Four Brits Book Fest Trip, Birmingham UK
Last weekend I went up to Birmingham with my friend Jenny for an author event. It was so much fun! I have never been to Birmingham (at least I don't think we went there back in the day when I traveled through England) and we didn't have that much time to really explore the city. Really the trip was to meet some amazing authors, talk about books with other people who are just as obsessed as we are, and see my friend Lou. It was an amazing weekend and I came home with so many books! Fun times.
We arrived Friday early afternoon. After some flight delays and sitting on the airplane forever waiting for stairs so we could get off, finding the hotel and getting checked in, we were both starving. So we found a place to go get some food and called up an Uber and we were off. Only the place we were going to was closed (the driver asked us to check and make sure before we got over to it) and he took us downtown instead to this strange mall that had tons of restaurants and such in it. The Mailbox it was called. Like high end stores and then places to eat, but the setup was odd. We found some foods (I had enchiladas!) and the driver had told us that afterwards we should walk over to the Bullring area and check it out, so we did.
Main train station.
We didn't see a lot of Birmingham, just really around the main train station area, but it was an odd city.
Lots of really old buildings and architecture right next to super modern buildings.
Like this old church which was beautiful
Right next to this building that looked like it had giant thumbtacks all over it. Very strange as they didn't really mesh well
We wandered around the shopping area a bit, had some tea, then off to dinner
When we were wandering we saw this Thai place by the church in the photos above. I love Thai food so much so of course we had to check it out (it is hard to find non-curry Thai food for me to eat here). Chaophraya was amazing! We shared some sweetcorn cakes to start
And I had some Pad Thai. Delicious! It was like we were back in Thailand and all the tasty foods. When we got the bill we noticed on the bottom it said £10 off our next visit within two weeks so we plotted and planned to make sure we could come back and try more things. Then we just headed back to the hotel since we were tired and wanted to be rested up to meet all the authors the next day.
Oh Four Brits Book Fest was so much fun!! I know some of these photos are a bit blurry, but I don't care! It was much nicer than the one we went to in London. Here the tables were spread out more, more room between rows, so you could actually walk through the crowd. Plus they had volunteers helping to make sure things were running smoothly and if one author had too long of a queue they asked you to come back in a bit once it had died down. It was wonderful and we managed to see all of the authors we really wanted to. We just had normal tickets (the early entry tickets sold out in seconds) so we arrived around 10:30 to get checked in and wait for 11 to start the fun! At first we had a plan to try and get to see everyone starting on one side of the room, but that quickly went out the window as we just wanted to make sure we got to everyone we had books to get signed by and who we wanted to purchase books from. A tiered approach which worked well. I didn't get photos from all of the authors, even all of them that I love, but I did better than last time where I took no photos so...I also tried to read something from every author and found a lot of great new to me authors I was eager to meet. First up was Harper Sloan who was hilarious. She seemed like she was having a great time. We joked around about how terrible her books are which I enjoyed. Plus she has super cool hair! Note - there were a lot of authors with awesome bright colored hair this year!
Then Jade West. Oh, Jade West how I love you. Not only are your books freakin amazing (seriously they are the standard for me for this type of read - I read her newest Teach Me Dirty right before I read another book that also had a teacher/student plot line - which I never thought I would actually enjoy - and I loved hers so much I kept thinking the other was okay, but it was no Jade West), but you are such fun. We laughed so much with you and your mom and I wish I were besties with you. Or if we lived in the same area I might stalk you...It was instant best friend on my part. It is always great to meet a favorite author and see that they are awesome in person as well so then I really like supporting them.
Anna Bloom - I didn't get to most of her books before the event, but she was a sweetheart as well. I guess I should actually say all of the people (authors and readers) we talked to were. Everyone was amazing. We didn't have any negative interactions with anyone, just a lot of fun times talking about books. And more book recommendations to add to the to-read pile like one of Anna's. Eek!
Meghan March - I love her books, though I only read the one series. She also had a dirty billionaire series which I will have to try especially since she told us how she told her mom not to read them as they are too dirty. She said she gave her mom the books and signed the front - mom stop here! Don't read any further! Fun times. So I pretty much have to check them out especially since I really liked her Beneath series.
Aly Martinez - I totally fan girled all over her. Her newest, The Spiral Down, I loved so so much. I pretty much just gushed about how awesome she is and how I loved that book and she was super sweet. I love everything I have read of hers so it was nice to meet her in person.
Tara Brown was really one of the nicest people ever. She has a billion books under a few different names and I mentioned how I loved the covers of the one series she had out there and she just gave us all three of them! Eek!! So now I have some new pretties to read and hopefully enjoy. She said they were a mix between Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars which sounds amazing to me. Seriously she was awesome.
