Posted in discussion, review

Is The Creakers Musical Edition Worth It?

Following the success of The Christmasaurus Musical Edition, of which my review can found here, Tom Fletcher continues this new tradition of pairing music and his children’s fiction with the creation of The Creakers Musical Edition. 

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The children of Whiffington wake up one day to find that all of the adults have disappeared. While they take this wonderful opportunity to run rampant, no longer confined by rules, eventually the novelty wears off. The protagonist, Lucy, is determined to find out what happened to all the parents and her investigation leads to the discovery of a ghastly world under her bed belonging to monsters called “the creakers.”

The book comes in with a CD which is stuck on the other side of the front cover’s hole (don’t worry, removing it for use doesn’t’ affect the visual of the cover as there’s an inside page which fills in the gap with the same image!). You simply puts this CD into whatever device they wish to use and begins to read. As you travel through the story, little prompts appear at the side of the page which indicate when it’s time to play one of ten tracks.

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The format itself is quite simply brilliant because it combines the two things Tom Fletcher is really good at: writing and music. For existing readers, it’s a way to reread with an additional element breathing new life into the story. For new readers, it’s a way to enjoy the book in an elevated way.

Initially, it can feel like ten songs is a bit excessive but the gaps between them are just big enough that you get invested in the characters on their own and when a musical number rolls around it’s a exciting surprise.

So, is The Creakers Musical Edition worth it? Absolutely. It’s such a unique experience that both adults and children can enjoy together. However, I do prefer The Christmasaurus Musical Edition but this is purely down to the fact that I get more excited about the prospect of christmas than the prospect of monsters hiding under my bed.

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Posted in children's fiction, fantasy, review

Brain Freeze – Tom Fletcher

“I had eaten WAY too much ice cream WAY too fast, and we all know what happens when you do that… BRAIN FREEZE.”

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Blurb: “Izzy’s grandpa was an ice-cream man, and he used to tell the BEST stories. There was the one about giving a 99 Flake to a pharaoh in Ancient Egypt – and another about feeding fab lollies to a hungry T.Rex. But what if they weren’t just stories? What if his blue ice-cream van had a secret magic of its own?”

When I saw that Tom Fletcher was in the line-up for this year’s World Book Day it was an absolute no-brainer that I was going to pick it up. Despite being painfully biased towards this individual, each story he’s churned out has been jam-packed full of such creativity and imagination that I knew Brain Freeze would be no different.

Unlike his previous books, this short story sees the protagonist going off on an adventure solely on their own which I thought was an interesting route to take in this ice cream themed, time travel adventure. But as the story progresses, the reader sees the Brain and Tummy become personified into characters of their own; providing their own form of narrative to push the plot onwards. I found this aspect quite funny as the Brain steers Izzy to where she needed to go (sometimes pointing out the obvious) while all Tummy talked about was… well… food.

Fletcher always adds a bit of depth to his stories, which can sometimes be surprising to see in a story aimed at Children. There’s a very sad element to this story and the route of Izzy’s love for ice cream comes from a place of wanting to keep the memory of a loved one alive; something I think anyone who’s lost someone can relate to. Even in a fun little adventure story, there was that grounding that rounded off Izzy’s character and made her feel real.

As usual, an honourable mention needs to go to Shane Devries who, once again, provided that extra bit of magic and humour with his illustrations.

My only issue with Brain Freeze was more of a personal one. I don’t often read first person books and this was the first of Fletcher’s stories to take that form and I just feel that the story would have worked better in a more aerial view.

Brain Freeze is clever, magical and will leave you hungry for a big bowl of ice cream.

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Posted in Dystopian, review, young adult

Eve Of Man – Tom & Giovanna Fletcher

“She represented the rebirth of the human race. She was the answer to their prayers. She was all they cared about; their final hope. Eve was the saviour of humanity. I am Eve.”

