Thursday, March 28, 2019

Choices

Making choices can be difficult at times. At the moment you have to decide you can't know if you made the right decision - it only comes with hindsight.

For some time, I've been considering what to do when my sister finally goes into pension. Some time we say: we'll sell the house and move to the flat at the coast - and then we can make our dream trip to Australia and New Zealand, with stopovers in Singapore and Hong Kong. The money gained from the house would permit that. But other days, we think it may not be wise to sell the house. The EU and our own goverment make all kind of new regulations and such an old house as ours (it dates from 1929) can't measure up to those new standards. That would mean the selling price will be largely reduced.

So right now we both think it better to stay in the house and then live alternatively there and at the coast. But probably we'll never make it to Australia - or we should win the lottery...

Yes, making choices is hard. What's best? I honestly don't know!

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Pieter Aspe

Pieter Aspe is without a question THE bestselling author in Flanders. He's best known for his series of 40 books about chief inspector Van In and his assistent Versavel.

When I first read his books, I thought they were a great passtime, nothing more. But recently I've come to the conclusion they're better than that. Aspe often makes fun of the establishment and a lot of fine jokes are mixed in between the plot. Talking about the plot, it becomes better book after book.

The main characters are Van In, Versavel, Hannelore Martens and Carine/Saskia. Van In is an older police officer, needing to find money to pay off his mortgage. He likes to smoke and is even fonder of beer. His prefered drink is Duvel (brewery Moortgat). His best friend and assistent at work is Guido Versavel, a gay man who has a sharp mind and is the only one who can calm down Van In when he has a temper. The other assistant is - in the first books - Carine Neels, who is in love with Van In. Later on she dies of cancer and is replaced by Saskia.

During his first case, Van In meets the young new district attorney Hannelore Martens. By the end of the book they are a couple because Hanne quite unexpectedly falls in love with grudgy Van In. They soon get twins, Sarah and Simon, then marry and later on have another baby.


The Van In mysteries are not only available in Dutch language, but are also translated into French, Italian, Russian, English and South-African. To my knowledge, already the first four novels in the series are available on Amazon in English.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Where Sleeping Lies Lie

Please welcome M. Naidoo today. The author is doing a virtual book blast tour for Where Sleeping Lies Lie, a romantic suspense available as of today from Kaedin Press. This book blast tour will happen from March 21st to March 27th.


M. Naidoo will be awarding a $15 Amazon or Barnes&Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Please use the following link to place your comment:

Blurb

“Two men... two worlds... one desperate promise...”

If Anna had only known how the simple push of a button would turn her life upside down, she would never have pressed ‘Play.’

Just 22 seconds into the recording she’s hit by the realization that, if the voice in the thick German accent is right, she has been living with an unthinkable lie for the past thirty years.

There is only one way to find out: Follow the instruction left by a dead person and head back to Germany, to a life Anna has next to no conscious memory of.

To her surprise, she finds an unexpected ally in Peter, an old childhood friend whose law degree and language skills prove to be more than useful. Besides, he has the most gorgeous blue eyes and the uncanny ability to push Anna's buttons without the slightest effort. At every turn, their search for answers is littered with more lies and revelations.

Anna must ultimately decide whether even the noblest of ends, truly justify the means and whether some secrets should better stay buried.

“Mystery, history, and a twist at every turn. Brilliant characters and prolific storytelling... irresistible!”



Excerpt

"I don't know if I can do this." She took a deep breath, " If I wanna do this…"

"Getting cold feet?" 

"Wondering what good could possibly come from this. Does it really matter?" Anna turned to look at Peter, waiting for an answer.

"The truth always matters."

"Spoken like a lawyer again."

"I take this as a compliment. No seriously, that's what you came here for, didn't you?"

Anna nodded. Why did he always have to be right?

"If you don't do this now, you'll kick yourself later. Besides, you can't invite me to the show and drop the curtain before the main act."

"You're right." Anna hated to admit it.

"I know." 

Damn! Why couldn't he just accept the fact that she agreed with him? Did he have to rub it in?

"I need to get out," Anna said flatly. The house suddenly felt as if it had shrunk to half its size, making it hard to breathe. Maybe going for a run would help settle her nerves. She was almost at the door when Peter called after her, "Want me to come?"

