wit’chstorm

Wit’chstorm (The Banned and Banished #2) by James Clemens

From Goodreads:

Elena bears the mark of the wit’ch upon her palm, the crimson stain that testifies to the awesome power of unimaginable potency: wild seductive, and difficult to control. Only a mistress of blood magick can stand against the foul minions and all-corrupting evil of the Dark Lord. But Elena is not yet the mistress of her magick. Protected by an ageless warrior and a band of renegades, she quests for a lost city where prophecies speak of a mystic tome that holds the key to the Dark Lord’s defeat. But if the Dark Lord finds her first, Elena will become his most fearsome weapon.

A different form of power touches Sy-wen, girl-child of an ocean-dwelling clan that bonds-mates to the terrible and majestic sea dragons. But bonds more ancient still tie Sy-wen to the land she does not know, to a man she has never seen…and to a legend asleep in stone deep beneath A’loa Glen-a legend beginning to wake.

Now, as Elena and Sy-wen converge on A’loa Glen from land and sea, will the forces they unleash lead to a future of freedom-or an eternity under the Dark Lord’s yoke? 

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This picks up directly from the first book and after the first quarter I was starting to wonder how the story was going to last through 5 books without getting repetitive and potentially boring. Then there is a massive injection of new characters and storylines that really ramp up the complexity. Particularly liked how everything was brought together at the end of this chapter and looking forward to seeing how it develops further through the rest of the books. Although I read this series a long time ago I remember very little about the story except that it was good.

The section of the story with the Swamp Wit’ch reminded me quite a lot of Shota and Richard from the Sword of Truth series. The characters and stories are different but it just felt very familiar for some reason.

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song of the week 18: the razor’s edge

The Razor‘s Edge” by AC/DC

For many AC/DC’s standout single is Thunderstruck. It gets a lot of attention for the thumping bass, drums and guitar riffs and rightly so. However, this unreleased title track in my opinion, is equally as good if not even better than Thunderstruck. The guitar on this beats anything else I’ve heard from AC/DC.

Lyrics

There’s fighting on the left
And marching on the right
Don’t look up in the sky
You’re gonna die of fright

Here comes the razor’s edge

You’re living on the edge
Don’t know wrong from right
They’re breathing down your neck
You’re running out of lives

And here comes the razor’s edge
Here comes the razor’s edge

The razor’s edge

(Razor’s edge)
To raise the dead
(Razor’s edge)
To cut to shreds

To raise the dead

Here comes the razor’s edge
Here comes the razor’s edge

Well, here it comes
To cut to shreds
The razor’s edge

It’s the razor’s edge
On the razor’s edge
That you’ll be cut to shreds
Got a razor’s edge
By the razor’s edge

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song of the week 17: white america

White America” by Eminem

  • Genre: Political Hip Hop/Rap Rock
  • Single Release Date: Album Only
  • Album: “The Eminem Show

Eminem pushing as many buttons as possible and trying to create controversy to sell records as only he can do. I’m not usually a fan of hip hop or rap but there’s something about this album that I keep coming back to.

Lyrics

America, hahaha, we love you
How many people are proud to be citizens
Of this beautiful country of ours, the stripes and the stars
For the rights that men have died for to protect?
The women and men who have broke their necks
For the freedom of speech
The United States government has sworn to uphold
(Yo, I want everybody to listen to the words of this song)
Or so we’re told

I never would’ve dreamed in a million years I’d see
So many motherfuckin’ people who feel like me
Who share the same views and the same exact beliefs
It’s like a fucking army marching in back of me

So many lives I touched, so much anger aimed
In no particular direction, just sprays and sprays
And straight through your radio waves, it plays and plays
‘Til it stays stuck in your head, for days and days

Who would’ve thought, standing in this mirror, bleaching my hair
With some peroxide, reaching for a t-shirt to wear
That I would catapult to the forefront of rap like this?
How could I predict my words would have an impact like this?

