Author Archives: niall

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cycling less than i plan

50 states of the usa

“50 States of the USA” written and read by Anna McNuff

This post may contain spoilers.

It’s not commonplace that a good author also has the ability to be a good reader. Anna McNuff is brilliant at both! Not only is this an excellent description of her challenge but she reads it with passion and a huge sense of fun. She obviously loved her time during this book, revels in reliving it and it pumps out of the speakers. I’m totally convinced that this is a book enhanced by being an audiobook version.

I’ve read and listened to a number of books on endurance activities now. Most are based on long-distance hiking of the PCT or AT and a couple on long distance cycling. The most notable of the latter was Mark Beaumont’s story of his world record cycle round the world but this story has more in common with the best of the hiking stories I’ve listened to.

While many adventure stories focus on either the journey and the places encountered or the organisation of getting to and through the challenge this story is mostly about the people the author met along the way. While she camped plenty she managed to spend a lot of time staying with friends, friends of friends and hosts through the Warm Showers association which this story is an excellent advertisement for.

Throughout the book the author is continually surprised by the warmth and generosity of the people she meets but I’m positive that it is partly her own wonderful nature that brings this out in people she encounters.

If you want an uplifting experience and to hear an encouraging story about society in general but especially American society then this book is for you. It’s so nice to hear positive stories about America and especially small town America that seems to get bad press in many media.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

More on Goodreads and Audible.

Republished as “The United States of Adventure

Header image source: fossbytes.com

song of the week 28: fear of the dark

Fear of the Dark” by Iron Maiden

The title track of the 1992 album by the same name this track wasn’t released as a regular single but was released in 1993 as a live single to promote the live album “A Real Live One“.

The lyrics are about a man that is afraid of the dark but from a paranoid feeling of being watched rather than a phobia of the dark. It was apparently written by Steve Harris who had his own fear of the dark.

Lyrics

I am a man who walks alone
And when I’m walking a dark road
At night or strolling through the park

When the light begins to change
I sometimes feel a little strange
A little anxious when it’s dark

Fear of the dark
Fear of the dark
I have a constant fear that something’s always near
Fear of the dark
Fear of the dark
I have a phobia that someone’s always there

Have you run your fingers down the wall
And have you felt your neck skin crawl
When you’re searching for the light?
Sometimes when you’re scared to take a look
At the corner of the room
You’ve sensed that something’s watching you

Fear of the dark
Fear of the dark
I have a constant fear that something’s always near
Fear of the dark
Fear of the dark
Have a phobia that someone’s always there

Have you ever been alone at night
Thought you heard footsteps behind
And turned around and no one’s there?
And as you quicken up your pace
You find it hard to look again
Because you’re sure there’s someone there

Fear of the dark
Fear of the dark
I have a constant fear that something’s always near
Fear of the dark
Fear of the dark
have a phobia that someone’s always there

Fear of the dark
Fear of the dark
Fear of the dark
Fear of the dark

Fear of the dark
Fear of the dark
Fear of the dark
Fear of the dark

Watching horror films the night before
Debating witches and folklore
The unknown troubles on your mind
Maybe your mind is playing tricks
You sense and suddenly eyes fix
On dancing shadows from behind

Fear of the dark
Fear of the dark
I have a constant fear that something’s always near
Fear of the dark
Fear of the dark
Have a phobia that someone’s always there

Fear of the dark
Fear of the dark
I have a constant fear that something’s always near
Fear of the dark
Fear of the dark
Have a phobia that someone’s always there

When I’m walking a dark road
I am a man who walks alone

Click here for a playlist of all the songs in this series on Spotify

Header image from 8Tracks.com

dark sacred night

Dark Sacred Night (Harry Bosch #21, Renee Ballard #2) by Michael Connelly

This post may contain spoilers.

Connolly has created a superb character in detective Harry Bosch, supplemented that with his excellent half brother Mickey Haller and recently introduced a very intriguing new character with Renee Ballard. In this novel he brings Bosch and Haller together in one interlinked story.

