Monthly Archives: August 2020

the skull throne

The Skull Throne (Demon Cycle #4) by Peter V. Brett

From Goodreads:

The Skull Throne of Krasia stands empty.

Built from the skulls of fallen generals and demon princes, it is a seat of honor and ancient, powerful magic, keeping the demon corelings at bay. From atop the throne, Ahmann Jardir was meant to conquer the known world, forging its isolated peoples into a unified army to rise up and end the demon war once and for all.

But Arlen Bales, the Warded Man, stood against this course, challenging Jardir to a duel he could not in honor refuse. Rather than risk defeat, Arlen cast them both from a precipice, leaving the world without a savior, and opening a struggle for succession that threatens to tear the Free Cities of Thesa apart.

In the south, Inevera, Jardir’s first wife, must find a way to keep their sons from killing each other and plunging their people into civil war as they strive for glory enough to make a claim on the throne.

In the north, Leesha Paper and Rojer Inn struggle to forge an alliance between the duchies of Angiers and Miln against the Krasians before it is too late.

Caught in the crossfire is the duchy of Lakton–rich and unprotected, ripe for conquest.

All the while, the corelings have been growing stronger, and without Arlen and Jardir there may be none strong enough to stop them. Only Renna Bales may know more about the fate of the missing men, but she, too, has disappeared…

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

For me this was the least enjoyable of the series so far. I found it really difficult to engage with the story, possibly as there isn’t much of a story for the majority of the book. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of scene setting and politics but I wanted more battles and active politics. I didn’t enjoy the discussions between Arlen and Jardir and found the majority of the early Inevera story to be drawn out and boring. Leesha has become unrecognisable from the strong female character of the first book (until near the end) and Rojer’s story is very badly handled.


It seems though that the author also got bored as he turned the whole story upside down in the final third and shook out all the crap he no longer needed. There are deaths aplenty, wiping out quite a few major and minor characters and decimating the lives of those that are left. It’s hard to see how the Hollow/Krasian alliance will survive the deaths of Rojer and Thamos with nothing to hold the loyalty of Rojer’s wives now that he is gone.


I also enjoyed the introduction of Briar as a new and interesting character. I would like to see more of him but I have a feeling he had a plot line to help with and that his usefulness has come to an end. Likewise it was great to see Ashia developed further, filling in her back story and giving further insights into the Krasian way of life, brutal as it is.

This is very obviously a setup book for the series finale. I hope it lives up to its potential and is more like 1-3 and I really hope it’s not like this one.

week 3

This was supposed to be a straightforward week but it became anything but! The wheels almost came off the wagon at the very start. I woke Saturday morning to thick fog which made cycling a very bad idea so had to reschedule to the evening and after work for the first time in a long time. As traffic was busy I decided to go a different route than usual which was a good bit hillier. It had become very hot during the day and my legs were like concrete after the lack of sleep from Thursday and a busy day at work.

even at 730am the fog was very thick!

I had planned Sunday to be my 100K spin for the 2020 Metric Challenge but I felt crap when I got up, totally lacking in energy and motivation and with a bit of a dodgy stomach. Instead of cycling we went to Fanad Lighthouse for the afternoon. I was in a lot better form when I got home and went for a fast and enjoyable 40K.

fanad lighthouse

Monday and Tuesday I was feeling much better and back to the early mornings before work. So much more enjoyable and put me in the perfect form to go for my 100K on Wednesday.

I knew it was coming on Wednesday but it was Thursday when the real tough days began. The country was battered by an unseasonable Summer storm caused by the remnants of Hurricane Kyle. Parts of the country were under Red and Orange weather warnings but thankfully we were only under Yellow as Storm Ellen crossed Wednesday night and left its mark throughout Thursday.


Thursday morning was smack bang in the middle of the worst of the forecast so I decided in advance to wait until after work especially as the winds were set to ease. Driving to work with bits of branches all over the roads and lots of broken larger branches I was particularly happy with my decision. That evening was pretty wet but only slightly breezy and quite warm again.

Friday I had planned to get back to morning rides but I woke to heavy rain and clouds so low it was still almost dark at 6am. Visibility was crap so I went back to bed for an extra hour and waited until evening once again. This was probably the least enjoyable spin of the month. The wind was back up, frustratingly stronger than during the weather warning, and I got caught in a very heavy shower as I approached Ballybofey. Very much a tick box spin and a hateful way to finish the week.

