WRAP UP| August 2018

This month I didn't write a TBR, purely because I didn't have any internet to edit any posts. Not writing a list did hinder my reading a little bit; my current focus has been working on researching 1870's South East London for a novel I'm trying to write. I'm taking it slowly and working on it a little bit of a time.

I have a lot of big books that I have started that I really want to finish before I go back to Uni mid-September.

Books to finish:
  • Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
  • Assassin's Quest by Robin Hobb
  • Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
  • Ravencry by Ed McDonald
The Price Guide to the Occult
Leslye Walton


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Runemarks (Runemarks #1)
Joanne M. Harris


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Doctor Who: Pest Control
Written by Peter Anghelides, Read by David Tennant


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Doctor Who: The Forever Trap
Written by Dan Abnett; Read by Catherine Tate


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Norse Mythology
Neil Gaiman


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City of Ghosts (City of Ghosts #1)
Victoria Schwab


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Doctor Who: The Nemonite Invasion
Written by David Roden; Read by Catherine Tate


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Top 5 Wednesday| Your Required Reading List

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly blog group that comes together to discuss that week's topic. The idea was first curated by the wonderful Lainey at GingerReadLainey and is now run by Samantha over on ThoughtsonTomes. 

If you wish to participate, either on your Blog or Booktube channel then, please, join the group on Goodreads for all the relevant topics.

*Panics at only have 17 days until I have to move back to University*

For this week's post, I could totally cheat and just name five books I've been required to read for my Creative Writing degree, or for a certain module, or to look at a certain aspect of writing. 

Which is what I'm going to do. 

Welcome to Transformative Writing. Here we will be looking at how we can "write back" to pieces of literature in a connection of themes, ideas and transform them to offer a new perspective. 


1. Animal Farm
George Orwell

One of two books on this list that writes back to real historical events - Soviet Russia and the Cold War - Animal Farm looks at the Marxist values and the inequalities of life in this fast paced allegorical fable.

2. The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories
Angela Carter


Feminist, dark, and explicit fairy tales. Need I say anymore? I've studied this collection of stories more times over the past four years than any other literature text and I'm not complaining. 

3. Spare and Found Parts
Sarah Maria Griffin

This could have very quickly and very easily become a straight-up Frankenstein retelling, but its not? It definitely feeds from Frankenstein as inspiration, as well as exploring themes that come along with the notion of humans playing with and creating life. 

4. The Song of Achilles
Madeline Miller

I toyed with putting this one on here, or Margaret Atwood's Penelopiad and decided with The Song of Achilles as my most recently read. Both texts bring characters of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, bringing them to a contemporary audience and finding them their voice.

5. Blonde Roots
Bernadine Everisto

The second of two books, basing themselves in historical events. Blonde Roots finds it anchorage in the horrific events of the slave trade, but reverses race. A thoughtful and thought provoking novel, I think this is one that gets heavily overlooked.

(Also, Bernadine is one of the first author's I ever spoke to about my own writing after spending a week in a residential writing retreat. She's fab! My lecturer never found out I actually knew Bernadine.)

REVIEW| Ruin and Rising

Ruin and Rising (The Grisha #3)
Leigh Bardugo
⭐⭐⭐

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REVIEW for Shadow and Bone
REVIEW for Seige and Storm

Synopsis (warning: possible spoilers):

For Alina, time is running out. To destroy the Darkling, she must find the elusive firebird, and she must find it soon.

The Darkling's power is growing. And so is his connection to Alina. Can Alina escape the hold he has over her? Does she want to?

Mal is the only person Alina can rely on. But could giving in to the bond between them be the most dangerous decision of all?

Review

This trilogy was rather middle of the road, and rather fell flat. I liked the first book, thoroughly enjoyed the second book, and was left satisfied but unimpressed with this final installment. I'm going to try to do this without spoiling anything, however reviews for third and final books are rather hard to do.

I read this over a procession of one per year. I kept coming back and wanting to reenter the dark word of Rafka; I think one of the reasons that I kept going back to the series was because unlike so many YA trilogies, there was this element of risk. There were high stakes, a chess game being played out by Alina and the Darkling throughout all three books. Bardugo built something special and gripping, and I couldn't help but get entranced. 