"I'm okay, thanks." Yet, another lie.


Author bio and links


M.Naidoo lives in Northern California with her husband, two daughters, and three dogs. Born and raised in Germany, she was able to draw on a wealth of memories and passed down stories for Where Sleeping Lies Lie. 
When she is not in front of her computer, pounding out story lines and characters, she enjoys reading, movies, spending time with her family, and long walks on the beach - her proverbial 'happy place'. M's love for the shore line and ocean shine through in the vivid descriptions of the coast in her debut novel The Pelican.
"Juggling my life as a writer and a full-time 'real' job has its challenges. I don't get to spend half as much time as I'd like doing what I love, and there are never enough hours in the day. Still, I feel extremely lucky to be following my passion, and I am enjoying every minute of it. Getting here has been one heck of a ride!"

Like and follow M. Naidoo on social media 
https://www.facebook.com/AuthorMNaidoo
https://www.instagram.com/authormnaidoo
https://twitter.com/authormnaidoo

For information about the author, her blog, upcoming releases and more, visit www.mnaidoo.com
Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07NL34N26

School strike

Today, most of the schools in Flanders are closed. No teachers present, so parents have to find a solution for their kids.

It's been about 20 years past that there was such a general strike in education. Teachers are tired of the pressure that's placed on them. Big classes, always more administration (all kind of reports to be written about what happens in the classroom, , about each individual student), stress, ...

A decree of some years ago - the M-decree - added to the problems as well. This allows kids with a mental or bodily handicap to come to ordinary schools instead of special ones. Having such a kid in the classroom brings extra work, for which the teacher doesn't always find the time. Normally, such kids should get extra help but in reality this doesn't always work out. For instance, someone comes to help out for 2 hours a week, while a normal school week is 28 hours...

I can understand that teaching has become a hard profession. It was already so when I took my pension. I always liked to be in the classroom, but all the other stuff became a bit too much. So much is expected of a teacher. Not only have to bring knowledge to the student, but you also have to be a psychologist, a doctor or nurse, a social worker, a parent... No wonder so many people stay home with a burn-out or depression! And to add to the problems, the government expects they work longer than we had to do.

Let's hope the new government will have an ear to the complaints of the teachers and try to do something about it!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Next to Last Mistake

Please welcome author Amalie Jahn today. Amalie is doing a virtual book blast tour to promote her young adult novel The Next to Last Mistake, available from March 19th from Light Messages Publishing. The tour will run from March 18th to March 22nd.


Amalie will be awarding a $20 Amazon or Barnes&Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Please use the following link to place your comment.
http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/28e4345f2970


Blurb

Tess Goodwin’s life in rural Iowa is sheltered and uncomplicated. Although she chooses to spend most of her free time playing chess with her best friend Zander, the farm-boy from next door, her skills as a bovine midwife and tractor mechanic ensure that she fits in with the other kids at East Chester High. But when her veteran father reenlists in the Army, moving her family halfway across the country to North Carolina, Tess is forced out of her comfort zone into a world she knows nothing about.

Tess approaches the move as she would a new game of chess, plotting her course through the unfamiliar reality of her new life. While heeding Zander’s long-distance advice for making new friends and strategizing a means to endure her dad’s imminent deployment to the Middle East, she quickly discovers how ill-equipped she is to navigate the societal challenges she encounters and becomes convinced she’ll never fit in with the students at her new school.

When Leonetta Jackson is assigned as her mentor, she becomes Tess’s unexpected guide through the winding labyrinth of cultural disparities between them, sparking a tentative friendship and challenging Tess to confront her reluctant nature. As the pieces move across the board of her upended life, will Tess find the acceptance she so desperately desires?


Excerpt

Mom smiles sympathetically and glances up, realizing I’ve stepped into the room. “Tess, did you know Alice’s family keeps a plot of farmland down the road on the other side of Spring Lake? You said you grow soybean and sorghum and cotton?”

Alice nods.

“Tell Tess about the farm’s history. It’s fascinating.”