I must’ve struck a chord with somebody up in the office
‘Cause Congress keep telling me I ain’t causing nothin’ but problems
And now they’re saying I’m in trouble with the government
I’m loving it, I shoveled shit all my life, and now I’m dumping it on

White America, I could be one of your kids
White America, little Eric looks just like this
White America, Erica loves my shit
I go to TRL, look how many hugs I get

White America, I could be one of your kids
White America, little Eric looks just like this
White America, Erica loves my shit
I go to TRL, look how many hugs I get

Look at these eyes, baby blue, baby just like yourself
If they were brown, Shady’d lose, Shady sits on the shelf
But Shady’s cute, Shady knew Shady’s dimples would help
Make ladies swoon, baby (ooh, baby)
Look at my sales

Let’s do the math, if I was black, I woulda sold half
I ain’t have to graduate from Lincoln High School to know that
But I could rap, so fuck school, I’m too cool to go back
Give me the mic, show me where the fucking studio’s at

When I was underground no one gave a fuck I was white
No labels wanted to sign me, almost gave up, I was like
“Fuck it, ” until I met Dre, the only one to look past
Gave me a chance and I lit a fire up under his ass

Helped him get back to the top, every fan black that I got
Was probably his in exchange for every white fan that he’s got
Like damn, we just swapped, sitting back looking at shit, wow
I’m like my skin is it starting to work to my benefit now? it’s-

White America, I could be one of your kids
White America, little Eric looks just like this
White America, Erica loves my shit
I go to TRL, look how many hugs I get

White America, I could be one of your kids
White America, little Eric looks just like this
White America, Erica loves my shit
I go to TRL, look how many hugs I get!

See, the problem is I speak to suburban kids
Who otherwise woulda never knew these words exist
Whose moms probably woulda never gave two squirts of piss
‘Til I created so much motherfucking turbulence

Straight out the tube, right into your living rooms I came
And kids flipped when they knew I was produced by Dre
That’s all it took, and they were instantly hooked right in
And they connected with me too, because I looked like them

That’s why they put my lyrics up under this microscope
Searching with a fine tooth comb, it’s like this rope
Waiting to choke, tightening around my throat
Watching me while I write this, like, “I don’t like this note”

All I hear is, lyrics, lyrics, constant controversy
Sponsors working round the clock to try to stop my concerts early
Surely hip-hop was never a problem in Harlem, only in Boston
After it bothered the fathers of daughters starting to blossom

So now I’m catching the flak from these activists when they ragging
Actin’ like I’m the first rapper to smack a bitch or say “faggot, ” shit
Just look at me like I’m your closest pal
The posterchild, the motherfucking spokesman now, for-

White America, I could be one of your kids
White America, little Eric looks just like this
White America, Erica loves my shit
I go to TRL, look how many hugs I get

White America, I could be one of your kids
White America, little Eric looks just like this
White America, Erica loves my shit
I go to TRL, look how many hugs I get

So to the parents of America, I am the Derringer
Aimed at little Erica to attack her character
The ringleader of this circus of worthless pawns
Sent to lead the march right up to the steps of Congress
And piss on the lawns of the White House

To burn the – and replace it with a Parental Advisory sticker
To spit liquor in the faces of this democracy of hypocrisy
Fuck you, Ms. Cheney
Fuck you, Tipper Gore
Fuck you with the freest of speech
This Divided States of Embarrassment will allow me to have
Fuck you

Hahaha, I’m just playing, America
You know I love you

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death without company

Death Without Company (Walt Longmire #2) by Craig Johnson

From Goodreads:

Walt investigates a death by poison in this gripping novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Cold Dish and Dry Bones, the second in the Longmire Mystery Series, the basis for LONGMIRE, the hit Netflix original series

Fans of Ace Atkins, Nevada Barr and Robert B. Parker will love Craig Johnson, New York Times bestselling author of Hell Is Empty and As the Crow Flies, who garnered both praise and an enthusiastic readership with his acclaimed debut novel featuring Sheriff Walt Longmire, The Cold Dish, the first in the Longmire Mystery Series, the basis for LONGMIRE, now on Netflix.

Now Johnson takes us back to the rugged landscape of Absaroka County, Wyoming, for Death Without Company. When Mari Baroja is found poisoned at the Durant Home for Assisted Living, Sheriff Longmire is drawn into an investigation that reaches fifty years into the mysterious woman’s dramatic Basque past.

Aided by his friend Henry Standing Bear, Deputy Victoria Moretti, and newcomer Santiago Saizarbitoria, Sheriff Longmire must connect the specter of the past to the present to find the killer among them.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This was a cracking good read. It’s one of those books that was just so easy to read and I flew through it. After the first book I’ve now gotten over the differences between the book and TV show and just enjoying this new version of the same characters. I still picture the actors faces though when reading.

The standout from this book is the humour. Walt is very self-deprecating and has a very wry attitude to everything that happens to him – the bad and good equally! Vic also adds to this considerably. I’m definitely looking forward to the 3rd installment.

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the black ice

The Black Ice (Harry Bosch #2) by Michael Connelly

From Goodreads:

Narcotics office Cal Moore’s orders were to look into the city’s latest drug killing. Instead, he ends up in a motel room with a fatal bullet wound to the head and a suicide note stuffed in his back pocket.

