If you loved this book…

Sometimes you read a book and then think, “I wish I could find another book like that!” Well, here’s a visual representation of recommended books for your consideration. Joseph Arellano

If you loved this book…

The Other Wes Moore (nook book)

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The Short and Tragic Life (nook book)

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The Devil in the White City (nook book)

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Dead Wake (nook book)

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steve-jobs-nook-book

Read this one… (Release date: March 24, 2015)

Becoming Steve Jobs

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one day (nook book)

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US (nook book)

The Fault in Our Stars (nook book)

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Hotel on the Corner of (nook book)

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Blackberry Winter (nook book)

How to Be An American Housewife

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Everything I Never Told You (trade paper)

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The Year She Left Us

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Into Thin Air

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Buried in the Sky (nook book)

The Climb (nook book)

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Born to Run (nook book)

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What I Talk About (nook book)

Running and Being (nook book)

PRE book

If you loved this book…

Hounded

Be on the lookout for this one… (Release date: July 21, 2015)

David Rosenfelt dog

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Thunder and Lightning

My Father's Wives (nook book)

My Father’s Wives: A Novel by Mike Greenberg (William Morrow, 240 pages, $25.99)

“Just then a bolt of lightning…” Bob Dylan, “Drifter’s Escape.”

In My Father’s Wives, Jonathan Sweetwater lacks for nothing but an identity. He is the son of the larger-than-life senator, Percy Sweetwater, whose philandering cost him a shot at the presidency. Using money and the illusion of a perfect family life to cloak his inner insecurities, Jonathan meanders along, making money, riding charter jets, eating at the finest restaurants, and playing basketball during his lunch breaks. He eats so much fine food at so many restaurants that basketball is probably required to ensure that he actually fits on the jets.

Jonathan likes to play it safe. His ideal mate supports his inner need for security, which is, presumably, due to the torment he suffered as a child. Hence, he marries Claire. Claire does not invoke “lightning” (Greenberg’s analogy, not mine) as his previous incompatible flings had, but rather an endearing sense of calm – until the unthinkable happens and everything is up for grabs. (Don’t worry – Jonathan still manages to eat and drink well.)

Mired in self-doubt, Jonathan begins a quest to understand his father – which is actually an attempt to make sense of his own existence, by seeking out each of the five of his father’s wives that he does not call Mom. Editorial comment: Some people never learn.

Mike Greenberg of ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning tells a fine story in this, his second novel and fourth book (including the one he co-authored with co-host Mike Colic). At 223 pages, it is just the right length – not 100-plus pages or more longer than it needs to be, as is a fault of many contemporary novels. The human themes resonate enough that the indulgences of the main character, who thinks nothing of his octopus appetizers or 1%-er drinks, are surprisingly not off-putting or distracting.

My Father's Wives (back cover)

About 30 pages from the conclusion of the book, it starts to become obvious that Greenberg is setting up a non-end ending to the story, which is the biggest disappointment. Perhaps it is not totally out of place since Jonathan is a bit like Hamlet.

My Father’s Wives winds up being a good story despite the lack of a proper conclusion, but does it come with a moral or life’s lesson to be learned? Perhaps it is that lightning can strike more than once, or in more than one way.

Well recommended.

Dave Moyer

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Dave Moyer is an educator and the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel.

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Running Shoe Review: Topo Runventure

Topo-Athletic-Runventure

Is the Topo Runventure simply a trail running shoe or is it more?

Topo Athletic produces three types of shoes: for the road, for the gym, and for the trail. Topo makes three trail shoes: the MT (Mountain Trainer), the Oterro, and the Runventure. I decided to try out the Runventure, supplied by the company.

Topo Runventure-M-1

The Topo Runventure (sometimes listed online as the RunVenture or Run Venture) is a relatively lightweight minimalist-style trail runner. The shoe weighs 8.9 ounces and has a heel drop of only 2mm on a 19mm platform. What this means is that the shoe feels low to the ground, like a Merrell trail running shoe, and its structure encourages mid-foot landings: one actually lands on the lower forefoot or higher mid-foot.

When first putting on the shoe it feels comfortable to walk in, although the fit is a bit snug. A tight fit will likely be appreciated by the great majority of trail runners, although some, no doubt, will wish for a looser overall fit. The shoe is built on a semi-curved last, and presumably is slip-lasted although that’s not certain since the insole is glued onto the shoe’s base, racing-flat style.