I can’t imagine Alice, with her chewing gum and chic hairstyle and fitted slacks working on a farm. I slip onto the empty chair beside her as she begins to explain.

“The land was my great-great-grandfather’s, bought with his own wages after the emancipation. He was a butcher, not a farmer, but he kept the land planted every year for his kids to harvest. By hand, of course. Said he didn’t want them to forget where they came from. Said he wanted to make sure they had a physical connection to their past. Anyway, when he died, he passed the land and the tradition on to his kids, and my great-grandfather and great uncles did the same with their families. To this day, my dad plants every spring and my brother and I harvest every fall. It’s a small plot. Not nearly as big as the one my dad and his brothers and sisters picked, but still, it’s enough to get your muscles burning.” She holds out her hands, and I can make out scars on her fingertips. “My cousins are secretly plotting to sell their portion of the land once it’s our time, but who knows? I might join the Black Cotton movement.”

“Black Cotton?” I ask.

“Yeah, there’s this amazing fifth-generation cotton farmer here in North Carolina who started this company, Black Cotton, as a way for other black, small-acreage cotton farmers to sustain profitability. But they don’t sell the cotton to the clothing industry; they sell it as d├ęcor, like in bouquets and stuff.” She narrows her eyes at me. “Have you ever seen real cotton before? Like still on the stalk?”

I shake my head.

“Most people haven’t,” she says, smiling. “It’s actually quite beautiful. Maybe you’d like to help us with the harvest in the fall and you can see it for yourself?”

That Alice is willing to share this part of herself with me fills my farmer heart to overflowing. “I’d love that,” I tell her.

Smiling satisfactorily to herself, Mom backs out of the room. “I guess it’s a good thing Alice asked about our farm back in Iowa,” she says, revealing the origin of their conversation. “Kinda cool you both know a thing or two about agriculture.”

There’s a tug. The pull of an invisible connection strengthening the bond between us. I wonder how many threads it will take to seal our friendship and how many connections we’ll discover as the days go by. Surely there are others.

Author bio and links


Amalie Jahn is a USA TODAY bestselling author of more than 8 young adult novels, including The Next To Last Mistake, her latest release (Light Messages Publishing 2019).
Amalie is the recipient of the Literary Classics Seal of Approval and the Readers' Favorite Gold Medal for her debut novel, The Clay Lion. She is a contributing blogger with the Huffington Post and Southern Writers Magazine, as well as a TED speaker, human rights advocate, and active promoter of kindness. She lives in the United States with her husband, two children, and three overfed cats.
When she's not at the computer coaxing characters into submission, you can find Amalie swimming laps, cycling, or running on the treadmill, probably training for her next triathlon. She hates pairing socks and loves avocados. She is also very happy time travel does not yet exist. Connect with her right here in the present day at these social media sites:
Websites – www.amaliejahn.com and www.lightmessages.com/amalie-jahn
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/AmalieJahn
Twitter - https://twitter.com/AmalieJahn
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/amalie.jahn.official


Visit amaliejahn.com to join Amalie’s FREE Readers Group and in addition to receiving promotional discounts, sneak peeks, and monthly newsletters, your membership will now grant you exclusive access to bonus material (shorts and novelettes) delivered right to your inbox!

Amazon - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1611532647/ref=as_li_tl
Barnes and Noble – https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-next-to-last-mistake-amalie-jahn/1129761093?ean=9781611532630
Apple – https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-next-to-last-mistake/id1439682885?mt=11&ign-mpt=uo%3D4
Kobo – https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-next-to-last-mistake

Friday, March 15, 2019

Electricity becomes the new gold

Just heard in the newsreport that a fifth part of our population here in Belgium can't afford to pay their electricity bill anymore.

It is true that the price of electricity and gas have risen quite a lot the last few years. When you earn enough, that's not so much of a problem, but for those who earn only the minimum it is. Even when they have to pay the lowest rate (they get a certain amount for free, while we have to pay for it).

The price of electricity is calculated in quite a specific way. You must know that the actual price for electricity and gas is only a small part of what we need to pay. Most goes to taxes and other stuff, like distribution rights.

