Ten Years After

Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism by Fumio Sasaki (Norton, $21.95, 259 pages)

goodbye things

Goodbye, Things was a good read.  Although I anticipated yet another primer on how to clear out the clutter in one’s life, it was also a memoir detailing author Fumio Sasaki’s discovery that his value in the world was not his possessions.  Sasaki had created a persona for himself that was a deep thinker who read tons of books, a connoisseur of food and wine, and a collector of rare, antique cameras.  He realized that he had been living for ten years in an apartment crammed full of stuff that he didn’t use.

Hundreds of books lined the shelves of the hallway and were piled up in the rest of the place and yet they went unread.  Sasaki knew the titles and authors’ names, but not much else.  An increasing number of CDs and DVDs were also part of the mix.  Antique cameras languished on shelves.  He didn’t even touch them.

By Sasaki’s own admission, the apartment was a dirty mess.  Food also played a part in his overstuffed life.  He gained weight by eating and drinking in excess while surrounded by stuff.  The weight gain led to increased feelings of worthlessness.  Sasaki constantly compared himself and his life situation to others he had known since college.  His value diminished when he did so.

As an editor for a small publisher, Sasaki had the basics of writing.  The publishing business was suffering because it relied upon blockbuster sales.  His livelihood was fading away.  At the same time, he became aware of the booming minimalist movement, and in particular author Marie Kondo.

Sasaki became energized by his need to change, both himself and his career.  He embraced minimalism and documented his process.  After whittling down his possessions to a drastic few, he’s now rethinking the idea of having almost nothing.  He had a terrible inferiority complex.  The stuff he hoarded was protecting him from the deep-seated fear he had of being judged by others.  The goofiest outcome was the realization that he was living in a filthy mess!

goodbye things sasaki

Goodbye, Things is divided into distinct parts.  While the natural inclination is to read a book from beginning to end, Sasaki encourages his reader to explore the chapters based on whatever topic seems appealing.

Well recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Note: Fumio Sasaki lives in a 215-square-foot apartment in Tokyo, Japan.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Running Shoe Review: Icebug Oribi M RB9X

Is the Icebug Oribi running shoe suitable for more than running on wet or slippery surfaces?

Icebug-Oribi-RB9X

On the box containing a pair of Icebug running shoes, you will find these words: “Safe grip, free mind.”  If this does not seem to be quite clear, the Swedish company also uses another motto: “The world leader for traction.”  Yes, this is the company that promises that on wet or slippery surfaces, its RB9X surface shoes grip “better than anything else on the market.”  You could walk across an ice rink in a pair of Iceburg shoes.  But how does one of their offerings work on the trails and roads of the U.S.?  See the verdict below.

icebug_OribiM small

The Oribi is named after an African antelope, an animal with “speed, grace and agility.”  This hybrid shoe weighs just 8.1 ounces – although one would think it was heavier due to the rather substantial rugged outsole, it offers a 7mm drop (versus a 4mm drop in the Icebug Acceleritas RB9X), and is said to to offer medium cushioning and flex.  The Oribi has a polyester mesh upper, a lightweight EVA midsole, a TPU mudguard upfront, and a rock plate in the center of the forefoot.  I ran in this striking beryl/cobalt colored shoe, provided by the company, on various surfaces.

The Icebug has a straight last and provides a snug fit.  However, there’s room on top of the foot – something I mention because several other trail shoes seem to be too low-cut these days.  Due to some toe issues, I requested a model one full size up.  This meant there was some initial space-caused slippage at the rear heel area of the shoe – a matter remedied by wearing a pair of mid-weight running socks.

On a dirt and gravel-covered trail, I quickly noticed that the Oribi delivers a straight-ahead ride.  This was made more evident when I ran on the same trail in another manufacturer’s shoe and found my feet moving around more than necessary.  The Oribi makes one feel like your feet are locked onto a rail.  This is good.  Less wasted movement equals less wasted energy.

On asphalt, the ride is surprisingly smooth and comfortable.  Not only is there no wasted energy, one feels the energy return from the responsive but not overly firm midsole.  One may look forward to mid-range and long training runs in the Oribi.

icebug oribi sole

The Oribi’s lugs allow one to dig in on a mowed grass trail.  There’s stability front and rear, as well as from side to side.  Because of these properties, I found myself running too fast and almost falling.  Thanks to the Oribi’s “torsional stability” system, I was able to remain upright.

The Oribi is 100% protective on concrete.  One can feel the ground but without punishment to the feet or sensitive metatarsals.  This model absolutely shines on a hard-packed dirt trail, offering – to use an automobile analogy – what feels like four-wheel drive.  For my feet, this felt like the best shoe ever on this type of surface!

On a trail loaded with large and small rocks, the Oribi offers just enough feel while protecting the feet from pain or discomfort.  Thanks, rock plate.  On a fire road, the shoe produced a B+ ride and offered some fun using the shoe’s moderate lugs to beat down high grass and brush to get there.