I rather admire how Bardugo built and framed Alina's character arc.  She grew into a character that I came to respect, rather than like. She was rather frustrating to read from, but her decisions never once felt sudden or forced and for that I really enjoyed. 


And Nikolaj! How he has stolen my heart - that's all I'm going to say about that.

That being said, I still only rated Ruin & Rising three stars. The plot was lacking and rather one track. It needed a depth that Bardugo just didn't bring to the page. I'm hoping that her Six of Crows duology will have that great characterization that I admire with the complexity of plot I desire from Bardugo.

Top 5 Wednesday| Redemption Arcs

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly blog group that comes together to discuss that week's topic. The idea was first curated by the wonderful Lainey at GingerReadLainey and is now run by Samantha over on ThoughtsonTomes. 

If you wish to participate, either on your Blog or Booktube channel then, please, join the group on Goodreads for all the relevant topics.

This week is a good one. 


REDEMPTION ARCS. My biggest weakness and funnily enough, a very male-centered trope! It was a lot harder to compile this list than I had initially thought, but here we go.



1. Jaime Lannister
A Song of Ice and Fire

Of course, Jaime Lannister was going to be on this list. At this point, the only reason I'm still waiting on Winds of Winter is for Jaime's character arc, that has been nothing but disappointing on the TV show (his final scenes in S7? I've been waiting five years for and spent them screaming at his stupidity and regression of character). 



2. Faith Lehane
Buffy the Vampire Slayer

The only woman on this list and the only one that came to mind. Unlike Spike's redemption arc, Faith's is a little less messy and overall my preferred of the two. 


3. Holland
Shades of Magic

Holland's arc is bittersweet, and his redemption

doesn't really play a part until the second half of A Gathering of Shadows but is at the core of A Conjuring of Light. Out of everything that happened, it was Holland's scenes and point of view that just left me on the floor in a sobbing mess. 

4. Rhysand

A Court of Thorns and Roses

Rhysand's redemption arc was something that I predicted before I even got to meet him on the pages of A Court of Thorns of Roses, let alone in A Court of Mist and Fury. That being said, that didn't hinder my enjoyment. 


5. Will Herondale

The Infernal Devices

Can you consider Will's arc, as a redemption arc? I like to think so. At the start of the series, he's not exactly a villain but he is hell-bent on being a bit of a knob. It's not until the later books that we get inside Will's head, and as secret unfold we begin to understand and accept his behavior.


REVIEW| Kings of the Wyld

Kings of the Wyld (The Band #1)
Nicholas Eames
⭐⭐⭐

UK Publisher: Orbit Books
UK Release Date: February 21st, 2017

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Synopsis: 

Clay Cooper and his band were once the best of the best -- the meanest, dirtiest, most feared crew of mercenaries this side of the Heartwyld. 

Their glory days long past, the mercs have grown apart and grown old, fat, drunk - or a combination of the three. Then an ex-bandmate turns up at Clay's door with a plea for help. His daughter Rose is trapped in a city besieged by an enemy one hundred thousand strong and hungry for blood. Rescuing Rose is the kind of mission that only the very brave or the very stupid would sign up for.

It's time to get the band back together for one last tour across the Wyld.


Review

Kings of the Wyld is basically what would happen if mercenaries were like the old rock bands that I listen to, way too much, and decided they were going to do a final tour by playing a game of Dungeon and Dragons.  

I wanted to love this book, and for the most parts, I did. 

The concept was what sold me. Nostalgic, old men in an RPG sitcom. And it was funny! In fact, this book just showcased why playing D&D and RPG can be so much fun! This concept even fueled my own humorous short story. It had exactly what was offered on the tin, but there were just a few things that left me unsatisfied. 

The pacing felt off. In fact, it felt like it was a relentless sequence of events that weren't quite crucial to the plot. One thing would feed into another and wouldn't give my poor heart a break from all that physical combat. There were no calm moments, to let me catch my breath, everything was life and death - and perhaps, that just isn't for me anymore?

