Extropia by Robin Bootle

extropia

 

Extropia is the action packed Debut novel from Robin Bootle, who resides in none other than the UK!

Our main character, Edward, is a person we will come to know very well during the roller coaster read that is Extropia. The tale begins when an act of sabotage leaves Edward all alone in the world and a single day at school plunges him right back into the heart of a tragedy that he tried to escape.

Set in virtual reality with RPG elements this book had me hooked, I was hanging on reading “just one more page” and almost caught hypothermia when I took it in the bath! Each character is developed and well thought out, no matter what their part in the story. This is the action-adventure we’ve been waiting for and I am thrilled to have got my hands on a copy.

There are mentions of other characters and games in the book which don’t really date it as such, Edward is a young boy so he’d definitely know these references, although a certain part that mentioned Skyrim as an “old game” had me reaching for my phone to check when it came out, sure enough, it’s older than I thought!

The book is not afraid to bare all when it comes to emotion as it takes us through a roller coaster of treachery, heart ache, friendship and victories. It’s not difficult to get invested in these characters and the “bad guys” definitely get your heart beating faster.

The imagery is fantastic, Bootle doesn’t spend ages going over the finer details but I definitely had a picture in my head of each character, location and scene.

I absolutely loved this book and I can’t wait for the next part of the adventure. If you’ve enjoyed this review and want to know more, go along to amazon to get yourself a copy.

bootle

Born in Greece, Mr Bootle is well travelled having lived in Chennai (India) and Hampshire (UK) before moving to Mauritius as a child, where he still visits regularly. He has since lived in New Zealand & France, and is now living in London with his wife Kate.

I was fortunate enough to get an interview with Mr Bootle for this review post, I always love to do this with upcoming authors so that their readers can get to know a little about what makes them tick. Here it is;

Extropia banner.jpg

Hi Robin, thank you very much for agreeing to this interview. I’m sure both our readers will be interested to find out more about you and your work!

So how did you come to be an Author and what inspired you to write?

I was sat at a desk job with no work to do when I was 21, and my brother emailed me to say, “Why don’t you try to write something to fill the time?” So I did. I wrote a short piece about some people at a party. It was poor but the point is I really enjoyed it. Then I spent about 10 years trying to think of what to write, before the idea for Extropia inspired me to finally get on with it.

Extropia is your debut novel, and it is some novel! How do you feel about how it’s been received so far?

I’m really pleased. There are some amazing reviews out there. It’s a long slog writing your first novel – there’s so much to learn – so to have people enjoy it genuinely makes it all worthwhile. There are some people who didn’t like it too and I’ve read their reviews which, while being torturous, actually contain some good feedback as well.

Are there any real-life influences for the characters in the book?

I didn’t think so … but my family and friends have pointed out various details. Maybe my subconscious is in there more than I realise. But there are some definite and deliberate fictional character influences in the book. Like Ivandell and Hasgard. They’re fictional characters inside the game, designed to be similar to characters from Lord of the Rings. In some ways, Extropia is a coming together of so many science fiction and fantasy books and films. I love those genres.

The book is set in Virtual Reality and works within the realms of RPG. Are you a big fan of VR and RPG gaming?

To be honest, I started writing the book before VR had become broadly available to consumers But I can’t wait to see where this new technology will take us. I enjoy a good, open ended RPG, and the coming together of these two things – an RPG using virtual reality technology, will be so immersive. I don’t think my wife will ever see me again.

Is there any particular character in the book who you identify with?

The protagonist, even though he’s only 16. He reminds me of my younger self. Self-assured but not outspoken. Liable to let his feelings build up until he gets into a bit of a rage or does something stupid.

Extropia is a roller coaster of a read putting the reader right in there as a fly on the wall throughout all of the heartache, friendship and victory, did you find it emotional to write?

You know, the older I get, the more emotional I become when I read or watch scenes about people dying. I can’t help it. I think I can relate to the characters’ sadness more, particularly when it comes to bad things happening to direct family members. So strangely, I do find myself a little sad when I read the scenes about Edward’s relationship with his father or his mother’s funeral, for example.

There are more books coming to the Extropia universe, when do you plan to release these and is there anything you can tell us about the next part of the adventure? (without dropping spoilers of course!)