Initially I was worried that the shoe looks short, a half-size up from walking shoe size, but there’s plenty of space upfront for toes – so much so that one’s toes may feel like they’re on vacation! Splay away at will. The minor downside of the Runventure’s somewhat unique experience is that the model has a quasi-Eskimo shoe appearance. Better this than black or lost toenails.

There’s a flex groove in the forefoot that provides a surprising amount of flexibility for a trail shoe. This will be appreciated by those with inflexible feet, and those whose toes like to grab – or attempt to grab, at the surface below.

The Runventure feels great when blasting away on a gravel-covered dirt trail. It’s not a quick-feeling shoe but it’s very steady and protective. If blindfolded, I would have guessed that I was wearing a Nike trail running shoe. That feel may be enhanced by the Nike-type one piece sole, meaning that the heel strike feels indistinct (although, interestingly, one feels the heel when walking in this shoe). The heel cushioning is not substantial but it is sufficient.

The shoe feels quicker on asphalt where it supplies an unexpected bounce and energy return dividend. It feels fast, like a typical lightweight trainer, on concrete. On a hard rock dirt trail, the Runventure is stable, secure and protective, thanks to having a molded full-length midsole rock plate – yes, that’s a thermoplastic urethane (TPU) plate – placed between the midsole and outsole.

On a hard-packed dirt trail, the shoe is an off-road version of a Mazda Miata/MX-5 – it will take you where you want to go, quickly and almost instinctively. The Runventure makes for a very confident striker on a track. While the shoe won’t let you bounce on your toes, you can land on your heels or on the mid-foot or on the balls of your feet. Thanks to the TPU plate, one’s metatarsals are well protected.

Topo Runventure sole

The success of the shoe in dealing with multiple surfaces is due in part to a hybrid “All Terrain Sole” that’s nubby enough for urban and country trails but flat enough for city surfaces. The Runventure shines on a fire road; in fact, it’s my all-time favorite fire road runner! While you may encounter a few big rocks or tree roots on such a trail, the shoe’s protective construction means that your feet will not wind up beaten up or bruised. This translates into piece of mind, and additional miles in the training log.

You may note that I moved back and forth between many types of surfaces in testing this shoe. That’s because its hybrid nature allows one to do so. It’s actually both a trail and road shoe; a town, country and city model.

Verdict:

The Topo Runventure will work well for runners who like a well-rounded, versatile shoe that they can use to walk, run or train in no matter where they are or where they’re headed. And this, undoubtedly, includes the gym.

If you’ve run in Merrell trail shoes but feel the need for more cushioning, protection and stability, the Runventure should do the trick. It’s a minimalist-style shoe that feels more mainstream and traditional in action. As a result, most runners should be able to use the Runventure as both a training shoe and a 5K to marathon distance shoe.

It should be kept in mind that the Runventure was produced for trail running. Those who attack their local nature trails, fire roads and dirt trails on weekends may find that it meets their needs quite well. And some who run ultramarathons may find that the shoe will comfortably transport them anywhere from 5K to 50 miles, or more.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

This review first appeared on the Blogcritics site:

http://blogcritics.org/running-shoe-review-topo-runventure/

The Topo Runventure sells for $110.00.

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Welcome to the Boomtown

Epitaph

Epitaph: A Novel of the O.K. Corral by Maria Doria Russell (Ecco, $27.95, 581 pages)

“He upheld the law until he took it into his own hands and crushed it.”

It was all over in 30 seconds. Such was the case with the infamous 1881 gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. This novel both explains and dramatizes the events leading up to the death of three outlaws, killed by the Earp Brothers and Doc Holliday. It is also a detailed biography of Wyatt Earp, a man who was a paragon of the law before he became as much a criminal as those he hunted down and killed.

What Mary Doria Russell makes crystal clear in her account is that Wyatt Earp was far from the noble, perfect human being portrayed by actor Hugh O’Brien in the TV show The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp (1955-1961). However, in fairness, Russell helps us understand how few could have withstood the pressures that Earp was under in his time – living in a once-prosperous town going under. Tombstone was a mining and gambling former boom town ruled by Cow Boys – real-life villains, who took pleasure in harassing good people. Today, the Cow Boys might be considered violent gang members or domestic terrorists.

Wyatt Earp eventually lost the right to wear a badge and white hat. This is the engaging, fascinating and sometimes depressing story of a flawed – deeply flawed, American legend.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book was released on March 3, 2015.

Maria Doria Russell also wrote Doc: A Novel, a fictional biography of Doc Holliday.

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Coming Up Next…

Epitaph horizontal

epitaph-hc-c

A review of Epitaph: A Novel of the O.K. Corral by Maria Doria Russell.