Working the case, LAPD detective Harry Bosch is reminded of the primal police rule he learned long ago: don’t look for the facts, but the glue that holds them together.

Soon Harry’s making some very dangerous connections, starting with a dead cop and leading to a bloody string of murders that wind from Hollywood Boulevard to the back alleys south of the border. Now this battle-scarred veteran will find himself in the centre of a complex and deadly game – one in which he may be the next and likeliest victim.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Loved this, it’s Bosch at his best, fighting hard to get to the truth and giving the finger to the brass on the way. The author really builds Harry here as the lone wolf but also betrays his lonely side through his attraction to two different women. His back story is filled in quite significantly and we get to know the man behind the man.

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song of the week 16: terry’s song

Terry’s Song” by Bruce Springsteen

  • Genre: Rock
  • Single Release Date: Album only
  • Album: “Magic

This was a hidden track on the 2007 album release of Magic and was written as a tribute to Springsteen’s long-time assistant Terry Magovern who passed away in July 2007. Some early Sony releases of the album do not include this hidden track.

Springsteen performed Terry’s Song at Terry Magovern’s memorial service on August 2nd and is reported to have written it the day before when he couldn’t find an appropriate song to sing as a tribute to his friend. It was subsequently added to the album as a hidden track with no listing or details on any merchandise with a 10 sec delay following Devil’s Arcade.

Lyrics

Well they built the Titanic to be one of a kind, but many ships have ruled the seas
They built the Eiffel Tower to stand alone, but they could build another if they please
Taj Mahal, the pyramids of Egypt, are unique I suppose
But when they built you, brother, they broke the mold

Now the world is filled with many wonders under the passing sun
And sometimes something comes along and you know it’s for sure the only one
Mona Lisa, the David, the Sistine Chapel, Jesus, Mary, and Joe
And when they built you, brother, they broke the mold

When they built you, brother, they turned dust into gold
When they built you, brother, they broke the mold

They say you can’t take it with you, but I think that they’re wrong
‘Cause all I know is I woke up this morning, and something big was gone
Gone into that dark ether where you’re still young and hard and cold
Just like when they built you, brother, they broke the mold

Now your death is upon us and we’ll return your ashes to the earth
And I know you’ll take comfort in knowing you’ve been roundly blessed and cursed
But love is a power greater than death, just like the songs and stories told
And when she built you, brother, she broke the mold

That attitude’s a power stronger than death, alive and burning her stone cold
When they built you, brother,

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summer knight

Summer Knight (The Dresden Files #3) by Jim Butcher

From Goodreads:

HARRY DRESDEN — WIZARD

Lost items found. Paranormal Investigations. Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates.
No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment

Ever since his girlfriend left town to deal with her newly acquired taste for blood, Harry Dresden has been down and out in Chicago. He can’t pay his rent. He’s alienating his friends. He can’t even recall the last time he took a shower.

The only professional wizard in the phone book has become a desperate man.

And just when it seems things can’t get any worse, in saunters the Winter Queen of Faerie. She has an offer Harry can’t refuse if he wants to free himself of the supernatural hold his faerie godmother has over him–and hopefully end his run of bad luck. All he has to do is find out who murdered the Summer Queen’s right-hand man, the Summer Knight, and clear the Winter Queen’s name.

It seems simple enough, but Harry knows better than to get caught in the middle of faerie politics. Until he finds out that the fate of the entire world rests on his solving this case. No pressure or anything..

My Rating: ⭐⭐

Although I managed to get to the end I really struggled with this book. The storyline just didn’t work for me. The blend of fantasy and crime investigation just didn’t work, it was just too outlandish and unbelievable. The fantasy element was way off the scale and the frenetic pace of the story hampered my ability to get to grips with anything that was going on. I was just reading it on auto pilot most of the time!

According to Goodreads reviews the series improves a lot from the fourth book so I will keep going with it but after this I would be tempted to give it up.

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beating anxiety

Anxiety and dealing with it has been on my mind a lot recently. A recent event really annoyed me and then I read Reg Spittle’s book “Camino Sunrise”. I reviewed it a little while back but essentially he writes about walking the Camino and dealing with significant anxiety issues before and during the walk. He describes a lifetime of anxiety and how it affected his life, his interactions with others and how it prevented him taking part in many social events and activities.