© garmin connect

A total of 266km for the week keeps me well on track and gives me a total of 765km for the month. Still ahead of my target 1000km.

metric challenge: august

My original plan was to do my August metric spin on Sunday past. However, a combination of tiredness and general meh! meant I spent the early afternoon with Catriona and the boys visiting Fanad Lighthouse and then went for an enjoyable 40K later in the day.

As the month is clipping along and we already have plans for the coming weekend today really needed to be the day to avoid unnecessary pressure at the end of the month. Morning weather was promising but my planned 8am start was delayed due to initial foggy conditions and subsequent drop in motivation. However, I was eventually on the road for 945am.

My route took me down the valley to Lifford and then along the Foyle through St Johnston and very picturesque Carrigans to Nixon’s Corner.

carrigans retirement village for old bicycles

This first 30K was into a growing breeze and lots of rolling hills that made it a bit more work than normal but once I turned for Newtowncunningham I had the benefit of a pretty good tailwind pushing me along.

My recent short morning spins have created a habit of pushing pretty hard that wasn’t going to suit today’s longer spin. My legs took a while to warmup and I wasn’t long into the ride before I decided I wasn’t going to push too hard and take time to enjoy myself. Part of this was a proper tea break in Newtowncunningham at 50K for a cuppa and scone at an actual table.

After tea the tailwind was still there to help me all the way through Manorcunningham and along the dual carriageway to Dromore and the only real prolonged climb of the day that bypasses the steeper and traffic heavy Lurgybrack hill out of Letterkenny. At this stage I was feeling pretty good and although it wasn’t my best time up Dromore (all set on group spins) I was still pretty pleased with today’s effort.

© strava

After Dromore it’s always a bit of a slog to Trentaboy before dropping down through Drumkeen and into Stranorlar. Despite my decision to take today easy it’s virtually impossible to ignore the temptation of making the most of the descents on this section and I was soon pushing hard on the descents and up the following hills as the road dips up and down all the way to Kilross before a brilliant, fast descent into Stranorlar. At 80K I decided this was a good time for a short stop for a drink and a Snickers.

the power behind most of my audax spins

The last stretch for home was back into the breeze that was strengthening quite a lot as the weather was deteriorating with the imminent arrival of Storm Ellen. This was a bit of a slog as far as Liscooley as the main road is quite exposed. Going straight home was going to leave me 10K short so I crossed the river at Liscooley and pushed on to Castlefinn along the hillier but more sheltered back road. The bonus then was having a tailwind after the turn to take me back towards home and the pleasure of the 100K beep on my Garmin as I came up the drive to the house. Definitely my most enjoyable 100K of the year so far.

click the image to view on strava

week two

14 days done and still going well. A busy week from a family point of view required some careful organisation to make sure I didn’t break my streak.

© garmin connect

I managed to keep up the early starts this week with a 6am spin on the same route as last week each day before work. I’m definitely preferring mornings for training versus evenings but especially so this week. It’s been very warm and humid every morning, except for a chilly, foggy Saturday. The evenings were even warmer and would have been a real struggle.

foggy saturday morning river view

It was my days off that provided the challenges. Catriona wanted to go visit the Cuilcagh Mountain Boardwalk on Sunday which required an early cycle. Having just an extra half hour in bed I squeezed in 55K and was back early enough to get away at a decent time. The Boardwalk was very busy with lots of people making the most of the good weather but it turned out that we were better off being a little bit later. Monday morning was interesting with legs that felt like concrete slowing me way down.

Thursday was a big family day with Conor’s Confirmation ceremony that had been postponed from earlier in the year due to lockdown. We got all dressed up and went to the Mass before returning home to celebrate with family and friends.

With some last minute jobs around the house to be done and a trip to the barbers needed it meant another early start to squeeze in 50K and get home with enough time. Managed to get two decent climbs into the mix also to make the ride count that little bit extra.

click the image to view on strava

The craic was so good last night that the party went on longer than I expected and I wasn’t in bed until almost midnight. The humidity made sleep difficult and I was awake at 5am with no chance of sleeping again. Somehow I managed to drag myself out of bed and on to the bike. Definitely the toughest morning so far and the closest I’ve come to throwing in the towel.

I knew that this morning would leave me virtually half way to my mileage target. I had a mini plan to get in an extra kilometre or so but my legs were having none of it and I counted myself lucky just to make it home!

ocd alert © garmin connect

Week 3 starts tomorrow morning and is looking to be less busy. Planning to complete my August Metric Challenge ride on Sunday so I should be ahead of my target again by the end of the week 🤞

week one

My first week of the 31 Days of Biking challenge is complete and so far, so good.

