that all important mystery element, and like the main character I didn’t know who to trust. It reminded me of ‘Before I go to Sleep’. Both truly great reads.

In all I read 33 books during 2016. Now I can’t wait to see what books 2017 has in store.

Have you read any of these books, and if not have I inspired you to add them to your TBR lists?

 

#Audiobook #bookreview See How They Run by Tom Bale #Tuesdaybookblog #thriller

See How They Run (Audio version)

By Tom Bale

Narrated by Kris Dyer

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Blurb
In the dead of night, new parents Alice and Harry French are plunged into their worst nightmare when they wake to find masked men in their bedroom. Men ruthless enough to threaten their baby daughter, Evie.

This is no burglary gone wrong.
The intruders know who they’re looking for – a man called Edward Renshaw.
And they are prepared to kill to get to him.

When the men leave empty handed, little do Alice and Harry realise that their nightmare is just beginning. Is it a case of mistaken identity? Who is Renshaw? And what is he hiding?

One thing is clear – they already know too much.

As Alice and Harry are separated in the run for their lives, there is no time to breathe in their fight to be reunited. And with their attackers closing in, there is only one choice:

STAY ALIVE. OR DON’T.

Terrifying, unputdownable and full of twists and turns, this stunning thriller will have you on the edge of your seat right to the very last page.

My Review

I bought this book on a whim having seen the audio book on sale with audible. The premise sounded engaging and I was certainly gripped by the beginning sample. The book starts with a bang, putting you straight into the action as a couple are threatened in their own home along with their 2-month-old baby.

There were quite a few viewpoint characters in the book, which is necessary to drive the story along. It was well narrated with all the different voices depicted with skill.

It was an absorbing listen. I enjoyed the mounting tension as the story rattled along at a pace, dragging the main characters, Alice and Harry, into ever increasing danger.

I loved that some of the action happened in Glocestershire, Ross-on-Wye and Symmons Yat, favourite holiday spots for our family.

In all this was a gripping thriller, however after the main action had taken place the end did drag on a bit.

A recommended read or listen for thriller and mystery fans.

My rating 4 stars