A previous (socialist) government reduced the BTW (tax for the government) from 21% to 6% because they did not consider utility bills as a luxury. But the next government raised it again to 21%. Just reduced that BTW would make a big difference. As we now have to vote for a new government in May, we can only hope that the next group of ministers will do us the favor of reducing the BTW once more. Would be a nice gesture towards the population!

I manage to keep my utility bills on an even level. We don't heat over 21% Celsius and at night the temperature goes down, just as when we are not at home. I have a boiler that belongs to the newest generation and is extremely climate friendly. Cost me over 3,000 € but it is worth the expenses. Also we only light the room where we are. As for water, we try to save but not letting the tap run while we brush our teeth, or take a shower. I only use some water to wet myself, then turn off the tap and soap in. Only then I open it again to rinse of the soap. All in all it only takes about 5 minutes to shower.

The only thing I don't find fair is that the poor always get a lot for free. Like that percentage of electricity and gas. I think that when the government wants to make a gesture, they should also give us that same percentage for free (under the socialist government it was). After all, it are we who earn decently who pay most of the taxes in Belgium and it is thanks to us that the government has money to spend.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The Brits and their Brexit

In our language we would say: "What a soup!"

And it is. Yesterday evening, the Commons rejected Theresa May's new proposal once more. I guess that lady was ready for a heart attack. Today, parliament must decide whether they are going to have a no-deal brexit. When they vote 'no', they'll vote for delay the next day.


I quite understand why the British joined the EU: they wanted the extra funding they'd receive as member. But why do they want to leave? To prove that Great Britain is still an empire??? They obviously thought wrong. No country in Europe has world power, even if they think so. They would only stand a chance when they become one power, one country, with several states like in the USA. But being Europe, that will never be. So many have tried - the Romans, Napoleon, Hitler... They all failed, just because of the different nations living here. Already in our own country there is a difference between a Fleming and a Walloon (not to mention the difference between a Fleming living in Flanders and one in Limburg...).

There is big chance that eventually the Brits will forget about Brexit, I think. What is your opinion?


Monday, March 11, 2019

Back to everyday life

The holidays are over - even when they had a stormy ending! Yesterday our country was hit by a violent storm, which caused a lot of damage. Trains in West and East Flanders were cancelled, for instance. That's why we were forced to take a taxi to get home! And we were lucky to be the first ones to ask for a long ride, because once in the car, our driver get one call after the other of people trying to get home.

It's still a bit unsteady right now, but there are trains running once more, thanks to a night of hard work by the rail services. Chris is back at work. I'll be glad when she can take her pension as well, so we can sleep a bit longer in the mornings (8.30 instead of 7 am) and go where and when we like. Now we're always concentrated on the school holidays.

But we had a great week, that's for sure. Two good shows to see, delicious food to eat, great hotels. And it's not long now to the next holiday. Easter break will be in 4 weeks' time. and once that's passed we're in for a couple of trips, to France, Holland and Italy.

As usual our neighbor took good care of our home while we were away. It's good to have such neighbors, don't you think?

Chris and Stijn (her colleague at work) are getting a new work force today. A young guy, that will need to learn how to the job. Am curious what she'll have to tell about him?

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Enjoying the spring break

The schools are closed for a week, and thus a lot of teachers and other staff working there are off to other parts. Most of them chose to go skiing or look for the sun. The Middle East has become popular.

As my sister is still working as administrator for a group of schools, she also enjoys this break. So we decided to first head to Antwerp, to see a show there (Best of Musicals in Concert). At the same time, we enjoyed our gold membership status at the Hilton Antwerp. We reached gold in January, but this is our first trip of the year. Must say, I'd rather enjoy the luxury and all the little extra's you get as elite member. Like when we returned to our room that Friday night, and found two special beers and a box of Belgian chocolates...

From Antwerp we took a train to Brussels, where we boarded the Eurostar to London. We stayed for three days there. We went to see Michael Bolton's concert at the Palladium on Monday night. He performed with the BBC Concert Orchestra, and it really was a great show.

Also took the time do do some shopping and enjoy fine dining.

Now we're at the coast, where we are spending the remaining days of the break. The weather isn't worth much, though. Lots of wind, rain and only a rare ray of sunshine. Well, you can't have it all!