We did stop by and Niki Groom and Amy Daws after Tara, but I don't have any photos for them. They were both really nice and Amy even remembered Jenny from London last year! That is seriously crazy. How many people does she meet in a year, let alone just there at FBBF, and she recognized us from London over a year ago? Wow. I honestly had forgotten that she had been at the London signing until she said that. Crazy.
Rachel Van Dyken - She had pretty hair as well, and I was super awkward with her. I follow her on Facebook and feel like we are besties even though she probably doesn't know who I am. It is a strange thing to be able to get to know authors so well over social media, but then they don't really know you. Or me since I don't post a lot about myself except for my travels. I absolutely love her historicals as they are so much fun, and I told her that and she said no one even knows she writes them. Good for me since the one she brought were still available, but sad for everyone else as they are missing out on some really great reads.
And I Finally(!!!) got to meet my author friend Penny in person! Eeek!! She is so much fun. I mean look at the photos we took! Eek! She is the reason we went to the London signing, even though she ended up not being able to go we still had an amazing time. If not for her Jenny and I wouldn't have realized how amazing these author events are (even if you don't know the authors who are there). I wish I could have just sat and talked to her forever as I love her mind and think she is hilarious, but alas she is quite popular and I had to let others bask in her glory. I love love love her and her books! As you can tell she is a lot of fun.
And LH Cosway who is besties with Penny. They write books together which are tons of fun, the latest is hilarious!, but by the time we got to her table she was really tired and could have used a break for some food. We had just come back from getting some lunch ourselves (in London we didn't get a lunch break which was not a good idea. Here they had food carts so we could sneak out and get some food then come back with more energy to tackle the afternoon. It was so much better and we were much more prepared) so I understood. She signed my one book "Run away the circus" which I love! She is another one that I want to be besties with. Can't I just be bff with all the authors?
Then the other highlight of the day - Brittainy C. Cherry who recognized me!!! Seriously that was a don't freak out that one of your favorite authors who you have never interacted with online knows who you and your blog are moment. Jenny and I both love her stories so we had to make sure we definitely went by her table. I had a book to sign and Jenny purchased one, but we got up to her and I was saying how much I love her and she looks at me and was just like I know you (I did have a name tag on). Eek! I think her writing is absolutely beautiful and it draws you right into the story and you don't want to put her books down once you start. She was a new to me author and I am so glad she was here at the signing and I found her books. She was also kind of shy, but super sweet. I loved her and her writing.
After Brittainy we were trying to figure out who else we wanted to talk to as it was getting late in the day. We spied and saw this lady and were just like who is that?!? Look at her glasses! And that dress! We must meet her! So we walked up to Sierra Simones table and she was just like you two have such cool glasses! We were all eek! So do you! We are the cool glasses crew! I had read one of her book and her writing is amazing, but I noticed one I didn't have on my list of works by her and asked about that. Well that was one Jenny had read which she loved, but she had forgotten it was Sierra Simone who had written it! So we pooled together our change as Jenny was just like you must read it and she gave it to us even though we didn't quite have enough for it. Love! Oh I came away with so many books to read!
Then I don't have any more photos until the last author so just a rundown of highlights for the rest of the event. We talked to Whittney Barbetti, who I just remembered has a new book that came out on Thursday and I should go download - Elle Brooks who was really one of the sweetest people we talked to - Staci Hart who gave us a code to download the first book in a series I didn't read yet, but sounds amazing - Kim Holden who seemed a bit awkward when we were gushing about how much Bright Side made us cry, but in a good way. Oh I hearted those books because they got such emotions out of me! - Jay McLean who had a really long line and we got up to her and she just started giving us books. I think she was a bit tired from a long day, but Jenny hadn't read her and asked where to start and she gave her Where the Road Takes Me. Jenny was just like I don't have any money to which her reply was something like just take it. If it gets me a new reader it is worth it. She also talked about her books and I read her More Than series and loved it, each book getting better, and she was just like yeah these first two aren't very good, but they do get better. She was fun and when I asked her about two books I didn't have on my list of to-read by her she grabbed them and was just like here, they are romantic suspense. I loved her and wish we could have spoken to her longer, but again she had a crazy line.
By the time we finished queuing for Jay McLean we were starting to get tired. It was almost 5 and we had been there walking around talking to people since 10:30 with a short half hour lunch break so we looked to see if we missed anyone we really wanted to talk to. The last author of the day for us was R.J. Prescott as I had read and really enjoyed her books. Oh we were getting a bit punchy by that time and were carrying on in her queue. She was a sweetheart and really spent time talking to everyone and signing things for them. Not that the others didn't, but she was just out there hugging everyone and really really nice. We were carrying on with the lady assisting her and we were loopy. There was a candy bowl and Jenny stated to slowly take some candy, like if she moved slow enough the assistant lady wouldn't see her which made us all start going on about everything and laughing so much. Then the author has a guestbook thing for everyone to sing and Jenny wrote something like Your queue was the best! So much fun. P.S. Thanks for the candy, which made everyone laugh even more. It was a great end to a great signing. We were prepared, we planned, we ate food, we brought water, and I wasn't as tired by the end as I was last time. So much fun!