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Blurb: “All her life Eve has been kept away from the opposite sex. Kept from the truth of her past. But at sixteen it’s time for Eve to face her destiny. Three potential males have been selected for her. The future of humanity is in her hands. She’s always accepted her fate. Until she meets Bram. Eve wants control over her life. She wants freedom. But how do you choose between love and the future of the human race?”

I’ve been a long-time fan of both Tom and Giovanna Fletcher independently, so when I saw the announcement that they had written a book together, I was both excited but very wary. Tom Fletcher is a children’s book writer, known primarily for The Christmasauras, and Giovanna is a romance writer, known for Billy And Me. So not only were they merging together, but also stepping into a new area of the book world as Eve Of Man is the first in a Young Adult Sci-Fi series.

To start with, I was very anxious because I wanted to love it, and throw aside all my preconceptions as they are new to YA and many adult authors etc. have made a successful transition. I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Charlotte Richie and Josh Dylan, and honestly don’t think I would have gotten through this book without it. Because it’s a bad book. A really bad book.

Eve of Man is pitched as an “unconventional love story” and yet with the premise of the story, it does little to surprise the reader. Eve is sixteen, the first girl born in fifty years and now about to be palmed off to any boy who might be capable of ensuring the survival of the human race. Eventually she realises her situation is wrong and starts to rebel. There was a lot of buzz shortly after the release regarding gender sterotypes in the book. It’s, again, predictable but not really surprising that it’s rigid in binary as the point we’re introduced to the characters is when Eve is deemed ready to bear a child. The reader is doused in layer upon layer of information about how the world got to this point, revealing how the woman suddenly stopped carrying girls to full term and methods that were put into place. There are a few hints to other sexualities but these are very much brushed over and I was more concerned that in this Handmaid’s Tale-esque aspect there wasn’t much attention brought to what happened to infertile women.

The story is told in two perspectives: Eve and Bram. It’s first person, meaning the reader gets into the route of their thoughts and to be honest I found Bram infinitely more interesting. Eve lives in this place called “the dome” which is essentially her prison. The regular communication she has is with a hologram called Holly who has to be operated by a pilot in order to interact with Eve. Bram is one of these pilots which was super interesting and destroyed my previous idea that Bram would turn out to be one of the suitors. His perspective was great in showing what was going on outside of Holly’s world from the government interference to the people rallying in the streets, demanding Eve’s freedom. However, the narrator was so bland that it just didn’t make him feel real. There was no real change in voice either for characters so I often had to rewind to work out who was speaking. Eve’s narrative wasn’t necessarily bad but I just didn’t really care for her.

In terms of the writing, what I gathered from the audiobook is that Eve very much has Giovanna’s usual writing style and will be comforting to those familiar with her other works. My main issue was that Eve didn’t’ come across as sixteen. As for Bram, Tom’s writing is quite simply a mess. It’s very clunky and could have done with a lot more buffing around the edges. Both perspectives had the issue of information dumping both in the sense of “telling rather than showing” and the reader is constantly having bits of knowledge thrown at them that isn’t really needed; a lot of it was information that the writer needed to know to form and understand the world, but wasn’t vital for those reading. It always seemed to come at the worst times. For example, there’s a dramatic section in the latter half of the book with Bram and the action is suddenly halted for a few minutes while the reader is given the history of the room. All that build up is suddenly halted and it was hard to get back on board after being steered off track.

To me, Eve of Man  was a book with a lot of potential but completely fell apart in the execution.

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Posted in discussion

Mid Year Freak Out Tag

We’ve officially reached the mid-way point in the year, which is a mixture of exciting and terrifying! So it’s time to reflect on all the bookish adventures I’ve had so far.

Best Sequel Of The Year So Far

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This one is actually a bit of a cop-out as I’ve only read two sequels this year and this one was a reread. As you’re probably aware, it’s the second book in The Maze Runner series and after falling into my hole at the start of the year when the final film adaptation was released, I decided to give the whole series a reread. It’s definitely one of my favourites in the series.

