Book Review: Velcro: The Ninja Kat by Chris Widdop

Today’s book review is a really exciting one for me to write. I don’t think I’m quite into the swing of how to actually review a book yet (heck, 3 years in and I’m not sure how to properly review a movie either) but when you’re blogging about something created by someone you actually know, that’s a pretty big deal!

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I may not know Chris Widdop, author of Velcro: The Ninja Kat personally, but I’ve been a follower of his blog ‘This is Madness!‘ for at least a couple of years now, and when you read someone’s views and thoughts for that amount of time, you definitely feel like you know them. I was over the moon when Chris emailed me and asked if I would be interested in reading and reviewing his novel, and he was kind enough to gift me the whole trilogy!

Set in the fictional Country of Widows, a military organisation called the Devil Corps aren’t what they seem, and are waging war against the citizens they swore to protect. Only the Ninja Kat is aware of this, and has been fighting against them for some time now, solo. To some, the Ninja Kat is a criminal, and the book throws us right into the action where the Ninja Kat is ambushed and injured by those who perceive the Kat as evil.

The Kat’s journey leads to a small village of hamsters who have been deeply affected by the Devil Corps. Their village has been destroyed, and several of the villagers have been kidnapped. On the Kat’s journey to rescue the hamster villagers, we as readers learn much more about this fictional world, the history of the Devil Corps, and the tragic history of the Ninja Kat, with plenty of twists and turns throughout.

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It’s amazing that Chris fit so much action into a relatively small novel, in fact, the pace never lets up. It’s a blessing and a curse, because I never managed to find a good point to stop, so I burned through the pages much faster than I normally would! The world that Chris has created is fascinating, and the characters all being animals opens up a great opportunity for creativity, which was seized at every opportunity. It’s a serious read, but I chuckled to myself when I read about the hamster’s style of armour, and the Kat’s reaction to bees.

I’m so glad now that Chris gifted me the whole trilogy, because although the first book has a very satisfying end, it also made me want to pick up book 2 straight away!

What I love the most about this opportunity is that The Ninja Kat isn’t the kind of book I would automatically pick up from a shelf, but I enjoyed every single page. So thanks Chris, both for giving me the opportunity to read your work and for opening my eyes to a totally new genre!

If you want to give the book a read yourself, I know it’s available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats, but Chris Widdop himself can be contacted through his official website http://www.velcrotheninjakat.com if you wanted to find out more.

P.S. Chris – your cat is gorgeous!

Book Review: Bloodline, Claudia Gray

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! What are you going to be doing this evening? My husband and I have already reached that “can’t be bothered to go out” stage so we’re cooking a meal together and watching Crazy Stupid Love, which is slowly going to become our Valentine’s Day movie, I can feel it. I’ve been a bit AWOL on the blog for the last few days, it’s been a bit of an odd week, but I think I’m back now!

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Anyway, with the fear of falling behind on book reviews, I wanted to share my thoughts on the very first Star Wars novel I’ve ever read, which is Bloodline, by Claudia Gray. It wasn’t until doing some research that I realised just how many Star Wars novels have been written, which is completely intimidating, but I chose Bloodline as it was written since Disney took over so is classed as ‘canon’, and it’s set just a few years before The Force Awakens takes place. I guess part of me thought I’d learn a little more about Kylo Ren whilst he was still Ben Solo, but this book is focused on Princess Leia.

Claudia Gray is a Young Adult Fiction writer living in New Orleans. She has written nearly 20 published novels so far, and Bloodline isn’t her only Star Wars novel. She Also wrote Lost Stars, which has found a place on my ‘to read’ list.

As I mentioned, this is my first Star Wars novel. You should also know that although I’ve developed a possibly unhealthy love for everything Star Wars, I’m extremely new to it all. I basically sat and watched every movie 2 months before The Force Awakens came out, and converted into a fan from that. I can tell you that Han shot first, I could name you 5 planets without thinking too hard, and I could hold my own in a debate about theories, but I’m still pretty inexperienced.