It felt that there was no inner conflict within these circle of friends, and that there was off it, was my biggest issue. I just kept feeling frustrated at the complete lack of woman written in a positive light. They were just plot points that gave the blokes their depth of character. Most of the woman were wives or fellow mercs that were ruthless and felt one-dimensional villians. They were the constant nemesis of these old and crass men. 

That being said - I did really like the found family feeling that Eames was able to portray across. I liked the way in which that we are introduced and how each of their motivations brought these characters to life, even if they could have had a little more development in the stewing pot. For some reason, I just had Merlin, the one from Shrek 3, in my head every and all times Moog was in a scene.

The world building kept feeling like a D&D campaign, which I think worked in its favor - even OWLBEARS - but the pacing of a D&D campaign just didn't work in the novel format.

I'm thinking of picking up a copy of Bloody Rose. There's promise and I'm excited to give it a go.

GET YOUR COPY:
| AMAZON UK | WATERSTONES |

Top 5 Wednesday| The Hook

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly blog group that comes together to discuss that week's topic. The idea was first curated by the wonderful Lainey at GingerReadLainey and is now run by Samantha over on ThoughtsonTomes. 

If you wish to participate, either on your Blog or Booktube channel then, please, join the group on Goodreads for all the relevant topics.

For this week, we have been thrown a freebie! Which means everyone's blog post is going to be a little more diverse that usual.

My topic for this week is: favourite first line. This was first a topic for August 2016.

These are just a few of my favourite sentences that got me, hook, line, and sinker. 

The night Kate Harker decided to burn down the school chapel, she wasn't angry or drunk. She was desperate.
- This Savage Song, Victoria Schwab 
On the Sabbat of the Twelfthmoon, in the City of Weep, a girl fell from the sky. 
- Strange the Dreamer, Laini Taylor 
The lucidity, the clarity of the light that afternoon was sufficient to itself, perfect transparency must be impenetrable, these vertical bars of a brass-coloured distillation of light coming down from sulpher-yellow interstices in a sky hunkered with grey cloud that bulge with more rain.
- The Erl-King, Angela Carter 
I like to believe there was more of us in the beginning. Not many, I suppose. But more than there are now.
- The Bone Season, Samantha Shannon 
This is a story about magic and where it goes and perhaps more importantly where it comes from and why, although it doesn't pretend to answer all or any of these questions.
- Equal Rights, Terry Pratchett  

REVIEW| A Court of Frost and Starlight

A Court of Frost and Starlight (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3.1)
Sarah J. Maas


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UK Publisher: Bloomsbury UK
UK Release Date: 1st May, 2018

DISCLAIMER: This is a novella between book 3 and 4 of Maas' ACOTAR series. So spoilers may occur naturally. Read at your own risk.

Synopsis:

The Winter Solstice. In a week. I was still new enough to being High Lady that I had no idea what my formal role was to be. If we'd have a High Priestess do some odious ceremony, as lanthe had done the year before. A year. Gods, nearly a year since Rhys had called in his bargain, desperate to get me away from the poison of the Spring Court to save me from my despair. Had he been only a minute later, the Mother knew what would have happened. Where I'd now be. Snow swirled and eddied in the garden, catching in the brown fibers of the burlap covering the shrubs My mate who had worked so hard and so selflessly, all without hope that I would ever be with him We had both fought for that love, bled for it. Rhys had died for it.

REVIEW

This is it folks, my first ever one star review. I must apologize to any of my flatmates and friends who had to interact with me whilst reading this one. 

To say I'm bitter that I wasted my first book, after deadlines, on this is a bit of an understatement. There's so much to question and pull out as to why it's deserving of my first one star review and at one point I even thought about not writing anything and just re-sharing a few reviews that speak similarly. But, I also wanted to document this - this is what my blog is here for, really.

I felt like I was just reading two hundred pages of no significance. I wasn't reading for an end result, a resolution, rather than I was spending time reading about characters who are not true to who characterization that the earlier books gave us (more to that later). I'm going to put my critical writer cap on here and say this: to write a story is to build a narrative series of events that are in consequence to one another and build to an overall conflict, that as readers, we read as a way to seek a resolution for that conflict. And A Court of Frost and Starlight does not do that. 