This is an interesting concept. Bosch is well established as a bit of a lone wolf and with no hesitation about stepping outside of the line when circumstances require it. Ballard is also very much a loner. She is effectively homeless, working the unwanted night shift and with her dog as the only consistent relationship in her life. When we first met her we were given the impression that the “late show” was a punishment for lodging a harassment complaint against her former superior officer but in this book we get the strong message that she likes working it as she doesn’t have to interact with many other colleagues. In fact she’s particularly happy this time as she’s running solo with her partner off on leave. The author blends these two lone wolves together very well.

I particularly liked the way he took the chapters and focused them on one character at a time. Their stories overlap and become more and more entwined as the story progresses but it’s really good to see it told from the individual points of view. It also helps with the momentum of the plot as he brings them together more frequently as it picks up pace towards the end.

On top of all of this the author has created two very interesting cases to be worked. Bosch is working a cold case as a reserve officer with a local police force (San Fernando Valley) but trying to solve an old case of the brutal murder of Daisy Clayton. This has become particularly personal with Daisy’s mother now living in his house as she gets clean from her own battle with drug addiction. Ballard comes across Bosch and eventually takes on the Clayton investigation as a hobby case to work it officially from within LAPD.

This Clayton investigation is the basis of the recent Bosch: Legacy TV show which made this feel very familiar. As a fan of Bosch on TV I can’t help but overlay Titus Welliver’s portrayal on to the book character. Despite the huge variations it doesn’t cause any problems for me and in some ways, enhances the books.

I found the partnering of Bosch and Ballard very enjoyable in this book and it seems there are more to come. I would like to see Ballard getting another book of her own though as she is a brilliant character in her own right.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

More on Goodreads and Amazon.

Header image by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

song of the week 27: o fortuna

O Fortuna” by Carl Orff

  • Genre: Classical
  • First Performance Date: June 1937
  • From: “Carmina Burana

From Wikipedia:

“O Fortuna” is a medieval Latin Goliardic poem which is part of the collection known as the Carmina Burana, written early in the 13th century. It is a complaint about Fortuna, the inexorable fate that rules both gods and mortals in Roman and Greek mythology.

In 1935–36, “O Fortuna” was set to music by German composer Carl Orff as a part of “Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi”, the opening and closing movement of his cantata Carmina Burana. It was first staged by the Frankfurt Opera on 8 June 1937. It opens at a slow pace with thumping drums and choir that drops quickly into a whisper, building slowly in a steady crescendo of drums and short string and horn notes peaking on one last long powerful note and ending abruptly.

“O Fortuna” has been used in numerous films and TV commercials. In my head I had it firmly associated with Damien from the film series “The Omen” but it seems that it was never actually used in that film! I’d love to know how that has become some firmly planted in my mind?

Lyrics

Latin

O Fortuna
Velut luna
Statu variabilis
Semper crescis
Aut decrescis;
Vita detestabilis
Nunc obdurat
Et tunc curat
Ludo mentis aciem,
Egestatem,
Potestatem
Dissolvit ut glaciem.
Sors immanis
Et inanis,
Rota tu volubilis
Status malus,
Vana salus
Semper dissolubilis,
Obumbrata
Et velata
Michi quoque niteris;
Nunc per ludum
Dorsum nudum
Fero tui sceleris.
Sors salutis
Et virtutis
Michi nunc contraria,
est affectus
et defectus
semper in angaria.
Hac in hora
Sine mora
Corde pulsum tangite;
Quod per sortem
Sternit fortem,
Mecum omnes plangite!

English

O Fortune,
like the moon
you are changeable,
ever waxing,
ever waning,
hateful life
first oppresses
and then soothes
as fancy takes it;
poverty
and power
it melts them like ice
fate – monstrous
and empty,
you whirling wheel,
you are malevolent,
well-being is vain
and always fades to nothing,
shadowed
and veiled
you plague me too;
now through the game
I bring my bare back
to your villainy
fate is against me
in health
and virtue,
driven on
and weighted down,
always enslaved.
so at this hour
without delay
pluck the vibrating strings;
since Fate
strikes down the strong man,
everyone weep with me!

