Universal Studios Osaka

Universal

I can’t remember how we decided which parts of Japan we’d visit other than Tokyo but I think Osaka was always on the list because we wanted to visit Universal Studios. Becca was celebrating her birthday while we were in Osaka so we decided to go to Universal Studios for the day.

This was another one where we couldn’t buy the tickets in advance, it just wasn’t an option if you lived in the UK but luckily ticket sales were marked more clearly than they had been at Disneyland and queuing didn’t take too long. We each got a different movie on our ticket, Jess got Jurassic Park, I got Transformers and hilariously Becca got Minions. She tried to swap but nobody else wanted the Minions ticket.

Jess had read online that it’s best to head straight to Harry Potter world first to avoid crowds so we did that and this was another place I’d seen in vlogs but it didn’t prepare me for entering and hearing the Harry Potter music. The whole place looks absolutely magical as if you’re actually in Hogsmeade. We joined a queue for something heading towards the castle, I thought it was like a walk through thing but it turned out to be a ride so I decided not to go on. Becca and Jess did and they said it was amazing, it was like you were following Harry and Ron on broomsticks.

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Once they were done on that they wanted to go on Flight of the Hippogriff which was just across from the Hogwarts castle so we queued for that and as per usual I chickened out when we got to the front. Becca and Jess said that was good too.

After that we did a bit of shopping, Becca bought a Slytherin t-shirt and we each bought a chocolate frog so that we could see who’s cards we got. I got Dumbledore, Becca got Godric Gryffindor and Jess got Bertie Bott. We bought one for Hirst to bring back to the UK and she got Rowena Ravenclaw which was lucky as that’s which house she’s in.

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We decided to grab lunch at this point so we found a pizza place. I’m not a fan of pizza but Becca’s a vegetarian and hadn’t been able to eat much for the past couple of weeks but we wanted her to have a decent meal on her birthday so we went in and she got a vegetarian pizza. I think Jess had the same and there was some pork dish thing that I ordered which wasn’t fantastic but it was better than nothing.

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We had a quick look at the map and then wandered around until we found the Spider-Man ride. Becca and Jess went on whilst I waited outside for them. I wish I wasn’t afraid of rides, it’s such a pain. They came out and said they’d really enjoyed it so must’ve been good. We decided to get ice-cream after that because it was so hot in Japan while we were there and everybody loves a good ice-cream.

After that I paid to have a go on a game where you throw balls at milk bottles to win prizes. I started off well ‘cos my first throw knocked them all over, it was only because one of the bottles stayed on the stand that I lost. I was like ‘okay I’ve got it down, just need to improve my technique a bit’. After that I got progressively worse somehow so I didn’t win anything but it had been fun.

We walked off again and found an Insidious ride but you had to collect tickets before you could go in so we got ours but they weren’t valid until 6:15PM so we had time to kill. We found a zombie thing and I joined the queue with my friends. I was debating whether to go for it and when the doors opened I nearly chickened out but followed my friends in. We were taken into a large room where we watched several videos and actors – the whole thing was in Japanese but we got the gist that there was a zombie apocalypse. A code came on one of the screens and we weren’t sure if we needed to remember it or not so Jess memorised it just in case.

We were taken outside and I was initially disappointed ‘cos I thought that was the whole thing but we joined another queue and went to an outdoor bit where we had to navigate a sort of maze and avoid the zombies. I was running around screaming my head off and when I made it to the next queue a zombie came down and rattled a box behind me so I shrieked again. We were taken around a corner and a large zombie was killed in some water or something because we got absolutely soaked.

We ran back into another building and my memories a bit fuzzy ‘cos I was panicking at the time (but also having fun!) – I remember a lady was yelling at us in Japanese but I didn’t know what she was saying so Jess dragged me and Becca into this little nook in the wall and we tried to cover ourselves with a curtain but it wouldn’t quite go round with all three of us there. We were told to come out and we were watching this woman when a massive zombie appeared behind her so we screamed and ran off.