I can't help but feel like Maas' character become caricatures of themselves. They're are no longer characters who develop, but become ownership to give readers what they want and expect of the characters. 

The only aspect of this I liked was the small inkling we get of where Nesta's character has progressed to. She's the female equivalent of a tortured soul, drinking, shagging, trying to lose herself in this world she doesn't want to inhabit. Just a shame I found Cassian to be an annoying puppy-dog and don't ship it.

I want to link to another review from Caleb over at InsaneReader (here), he speaks of similar issues and all of which I've mentioned or agree with as well as some that I haven't. 

WRAP-UP| July 2018

I think taking part in readathons during the summer was a bad idea. It's easier when I'm at Uni and can pull myself away from people and its usually in temperature - I've just been slumping this month.

Books to finish:
  • Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
  • Ravencry by Ed McDonald
  • Assassin's Quest by Robin Hobb
  • The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton

The Song of Achilles
Madeline Miller
⭐⭐⭐⭐

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I gave this a star rating of around 4.5, I don't know what held me back from giving it five stars other than not obsessing about it afterward as I had thought I was going to do. 

Floored
Sara Barnard; Holly Bourne; Tanya Byrne; Non Pratt; Melinda Salisbury; Lisa Williamson; Eleanor Wood
⭐⭐⭐⭐

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REVIEW



Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
J.K. Rowling, Eddie Redmayne
⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Gilded Cage (Dark Gifts #1)
Vic James
⭐⭐⭐⭐

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BOOK HAUL| July 2018

Every month I swear that I won't accumulate as many books as the previous month, and I just feel like I'm constantly repeating myself.

This month I went to the Orion Blogger Lunch, as well as YALC, and that's about it. Pretty low key - this summer's heat wave has melded me to the sofa. I'm a hot sweaty mess, but at least my bank account isn't crying this month.

Orion Bloggers Lunch


Little Eve
Catriona Ward

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Catriona was one of the author's who was at the event. Described as Agatha Christie meets The Wicker Man - I am sold.




The Belles (The Belles #1)
Dhonielle Clayton

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I was sent an ARC of this prior to the release, but unfortunately, I couldn't get to in time and passed it on to someone who could review it. I still have every intention of reading this one, so I grabbed a finished copy - and got it signed at YALC.



YALC







My YALC post ended up being so long, that it crashed my laptop not once but twice. So I've moved the haul back to the monthly haul. 


The Price Guide to the Occult
Leslye Walton

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UK Publisher: Walker Books
UK Release Date: September 6th, 2018



Runemarks (Runemarks #1)
Joanne M. Harris



The Long Way to the Small Angry Planet (Wayfarers #1)
Becky Chambers

Frankenstein
Mary Shelley







The rest of July

Under the Pendulum Sun
Jeanette Ng

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** I forgot to mention that I bought this as a birthday present for myself last month**





Bright Ruin (Dark Gifts #3)
Vic James

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UK Publisher: PanMacmillan
UK Release Date: July 26th, 2018

**Sent for review via PanMacmillan**



The War in the Dark
Nick Setchfield

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YALC 2018

Books I managed to get signed this year!
I swear I've cried at least 6 times since YALC ended, for multiple reasons, but the main common theme running through east occasion was that the weekend was over.
I just want to apologize to anyone who I didn't get to natter away too and to those that I nattered to much. I get so nervous about meeting bookish people. More so than any other “type” of people, and I find keeping the momentum of conversation going extremely hard, so thanks for putting up with me.

This one is going to be a long one, as I want to get as much detail down as possible as well as say all my positives and all my negatives.