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Why am I telling you this? Because my first thought when reading Bloodline was ‘I wasn’t expecting it to be so…political’. I know that sounds stupid. This is a WAR. Of course it’s political! But regardless, it took nearly a third of the book before I actually got into the swing of it. Bloodline deals with what Leia went through as a member of the Galactic Senate before The First Order rose, and a fateful mission she undertakes with fellow Senator Ransolm Casterfo.

So, from what I learnt, there are two factions within the New Republic. Leia is part of the Populists, who favour autonomy, and Casterfo is part of the Centrists, who favour a stronger government and military. The fact that Leia and Casterfo joined forces for a particular mission is notable, as the two factions rarely work well together, although Casterfo has several ideals that Leia firmly disagrees with.

As for my reasons for reading Bloodline, I didn’t learn much about Ben Solo, but I guess I never expected to. I’ll just have to wait till The Last Jedi. Ben is mentioned only in Leia’s thoughts, but I learnt that Han Solo never expected to become a Father, nor did he want Ben to train with Luke. Han wanted to teach Ben racing.

Once I got into the swing of it all, and got my head around the politics, I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the story. It definitely picks up pace in the last third, and was gripping from then on. To tell you much about it would be a disservice to the book, because there are plenty of twists and turns along the way, but if like me, you’re looking to get into the Star Wars novels, Bloodline is a good starting point.

Book Review: The Fireman, Joe Hill

After speeding through my first two books of the year at an alarming speed, I forced myself to read the longest book on my list next to slow myself down. The Fireman by Joe Hill definitely qualifies as long with a whopping 747 pages long. I guess this would be the part where I smugly tell you all about Joe Hill and how he’s the son of the legendary author Stephen King, but err, I only found that fact out myself after already finishing The Fireman.

Sigh…just when I thought I knew what I was talking about when it came to movies, I’m a hopeless novice all over again!

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Let me tell you about the book, I can manage that much. The Fireman is the story of a worldwide pandemic of spontaneous combustion (called Draco Incendia Trychophyton) that is threatening to wipe out civilization. The symptoms are easy enough to spot, because an infected person has intricate, black and gold markings on their skin, nicknamed Dragonscale. There is no known cure for the issue, and attempts to look after the infected are leading to entire hospitals and cities being burnt to the ground.

Harper started out as a school nurse but when everything started going south, she moved to work at her local hospital to help as many of the infected as she could. When Harper herself becomes infected with Dragonscale, her husband Jakob is horiffied. The two of them had a pact to end their lives together if they were both to become infected, but when Harper realises she is pregnant, she choses to live instead. This sends Jakob crazy (literally) and Harper is forced to flee for her life.

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She’s rescued by Captain America and Tony the Tiger (I’m only half-joking) who lead her to The Fireman, a man named John who is also infected, but not only can he control the spore, he can use it in a multitude of ways. To tell you how would be ruining the story. The Fireman leads Harper to a camp full of others like her, infected people who have learnt to keep the Dragonscale under control.

I’m not going to lie, this was tough to read. Firstly, I was well out of my depth. I don’t watch horror movies, and I’ve never read a horror novel, so it took me a while to get used to. Thankfully, my overactive imagination didn’t give me nightmares, but The Fireman would be a grim movie! It’s a long book, like I said, but it struggles with pacing issues. One day I would burn through (pun intended) several chapters without noticing the time, another it felt like every line I read was a chore.

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Ultimately, it was worth it in the end. A long book means spending a lot of time with the main characters, and I really grew to love them. Except Jakob, who is possibly the world’s biggest douche bag. There are plenty of surprising twists and turns along the way, and never for a second did I ever think I knew how it would end.

If you have the time to spare, I would definitely recommend giving The Fireman a read. I think I heard that the rights have been sold to 21st Century Fox. I hope they’ll put it on the big screen soon! I think it would make a fantastic TV Series to be perfectly honest, but that’s just me!

Book Review: It Ends With Us, Colleen Hoover

I don’t mean to brag, but it’s the middle of January and I’ve just finished reading my second book. If I read one more, I’ll have read the same number of books than I read in the entirety of 2016. Okay, that’s not that impressive I know, and my movie watching is suffering because of it, but I’m just so glad to be a bookworm again!