We got to the end and we had to choose whether to go left or right and I hate making decisions but luckily Jess made it for us and we went left with two other girls. We had to input the code from earlier but the girls in front remembered it and we’d chosen the right path because we succeeded and the side next to us failed. We ran out and it was over! We all sat down to talk about it, agreed it had been hilarious and then I had to have several sips of water because all the screaming had killed my throat.

We carried on walking and Jess and Becca found The Flying Dinosaur ride so decided to queue for that. They asked if I wanted to queue with them but we’d been travelling together almost two weeks at this point so I decided to just sit by myself for a bit. I got a little bit too relaxed because after about half-an-hour I leaned against a pole, ‘rested my eyes’ and ended up falling asleep. Next thing I knew Becca was shaking me awake.

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They told me about their experience on the ride and apparently it wasn’t a good one. They didn’t feel secure in the ride and it just wasn’t a fun experience, even Jess said she’d been terrified so I was glad I didn’t go on even though I’d have never had the nerve anyway.

We joined the queue for the Jurassic Park ride and Jess tried to convince me to go on “It’s just a relaxing boat ride looking at the dinosaurs.” She told me. Becca read out the description in our leaflet which said ‘a boat ride with dinosaurs with a thrilling drop at the end’. “The drop’s not that big” Jess reassured me.

I spent the whole queue debating but the safety video didn’t make the drop look too big and at the start of the ride there’s a little ramp that the boat goes up so I asked Jess if that was as big as the drop was and she assured me that yes it was. What a load of rubbish.

I sat in the ride and immediately said “I’m actually not sure anymore” but Becca and Jess were on one side of me and two strangers were on the other side so Becca told me “Well it’s too late now” and the ride got started. It wasn’t too bad to begin with although I was a bit fearful of the drop but seeing the dinosaurs was cool. Then suddenly our boat went vertical and we started climbing up quite high. I was proper getting into panic mode at this point but there was nothing to do, it wasn’t like I could get off the ride!

We got to the end with the massive T-Rex roaring at us but I barely looked at it because I was craning to see the drop which to most people probably wasn’t that big but to me, who was expecting a little baby drop, was MASSIVE. I screamed the entire way down while Becca and Jess wailed about ruining their hair and make-up. When we hit the bottom we got pretty wet because we’d been sat at the front of the bloody boat. I was relieved when we got to the bottom and was glad I’d been on it but NEVER AGAIN.

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We decided to get dinner next since our Insidious time slot was coming up so we went into the Jaws themed restaurant which was like a fast food place. It was overlooking the Jaws ride which I’ve seen videos of on Facebook and it looks like fun but me and Becca are scared of sharks so we didn’t go on it. I know it’s not a real shark but even knowing these fake sharks are in the water would’ve put me on edge.

Once we were done with dinner we headed in the direction of the Insidious attraction and it was getting dark at this point and lots of announcements were being made. Because it was October there was a lot of Halloween themed entertainment going on with actors dressed up going round scaring people which was pretty funny – if one came near me or Becca we screamed and ran in the opposite direction.

We headed into the Insidious attraction and I knew I’d enjoy it if it was like the zombie one but queuing for it is always the worst bit because my imagination runs wild. When we got to the front we had to hold onto a piece of red cloth with four girls in front of us, then me, then Jess and then Becca at the back. She begged to swap and I felt bad because it was her birthday but I was too scared to swap!

We went in and I feel like I didn’t appreciate it enough ‘cos I was so scared but I feel terrible for these four girls in front because they barely flinched, they had me behind them screaming my head off at everything, Jess just behind laughing so hard that she couldn’t breath and then Becca at the back screaming and yelling “Don’t touch me!” every ten seconds. I definitely remember the last room which was full of people underneath cloths and we didn’t know which one was real and which were mannequins until one started jerking around and I screamed then apparently that or something followed us out of the room. I’m not gonna lie the stress was real and it was so well done. Definitely recommend.

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We were going to squeeze in another ride when we came out but there was still some entertainment on so we ended up joining a zombie rave, which Becca absolutely loved. Once we’d watched all that we decided to go shopping a bit earlier in the hopes that it wouldn’t be too crowded and it was okay to be fair, we got a few souvenirs each.