New Release You Haven’t Read Yet But Want To

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Noah Can’t Even was one of my favourite books of last year and when I found out there was going to be a sequel, I did a lot of running around and screaming. The first book is about a boy called Noah discovering and exploring his sexuality and it’s by a British author! It’s hysterical, cringy and just brilliant so I can’t wait to see what adventures Noah goes on in this one.

 

Most Anticipated For Autumn/Winter

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It is a known fact that I adore Becky Albertalli… but also that I am not the biggest fan of Adam Silvera, so it’s no surprise that the book I’m looking forward is What If It’s Us? I don’t know much about it except that it’s about two boys and all the possibilities of their lives together.

 

Biggest Disappointment Of The Year So Far

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As a big lover of both Tom and Giovanna’s individual works, I was both excited and nervous to hear that they were moving into the realms of Young Adult fiction. Sadly, it’s not that great. The narrators for the audiobook don’t really add anything to the characters, it’s badly written, and just… well, boring.

 

Biggest Surprise Of The Year So Far

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How To Stop Time was a Christmas present from a friend and not the sort of book I would have picked up of my own accord. It’s about a man who’s lived for centuries and is struggling to find his place in the world now that everyone he’s loved has passed away. It’s beautiful, emotional and raises the questions of who we are outside of our connections to other people.

 

New Favourite Author

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All it took was “The Hunger Games meets Jurassic Park” for me to pick up a copy of The Extinction Trials. It’s a world of two continents: one populated by humans, the other by dinosaurs. It’s action packed and utterly brilliant and I’m down for any other books S.M. Wilson may release!

 

Newest Favourite Character

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This isn’t really a new character, but I started the series last year and I just utterly adore Lara Jean. She’s so caring and loves her family and it just trying to stay true to herself.

 

Book That Made You Cry

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I heard about this book when Patrisse was on the Mostly Lit podcast talking about her life and the Black Lives Matter movement which she co-founded. I listened to the audiobook as I feel this is the best way to consume non-fiction. There are many exhausting moments of this book as Patrisse talks about her life but one chapter about the treatment of her brother regarding his mental health just had me sobbing. If you pick up one book this year, make it this one.
Book That Made You Happy

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Oi Goat was one of the World Book Day titles and just made me grin reading it. The frog in the story is teaching all the different things animals have dressed up as for World Book Day such as “otters dressed as Harry Potters.”

Most Beautiful Book So Far

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I mean, just look at it! It’s so simple but just packs a punch!

 

Posted in Audiobook Of The Month

Audiobook Of The Month | Eve Of Man

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It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of both Tom and Giovanna Fletcher’s books. However, when I saw the announcement that they had written a YA book titled Eve Of Man, I was very sceptical. As they are established in their respective age ranges – Tom being a children’s author and Giovanna being an adult romance author – it felt like a strange merge and almost an invasion for them to step into the world of young adult.

Pitched as an “unconventional love story”, Eve of Man takes place in a world where no girls have been born for fifty years. The human race is facing extinction… until Eve. She is Earth’s last hope. Told through two perspectives, readers learn about Eve’s life inside the dome and Bram; one of the many people watching over her.

At the time of writing this post, I am 52% into the audiobook and it’s safe to say that I am really struggling not to give up on it. The story is narrated by two people: Charlotte Ritchie for Eve’s chapters and Josh Dylan for Bram’s. My big issue is that the latter is incredibly boring. While the writing itself shows the passion Bram has, the dramatization makes it seem like the character is just bored and doesn’t really care about Eve. There’s not real vocal changes to represent the characters to I have to rewind a lot to understand which character is saying the dialogue. Eve is much preferable and has that typical style to it that will be recognisable to fans of Giovanna’s books and, because the dramatization is infinitely better, I’m enjoying her chapters a lot more.