For my second read, I picked something from my list like nothing I’ve read before, a romance! For a while I asked myself if Fifty Shades counted as a romance, and then because I’m totally now a hoity-toity book person I scoffed at myself and told myself no, they absolutely do not count, now sit yourself down and read a real romance novel.

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So, what is It Ends With Us all about? Let me tell you as little as possible, because you’ll thank me if you end up reading it for yourself. Our main character Lily lives in Boston, with dreams of setting up her own business. She’s determined, and strong, and she makes that dream a reality. She meets a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle one night, and they hit it right off, but said their goodbyes when they realised they want very different things when it comes to relationships.

However, fate brings them together again as it always does in this genre (movie wise at least, I’m new to this) and it’s such a delight when they get together. Everything is going swimmingly until one night when Lily happens across someone from her past. Speaking of which, Lily had a very troubled life as a child, which as readers we get to learn all about, through Lily’s old journals.

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These moments were some of my favourites, as young Lily wrote her journals in the form of letters to Ellen DeGeneres. I love this, and it sounds like the kind of thing I would have done, only I’m not sure who I would have addressed my entries to. Probably Sabrina the Teenage Witch, or Kenan and Kel! Anyway, it’s through these journals that we learn about Lily’s first love, Atlas.

However, just as I was really getting into the sickly sweet romantic parts, daydreaming about Dr Ryle Kincaid wearing scrubs and that stethoscope (sorry dear Husband of mine, if you’re reading) I had the metaphorical rug pulled out from under my feet. Believe me when I say that this book gets dark. I was barely getting over the shock of it all when my heart was broken into a million pieces.

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I don’t want to say any more than that because it would be a disservice to the book and it’s fantastically talented author Colleen Hoover, but I haven’t felt this way about a book since a certain death in a Harry Potter book, when I wanted to do a Joey from Friends and put it in the freezer to keep me safe. Technology be damned, my kindle wouldn’t thank me for putting it in the freezer for a few hours so it had to go in a cupboard instead.

Well worth a read! If you’ve read it already leave me a comment, I need to talk to someone!

Book Review: The Woman in Cabin 10, Ruth Ware

So, this is brand new territory for me. I’ve been blogging about movies for almost 3 years now (almost 3 weeks here at Often Off Topic!) and attempting to review a book feels very much out of my comfort zone. More importantly however, I’m actually feeling quite proud of myself, because despite setting myself a 2017 resolution to read 1 book per month, I read my first book in a week! I’m feeling very positive about achieving this goal.

As I mentioned in my Resolutions post, I’ve deliberately chosen books from a wide variety of genres to broaden my horizons a little, but as the last book I read (and thoroughly enjoyed) was The Girl on the Train, I thought picking something in the same genre might be a nice way to ease myself into the challenge.

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By way of introduction, author Ruth Ware grew up in Sussex and studied at Manchester University, and has now settled in North London. Before she became an author of two Top 10 Bestsellers in both the UK (Sunday Times) and the USA (New York Times) she worked as a waitress, a bookseller, a teacher of English as a foreign language and a press officer. Currently, Ruth is working on her third book.

The Girl in Cabin 10 is thrilling in every sense of the word, from its very first chapter to it’s last, I’m deadly serious. Here’s the official blurb from Ruth’s website:
“When travel journalist Lo Blacklock is invited on a boutique luxury cruise around the Norwegian fjords, it seems like a dream career opportunity.
But the trip takes a nightmarish turn when she wakes in the middle of the night to hear a body being thrown overboard – only to discover that no-one has been reported missing from the boat.
How do you stop a killer, when no-one believes they exist?”

Lo’s story begins with her being burgled and attacked in her own home, and becoming deeply traumatised by the ordeal, leaving her with a bad case of insomnia and panic attacks worse than what she already deals with on a daily basis. During one particularly bad night, Lo walks in the rain in the middle of the night to her boyfriend Jude’s apartment, which is currently empty as Jude is out of the country. When Jude comes home whilst Lo is sleeping…let’s just say Lo isn’t the only character in the book to be attacked at night in their own home!