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Saved by Zero

Finding Zero

Finding Zero: A Mathematician’s Odyssey to Uncover the Origins of Numbers by Amir D. Aczel (Palgrave, $26.00, 256 pages)

Each of us has a personal passion, maybe one that lingers from childhood, or is triggered by a chance encounter. For Amir Aczel, son of a passenger ship captain, numbers are at the center of his life’s work. As a child he traveled with his family during school breaks on his father’s ships. Navigation and the way ships follow a course fascinated him. Thus began a lifelong fascination with numbers and their origins.

A prolific author of twenty books – including Fermat’s Last Theorem, Aczel is also part-time lecturer in Mathematics at the University of Massachusetts, Boston and a research fellow at the Boston University Center for Philosophy and History of Science. Finding Zero is his own story – an autobiography of sorts. Aczel does not romanticize his quest for the origin of the zero; rather, his is a straightforward telling. Although he narrates the story of his life, it is by no means dry or self-centered.

Aczel’s unusual upbringing included exposure to historic places and above all, the joy of travel. The adults in his life encouraged his curiosity. Aczel became a person whose goal is to see for himself – IRL, in real life. Finding Zero is the journal of his years-long journey through the most ancient parts of human civilization where numbers were first used. The goal was simple, find the first use of the zero. But that’s not as simple as it seems.

Finding Zero rear cover

The reader will appreciate Aczel’s direct and easy-to-read style of writing. A highly-educated man who teaches and researches in well-regarded academic institutions, Aczel does not aggrandize his work, or engage in puffery. He provides a unique perspective on numbers and illustrates how fundamentally math is a basic part of human lives, both in the past and in the present.

Well recommended.

Ruta Arellano

Finding Zero alternate

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book was released on January 6, 2015.

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(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

1965

1965: The Most Revolutionary Year in Music by Andrew Grant Jackson (Thomas Dunne Books, $27.99, 352 pages)

1965 could have been a direct, engaging and entertaining account of that year’s music. Instead, this nonfiction story begins with Acknowledgements, a Selected Time Line, an Introduction, and a Prologue before it actually starts. The ending is, naturally, followed by an Epilogue. And instead of simply discussing the music of the 12-month period, Andrew Grant Jackson proceeds to attempt to cover all of the political and social developments of the time, with far too much attention paid to psychedelic drugs. (Boring, “oft-covered” territory.)

One or two factual errors might be excusable, as Jackson was not alive when these events occurred. But there are far too many in 1965. Jackson writes that the Beatles tried to out-jingle-jangle the Byrds with the song “Nowhere Man.” No, it was George Harrison’s “If I Needed Someone.” He lists the Beatles’ “Think For Yourself” as a song about politics and free expression. No, it was a break-up song. He writes that the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Daydream” was a remake of “Baby Love” by the Supremes. Not even close. And he cites “Sloop John B” by the Beach Boys as a drug song. It was a remake of a West Indies traditional folk song earlier recorded by the rather benign, innocent Kingston Trio.

There are other statements that are questionable. Jackson writes, for example, that the Rolling Stones based their single “Paint It Black” on “My World Is Empty Without You” by the Supremes. Maybe, maybe not. One of the highly doubtful statements made by Jackson is that Brian Wilson based his classic song “God Only Knows” on the lightweight song “You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice” by the Spoonful. C’mon, now.

1965 is also plagued with no small amount of repetition. Jackson often makes the claim that specific rock song introductions were based on Bach’s classical music. In a couple of instances, he is likely right, but he goes on to state that this is the case for a large number of songs. Again, this is questionable.

beatles-1965-granger

Every now and then Jackson does uncover something of interest. He may have discovered the song that Paul McCartney heard as a very young boy in the early 50s, which subconsciously inspired him to write “Yesterday.” Well, maybe.

The book’s subtitle claims that 1965 was the most revolutionary year in rock music. Really? Pet Sounds and Blonde on Blonde and Aftermath were released in 1966, and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band followed in 1967. I’d argue that these were the most significant, revolutionary years in rock music.

One final point is that Jackson often attempts to connect one type of music to everything else, musically and otherwise. You can love the music that Frank Sinatra recorded in the 60s without tying it to what the Beatles, Bob Dylan or the Rolling Stones were doing at the time. There are different types of music, and some music is created without reference to the political struggles or happenings of the time.

1965 is a book that had a lot of potential. Due to its strangely formal structure and its errors, the potential was largely wasted.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book was released on February 3, 2015.

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