The writing itself is really clunky, especially in Bram’s chapters and overall there’s so much telling rather than showing. In these kinds of futuristic stories, I like being given a few breadcrumbs then just thrown in with the character. Whereas in Eve of Man  I’m taken out of the moment a lot as a scene takes place and it suddenly halted for a few minutes of info-dumping.

I plan on going into more concise detail in my full review but I will briefly mention the issues raised about gender stereotypes in this book. To me, it’s understandable that the story has gone down such a confined route, and that there’s a lack of mention for sexualities, but  it seems odd not to bring mention to infertile women in the quest to birth a girl.

Have you read Eve of Man?

What did you think?

Posted in children's fiction, discussion

Thoughts On World Book Day

When I was a child, World Book Day was like an extra Christmas day for me. I took that token as if it was the most important gift bestowed upon me and picked out the book I wanted as if the fate of the entire world rested on my tiny shoulders.

Sadly, gone are the days when I am eligible for those magic tokens, but it doesn’t stop me, at the age of 24, making sure I buy at least one book from the line up every year. (I mean, they’re £1 each. How could I not?!)

So, when March 1st rolled around, I ventured out into the snow (yes, snow. England’s weather certainly took an interesting turn) and went to make my selections for the year. Here’s what I bought:

Brain Freeze by Tom Fletcher

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Blurb: “A little girl discovers that eating ice cream from her grandfather’s old ice-cream truck gives her the power to travel through time.”

If you’ve been a long time reader on my blog or watch my videos you won’t be surprised in the slightest to see that I picked up Tom Fletcher’s book. Despite being incredibly biased, I’ve always found his stories to be fun, witty and just downright enjoyable. So Brain Freeze was a no brainer for me.

Paddington Turns Detective And Other Funny Stories by Michael Bond

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Blurb: “Nothing is ever straightforward when Paddington is involved. Whether he is attempting detective work, helping to sail a boat or performing magic, ordinary things have a habit of becoming quite extraordinary!”

I have a confession to make… I’ve never read any Paddington Bear stories. Or seen the films. I know, I’m a mess of a reader but with this collection of fun stories making it onto the list, I can’t think of a more wonderful way to get started.

Oi Goat! by Kes Gray and Jim Field

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Blurb: “Frog turns stylist in this boisterous picture book, making all the animals put on their glad rags for World Book Day. But will everyone be as fashion forward as Frog?”

If you haven’t heard about the Oi! picture book series, then you’re seriously missing out. It’s a hysterical rhyming series about animals sitting on other animals and I think they’re utterly brilliant. So again, it was a no brainer to add this one to my picture book collection.

And there you have it! That’s what I picked up for World Book Day!

Did you grab anything?
Do you have any amazing memories to do with World Book Day?

Let me know!

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Posted in children's fiction, fantasy, review

The Creakers – Tom Fletcher

“What makes all the creaks, and clangs in your house? It isn’t the cat, or your dog, or a mouse. Those noises are made by mysterious creatures. Read on if you dare and you might meet… the creakers.”

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Blurb: “Do you ever hear strange, creaking noises at night? Ever wonder what makes those noises? Lucy Dungston always did. Until, one morning, Lucy discovers that all the grown-ups have disappeared – as if into thin air. Chaos descends as the children in Lucy’s town run riot. It’s mayhem. It’s madness. To most kids, it’s amazing! But Lucy wants to find out the truth. Lucy lost her dad not long ago, and she’s determined not to lose her mum too. She’s going to get her back – and nothing is going to stop her… except maybe the Creakers.”

The children of Whiffington wake up one morning to find that all the parents have gone missing. But not only that: they’re all having nightmares about strange creatures hiding under their beds.  Lucy Dungston, having already lost her father, takes it upon herself to not only get her mother back, but the other kids’ parents too.  Her mission takes her into the dangerous world of Woleb where everything is backwards.

One of my favourite things about The Creakers is the little fourth wall breaks in between certain chapters in which the narrator temporarily stops the story in order to check how the reader is feeling. For example: “Blimey! How are you doing? That was a bit intense, wasn’t it?” This little addition was just an extra bit of humour which I think would work brilliantly if this book was read aloud to a group of children.

