Tag Archives: books

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.

Header image by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

heretic

Heretic (Grail Quest #3) by Bernard Cornwell

From Goodreads:

Already a seasoned veteran of King Edward’s army, young Thomas of Hookton possesses the fearlessness of a born leader and an uncanny prowess with the longbow. Now, at the head of a small but able band of soldiers, he has been dispatched to capture the castle of Astarac. But more than duty to his liege has brought him to Gascony, home of his forebears and the hated black knight who brutally slew Thomas’s father. It is also the last place where the Holy Grail was reported seen. Here, also, a beautiful and innocent, if not pious, woman is to be burned as a heretic. Saving the lady, Genevieve, from her dread fate will brand Thomas an infidel, forcing them to flee together across a landscape of blood and fire. And what looms ahead is a battle to the death that could ultimately shape the future of Christendom.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I’ve read very little historical fiction over the years but I’m very much enjoying this series. While the characters and the majority of events are fictional it’s nicely set in among actual events that are at least familiar if not well known.

Thomas’ character is also interesting. He’s a merciless killer but also with a strong moral code and honour system. His character, as well as Guy Vexille and even Abbot Planchard are used as a way to criticise the Church structure, systems and corruption but not in an overly intrusive way.

While there is more of Thomas’ story to come I was pleased to see a closure of the grail story arc. Too many authors take an idea and beat it to death over a prolonged period of time. Whatever is in store for Thomas, it will be a different story.

Header image by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

camino sunrise – walking with my shadows

Camino Sunrise – Walking With My Shadows by Reginald Spittle

From Goodreads:

Walk? 500 miles? Across Spain? We can’t do that!
And so began the journey of a lifetime for Reg Spittle.

An outwardly well-adjusted professional and family man, Reg was a master of disguising a lifetime of debilitating anxiety that undermined his self-confidence.

Recently retired, he never dreamed he’d soon find himself chasing distant boundaries across a foreign land, sleeping in dorm bunks and sharing bathrooms as if he were a teenager experiencing his gap year.

When tragedy strikes, Reg reluctantly accepts his wife’s challenge to carry his red backpack on the historic Camino de Santiago, confronting past fears and humiliations, while packing weighty new worries.

Self-reflection, humor, and a recurring cast of characters create the backdrop for a story of hope in Camino Sunrise: Walking With My Shadows.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This is the first book written by the author but I have already read his second book that details his later treks. This is the story of how it all began.

The book is an enjoyable account of the Camino experience. It’s very different from the PCT and AT endurance treks I’ve enjoyed in lots of other books but it’s most certainly a challenge in its own right. I found that the book captured a sense of sharing and camaraderie that seems more personal on the Camino compared to the other treks. The author describes his Camino “Family” and the spirit of this definitely comes across. This subtle difference may be due to the kind of trekker that is attracted to the different trails. The people Reg and Sue met were older in general while the PCT and AT seemed to be predominantly younger trekkers.

The book is also a very personal and private struggle for the author as the Camino experience brings his life-long struggles with anxiety to the fore. Even contemplating and agreeing to attempt the trek is a massive challenge for him. Throughout the book he describes events through his childhood that led to anxiety in his adult life and how he hopes that post-Camino Reg will be a different person to pre-Camino Reg.

At times I felt the personal stories uncomfortable. I was lucky to have a much happier childhood but many of the struggles he describes were very familiar. At the time I simply put it down to shyness and social awkwardness but it made me realise that anxiety that I sometimes struggle with in adulthood was there during my childhood too. Recognising this shook me a bit. Maybe this was my own Camino journey in a very small way.

Header image by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

the cold dish

The Cold Dish (Walt Longmire #1) by Craig Johnson

From Goodreads:

Walt Longmire, sheriff of Wyoming’s Absaroka County, knows he’s got trouble when Cody Pritchard is found dead. Two years earlier, Cody and three accomplices had been given suspended sentences for raping a Northern Cheyenne girl. Is someone seeking vengeance? Longmire faces one of the more volatile and challenging cases in his twenty-four years as sheriff and means to see that revenge, a dish that is best served cold, is never served at all.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I’ve been watching the TV series (Longmire) based on these books over the last few months and having totally finished the series I decided to give the original books a try. Overall I’m very impressed and think they will get even better as they go.