© Garmin Connect

I’m aiming for 230km per week so after Week 1 I’ve banked 36km in case I have issues later in the month getting in my mileage.

Four of my runs were early mornings, getting away at 6am for a 25km blast before heading to work. This route is nice and simple and doesn’t require too much thought or effort at that time of the morning.

© strava

Half of it is on the main N15 and although the roads are still quiet it’s a lot busier than I expected, especially with HGVs. I guess they’re trying to beat the traffic through the night and early morning.

My longest spin was 74km on Sunday, to the Ghost House, but as Monday was a Bank Holiday I also managed to sneak in a bonus 57km spin. This was in support of our Club Beginner Group that is in its second week. I cycled up and down and then completed 25km with the group, providing support and advice as they gain confidence on the road and in traffic. It was a very social night, very relaxed and very enjoyable.

I had planned to get 50-60km in again on Wednesday, my second day off, but life intervened. Family duties took priority which meant I didn’t get out until quite late in the day and was under pressure to get home for 8pm. 33km had to satisfy me but it kept me on track.

© strava

Only 7 days in and I’m starting to see benefits already. I can feel my legs getting stronger and I seem to be getting faster as my morning times are improving. I’m not sure how much of this is due to weather conditions through the week but at least they’re heading in the right direction.

Week 2 starts tomorrow with some additional challenges that will require careful time management.

gear review: sportful reflex ii gillet

It’s unlikely that many cyclists will be missing a gillet from their cycling wardrobe. For me it’s an essential. It’s very rare that I leave the house without one of some form, either on me or in my pocket or saddle bag. It’s only on one of those very rare days that we’re guaranteed warm sunshine that I will venture out without one.

club gillet

My main gillet is my Club one that I wear over either a jersey or my Perfetto from Autumn through to Spring. It’s usually too heavy for Summer use and as it’s not waterproof I also need something for the cooler days and/or when I can expect a heavy shower or two. That’s when the Reflex comes into play.

I bought my first one of these a good few years ago, not long after I started cycling regularly and when I realised that a full waterproof jacket wasn’t going to be practical on the warmer days. I’m one of those people that generate a lot of heat and I’m most comfortable when my arms are bare or just lightly covered.

original reflex

This gillet is still in decent shape but the lack of visibility of the black colour concerns me on duller days and the reflective strips are getting worn looking having been stuffed and unstuffed countless times over the years. I’ve been very happy with it so when the time came to replace it Sportful was my first choice again.

reflex ii

The design had been updated slightly over the years and now has a much better reflective pattern. There are a number of colour choices with Sportful showing fluro yellow, white and black on their website and Wiggle giving a further two of fluro orange and blue. I went for the yellow this time as I wanted something to increase my visibility.

I’ve worn it quite a number of times now and find it really good at what I want it to do. I mainly use it as an additional windbreaker over my Club gillet and Perfetto on very cold Winter days or just over a jersey on fast descents on cooler days. It also gets good use when I get caught in heavier, more prolonged showers when a soaking is unavoidable and unwanted. It has a very handy integrated stuff sack that allows it to compress into a very neat package for a jersey pocket or saddle bag. I’ve also worn it out running on warmer but wet days and found it good for keeping me dry while preventing overheating.

Overall I’m still happy with the new version but I do miss one feature from the original. It had mesh panels down the sides that made it much more breathable. I’m sure removing them has made it more waterproof but they suited me.

I’ve seen some negative reviews on Wiggle that the zip is flimsy but so far I’ve had no issues. They may have upgraded it as it looks and feels sturdy to me.

Value: 9/10 simply because I’m tight fisted and always feel like I’m paying too much! It was €40 when I bought it which is pretty much the RRP.

Durability: 8/10 a decent zip and robust fabric. Negative reviews on Wiggle have me cautious for the longer term.

Effectiveness: 8/10 a great windbreaker, about as waterproof as a gillet can be but would have preferred to see better breathability via the older version mesh panels or a shoulder vent.

Overall: 9/10 highly recommended.

Manufacturer’s Website:

31 days of biking

There are a couple of streak challenges out there that have caught my eye over the years. One of these is “Every Day in May“. The aim of this challenge is to complete a physical activity every day for the month of May with the option of raising money for charity while doing so. The challenge is designed mainly for walking and running 5 or 10K each day but in 2017 I decided to do it as a cycling challenge. I completed the challenge with a total of 1500km for the month.