The backwards ways of Woleb were just perfect and left me having many revelations along with Lucy as she attempted to navigate her way around the new world.

Another personal favourite of mine was the character of Norman Quick – a young boy scout who wears his badges with pride. He even has a camouflage one though he can’t remember where he put it on his sash!

The Creakers is a fantastic, slightly scary, story that teaches the importance of working together and accepting those different to yourself.

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Posted in children's fiction, discussion, lgbt, romance, young adult

Favourite Books Of The Year 2017

Another year has slipped by and it’s time to sit back and reflect on the reading year. I’ve frequently said that 2017 was a bad year for me in terms of quality rather than quantity. I read a lot of books that just left me feeling a big deflated and didn’t think about again once I put them on a pile to be donated to one of my local libraries. I feel that this is reflected in the minimal number on the list. But that in no way should diminish the spotlight on the ones I mention as they deserve all the love and praise in the world. So let’s get into it:

The Upside Of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli 

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The story follows a girl called Molly who really wants a boyfriend but feels that no one will ever love her because she’s a big girl and so she must settle for her list of unrequited crushes.

If you’ve been following me at all over the past year, you will know that I simply cannot stop talking about this book. It has pansexual, bisexual, jewish, fat and anxiety representation but it’s all weaved into the story in such a way that none of it feels like it’s there just to tick boxes. I’ve not connected to a book like this in such a long time. It made me feel valid in terms of body issues and the way my anxiety can be a real hinderance at times and it was nice to see a grown  bisexual woman represented in a Young Adult book. It felt like this book was giving me a hug and telling me that I am valid. If you’re interested in a full review, you can read it here.
Noah Can’t Even by Simon James Green 

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This book is about a boy called Noah who just wants to be a normal sixteen year old boy and decides he’s going to cement this by kissing the beautiful Sophie at a party… but he ends up kissing his best friend Harry instead.

I came across this book because of an interview Amber from themilelongbookshelf did with the author. Simon pointed out the lack of British LGBT books which really got me thinking about how I actually couldn’t name any myself, which is what pushed me towards picking up a copy. There’s been a lot of discussion about YA books where the characters feel “too old” and Noah Can’t Even really feels like reading a story about a teenage boy. The internal monologue is embarrassing and cringy, but my gosh it’s downright hilarious. There were some parts of this book that had me laughing to myself for days after I’d finished it. I’m even laughing now writing this thinking about some of my favourite moments. If you’re interested in a full review, you can read it here.

The Christmasaurus: Musical Edition by Tom Fletcher 

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All William Trundle wants for Christmas is a pet dinosaur… and it just so happens that the elves at the North Pole have discovered a dinosaur egg. A wondrous turn of events leads to a truly magical Christmas Eve adventure.

I was in two minds about whether to include the musical edition on this list as, while it is a re-release, the original made it onto my list of favourites in 2016. But then I figured, I shouldn’t deny myself small pleasures and also this is my list therefore I make the rules. There are honestly not enough words to describe how brilliant this story is. It’s festive, magical and heart-warming and I shed many tears again, even though I knew what happened. If you’re interested in a full review you can find that here and my comparison review of the two editions can be found here.
The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin 

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The story follows a twelve year old girl called Suzy who finds out her best friend, Franny, has died. The cause of death doesn’t make sense to Suzy as her friend was an incredibly good swimmer so she struggles to understand how drowning could be the cause. Through a school trip to an aquarium she learns about jellyfish and comes to believe that one type in particular was the real culprit. She starts learning everything she can about jellyfish and looks into experts who can help prove her theory to be correct.

This book punched me right in the heart… several times… just to make sure it hurt enough. In these pages, the reader sees a girl facing her own mortality for the first time and trying to cope with the death of a loved one for the first time and it’s utterly heartbreaking to read. But I feel it’s something we can all relate to: searching for rational answers to something as unpredictable and -at times- nonsensical as death.