It’s obvious to see the influences of the book on the TV show but there are many differences between the characters in terms of personality, description and even their back story. It took me a little while to get used to this especially with the TV characters so visible in my mind but the quality of the writing and the great story building soon swept me along.

The ending really caught me out, I was worried that I would guess from the TV show but it’s definitely very different. If you watched the TV show then I’d definitely recommend the books. If you haven’t then I’d still recommend them and the show both!

Header image by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

trippin’ through my 60s

Trippin’ Through My 60s by Reginald Spittle

From Amazon:

As a child of the Sixties, Reg Spittle was no stranger to unrest and rebellion. So it was no surprise that, at age 60, when he closed his office door for the last time and left the working world behind, his restlessness would lead him to a path less traveled.

Trippin’ Through My 60s is a lighthearted look at how Reg discovered and pursued his passion for trekking along four famed European long-distance trails:

  • Scotland’s West Highland Way
  • The Alps’ Tour du Mont Blanc
  • Italy’s Way of St. Francis
  • England’s South West Coast Path

Unexpected challenges, wrong turns, and humor evoke memories of life in the Sixties and create the backdrop for Reg’s adventures as he tackles backpacking escapades that push him to the edge.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I’ve been following Reg’s blog for quite a while now (Books and my Backpack) and enjoy his reviews and recommendations of books by other authors. He mentions his own two books occasionally but isn’t pushy with them. However, I’ve been meaning to check them out for quite a while now. Recently, I spotted this book, his second, on Amazon and added it to my reading list.

This book covers four trekking trips that Reg and his wife Sue undertook in their retirement. I was particularly interested as the first two treks were The West Highland Way and The Tour de Mont Blanc. I was interested to see how they coped with the challenge of these two tough trails.

Reg has a very casual and relaxed way of writing. Even when he and his wife are struggling to cope with the conditions and demands of the trail he seems to be able to retain good spirits and take the best from every situation.

I very much enjoyed those first two treks as I’ve watched some YouTube videos of walkers on the West Highland Way and canoeists on the Great Glen Way. My visit to Switzerland in 2019 to Pierre’s house in Valais also involved a day trip to Chamonix which is where the Tour de Mont Blanc starts and finishes. Lots of the scenery and placenames were familiar and there was a real sense of adventure from their depiction.

The final two treks were also interesting but less adventurous than the first two. I also found the descriptions of these two trips a bit repetitive, especially the English trip which is why I dropped a star*

Overall I really enjoyed this book, Reg and his wife are inspiring to anyone considering long distance and multi day treks. They are living proof that age shouldn’t be a barrier to your dreams and that it’s never too late to chase them. I’d recommend this book to anyone with an interest in walking or the outdoors.

*I was very tempted to drop a second star due to his horrified reaction to eating smokey bacon crisps for the first time. My favourite flavour!

Header image by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

into the out of

Into The Out Of by Alan Dean Foster

From Goodreads:

An ancient evil…

They’re small and dark–and as elusive as a shadow under your bed or an unexplained creak in the night. But the shetani are beings of awesome power, a swarm of spirits stealing into our world from the Out Of to destroy the very fabric of reality.

A modern menace!

Only one man sees the growing danger. Olkeloki, an elder of the Maasai people, an African laibon with the knowledge to fight the shetani both in this world and its bizarre counterpart. But he must have help from two others if he is to stem the deadly tide–U.S. government agent Joshua Oak, a man all too used to combat, and Merry Sharrow, a courageous young woman braving demons of her own. Together, they must invade the very heart of a nightmare and–as spell-cast mayhem causes one earthly crisis after another–defeat the shetani in their own terror-strewn world

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

This was one of the first science fiction stories that I ever read and it really gave me a hunger for more. That was in my mid teens (late ’80s) and I have been wanting to read it again for quite some time now. I recently came across a digital version and added it to my reading list.