His story really made me think. I’ve had a few issues with anxiety over the last number of years but thought it was a recent thing. However, a number of his memories made me look again at events when I was younger. I was always shy and socially awkward as a teenager and a young adult. I found it difficult to make friends (still do to a certain extent) and found new and unfamiliar people and events difficult to navigate. I would worry about what could or might happen, would be concerned about being unliked or doing something embarrassing that would leave me open to ridicule.

I vividly remember one event in my first year at college when I made arrangements to go to a student night club with a group. One of the girls was on my course and the others shared a house with her. We arranged for them to pick me up on the way as we were all walking and they passed my digs. I remember hiding in the house with the lights off, pretending not to hear them at the door and claiming the next day that I wasn’t feeling well and went to bed early. All of this was caused by an intense fear that I wouldn’t fit in with them.

Other small events come to mind over the years, usually to do with social events and you can imagine how difficult it was to start dating! I cringe now when I look back at the first few times I met girls that I liked but was frozen by a fear of rejection and humiliation.

In the last few years I’ve had episodes of anxiety linked to big events but also for surprisingly minor undertakings. I remember binning at least one Audax cycle due to a fear of not being able to complete the route and worry about getting stranded with no way home. In the last couple of weeks I had a similar experience that really annoyed me.

I’ve done a few short and reasonably easy hikes in the last year or so and I have been developing a hunger for more challenging mountain hikes again. I’ve rooted out all my old books and rediscovered a circuit of the Sruell Valley that goes into the heart of the Bluestack Mountains and includes the highest point along the way. I made plans and pencilled it in for one of my days off. I was really looking forward to this hike for the best part of a week and had everything lined up days in advance and even the weather looked good.

The day before this all changed. I started worrying about all the things that could go wrong. My fitness is shot to hell, I’m carrying 10kg more than I should and it’s been 10-15 years since I attempted a hike with this kind of challenge. I was worried about the remoteness of the walk and my total inexperience of an area I hadn’t walked in before.

The morning of the hike I had an early appointment and I also had to be finished and back home by a certain time. My early morning anxiety manifested itself in an upset stomach and when the morning appointment went on longer than expected I was in a high state of anxiety. I somehow managed to convince myself to go anyway but the whole way to the starting point I was running through reasons to call it off. One of my ingenious excuses was to lie and say it was too cloudy as I could see a lowish cloud base on the drive over. By the time I arrived at the start this actually was the case. A weather system had creeped in that consisted of steady, heavy drizzle and a very thick, dark and low bank of cloud over the whole range. I couldn’t see anything above 200m and it was foolish to contemplate the hike in those conditions.

Within 10min of making the decision to abandon the hike and on my way home I could physically feel the anxiety lifting. It was like someone opened a valve and let it all drain out. The knots in my stomach that had been there all morning unravelled and I felt like I was floating with the decision made for me. It brought a sense of relief but also huge anger. I was furious and felt that I’d let the anxiety beat me and simply used the weather as an easy escape. I’m still not sure if I did or not but it certainly opened my eyes to how anxiety could and had prevented me from doing something I should have enjoyed. Reading Reg’s book a few days later really brought it all home to me but also gave me an urge to beat it.

Within a day or so I’d come up with an alternative plan, to complete a different challenging hike of a similar level but one I had done before. In fact on the way home that first day I actually scouted out the start point for parking as I hadn’t been there for almost 15 years. On Sunday I did that hike.

barnesmore hike

It’s a hike up Barnesmore Gap climbing Croaghonagh from the steep side and descending by a very steep gully. The first few kilometres follow the track of the decommissioned Donegal Railways line that ran from Stranorlar through the Gap to Donegal Town from 1889 to 1959. Walking this track there is ample evidence of the old railway. There are many of the original telegraph poles still standing, there are stone retaining walls on the hill to protect from landslides as well as stone culverts to divert streams under the tracks. The ground is clearly modified to provide a flat surface for the railway and the gravel used to grade the line is still visible on many sections. There is a subtle feel underfoot of the regular humps where the sleepers would have sat to support the rails.

barnes gap c.1890 © wikipedia

1959 photo shoot © flickr

After approximately 3.5km a convenient sheep trail provides a reasonably easy location to cross the old stone wall and get access to the hill. This is where the hard work begins. The next 45min was a slog through deep grass and heather, dry and brittle from the winter winds and the last week of dry weather. This is trackless terrain that is best traversed using vague sheep trails to avoid the worst of the boggy ground and hidden holes that could easily result in a broken leg or twisted ankle. Around and between craggy outcrops, crossing a couple of small streams and climbing a steep, grassy ramp eventually gives you your first clear view of the summit having climbed approximately 280m in 2km. The final push to the summit dips and climbs across a mixture of peat hags, boggy grassland and eventually a short steep climb up an enjoyable rocky outcrop.