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It was a fantastic way to introduce the book’s main character whilst setting readers up for what’s to come. There was no doubt in my mind that this was going to be a bumpy ride. Once Lo is aboard the Aurora, we get a quick insight into the other passengers on board, including the rather out of place passenger in cabin 10, who hastily lets Lo borrow her mascara with no intention of wanting it back. That very night Lo is woken in the night by a scream, a chilling splash, and the sight of blood smeared on the veranda of cabin 10. What makes matters worse is that the Aurora’s head of security confirms to Lo that there was never a passenger in cabin 10 to begin with…

To say anymore than that would be a disservice to author Ruth Ware, because I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It was so difficult to put down, and I felt such a strong connection to Lo as she was trying to fit all the pieces of the puzzle together. It feels like a game of Cluedo, only most of the clues don’t add up until much later on. There are twists and turns aplenty, and the last 80 pages or so were so nail-bitingly tense that I stayed up ridiculously late just so I could finish it.

I have a feeling I may this too many times during this challenge of mine, but The Woman in Cabin 10 would make an excellent movie!

My 2017 Blogging Resolutions

Happy New Years Eve everyone! I may be a little early for a resolutions post, but this time tomorrow I’ll be enjoying a roast dinner with my family and preparing for the debut of Sherlock Season 4, so I may as well start now! For many years I’ve made resolutions to be more healthy, exercise more, ‘new year, new me’ and so on, but let’s face it, by March I’ll have given up my gym membership and really, I should just eat better anyway!

That’s why this year I’m setting myself 3 fun, blogging related resolutions. Hey, you’re more likely to stick with them if they’re fun, right? So, here goes nothing…

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#1 Watch 150 movies, and at least 12 ‘classics’

According to my Letterboxd diary, I’ve watched 150 movies this year so far, so this should be fairly easy to do again. What won’t be as easy is watching some ‘classics’. I don’t have a proper definition of that yet, but at the moment I feel like classing it as anything I haven’t seen yet which is on either IMDB’s Top 250 or any other similar list. In the past I’ve tried to complete the Blindspot challenge, but I’ve chosen movies I don’t really have much interest in, so I’ve fallen off the wagon.

#2 Read 12 books

Okay, okay, you can stop laughing now! In my defence, I read a grand total of 3 books in 2016, so this is quite the challenge for me. I’ve always loved reading, but I’ve never really strayed from the Fantasy genre, and so I’d like to expand my interests a little. To do that, earlier this month I researched some of the most popular books from the past year over a wide variety of genres, and picked 12 of them.

My primary aim is to read one each month, but in an ideal world I’d transform back into the bookworm my teenage self was, and complete the list much sooner. Of course if I do, I can simply expand my list! For reference, these are the books I’ve chosen:

The Woman in Cabin 10, Ruth Ware
Mr. Mercedes, Stephen King
You’re Never Weird on the Internet, Felicia Day
Truly Madly Guilty, Liane Moriarty
Lily and the Octopus, Steven Rowley
All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders
It Ends With Us, Colleen Hoover
Dark Matter, Blake Crouch
Bloodline, Claudia Gray
The Fireman, Joe Hill
Scrappy Little Nobody, Anna Kendrick
Behind Closed Doors, B. A. Paris

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#3 Complete a Video Game

I realise I my have lost you by this point, but let me explain! I play a lot of video games, less than I used to, but it’s very rare that I actually complete one. It feels like when I can feel the end drawing near, I stop playing the game all together. Perhaps it’s why I love the MMORPG World of Warcraft so much, it’s literally impossible to complete! So, I don’t know which game it will be, but I’m going to make it to the end credits, and actually finish something for a change.

I am honestly so excited to complete these challenges in 2017 that it’s killing me to not start one of the 12 books already! But what about you? Do you have any resolutions this year? I’d love to know, or please point me in the right direction if you’ve got a blog post of resolutions yourself!

But for now, keep safe tonight and party hard, and I wish you all a Happy New Year!

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