That was the year when I was at my fittest and strongest on the bike. I did my first 200km Audax that May and went on to complete the Four Provinces Challenge and a total of five 200km Audax events for the year starting a four month streak for RRTY that unfortunately died when I missed December. RRTY remains an aspiration for me as does the next level challenge of Super Randonneur.

may 2017 © strava

I had the Four Provinces medals framed by one of my friends who is a photographer and it is one of my favourite possessions.

I originally came across Every Day in May when I saw a reference to “30 Days of Biking“. By then it was well into April so I went looking for something similar. I completed Every Day in May in 2019 again, mostly with walking activities, but I’ve never gone back to do 30 Days of Biking. I looked at it earlier this year but with Covid19 restrictions I couldn’t build up enough motivation to ride my bike at all never mind every day.

My running has been going well and I finished the None2Run program at the end of June.

graduation day 5k

Since then I’ve played around with a number of 10K training plans and ran a further four 5Ks while trying to find a good progression plan. Eventually I settled on a modified version of N2R that was suggested by another member of the N2R Facebook group. It involves slow/fast running intervals instead of walking/running for the 25 minutes. It’s the perfect program for me as I eventually worked out that I don’t really want to run 10K, I like intervals, like running early in the morning and don’t want to give up more time in the morning before work. Unfortunately, I’ve managed to pick up an injury after completing the first week when I ran a 5K. It was my fastest 5K ever and I think that was the problem.

27:27 5K pb

The injury is the same as the one that stopped me in my tracks in December. It’s a strained left calf muscle and I worked out in November that it was caused by running too much, too quickly in the program. I figure I’m once again running too fast, too quick and have aggravated the same muscle. I need to slow down and build speed and distance more slowly but first I need to rest and heal.

Initially I decided to walk on my run days but that’s taking a full hour and isn’t really resting my calf. Instead I’ve decided to take on the 30 Days of Biking challenge for the month of August, making it into a 31 Days of Biking. I’m going to keep getting up before work for a 25km/1 hour spin and keep up my longer spins on my days off. In 2017 I managed 1500km and I’ve only hit 1000km three times ever, with the last time being May 2017, so I’m also setting a distance target of 1000km for August just to keep me fully focused each week. It may seem odd to increase my cycling activity to rest my leg but cycling and running use quite different muscles or at least the same ones in different ways.

So far I’m off to a good start with an early morning 25km yesterday and a 74km spin this afternoon to the Ghost House. Tomorrow is a Bank Holiday so I’m planning to add another slightly longer spin to keep me ahead of schedule for the month.

The plan is to be a lot fitter and stronger by the start of September and ready to get back running again.


Skin (Jack Caffrey #4, Flea Marley #2) by Mo Hayder.

From Goodreads:

When the decomposed body of a young woman is found by near railway tracks just outside Bristol one hot May morning, all indications are that she’s committed suicide. That’s how the police want it too: all neatly squared and tidied away.

But DI Jack Caffery is not so sure. He is on the trail of someone predatory, someone who hides in the shadows and can slip into houses unseen.

And for the first time in a very long time, he feels scared.

Police Diver Flea Marley is working alongside Caffery. Having come to terms with the loss of her parents, and with the traumas of her past safely behind her, she’s beginning to wonder whether their relationship could go beyond the professional.

And then she finds something that changes everything. Not only is it far too close to home for comfort – but it’s so horrifying that she knows that nothing will ever be the same again.

And that this time, no one – not even Caffery – can help her …

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This picks up the story a few days after the conclusion of Ritual. At first it seems like it’s going to be a familiar murder/detective story with a bit of a development of a relationship between Jack and Flea before the author drops a hand grenade in the middle of Flea’s life. This seems so out of the blue that it appears completely unbelievable at first. However, once you let this feeling go it’s a very dark counterpoint to Jack’s story and there is an excellent depiction of how Flea deals with the stress and adapts to prevent her life from being completely destroyed.

Jack’s story is also quite good and I really enjoyed how the author blended and intertwined the stories while telling them from separate points of view. Right up to the very end I wasn’t quite sure how Jack was going to jump.

On top of Flea and Jack’s stories you then have the slightly mystical/supernatural elements of The Walking Man and the remaining African occult storyline from the previous book. All of these are expertly put together to create a book that really is unlike any other I’ve read.

Header image by Ricardo Esquivel from Pexels