I’ve not been this affected by a book since I read The Book Thief but I think it’s finally found some competition.  Again, if you’re interested in a full review, you can find it here

And that concludes my favourite books of the past year! Here’s to another book-filled one!

Happy Reading!

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Posted in children's fiction

Is The Christmasaurus: Musical Edition Worth It?

“I think books and music are very special. Books require a reader to use their imagination to bring the words to life, and music can affect your emotions like nothing else in the universe.”

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Last year, Tom Fletcher released his first full length children’s novel titled The Christmasaurus and it didn’t take long for it to jump onto my list of favourite books of the year. You can find my full review here.

For those who don’t know, The Christmasaurus  follows a boy called William Trundle who wants nothing more than a dinosaur for Christmas, and it just so happens that the elves have dug up a dinosaur egg at the North Pole. A series events leads to a magical Christmas Eve adventure. It was beautiful, funny, heart-warning and of course very festive. It was announced shortly after the release that The Christmasaurus would be transforming into a London-centric stage show for Christmas 2017 and as someone who lives at the other end of the country, I was disheartened. Until Tom Fletcher revealed earlier this year that the festive dinosaur would be returning in book form… with added music.

In terms of the aesthetic, the jacket designs are different, the embossing on the actual book binding is different and the end pages are also different. In terms of the content, the story is exactly the same.  However, the musical edition comes with a new introduction explaining Tom’s reasoning for the rerelease, a CD featuring 14 tracks and the song lyrics listed as a glossary at the back of the book.

The way to utilise the CD is simple: as the reader makes their way through the story, every so often there are little prompts in the margin indicating what song to play. The songs originate from Tom’s original writing process for the book in which he wrote a few songs to get into the true spirit of the stories and the minds of the characters. The songs are there simply to accompany and enhance the story.

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I wasn’t sure exactly how the execution of this would work as it’s something I’ve never seen done before. I didn’t need to worry because it is absolutely genius.

The combination of story and music really allows your imagination to run away with itself in new, magical and exciting ways. I found myself grinning when I reached a new prompt and got to listen to a new track – I will admit that sometimes I got distracted and listened to certain songs at least three times in a row before returning to the story. I was able to sit back and imagine new scenes while listening to the songs.

If you’re looking for something fun and festive to devour over Christmas, but will also leave you singing and dancing with a book in your hands, then I highly suggest you pick yourself up a copy.

I challenge you to not be excited for Christmas after going on an adventure with The Christmasaurus: Musical Edition

Posted in book event, discussion

The Creakers Book Signing | Tom Fletcher

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When I saw that Tom Fletcher was going to be doing a signing for his new book The Creakers and that he was coming to Leeds again, I breathed a massive sigh of relief on many levels. After the disaster at W.H.Smiths last year, I was overjoyed to see that the event would be taking place at Waterstones.  I’ve been pushing myself to go to more events on my own because I’m sick of missing out on things because I have no one to go with. So I bought a solo ticket and when the day rolled around, took an adventure out in the big city on my own.

I will continue to sing the praises of Waterstones Leeds when it comes to their event organisation. This was the third book signing I’ve attended there and honestly, every single one of them has been so painless. The signing was due to start at 4pm but an hour before that the staff were already exchanging tickets for wristbands and allowing people up to the top floor – which they’d blocked off for the signing – to wait. I was given my copy of The Creakers which I essentially preordered when I bought my ticket, and I was given a handful of sweets to munch on while I waited.

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Everything was so painless and smooth that it didn’t even feel like I waited the total of an hour and 45 minutes to meet Tom. He was lovely as usual and I asked him if he was excited for Christmas (to which he said “a lot” – He’s a very big fan of the season) and told him about how my cousin’s little girl is really enjoying his book.

And just like that it was over. It was fleeting and wonderful and now I finally have a copy of the book. So I better buckle down and start reading!