Friday
Where do I begin? I feel like I remember everything and nothing. YALC didn't set off on the greatest foot – where was our tote bags? This year, when we all walked through our eyes drinking in every little detail, bouncing on the balls of our feet, raring to go, one of the crew was holding up a sign to collect “goodie bags” on Sunday (I'll come back to goody bags later).
Can We Be Friends? panel (left to right): David Owen,
Alice Oseman, Lauren Price and Gayle Foreman.
The first thing I did was whizz round and pick up the samplers I knew I wanted to read, and the swag of upcoming books and books I have already fallen in love with.
Before any panels started I went by the Waterstones stall and picked up a copy of Runemarks by Joanne Harris and The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers.
200 Years of Frank panel (left to right): Sarah Maria Griffin,
Matt Killeen, Melinda Salisbury, Joanne Harris
and Ed McDonald.
It took me at least half the day to pluck up any courage to talk to anyone.
My panel highlights were the Can We Be Friends? Panel with the fantastic David Owen, Alice Oseman, Gayle Foreman and Lauren Pryce. I found it interesting to hear about they wrote about friendships, the rise in friendships taking center stage in YA and the importance of friends to teens. Also, the 200 Year of Frank panel, chaired by Sarah Maria Griffin, with Ed McDonald, Joanne Harris, Melinda Salisbury, and Matt Killeen. Sarah asked some fantastic questions about monsters, the monstrous as it took an interesting turn on Roland Barthes' Death of an Author – the author's monster (the book: of bits and pieces that add to mutate into a plot) in itself mutates again when a reader projects and mirrors onto the author's text. In itself, each printed book becomes a unique ‘monster'.
I got my copy of Ravencry signed!
Close up of Ed's interpretation of my blog name.
Friday was the only day I won any ARCs. Thank you so much to the team at Gollancz for The Girl King by Mimi Yu, I can't wait to read it and get a review up in the upcoming months.


Signed copy of Spare and Found Parts.
After missing Ed McDonald at the Orion Blogger event earlier in the month, I managed to run to his signing table and get my copy of Ravencry signed. I'm seriously considering revamping my, currently non-existent, logo.

My signed copy of The Hazel Wood. I can't
wait to enter into this world.
Also Sarah Griffin, what a lovely lass (sorry I may have talked your ear off about my current research blackhole). I thoroughly fell in love with the sampler of her next novel, Other Words for Smoke, and I cannot wait to get my grubby mitts on a final copy! And Melissa Albert, who also spoke on the Tale As Old as Time panel, that I managed to listen to in its final 10-15 minutes.



Saturday
Well, Saturday was insane.
The updated "wall of books". This was the closest
I got before security starting giving me alarming
looks.
Let's start on the morning of: on my way to the Olympia, I spotted a magpie, on its own just minding its own business (that's a lie, there is no minding their own business in my life, they're there to cause chaos and destruction). My mind instantly went to David Tennant. Premonitions, man, my family is full of them. Low and behold, in the middle of queuing, the one and only was announced – and you know what? It really got me down. But, that's enough of that.
The 'Amongst the Stars' panel was
chock-a-block.
I feel like Saturday was spent most of the time standing up in queues. I was missing panels I wanted to really see, and the authors I wanted to hear the talk. I only got to hear maybe five minutes of the Amongst the Stars panel due to having to the length of signing queues.
I got my ARC of A Skinful of Shadows signed
by Frances Hardinge.

All the books I wanted on Friday that I wanted, were gone. So that saved my purse strings to get some art prints I wanted on the LFCC floor.
Some of the volunteers (ICYMI: anyone in a blue t-shirt was not paid members of staff, they were not paid), however some of the volunteers on Saturday lacked a certain professionalism. I won't get into details but there was a lot of miscommunication, rudeness, discussion and complaining about guests and overall I felt like I was unable to approach any member of ‘staff'.
I’m trying to keep this brief: I think my highlights from Saturday was having Tom Fletcher compliment my glasses and meeting the lovely Giovanna  (she was incredibly sweet!).
"Never stop reaching for the stars!"
A fun fact about me is that I have a Top 5 list of books that are both my favorites and will always recommend. Saturday's line-up meant that I have four of five signed, dedicated and personalized with a message from the author. Unfortunately, I will never get Terry Pratchett to sign my copy of Good Omens, but if Neil Gaiman were to offer – I wouldn't say no.