There was a night parade on so our plan was to grab some snacks and find our spot but most of the snacks carts closed down for some reason so we just found a spot anyway. It was nice to sit down but unfortunately unlike at the Disney parades where everyone was just left to sit we were told that if you weren’t on the front row you had to stand up which was a PAIN in my anus but the parade was amazing. My favourites were the Harry Potter and Jurassic Park floats. It would have been better if it had been a bit longer but it was still amazing.

Overall I loved Universal Studios but I think I preferred Disneyland a little bit more. Jess preferred Universal and I think Becca did too, I can’t remember. I agree with what Jess said, that what’s interesting is that all sections of the park look completely different to each other whereas at Disney they can blend together a bit. I think Universal is better for people who like big, fast rides whereas Disney has more of a variety. Maybe I just wasn’t looking in the right places, I don’t know. Also the Disney parades were better but that’s kind of what Disney is known for. I would definitely go back if given the opportunity.

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Review: Slender Man

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I feel like this movie was released a little too late. Sure, there was a lot of Slender Man hype when I was maybe fifteen or sixteen but since then I personally feel like the hype died downed a bit. Maybe I just wasn’t looking in the right places but he was definitely super popular when I was a teenager. I played the game myself a few times with my friends and although really the game play is arguably a bit boring it used to scare the crap out of me.

For those who never played the game the premise is that you are in a woods being haunted by this figure called ‘Slender Man’. To escape the forest you need to find eight pieces of paper. 90% of the game is walking aimlessly around a forest, going back on yourself and only really gets interesting if you find a piece of paper or bump into Slender Man. Still, me and my friends were teenagers and the game was popular so we played it quite a few times and enjoyed it. There’s probably some old videos lurking around somewhere of us playing it.

I didn’t have high hopes when the film trailer was released. A film about Slender Man released this late is probably not going to be good. The film didn’t really follow the game as the premise of the movie was that four girls summon Slender Man and think nothing of it until their friend Katie goes missing. Soon the other three girls experience a supernatural presence stalking them and need to figure out how to stop it before it’s too late.

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First of all, the characters. None of them were particularly likeable. My least favourite had to be Hallie who just seemed so fucking moody all the time and for what? She was rude to her sister Lizzie all the time over the most innocent things and just seemed like a pretty lame person to be around. She was also quick to brush away Wren’s concerns even though she’d been experiencing creepy things herself. She was honestly just super annoying throughout the entire thing.

I think maybe the worst part though is that it just… Wasn’t scary? Slender Man himself didn’t look scary and I think they showed him too much. It would’ve been better if it was a ‘The Blair Witch Project’ style movie where we see creepy things happening but we don’t see much of what’s causing them. Hints of Slender Man would’ve looked better than outright showing him because it just wasn’t scary in the slightest.

Also, it felt like the film kept randomly jumping and leaving things out? For example Hallie had a crush on this boy called Tom and it’s implied that by the end he was experiencing Slender Man related supernatural occurrences too but this wasn’t explored or resolved. There was also a sort of plot twist towards the end but this was just… Left. It’s difficult to explain without giving the plot away but it’s like we were just starting to get somewhere but then we didn’t.

And I’m sorry but the way they ‘summoned’ him was stupid. Spoilers ahead so beware – they summon him by clicking a video link and watching it. That’s literally all they did. I mean I’m no movie maker but I feel like it could’ve been something a bit more creative than that. It just felt really lazy and also stupid because who posted the video on the internet… Slender Man? Slender Man’s choosing his victims by uploading videos to the internet now? Okay then?

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Maybe it could’ve been saved with a decent ending but nothing happened? I was watching and waiting for something to happen to actually explain the ridiculous events I’d just seen but I didn’t get anything. It just kind of ended with no conclusion whatsoever. The entire movie felt pointless because like really in the grand scheme of things nothing happened.

Overall, this film is pretty much every awful horror cliché rolled into a film and honestly it just sucks. When I went to see the film the cinema was packed and I watched several groups of people leave midway through and honestly I don’t blame them. I didn’t leave because I was hoping it would all piece together at the end but it did not. It was just a mess.