After more than 35 years of reading science fiction, fantasy and horror I found this early example of the genre quite dated. It starts well with an interesting concept, good characters and a good storyline. However, the second half of the book very quickly runs out of steam and becomes quite dull. There was huge scope for creating an alternative world (the out of) but it’s as if the author created a concept that he didn’t know how to handle and ended up with a poor shadow of the potential. With this he also lost grip of the characters and they quickly lost depth as well as my interest.

Despite its poor aging it was still worth a read even just for sentimentality but there are many better books out there that I’d recommend instead.

Header image by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

wild

Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Read by Laurel Lefkow

From Audible:

A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an 1100-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe and built her back up again. At 22, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. After her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State – alone. She had no experience as a long-distance hiker, and the trail was little more than an idea: vague, outlandish, and full of promise. But it was a promise of piecing together a life that had come undone. Strayed faces rattlesnakes and bears, intense heat and record snowfalls, and both the beauty and intense loneliness of the trail.

Wild vividly captures the terrors and pleasures of forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This is an excellent story! The summary above tells you enough about Cheryl’s life that she self-destructed after her Mother’s death but she writes a very eloquent and honest story about the details and what walking the PCT meant for her. I loved how she mixed in her past life story with the PCT story, it gave so much more depth to it all. This isn’t really a story about the PCT. It does provide a lot of details of the walk itself but it’s more a personal journey set on the PCT.

The narrator is also excellent. I still struggle a little with the convention of imitating voices and accents for characters but it doesn’t take away from the fact that she tells this story with warmth and passion as much as if it was her own story.

Stop reading this review and go listen to the book!

Header image source: fossbytes.com

catch up

I’ve been very quiet on here recently and although it’s been 3 weeks since I last posted it doesn’t mean that life has been quiet, quite the opposite in fact.

The last two weeks have been pretty momentous from a personal perspective. It’s all been very surreal but also very positive but I’m going to be annoyingly enigmatic and park that one for a little while yet. More details over the next couple of weeks but it’s consumed my time and thoughts for most of the last two weeks…

Shortly after my last post I took my buff for a proper walk and ticked off another of my 50 nearest summits by climbing Altnapaste. This is a hill I’ve been looking forward to for a while now and I had almost the perfect day for a hugely enjoyable walk.

view original post on instagram

I hope to write more about that soon as I also filmed the walk and have some footage to edit and post also.

Last week I had a good long walk around the local roads and laneways. I left it quite late in the day so was short on daylight but stopped in the forest and made myself a hot chocolate as the last of the daylight faded. It was a really enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon especially with a head that needed emptying out for a while.

view original post on strava

I also decided to take my camera on that walk and made a video for YouTube. I’m still learning and it’s far from perfect but the link is below if you want to have a look.

I’m still trying to work out why I’m doing the YouTube videos. I don’t fully understand my motivation for them. I don’t expect to be a YouTube star (although humble beginnings and all that) and I don’t have any great insights to impart but so far I am enjoying the extra element it brings to days out as well as the editing and post production process. As long as that stays true I think I’ll keep at it.

Despite my lack of book reports I’ve kept reading. I finished a very good book called The Gold Coast by Nelson DeMille that took me just over a week to read. I’m a pretty fast reader so this was one of the longest books I’ve read for a while. It continues the trend of reading books that I have read before but many years ago.

My current read is a new author for me and it’s the first in a series. The Northern Lights by Philip Pullman. So far I’m enjoying it even though it was written for a much younger reader than me!

I’ve also started listening to audiobooks on my daily commute again. I recently finished Wild by Cheryl Strayed which was mentioned in an Outside Magazine article mentioned by another blogger (Reg Spittle: Books and my Backpack). This was a fantastic story and I’ll definitely give a more detailed review of that soon.

So, that’s been the last 3 weeks for me, 3 more and Xmas will be past. Hard to believe that we’ll finally be saying goodbye to 2021 soon and hopefully welcoming in a more enjoyable 2022…

Header image by Mike from Pexels