Yes, absolutely. I’m just running through the 2nd novel with a thick layer of polish. I hope it might be out this year, but I could see it slipping. I’ve also made a significant dent on part 3 as well, and am hopeful the third instalment won’t be too far behind. What can I say about them? Well, if all goes according to plan, the lines between what’s real and what’s not, and who we are as people are going to blur even more.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

So much advice. If I pick just a few things: 1) You have got to be determined. It’s not going to be easy. Keep at it. 2) Get lots and lots of feedback, and only from people who are going to be brutally honest. 3) Don’t tell yourself you’re going to write an hour every day. It can soon seem impossible, particularly when you reach an impasse with the plot or become uncertain how to deal with something in the narrative. Just tell yourself to sit down for 10 mins every day, and most days those 10 mins will turn into 30 or 60 mins. 4) Use your time now to network. Go to writing conferences and meet people before you’re trying to sell them something. When it comes time to try to get published, you’ll already know some people who may be able to help you out.

If you’d like to get your hands on the book, it can be found here

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Bronco’s Rodeo, West Street – Sheffield

broncos-rodeo

After a month of sponsored vegetarianism my Husband and I were excited to have a good meaty meal so when Bronco’s opened on 12th November, you bet we were up for it! It would have been rude not to book ourselves in for 1st December to celebrate our Meaty Freedom.

We embarked on our trip across town to meet our reservation and excitedly made our drinks choices from the never before seen American flavours of Smirnoff. We ordered a double Root Beer Vodka with Coke and a double Watermelon Vodka with Lemonade to kick off our evening, and I did my best “I’m not about to die from shock” impression as I swiped my card for the £12 round. (Now, Londoners.. I realise that’s not a shock to you, but up in the jolly old north we have a saying for things like this and it goes a little bit like “need a bloody mortgage for that”). I was a little surprised at how quiet it was for the newest, up and coming venue because it had only been open a couple of weeks and we were expecting it to be rammed on a Saturday night, maybe it’s more of a late bar.

Onwards and upwards, we were shown to our table and perused the food menu. Now, I did find it a bit odd that you have to order at the bar. I expected it to be table service because all the other similar places are and it doesn’t give the immediate look of a place that wouldn’t be.

To start we ordered a plate of the loaded fries with burnt ends and what arrived was.. chunks of beef that were not actually burnt ends..;

burnt ends fries

Having selected two 10oz Sirloins from the menu for their mouthwatering descriptions, we were still of an open mind. The menu said it would be served with Sauteed Greens and Garlic and Thyme butter.

Here’s what arrived;

Never mind, I actually wanted to try the apple slaw so it wasn’t an issue, but I was glad I didn’t pay £2 for it on the side! My steak was acceptably rare, although I’d have liked it slightly more rare than that, but there wasn’t a snifter of Garlic and Thyme anywhere which was disappointing, and honestly it just wasn’t that tasty. The whole plate was kind of bland. My Husband’s steak, despite being the exact same dish wasn’t as rare as mine so he was a bit disappointed for that reason too.

When the waitress came to clear the dishes she asked if everything was OK, I explained the reasons we were disappointed and informed her I’d be doing a review for this blog. I asked if the coleslaw was made on site. Now, this should have been an easy question. No matter how short a time the place has been opened, if you own a restaurant you make sure your staff know the answer to that basic question. She said she thought it might be, but didn’t know and she’d ask her manager. Naturally I expected her to be right back so we sat and finished our drinks and when we were ready to go she still wasn’t back. Odd, but I took our glasses to the bar and asked this bar maid the same question, she didn’t know either, but she did grab her manager. When I asked my question for a third time, he answered that it is made there, now I didn’t ask if it was made daily but from what I tasted, if it is made daily, it’s made very early because it didn’t taste all that fresh. However I was bored of asking by the time I’d had to repeat myself a third time.

I understand that the food industry can be stressful, I’ve worked in it, but if you tell your customer you’ll be back with an answer, actually come back with an answer. And for those managers who might be reading, please educate your staff, it’s not an unacceptable assumption that staff would know whether the coleslaw comes out of a packet, and it’ll make your restaurant look better if they can reply instantly with the correct information.

From our experience of Broncos, we’re not planning to return, the food didn’t wow us and it just didn’t feel worth a repeat visit. But, as always when there’s room for improvement, maybe it will get better with time. At the minute though, there are better, more experienced venues for that all American taste.

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Meat Free for Hospiscare

Hospiscare.jpg

 

This month my Husband and I have gone Meat Free for Hospiscare! We’re big foodies and love to eat out, as well as being enthusiastic meat eaters so this month has been a good challenge and also a chance to try out some veggie alternatives.

I thought about what we’ve done and tried and some of my meat free friends’ reactions to me recommending good alternatives, and I thought maybe some of my readers would like to know what we’ve discovered.

So, why exactly am I fundraising for Hospiscare? Well, back in July this year I was very sick with Gastroenteritis, following my recovery I passed some blood and discharge very unexpectedly. I got myself a Dr’s appointment and after an examination they thought they may have felt a lump in my back passage. I referred to a specialist and had a hospital visit where thankfully following another examination they ruled out cancer.