The rocky summit is spoiled by 3 masts surrounded by fences and support cables but the views are amazing. Despite the haze there were great views out over Lough Eske and Donegal Bay to St John’s Point and Slieve League just about visible in the far distance with the Dartry Mountains to the Southwest and Benwiskin and Benbulben clearly visible. Eastwards you are looking out over Lough Mourne and the bleak expanse of bogland stretching into Co. Tyrone as well as down the Finn Valley with the Sperrins clearly visible and the mountains of Inishowen in the far distance. Close by the craggy hulk of Croaghconnellagh looms just across Barnesmore Gap.

looking west

looking east

Lunch was had in the shelter of a large boulder with the wind thrumming through the mast cables sounding like a jet engine readying for take off. Out of the wind it was warm in the strong sunshine and I sat for almost 45min enjoying the view.

It’s possible to descend from the summit using the access track for the masts and forest tracks for approximately 5km. However, I opted for the much more direct option that follows a gully just below the summit that drops over the edge and the very steep drop back to the earlier approach trail. This is an incredibly steep and demanding descent that requires great care to choose the best line. Rushing here and a resulting trip or fall could have disastrous consequences. After the dry spell I probably had the best possible conditions for attempting it. Reaching the bottom my thighs and calves were throbbing with the effort and my knees were aching but looking back up I had an intense feeling of satisfaction for having done it.

The last 1.5km trace the original path in through the forest and back to the parking spot. A difficult, challenging but very rewarding hike.

interesting elevation profile

click here to view on strava

Update: 28th April

Video of my walk can be found here:

song of the week 15: smooth criminal

Smooth Criminal” by Alien Ant Farm

  • Genre: Nu Metal
  • Single Release Date: May 2001
  • Album: “Anthology

A cover version of Michael Jackson’s original hit released in 1988 and on his album “Bad“. One of those rare occasions when a cover version has more appeal for me than the original.

Unlike many other covers from other Nu Metal bands at the time, this was recorded as a compliment rather than a criticism of the original as the band were big fans of Michael Jackson. They initially played a few riffs at a live show and when the crowd went wild for it they played the whole thing and went on to record it on their second album.

Lyrics

As he came into the window
Was a sound of a crescendo
He came into her apartment
He left the bloodstains on the carpet
She was sitting at the table
He could see she was unable
So she ran into the bedroom
She was struck down
It was her doom

Annie, are you OK?
Are you OK?
Are you OK, Annie?
Annie, are you OK?
You OK?
Are you OK, Annie?
Annie, are you OK?
You OK?
You OK, Annie?
Annie, are you OK?
You OK?

Are you OK, Annie?

Annie, are you OK?
Will you tell us that you’re OK?
There’s a sign at the window
That he struck you
A crescendo, Annie
He came into your apartment
He left the bloodstains on the carpet
And then you ran into the bedroom

You were struck down
It was your doom

Annie, are you OK?
You OK?
Are you OK, Annie?
Annie, are you OK?
You OK?
Are you OK, Annie?
Annie, are you OK?
You OK?
Are you OK, Annie?

You’ve been hit by
You’ve been struck by
A smooth criminal

So they came into the outway
It was Sunday
What a black day
I could made a salutation
Sounding heartbeats
Intimidations

Annie, are you OK?
You OK?
Are you OK, Annie?
Annie, are you OK?
You OK?
Are you OK, Annie?
Annie, are you OK?

You OK?
Are you OK, Annie?
Annie, are you OK?
You OK?
Are you OK, Annie?

Annie, are you OK?
Will you tell us that you’re OK?
There’s a sign at the window
That he struck you
A crescendo, Annie
He came into your apartment
He left the bloodstains on the carpet
Then you ran into the bedroom
You were struck down
It was your doom

Annie, are you OK?
You OK?
Are you OK, Annie?

You’ve been hit by
You’ve been struck by
A smooth criminal

Annie, are you OK?
Will you tell us that you’re OK?
There’s a sign at the window
That he struck you
A crescendo, Annie
He came into your apartment
He left the bloodstains on the carpet
And then you ran into the bedroom
You were struck down
It was your doom

Annie, are you OK?
You OK?
Are you OK, Annie?
Annie, are you OK?
You OK?
Are you OK, Annie?
Annie, are you OK?
You OK?
Are you OK, Annie?
Annie, are you OK?
You OK?
Are you OK, Annie?

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