Why do I always look so awkward
in photographs?
I somehow managed to get in the queue for Sasha Alsberg, who I somehow have been watching since I first discovered the book community. Although Zenith wasn't my cup of tea (reading is personal experience), I do have the Because You Love to Hate Me anthology that Sasha contributed to. She was absolutely lovely to chat to!


Sunday
Bare with me, Sunday is going to be very LFCC and Doctor Who heavy.
I woke up on Sunday, completely exhausted. I could barely keep my eyes open. Until I got through those doors, running up to the LFCC schedule and seeing what time I'd have to mark out of my day to meet... Christopher FUCKING Eccleston.
Now, I was in the same building, as David Tennant, Matt Smith, Peter Capaldi, Colin Baker, Peter Davidson and Paul McGann (*cue sobbing*).
Eccleston was the only Doctor I was planning on meeting this weekend. I had to do it for my 6-year-old dream of meeting the man (okay, 900-year-old alien) that grabbed the hand of Rose Tyler and told her to “Run!” I was at Batch 3 and was told that it was a possibility I could get called at the 10:00-11:00 AM, which eventually got cut off at Batch 2.
To cut it short, I had to return at 15:00 and was called up quite early.

When I returned up to the YALC floor I went over and picked up my "goodie bag". Goodie bag being a rather loose term for what we were given. I've heard little teases as to what would be in these bags, we all had y this point, so why were we only given a bag, a schedule and a small a5 advertisement for upcoming releses? The schedule we already had on Friday, and some prior to that. It was ultmiately disappointing.
The 'Bring a Torch - it's dark in here' panel (left to right): Eleanor,
Vic James, Kerry Drewery, Anna Day, Nicky Singer and William
Sutcliffe

So for the rest of the day, I remained on the YALC floor, planning on leaving at half two in order to have a little wonder round the LFCC floor before being called for the photo op. Knowing my back was in dire need of "stop-bloody-standing", I ended up sitting in the panel zone and listening to two panels back-to-back. It was LUSH!

I really enjoyed listening to Clementine Beauvais talking about what it's like to work as a translator and how her perception of Paris changed when she moved to the UK, during the 'It's a Traveller's Life For Me' panel.
I got both Tarnished City and Bright Ruin signed,
and chatted about Vic's recent book acquisition with
Gollancz - look out for that in 2019!

And Nicky Singer?!
*Makes all the snapping fingers*
She had so much to say, that was all so important. All the panelists did.
Guys. GUYS. GUUUISE. THINGS GOT INSANE - after that last panel. I rushed straight into the queue for Vic James - who is still amazing and lovely and one of my favourite authors to chat to!
As I left the lift, the closest signing table was Steven Moffatt. A writer that I have a very complicated relationship with. On the one hand, he wrote some of my favourite episodes of Doctor Who (see: The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances; The Girl of the Fireplace and Blink). And on the other hand, he’s run as Exec-producer and Head Show-writer left me disappointed and bitter, even if it did make me appreciate the RTD era more. ANYWAY, we made eye contact as I turned away from his table and find Photo C. Sorry, mate?
Once I found my bearing I dawdled over to where I needed to be, when PETER CAPALDI walks past and headed to another photo area. I sort of went: “Hi, Peter" and waved in his direction (he only turned, waved and entered?!)
I'm giving so much build up to this moment because so much freaking happened. Once the Capaldi thing happened and I had calmed down, I had to wait to be called for Eccleston. I was called, I stood and DAVID BRADLEY cut through the queue in front of me. And I must say, he really does look that grumpy in person.
So, Eccleston, what Sunday was all about. Usual business applied: queued, talked to those in the queue, the ticket is scanned, bag handed over and HELLO!
HE WAS SO FREAKING NICE. SO LOVELY, I've even considered emailing his management. I was so worried he’d be grumpy and go into the zone celebs go when they meet loads of people (you know what I mean? Where their eyes just glaze over and smile and nod).

He was shaking everyone's hand, massive smile on his face to greet them as they came over and seemed to genuinely be enjoying himself.
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