Not everybody is that lucky. I’ve known many people who have battled Cancer, some who were lucky, and some who unfortunately lost their battle and I know how valuable this kind of resource can be not just to the person who is in treatment, but also to their loved ones.

So far we’ve raised £182.10 which is 36% of our £500 target. I would love to be able to get as close as possible to our target so if you are able to please do donate to this very valuable cause!

Donate here!

So, without further ado! Some of my favourite meals so far;

Veggie Kitchen – Available at Farm Foods

 

Veggie Kitchen Chicken poppers taste pretty much the same as Popcorn Chicken and the texture isn’t far off. These tasty poppers go nicely with chips and corn for a southern fried treat and we also used them in a Chinese Curry sauce. The Meatballs were good too, we prepared these with pasta and a homemade sauce featuring roasted pumpkin. Whilst these are not particularly meaty they are quite tasty and would work in many dishes, they have a stuffing-type flavour and texture to them.

The range also includes sausages, mince and burgers which we haven’t actually tried. Whilst the name suggests a vegetarian meat alternative, the range is actually suitable for both veggies and vegans.

No Bull – Available at Iceland

 

Ok so this is a bit of a cheat because the Jalapeno Burgers and the No Chick Fillets are still in the freezer waiting to be eaten, BUT  I have served the plain no bull burgers to my Husband and Sister before and they are delicious. Speaking as a meat eater I think you could easily fool someone with this burger, it’s got a nice texture and it’s even a little pink in the middle. This is the best burger alternative I’ve had and I have high hopes for the rest of the range. I’m very much looking forward to trying more of this.

This range is also suitable for Veggie and Vegan consumers.

Broccoli and Cauliflower Gratins – Iceland

 

Iceland’s veggie range is getting to be pretty good, we tried the gratins last night and I will definitely buy them again these are not vegan friendly but look out for the plant based freezer for more vegan options!

We’ve also tried a few veggie options when eating out lately, and can report than the Robin Hood – Ember Inns and Hardy Pick – Hungry Horse have some delicious dishes suitable for both veggies and vegans so get yourselves over there for a yummy treat! We can recommend Ember Inns for a tasty Cauliflower Curry or the Hardy Pick for a Falafal Burger topped with a warming salsa.

Thanks again if you’ve donated to the cause and please do let me know if you’d like to see more of this kind of post.

ThankYouNurses

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The Clubhouse – London Road, Sheffield.

Clubhouse

The venue

The Clubhouse is one of Sheffield’s hidden gems, a sports bar situated on London Road. One thing you’re sure to find is a fantastic selection of real ale and good, freshly made foods, but for me the thing that makes The Clubhouse so memorable is the staff.

I’ve visited this pub on more than one occasion but I realised it’s never featured on the blog, so I thought I’d tell you all about it.

Over the years the Owner and Staff of The Clubhouse have worked hard to improve the venue’s reputation and it has really paid off. The menu is varied with a great choice of food available and you’ll be hard pushed not to find something you’d like to drink from the bar – As evidenced by Luke here and his many pints!

Luke with beers

They also do well when serving large parties as all of the food comes at once, depending of course on how large your party is! You can also book areas of the pub if you’re wanting a party and there are plenty of screens if you want to watch the sports.

The first time I ate at The Clubhouse was for a Christmas Party and we all had burgers, this was mine, the Chorizo and Manchego Burger with Homemade Chips;

chorizo-manchego-burger

Chorizo and Manchego Burger £8.50

We had a great time and there was a warm and friendly atmosphere all night. The staff simply couldn’t do enough for us and we felt truly looked after.

So of course, when I had friends visiting from various locations, it was a no brainer to take them all to this pub for a real taste of Sheffield hospitality. We were able to kick back, relax and have fun.

Teacup matt

Matthew enjoying a cup of tea after the meal

We all had the Clubhouse Platter, now I enjoyed this, but the only thing I would say is that I found the lattice fries a little bit hard for my taste, and the onion rings slightly oily on this occasion. That could just be my taste because, rather helpfully, we all had the platter and it got rave reviews from the others! You can also get these in Gluten Free, which one of my friends tried and can vouch for the quality of. Here is the platter, I did pinch the photo from Tripadvisor for this as I tucked in too quickly and forgot to photograph! (sorry! credit to the photographer);

the-clubhouse-platter

Clubhouse Platter (£11.50)

One of my friends even said it was one of the best burgers he’s had in his life and he had flown all the way from Romania to be with us! Solid win on the venue then!

In short it’s a great pub, it’s clean, friendly and it has a real personal touch. Superb hospitality, thank you very much Clubhouse for another fabulous evening!