I mean look at my book haul! So many books! Way more than I expected since we got a lot of free/discount books. Such fun times! All of the authors were amazing, all of the people we talked to in line while waiting to talk to authors were super fun, it was a really nice day. I love being surrounded by people who love the same books I do and are just as excited about reading as me.
After talking to Prescott we were done. Tired and needed a break before the evening meet and greet. We went back to our room and dropped off our giant back full of books (between the two of us the back that I thought was way too big ended up just big enough for everything). We grabbed some dinner at Gourmet Burger Kitchen - two falafel burgers, onion rings and sweet potato fries with a strawberry elderflower drink and a sneak photo of Jenny since she doesn't like to have her photo taken. I needed one! The food was alright, but not as good as I had hoped it would be. Even the sweet potato fries were just okay which is sad as how do you make them not amazing?? Then it was off to the meet and greet which started a lot later then expected.
Since Birmingham is relatively close to Derby when we were planning the trip we decided to come home on Monday instead of Sunday so I could hopefully go visit Lou. I stayed with her and her family for a few days back when I was like 15 and we had kept in touch since then. When we traveled through Europe in 2010 before moving over here we stopped by and visited with her for a day, but that was 6 years ago! Luckily she doesn't work on the weekend so we were able to meet up. We took the train to Derby and she picked us up from the station and took us back to her (hopefully soon to be old) house. I got to meet her daughter (20 months old!) and step-daughter and it was so nice to catch up with her. Macy is adorable and looks just like her husband Christopher. And I didn't take any photos...but we hung out until lunch, Jenny got to put together some puzzles that Macy started, and then got some lunch at a pub and had some tea where she works (a dairy where they make their own ice cream in lots of fun flavors and they have a tea room. It was a really nice place and I could see where it would be packed on a sunny day). That is where the photo above is from - treats after lunch.
It was so much fun. I can't believe I have known Lou for 20+ years! And they might come visit us here in Berlin sometime!! That would be fun. She is a whirlwind of activity, and such a sweetheart. Oh, I am glad we stayed in contact all this time. We should go visit her more often since she doesn't live that far away now...plan more trips to the UK! After our tea she took us back to the train station to catch the train back to Birmingham which was way more crowded than the one going to Derby.
Since we weren't hungry yet when we got back to Birmingham we decided to explore a bit until dinnertime.
We were walking by a building next to the library that actually looked to be open (it was Sunday evening so not much was). I had to pee so we went in to see if we could find a restroom and there was a guy trying to get people to go to an event. He was all do you want to watch some free beatboxing? Um yes! So we used the facilities then sat and watched Schlomo beatbox which was fun. He even taught us how to do some so we were practicing while walking around. We are amazing of course.
At the end of the show he had some kids come up and show off their skills in a contest - 2 vs 2 - and it was hilarious. Oh that kid with the hat and suspenders was fierce competition!
The city gardens were nearby so we wandered through there, even though there weren't many flowers. There were these ones which looked like multiple flowers in each bloom which I liked.
Then to head back to the Thai place for some dinner.
This time we had the sweetcorn cakes again
And tempura veggies
And shared the basil aubergine
And tamarind tofu. The food was all so tasty, but the aubergine? Amazing! So so good. I wish I could find a Thai place like that here...
With our tummies full it was back to the room to get some sleep.
Our flight wasn't until Monday at 5pm so originally we were going to head into Birmingham (we stayed out by the airport since that was where the author event was) and check out some books stores (that is just what we needed - more books!) and the library, but we were both tired and decided to just read all morning instead. We read until checkout then went to get some lunch at Las Iguanas which I enjoyed. They had a separate vegan and vegetarian menu with too many options. They even had dessert, but the tastiest sounding one had mango in which I can't eat. This was the Quinoa Ensalada - Quinoa, black beans, sweet potato & charred corn with molho à campanha salsa served on top of crushed avocado with a cranberry chilli salsa & roquito pepper drops. Topped with sweet potato crisps & sprinkled with fresh coriander. Really tasty and a great food end to our trip. We just sat and chatted until we had to go to the airport to catch our flight back (which was delayed and Jenny's boarding pass didn't print out so we went had to go talk to the desk agents and the computer didn't show that she had taken the flight over with me. Odd, but they fixed it so it was all good).
All in all it was an amazing weekend. I loved getting to meet some of my favorite authors, talking about books with everyone, making some new book friends, seeing Lou and meeting the rest of her family, and eating lots of delicious foods. I'm so glad to have my friend Jenny who reads the same things I do and to go to things like this with me. Raymond wouldn't enjoy it much as it is not his thing, but to have a weekend where everything is about books? Awesome. So much fun. Until next year then.