Monthly Archives: October 2019

the immortal throne

The Immortal Throne (City #2) by Stella Gemmell

From Goodreads:

No one is safe, and no one is to be trusted as the bloody war that began in Stella Gemmell’s The City continues…

The dreaded emperor is dead. The successor to the throne is his nemesis, Archange. Many hope her reign will usher in a new era of freedom and stability. Soon however, word arises of a massive army gathering in the shadows of the north. They are eager to lay waste to the City and annihilate anyone—man, woman, or child—within it.

Yet just as the swords clang in fields wet with the blood of warriors, family feuds, ancient rivalries, and political battles rage on within the cold stone walls of the City. A hero must rise up and restore the peace before anything left to fight for is consumed by the madness.

My Rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

This is a true epic fantasy story. I read the first book (The City) a while ago and had forgotten a lot of the detail of the story so it took me a while to get into it. Like other reviewers the first section was a bit confusing as it goes back in the timeline of the first book and tells the ending from a different perspective. Many of the smaller characters from the first book reappear in this one in a starring role with major characters from the first taking a bit of a step back.

Once the timeline catches up the story really hits its stride. This is only Stella Gemmel’s second solo novel but it’s obvious that she worked closely with her husband David on his books. Her character creation and scene depiction is brilliant and combined with great storytelling makes this a very enjoyable read. I really did enjoy it and while I liked how it ended I was disappointed that it did!

I think my favourite aspect of the story is how she created many small connections between characters and then brought them together, sometimes more than once, to build towards something bigger and of more significance. There’s also no single standalone central character. There are a minimum of 4 or 5 that the story builds around and all of them are equally important. She also doesn’t mind killing off the odd character either!

I really hope that Stella Gemmel writes more books and if she does I hope they are as good as this one.

n2r w1r2

Week 1 Run 2

click the image to view on strava

After the excitement of R1 tonight was more of a reality check. R1 was a well rested Sunday morning while today was in the dark after 2 busy days at work averaging 10k steps each day and a row/cross trainer session in the gym yesterday evening.

I felt slow and awkward on the running intervals but in hindsight the trails in Monellan are too rough for comfort in the dark and wearing trainers. They’re great in hiking boots and walking the dog, even in the dark, but not for running. As my runs will be mostly in the evening and therefore in the dark I need to pick another location but I have one in mind.

I also felt very flat footed and heavy this evening which is why I previously gave up on C25K after the first couple of runs. I’m not sure if I’m being hyper sensitive to my gait, if it was the trail and the dark that was throwing me off or if my gait is that bad? Sitting on the sofa now there’s some tenderness in my shins but no pain. Running was the same.

After all that negativity I did enjoy it, especially the better sections of the trail and I did do three 40/45 second intervals. I was tempted to do an extra one or two but I managed to keep control of the enthusiasm to avoid injury and stuck with the plan.

Walked about 1km extra back to the start in about 10min but have decided to only record the actual N2R workouts so I can monitor progress properly.

none to run

I’ve been cycling for almost 7 years now and I’ve always enjoyed hiking and walking but I’ve never been a runner! Up to now this image has described me perfectly:

I’ve tried running a few times but it was always a case of too much, too soon due to lack of understanding how to start running. I’ve tried Couch25K a couple of times but gave up after a couple of runs due to lack of motivation. I also have a really bad running style that combined with a poor training strategy has resulted in a tendency towards shin splints.

I was researching C25K again last week and came across NoneToRun (N2R) which is for pure beginners. C25K is distance based with the ultimate aim of running 5km at the end of 9 weeks. N2R is time based with the aim of running 25min non-stop at the end of 12 weeks. It’s also walk/run based but incorporates some basic strength training to build endurance and avoid injury. It also has a very active and very supportive Facebook Group.

I had planned to cycle this morning but was suffering from a complete lack of motivation to get on the bike. Eventually I was that pissed off I decided to give N2R Week 1 a go 😱

To make things that bit easier I decided to go to Monellan Woods so I could run on the trails. I know Monellan well from walking the dog and MTBing and figured it would be less public and easier on the joints as well as a more enjoyable environment.

The first couple of run/walk intervals felt quite easy but I could feel the effects increasing towards the end. I did feel pretty comfortable throughout and could see the temptation to do more but stuck to the plan.

click the photo to see on strava

I ended up at 35min as my 25min finished and I was still 10min from the car but left the watch recording to the end.

I did have a few niggles with my shins but nothing bad so hopefully that doesn’t get any worse and with time my legs will get stronger and my gait and form will improve so that I avoid injury.

I had Rosie with me for company. She loves Monellan but her reaction to my running sections was so funny. Totally confused and over excited the first couple of times. Only issue was having to stop twice to put her on the lead when we met other walkers. If I go early or later in the evening then I won’t have that issue.

rosie doesn’t really get selfies 🤣

dead at first sight

Dead at First Sight (Roy Grace #15) by Peter James.

From Goodreads:

A man waits at London Airport for Ingrid Ostermann, the love of his life, to arrive. Across the Atlantic, a retired NYPD cop waits in a bar in Florida’s Key West for his first date with the lady who is, without question, his soulmate. The two men are about to discover they’ve been scammed out of almost every penny they have—and that neither woman exists. Meanwhile, a wealthy divorcée plunges, in suspicious circumstances, from an apartment block in Munich. In the same week, Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is called to investigate the suicide of a woman in Brighton, that is clearly not what it seems. As his investigations continue, a handsome Brighton motivational speaker comes forward. He’d discovered his identity is being used to scam 11 different women, online. Roy Grace realizes he is looking at the tip of an iceberg. A global empire built on clever, cruel internet scams and the murder of anyone who threatens to expose them.

My Rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟

I’ve read all of the other Roy Grace books and really enjoyed them. This one was a big disappointment, especially as I’ve been waiting a while to get a chance to read it.

The whole concept behind the story is definitely a huge issue but it’s not the type of story normally associated with Roy Grace. I found it hard to get invested in the victims and couldn’t really care less about them or their problems. The introduction of a typical old school, hard man criminal mastermind didn’t suit the story at all and the whole story and group of characters felt disjointed. I’m also fed up with the pointless story of Roy and Cleo’s adoption of Bruno. He’s obviously an obnoxious little git but the story arc has been dragged out to nowhere now for at least two books. The back story of Sandy’s disappearance was a good and unique story but it’s like the author introduced Bruno and now doesn’t know what to do with him.

I’ve looked forward to the next instalment in this series every time I’ve finished one of them but not this time. I would have given it two stars except for the increase in pace and the way he concluded the story in the last 15-20%.

hoarding tendencies

I’m not anywhere near as bad as the gentleman in the photo above but I definitely don’t like throwing stuff away – you never know when it might come in handy!

When it comes to cycling gear though I’m definitely worse. I have loads of jackets I’ve bought in an attempt to balance breathability and water resistance but on a budget. I finally realised this wasn’t possible and bought an excellent convertible Castelli Perfetto.

It combines perfectly with a gillet or shell when wind or rain is that bit extreme and unavoidable. I still have those cheaper jackets though!

Today I’ve made a start and thrown out my very first pair of bib shorts that I bought about 6 years ago! They are a basic Assos gel bib short that cost approx £25 in a local bike shop and never really fitted me comfortably. They were better than the cheap, cheap shorts I started with but were replaced by better fitting DHB Aeron shorts within the year.

Despite wearing them only twice in a wardrobe emergency in the last 5 years I’ve never thrown them out, until today!

The jackets are still there though 😊

muddy puddles

In perfect Peppa Pig style “everyone loves jumping up and down in muddy puddles!” or in my case splashing through them and bunny hopping over them 😊

Friday nights have morphed with the shortening days into MTB night. Two winters ago a group of us were out nearly every week for 2-3 nights but last year the rest of the group moved to the Dark Side and switched to Zwift instead. Admittedly it’s warmer and drier in Zwiftland but it’s still hard to beat the feeling of a frosty night spent rattling around forest trails and splashing through puddles.

This year it looks like I’ve managed to recruit a new group from the club that are interested in getting wet and muddy every Friday night and tonight we had our first spin out together.

click the image to view on strava

A really enjoyable couple of hours of hills, banter, complaining, downhill speeding and of course…….muddy puddles!

the empty throne

Saxton Chronicles #8 by Bernard Cornwell

From Goodreads:

“My name is Uhtred. I am the son of Uhtred, who was the son of Uhtred . . .”

Britain, early tenth century AD: a time of change. There are new raids by the Vikings from Ireland, and turmoil among the Saxons over the leadership of Mercia. A younger generation is taking over.

Æthelred, the ruler of Mercia, is dying, leaving no legitimate heir. The West Saxons want their king, but Uhtred has long supported Athelflaed, sister to King Edward of Wessex and widow of Aethelred. Widely loved and respected, Athelflaed has all the makings of a leader—but could Saxon warriors ever accept a woman as their ruler? The stage is set for rivals to fight for the empty throne.

Uhtred is still suffering from the wounds he received in battle. To recover his strength he needs to find the sword that caused the injury, but lost amid the battle’s blood and mud, how could it be traced and who among the Vikings or Saxons might be holding it?

In the end it is one champion, one hero, who will destroy the new Viking threat to Mercia and ultimately decide the fate of England.

My Rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

This was so much better than the preceeding “A Pagan Lord“. The characters were interesting, the story was snappy and full of detail and the story was well developed. Unlike Pagan Lord the story was kept within a short timeline and despite taking Uhtred to Wales it didn’t aimlessly wander across half of Britain.

Like most of the other books there was plenty of political shenanigans but this time Uhtred was back in the thick of it, manipulating the Saxon Lords and getting his way despite their best efforts.

As usual there are plenty of battles but the details are kept tight with just enough to picture the scene without getting bogged down in unnecessary complexity.

I particularly liked the introduction of the next generation. Uthred’s children, Uhtred and Stiorra, are great characters as is his adopted son Aethelstan. The relationships between them all is excellently described. Using Uhtred jnr to introduce the story was really enjoyable and the scene is set as Uhtred snr is gearing up to train the first King of Englaland.

back in the saddle

Back in the middle of September I was feeling very positive about my return to cycling and felt I had my mojo back after 6 weeks or so of fairly consistent cycling. That was the last time I was on a bike meaning I was once again living up to my self imposed blog title!

There are plenty of excuses why I wasn’t able to cycle but no real good reasons why for so long. I had a hospital appointment on a Sunday and the following Wednesday I contracted a particularly vicious vomiting bug that knocked me for six for about a week. However, last week was pure laziness!

Today, spurred on by a post from “A Dude Abikes“, I’ve managed to break that duck and felt surprisingly good on the bike. I had planned a relatively easy spin to Strabane and back for 40km but ended up adding on a loop to Stranorlar to make that 50km instead.

click the image above to view on Strava

I was faster than usual today which also surprised me with a 27km/hr average before I hit the last climb to home. There was very little wind this morning which may have contributed but I was working too as my heart rate was pretty high throughout. At no point though did I feel I was red lining.

After my mid September collapse in performance I’m hesitant to set an October target but I hope to get 400km+ in this month with 50km already done.