Time for a fun fact about the movie because we know how much I love them – the father of the girl whose life was nearly claimed by the ‘Slender Man stabbings’ spoke out against the movie saying it was a disgrace that Hollywood was making a film about events that led to a tragedy.

My final words for this movie are this – don’t go and watch it. Save your money and go watch a decent film instead.

Review: See How They Lie by Sue Wallman

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I wrote a review of Sue Wallman’s ‘Lying About Last Summer’ a while ago [x] and I thoroughly enjoyed it so when I saw she’d released another book I was really excited to read it. I’m pretty much always broke so I didn’t buy it for ages but did finally receive a copy for Christmas from my Mom which I was super happy about.

For those who don’t know anything about the book ‘See How They Lie’ is told from the point of view of Mae who has grown up at Hummingbird Creek, a wellness retreat for rich teens with psychological problems so they can receive the help they need from Mae’s father, a skilled psychiatric. All aspects of daily life are monitored carefully for the patient’s sake and there are strict rules. When Mae is caught breaking these rules the response is severe. She begins to doubt everything she’s been told and starts asking questions. But asking questions at Hummingbird Creek can be dangerous.

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This book sounded so good so I was really looking forward to reading it and I ended up really enjoying it. I had a feeling I would because I’d already liked ‘Lying about Last Summer’ but this book was much, much better. It kept my interest from start to finish and I couldn’t wait to get to the end to find out the truth.

I really liked reading about Mae, I don’t know what it was about her but I don’t know I just thought she was a really good character. I didn’t like Mae’s best friend Drew but I don’t really know why. He just seemed really pretentious and annoying. Her other friends were a lot more interesting to read about and I don’t know, I just preferred them. Hated her Dad right from the start before I’d even learnt much about him.

Although I loved the story I can’t help feeling a bit confused about the plot twist. I thought it was good don’t get me wrong but I’m not 100% sure how it would work? Obviously I don’t want to give it away for anyone because it was interesting and I didn’t see it coming but I just don’t know how it would work – it sucks because I want to go into more detail but anything I say could give it away. Don’t worry, I won’t ruin it for you guys!

Overall I really recommend this book because it had me hooked right from the start and it was just a super interesting read. If you haven’t read a Sue Wallman book before then you’re really missing out, her books are so good with interesting plot twists and I really can’t recommend them enough.

Happy Death Day: Review by Holly Bareham

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Happy Halloween guys! However you’re choosing to celebrate I hope you have a great day. I personally am stuck at work and by the time I thought about having the day off I realised there wouldn’t be enough cover in the office so… I’ll probably watch a horror film later tonight though just to say I’ve done something.

So for those of you who never saw this trailer you’ve done a pretty good job of avoiding it because for a while it was all over Facebook and people were freaking out about it. To be honest I thought it looked interesting but I also thought it looked like one of those films that would just annoy the Hell out of me. I assumed right from the start it would be dreadful but I was still intrigued so I decided to give it a go.

‘Happy Death Day’ is about a college student who is murdered on her birthday but wakes up the next morning on her birthday. She is forced to relive the same day over and over again until she can figure out who her killer is and stop her own death.

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I actually really enjoyed it. I was intrigued the entire time and I found the whole thing really entertaining. It didn’t take itself too seriously which is just as well because it simply wouldn’t have worked if it had. Although at first most of the characters were unlikeable this was deliberate for the overall message of the film which was essentially ‘don’t be an asshole’. I ended up really liking Tree, the main character, by the end and I liked Carter right from the start.

Maybe I’m an idiot but I didn’t guess who the killer was at all. My friend told me she’d guessed before we even went in and was really bemused that I hadn’t figured it out. Listen, it’s good to be an idiot when watching films – I’m always shocked when the plot twist is revealed. I really liked this one. It was kind of ridiculous but in a good way.

As long as you don’t take it too seriously it’s a really good film. It’s entertaining and I’d really like to see it again before it leaves cinemas but I’m not sure I’ll have the time. I definitely wanna get it on DVD when it’s released though. I just really liked it and I’m quite surprised to say how many positive reviews it has on iMDB. Maybe we all low-key expected it to be trash but because it wasn’t that bad we can’t help by like it.