Click here for a playlist of all the songs in this series on Spotify

Header image from 8Tracks.com

murder hole beach

The original plan for today was to go for a hillwalk but waking up this morning with congested sinuses for the second day in a row I decided to call it off. I think the recent high temps and hayfever are to blame and with temps forecasted in the high 20s today I didn’t think it would be enjoyable.

During the week we bought a new (to us) car so we figured today would be a good day to head out for a longer drive to get a really good feel for it and to visit a place we’ve heard a lot about but have never visited.

Murder Hole Beach is officially called Boyeeghter Bay or Boyeeghter Strand but known locally by the gruesome name. Two theories why include the death of a girl in the 1800s that fell to her death from the cliffs and the dangerous currents that make the bay unsuitable for swimming. It is known as the most beautiful beach in Donegal and possibly Ireland.

Accessing the beach used to require crossing private land and playing chicken with a bull but another landowner has now put in a gravel path and a car park. €5 gets you access to both for the day and it’s more than worth it.

Although the path is better it’s still a pretty strenuous climb going most of the way up and over Meelmore Hill before crossing farmland to the beach. Today as we climbed the hill we could hear the roar of a large helicopter and it turned out someone had got into difficulty either in the waves or on the rocks and had to be airlifted off by the coastguard.

Thankfully he walked out of the helicopter with only his dignity hurt.

Over the last little rise and we were treated to the most perfect of beach views.

I could see why it’s not suitable for swimming. The beach shelves off very quickly and although there was barely a breath of wind today there were quite large breakers and a series of much bigger waves every so often. An unwary swimmer could very easily get into trouble here!

These bay is also a geologist’s wet dream with visible rock strata and a cave. Unfortunately we couldn’t get in today due to the tide but that’s just another reason to come back.

© max molloy

On the way back we passed the ruin of an old house/farm building with a large bramble bush in blossom.

Also on the way back I realised that the path passed just below the summit of Meelmore Hill and I couldn’t resist the short scramble up to the top. It’s only approx 70m above sea level but the views were amazing.

For some reason the arcane system of classifying hills (something to do with prominence that I really don’t need to understand) means that this summit isn’t listed for logging on Mountainviews.ie but I’m still glad I went up to the top.

A quick stop on the way home for a 99 made the afternoon pretty much perfect 👌

daylight

Daylight (Attlee Pine #3) by David Baldacci

This post may contain spoilers.

Not a bad book but just very formulaic and dull. This series is starting to feel like it should have been two maybe three books but has been stretched out to four.

Don’t get me wrong, there are loads of twists and turns and plenty of action with people getting shot, abducted, murdered and buildings blown up, there’s a massive blackmail scheme involving politicians, judges and cops but it’s still dull. I get the feeling that the author has a formula for writing by now but has no passion for it any longer.

To try and spice up the bizarre relationship between Pine and her grandmother style sidekick, Carol Blum, the author brings in the Pullers. John Puller’s investigation crosses Pine’s and they soon figure they need to work together. The second Puller brother, Robert, also gets pulled in and we have a sad scene between John and his father. Despite bringing these guys into the story it can’t seem to raise the excitement levels at all.

In the second book I found the character of Carol Blum to be very unrealistic. If anything she has become even more so in this one, following Pine around like a sad shadow of a mother and seemingly only useful as a sounding board for Pine to work through theories, come to conclusions and move the story ahead to the next step on the author’s plot list.

I will read the last installment but, as my only interest now lies in how they manage to complete Mercy’s story, I’m in no rush.

More on Goodreads and Amazon.

My Rating: ⭐⭐

Header image by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

dragon keeper

Dragon Keeper (Rain Wilds Chronicles #1) by Robin Hobb

This post may contain spoilers.

I’m a fan of everything I’ve read from Robin Hobb but this is definitely one of the best fantasy books I’ve read for quite some time. The author takes elements from the three previous series Liveship Traders, Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies and focuses them all on the Rain Wilds. It’s also a perfect example of why you should take reviews by other people with a big pinch of salt as I’ve seen many reviewers pan this book.

The story is told from the point of view of three brand new characters and in a very pleasant change to the norm all three are female. The first is Alise, daughter of a lower status Trader family that catches the eye of a prestigious and wealthy Trader son. Her stroke of fortune soon becomes a marriage of loneliness and abuse but she manages to make an escape on an adventure to the Rain Wilds that looks like it will change her life for ever.