Me and hollie

Me with Staff member Hollie who made our night unforgettable

 

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The Burger Garden – Abbeydale Road, Sheffield

Buger garden

 

So today we tried a Vegan Burger Emporium which opened in my city, it was originally called Burger Lols and it had this bright pink sign, which just never appealed to me. Then I noticed that the sign had changed and it was now Burger Garden with a picture of a cute little burger, this appealed to me a lot more. I never really noticed the appeal of signs before but it makes it look a lot more upmarket than it did.

Inside it’s brightly coloured and very clean, it’s quite welcoming and comfortable. Everything on the menu is 100% vegan so if you do have dietary needs, you don’t need to worry, it even says at the bottom of the menu to advise of any allergies when you order. It’s cash only though, so make sure to take some money or you’ll find yourself hot footing it to the nearest cash point!

So, we all had the Seitan Burger which is on their menu as “Beef”, I hate when people make their foods sound like meats personally because I want to know what I’m eating, the other options are Beetroot or “Chicken” so I’m unsure entirely what exactly the chicken is, but the option is there.

Burgers

Pictured, left to right is first of all my Husband’s burger which was the Cali Burger, topped with cheese, avocado and salad, My Hawaiian Burger which was a seitan patty topped with gherkins, grilled peppers, “pulled pork” (which is bbq jackfruit) and grilled pineapple and on the right is my sister’s Hawaiian Burger with topped fries. It was really nice, but and this is the exact reason I hate when vegan food is given meat names, if you are a meat eater, it’s going to be a really very different texture to what the namesakes are.

Starting with the Seitan “Beef” Burger, this is really nice, but it can leave a strong kind of salty after taste when you’re eating it and it’s a soft texture so whilst it’s moist and everything, it kind of crumbles when you eat it.

Next the Bbq Jackfruit “Pulled Pork” again, really tasty, would 100% eat again but a very soft texture, if I was to compare it to any meat product I would probably say it’s like the fatty parts where there’s still flavour but it’s soft and squishy.

The veggies on the burger were lovely, can’t complain about anything with those (obviously) the pineapple was a nice touch and the grilled pineapple really finished it off nicely.

My sister’s fries, which I tried, were lovely, these were topped with Mac and Cheese, Onions and “Bacon” and I really can’t fault the mac and cheese, it’s cheesy and creamy and just really naughty tasting. The plain fries are seasoned with paprika and there’s several different toppings to choose from for the fries.

It doesn’t stop at burgers, there’s also Seitan BBQ Ribs, Curry, tacos.. the choice is yours. Drinks include shakes, freak shakes, tea, coffee or something out the fridge and you can add things like corn on the cob to your meal if you want to.

I can’t fault my visit today, I will definitely go back, but next time I’ll be trying the ribs or a hot dog so stay tuned!

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The Haunted Vagina

Haunted Vagina

The Haunted Vagina is quite possibly the strangest book I’ve ever read, and that’s kind of saying something when I read horror by Nicholas Tillemans.

Definitely not for young readers, this story is based around a couple and their adventure surrounding a hidden world, accessible through Stacy’s vagina. However an exploration and discovery mission soon turns hostile and Steve finds himself trapped in a strange world.

It’s an easy to read short story, easily finished in a couple of hours or easy to pick up in small chunks if you’re pushed for time. I completed this within a weekend whilst having other tasks to complete. It doesn’t take a huge amount of concentration and the plot isn’t complex. Yet, despite those things it’s a really refreshing, enjoyable story.

I really like the imagery involved in this book, the author has forged a world which you can really see in your mind’s eye and I love the way everything is described to you, not too in depth but enough so you feel like you’re there exploring with the characters.

I would thoroughly recommend this book, though it isn’t for the easily offended!

Grab it!

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Animal Farm by George Orwell

First published in England on 17th August 1945, Animal Farm is the imagining of a farm run by the animals after having overthrown their owner, the tyrant Mr. Jones.

According to Orwell this book reflects the events leading up to the Russian Revolution of 1917 and then onto the Stalinist era of the Soviet Union.

There is one particularly chilling quote from the book; “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others”

Orwell portrays the communist take over very well indeed, taking us through a number of events from the animals agreeing to overthrow Jones, to the pigs rise to power and corruption.

Not bad for a book I once thought was a children’s story huh?

It’s not a very long story, but it is packed with events and all of the animals have their own personality and part to play. As usual for Orwell, it’s very well written with an easy reading pace.

Highly recommended, I would suggest that if you’ve never read it you go grab yourself a copy. This is a piece of intelligent literature that won’t take you a lifetime to read.

Buy it!

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