Compared to other horror films this year it just feels really refreshing. This is what ‘The Bye Bye Man’ should’ve been like because that was dreadful and took itself way too seriously. ‘Happy Death Day’ mocked itself and it worked really well!

Time for my piece of horror film trivia. There was quite a bit on iMDB and it was all pretty interesting but I’ve chosen this one: The scene where Tree walks across campus completely naked had to be done quickly as it was being filmed on an active campus thus presenting the risk of students witnessing the scene being filmed and taking photos. In the end they managed to do it in just 2-3 takes.

I recommend this if you haven’t already seen it and are looking for something interesting to watch this Halloween. I was genuinely really pleasantly surprised by this film so go into it with an open mind and just view it for it is: a bit of fun.

Review: Songs About a Girl by Chris Russell

Songs About A Girl by Chris Russell

I found out about this book through a Booktuber I’ve been watching for a while. She praised the book highly and it sounded interesting so I bought myself a cheap copy from Amazon.

The story is about Charlie Bloom who’s an ordinary girl who never wanted to be ‘with the band’. She’s happiest out of sight, unnoticed. But then she’s asked to take backstage photographs for popular band ‘Fire & Lights’ and she can’t pass up the chance. Soon Charlie finds herself caught up in drama between the group’s front man Gabriel West and his band mate Olly Samson. And soon Charlie discovers a hidden meaning behind their lyrics that could change her life…

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It starts off well. Charlie’s an okay character to read about and the story’s relatively interesting. I’ll admit it had me hooked. Slight spoiler alert but Charlie discovers that the lyrics in their songs are lyrics her Mother wrote down in a notebook years ago and she tries to find out how this can be when everyone knows that Gabriel writes his own songs. I wanted to find out too and it was enough to keep me hooked throughout the book.

Although it didn’t annoy me too much while I was reading it, upon reflection the love triangle was really annoying. Olly went to Charlie’s school so he knew her and invited her to take photos because he knew how good of a photographer she was. Upon meeting the band Gabriel decides he has a crush on her and so does Olly, and so the love triangle begins.

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As I said, I wasn’t particularly annoyed whilst reading it but upon reflection it’s just a bit stupid. Gabriel had known the girl for all of five minutes before having a crush on her. And it seems stupid that Olly waited until after school when he was in a famous band to go back and decide he had a crush on a random girl from the year below him who he’d only spoken to once. He might’ve liked her photographs but that’s not enough of a reason to have a crush on someone. Tim Burton makes some good films but I don’t have a crush on him. Also I understand there was some unresolved beef between Gabriel and Olly before Charlie showed up but really? They had to argue and fight every twenty seconds over some girl neither of them barely knew?

I’m just about learning to tolerate romance in books but the one thing I can’t stand is a stupid, pointless love triangle.

To be honest, I still think I really could’ve enjoyed this if it had been a standalone novel; I was a bit annoyed to get to the end and find it had been deliberately left unresolved to set up a sequel. We find out the truth about the song’s lyrics, the only reason we need a sequel is to keep reading about some stupid love triangle which was not what I had signed up for. Sure it was interesting but I don’t want to read a whole other book about Olly and Gabriel’s tantrums. No thank you.

Overall I don’t know what to think about this book, I enjoyed it while I was reading it but it’s not a book I’m likely to return to or recommend to a friend. And I won’t be buying the sequel.

Review: Not That Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian

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So I kind of fell in love with Siobhan Vivian’s books when I finished reading ‘The List’ and decided to buy more of her work. I asked for ‘Not That Kind of Girl’ for Christmas but for some reason when my Mom went to buy it they told her it wasn’t available until May for some reason? So she didn’t get it so I went to Waterstones myself to buy it.

‘Not That Kind of Girl’ is about Natalie Stirling who prides herself on always making the right choices. She avoids the jock types, always top honour roll and plans to become the first female student council president in years. If only the other girls could be like her. But being strong isn’t easy. Not when Natalie nearly gets expelled anyway, when her advice hurts more than it helps, not when she can’t stop thinking about a boy she knows she should ignore… What will Natalie do?