Thymara is a deformed child of the Rain Wilds that was saved at birth by her father. He went against all tradition by bringing her home when she had been left out to die because of her deformities. Unfortunately, she is shunned by the Rain Wilds community and has a very isolated and lonely life. She is given a suspiciously profitable chance to change her life when the Trader Council recruits a team of Rain Wilders to escort the new dragon population away from the ancient buried city of the Elderlings.

The third POV is one of the newly emerged dragons. Female dragon Sintara is the dragon form of serpent Sisquara from the earlier stories. Like the rest of the newly emerged dragons she spent much too long as a serpent, cocooned much too late in the year and emerged with deformities. Now abandoned by Tintaglia and unable to fly the dragons are stranded and have become a very unwelcome burden on the Rain Wilds.

Another dragon (Mercor who was Maulkin as a serpent) carries memories of the ancient city of Kelsingra (sounds very like the city Fitz visits via the travelling stones) and convinces the others to trick the Rain Wilds council into providing them assistance to reach there. This brings the three strands of the story together and we join them as they start the first part of their journey.

Most of the characters are new and the setting of the Rain Wilds is expanded much more than in previous books but there is a familiarity also that links the earlier stories. Add in cameo appearances by Althea, Brashan, Paragon and Malta and it creates a perfect mix of old and new. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this story develops further.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

More on Goodreads and Amazon.

Header image by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

white nights

White Nights (Shetlands #2) by Anne Cleeves

This post may contain spoilers.

We’re back on the Shetlands once again with DI Jimmy Perez thrown into the midst of an apparent suicide that quickly becomes a murder investigation. It’s set against the backdrop of Jimmy’s developing relationship with Fran and the complex relationships between the small community in an isolated area of Shetland called Biddista. The people living there include an eccentric, high flying but now reclusive artist, her nephew who is a celebrity fiddle player and a fantasy author.

The author does a great job of building a very enjoyable plot as Jimmy wends his way carefully through the complex and historical relationships in this small community discovering many long buried secrets along the way. I’ve seen one review describe this as more of a murder mystery than a detective thriller and I can see why.

The standout of this book is the wonderful depiction of the relationship between Kenny and Edith, how they started their relationship and how it developed over the years. I also particularly liked how she described how Kenny dealt with the grief of his long missing brother.

Roy Taylor, a senior detective from Inverness, also returns in this story. I thought he was a good addition to the first book but struggled to see how he fit in here. He didn’t add much to the story for me apart from a reason for Jimmy’s insecurity which I found jarring. Jimmy’s insecurity with Fran, a constant worry about how their relationship was developing, also felt wrong to me. It was these two elements that stopped me from giving it 5 stars.

Like all good murder mysteries there is a great final reveal. Many authors struggle to avoid a “Scooby Doo” type ending but Cleeves provides a fantastic surprise at the end of this story and one for me that I found very sad. There are no happy endings here but a wonderfully enjoyable book.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

More on Goodreads and Amazon.

Header image by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

song of the week 26: i’m shipping up to boston

I’m Shipping Up to Boston” by Dropkick Murphys

Taking inspiration from a fragment of lyrics in the archives of Woody Guthrie this is the band’s most successful single. To be honest it’s probably the only one I really listen too!

Although it was recorded and released long after I left university it brings back fond memories of leaping around to More Power to Your Elbow in the Student Union at Coleraine in the very early 90s.

Lyrics

I’m a sailor peg
And I’ve lost my leg
Climbing up the top sails
I’ve lost my leg!

I’m shipping up to Boston, whoa
I’m shipping up to Boston, whoa
I’m shipping up to Boston, whoa
I’m shipping off to find my wooden leg

I’m a sailor peg
And I’ve lost my leg
Climbing up the top sails
I’ve lost my leg!

I’m shipping up to Boston, whoa
I’m shipping up to Boston, whoa
I’m shipping up to Boston, whoa
I’m shipping off to find my wooden leg

Click here for a playlist of all the songs in this series on Spotify

Header image from 8Tracks.com