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I don’t really know what to think of this book. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it because I definitely did but I wasn’t over the moon about it or anything. Like I said in my review of ‘The Last Boy and Girl in the World’ I think I would’ve enjoyed it more if I hadn’t read ‘The List’ first. I feel like that set my expectations really high and this book was a bit of a letdown. It was good; don’t get me wrong, but not as great as I hoped.

Natalie was okay but I didn’t really grow too attached to her or anything. However, I really loved Spencer who was a girl that Natalie had previously babysat for when she was younger but had just started at High School. I loved how honest and open she was. Sure, she made some questionable decisions but she’s confident and a lot wiser than I was at her age. Mike, however, can literally suck a cock.

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I thought Natalie’s relationship with Connor was a bit cringe, not gonna lie. The chapters of Natalie sneaking out in the middle of the night to meet up with him were really boring and I just couldn’t get into it. I was glad when they eventually got together but the build up to it really made me cringe and I’m not sure why. I know I’m not a fan of romance but this was something else.

Overall, I did enjoy the book. I wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend it to my friends but if they asked if they should read it I’d say yes. If you’re a fan of Siobhan Vivian’s other books then I’d definitely recommend getting a copy.

Review: Girlhood by Cat Clarke

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So this book is officially released on Thursday 4th May but Cat tweeted to say a few copies had been released early, as she had done when ‘The Lost and the Found’ was released. I didn’t know if there’d be any in Telford but I ended up going up town and decided to take a quick look in Waterstones and was lucky enough to find one copy of it sitting on the shelf. So of course I had to buy it.

‘Girlhood’ is about a girl named Harper who asks to attend boarding school so she can escape her parents and the guilt of the death of her twin sister Jenna. But Harper can’t escape the memories of her sister and the part she played in it. Then she meets new girl Kirsty who lost a sister too. Harper’s finally found someone who understands her. But as the two become closer Kirsty’s behaviour becomes more erratic. Why is her life so similar to Harpers? Soon, Harper’s close relationship with Kirsty threatens her relationships with her best friends and her own identity.

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It’s no secret that Cat is my favourite author of all time so it’s no surprise that I finished the entire book within the space of a few hours. As usual the moment I started I couldn’t put it down. Cat’s writing is so easy to get into and I love the mystery element in all her books that keeps me hooked until the very end.

In my review of ‘The Lost and the Found’ I praised Cat for her brilliant LGBT representation in her books and this book is probably even better. Early on we learn that Rowan’s a lesbian and Harper’s bi-sexual and it doesn’t massively affect the plot? Obviously it’s brought up but it’s so refreshing to read about lesbian and bi characters were the central plot isn’t about their sexuality and I honestly love it so much.

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Character-wise, this book was bloody amazing. I loved Harper’s best friends Rowan, Lily and Ama. Especially Rowan who is without a doubt my favourite character, not just within this book but in general. I’m not sure what I thought of Kirsty after everything, I was pretty certain I didn’t like her but now I don’t know what to think. I don’t like her but I don’t dislike her.

Also, exciting news… I was a character in the book! A while ago I made a bid on an auction to appear in one of Cat’s books, something I talked about in a blog earlier this year, and I won! So I got a signed copy of ‘The Lost and the Found’ (which I gave to my friend ‘cos I’d already met Cat at a signing prior to winning the auction) and I was named after one of the characters. I also made it to the acknowledgements page.
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However, I can’t help feeling a little bit salty… The character I was named after wasn’t in it very much and didn’t say a single line. And that was fine by me until I read the acknowledgements and saw another girl had donated to a charity like me and had been named after one of the main characters. Obviously I don’t know the ins and outs of the auction, how much she donated, whether she received a signed book like I did etc. etc. But I still can’t help feeling a little salty about it.

Overall, I really loved this book and couldn’t recommend it highly enough. In terms of plot I think I preferred ‘The Lost and the Found’ but in terms of characters it’s so good and so interesting. Check in your local bookstore to see if an early copy has been released and if not then definitely buy one on Thursday, you won’t regret it!