The clearest view of the Oribi’s nature came when I ran on the well-trampled down dirt and rock path around a city park.  This is when I realized that the Oribi allows the foot to move through its natural full range of motion – heel to midfoot to forefoot, on every step.  Initially in my mind, I thought that the Oribi provided the ride feel of a Nike trail shoe or of an early Asics Gel DS Trainer.  But then it hit me, “This feels like a Pearl Izumi trail shoe!”  Ah, yes, a number of movers loved the Pearl runners.  Sadly, Pearl Izumi withdrew from producing their running shoes at the end of 2016.  One can no longer purchase one of their exemplary models.  Fortunately, the Icebug Oribi is here to fill the void.

Verdict

At a list price of $149.95, the Icebug Oribi is not inexpensive.  But it’s a shoe that does everything well on almost every surface (including ice and snow), offers almost endless protection for tired and worn feet, and is durable enough to last for several hundred happy training miles on natural trails and city streets.  The Oribi will be a bargain for the runner who uses it to replace not one but two shoes in his or her rotation stable, as it can be used as both a trainer and race day shoe.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

Note: Icebug USA is based in Bellingham, Washington.

This review was first posted on the Blogcritics site:

http://blogcritics.org/running-shoe-review-icebug-oribi-m-rb9x/

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Law and Order

Defending Jacob: A Novel by William Landay (Random House/Bantam, $16.00, 437 pages)

If you loved Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow, read this.

defending jacob amazon

One of my favorite films is the Al Pacino classic And Justice for All, which might as well have been titled And Justice for No One.  In my time as a reviewer for Joseph’s Reviews, I have reviewed many crime/suspense/mystery/call them what you will novels, because many people enjoy reading these books.  Most, in my opinion, are average at best.  They appeal to a certain readership, and they get published.

The ones that distinguish themselves stand out for reasons that can sometimes be explained – for example, they actually tell a story, the reader cares about the characters, and they defy the formulaic conventions that permeate run-of-the-mill books.  Other times the reasons are more subtle.  A writer can just plain write – simple as that, and the book stands on its own, independent of any pre-conceived convention.  In those cases, things become a bit more subjective.

William Landay’s Defending Jacob succeeds on both accounts and is one heckuva book, period.  For people who enjoy the genre, it is an absolute must read.  Landy tells the story of Ben Rifkin’s murder in the first person, which is a brilliant decision.  This point of view adds to the suspense and human dilemma faced by the main character, Andy Barber, and his family.  A less skillful writer might not have pulled this off, but as it stands, the decision perfectly advances the story.  The reader suspends judgment and is pulled in multiple directions throughout the entire novel.

Barber is the town’s assistant district attorney and the initial investigator on the Rifkin case.  Ben is brutally stabbed in a park on his way to school.  Eventually, Andy’s son, Jacob, a socially awkward teen who was bullied by Ben, is accused of the murder.  This creates further complications, including politics in the D.A.’s office.  On top of that, Andy’s conscience may not be the most reliable barometer, as he has spent his life trying to bury the fact that his father is serving a life sentence for murder.  Is there such a thing as a murder gene, a propensity for violence?

Jacob’s internet proclivities and childhood indiscretions don’t help him.  But do they add up to murder?

In the end, a second incident and the preponderance of the evidence appears to lead to a certain direction, but the plot is so carefully constructed that empathy for the narrator still tempers judgment, and – like in And Justice for All, sometimes justice is not absolute.  Sometimes the criminal justice system is only as good as the flawed humans who are entrusted to administer it.

Highly recommended.

Dave Moyer

Dave Moyer is a public school system superintendent, and is the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel.

Note: Defending Jacob is used as a textbook in Criminal Justice  introductory classes at California State University, Sacramento as it provides insight into the complexities of the criminal justice system.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Sisters of the Moon

Almost Sisters: A Novel by Joshilyn Jackson (William Morrow, $26.99, 352 pages)

almost sisters

Every family has secrets that persist over generations.  When a family happens to have its roots in a small town in Alabama, long-standing Southern mores bring added depth to its history.  Author Joshilyn Jackson has written a family tale worthy of high praise, The Almost Sisters.  Her main character, cartoonist Leia Birch, is the family outlier.  Her stepsister, Rachel, is the conventional, perfectionist Southern wife who resides in a faux-Tara home with her husband, Jake, and daughter, Lavender.

Leia Birch is not just a cartoonist; she’s the artist behind a DC Comics limited series, Violence in Violet.  The success of the series brought Leia to a comic-book convention in Atlanta where she was the featured artist.  Months later Leia has a secret that she knows will only be met with acceptance by her beloved grandmother, Miss Birchie.

Miss Birchie has her own secrets; although, if she can’t stay quiet in church, at least half of Birchville will find out.  The town, founded by her family, retains many vestiges of the old South.  There is the white neighborhood and the colored one.  People have their places in society and the ridged structure rarely bends to accommodate modern beliefs from outside.

Leia not only has a secret, she has a contract to write and illustrate the prequel for her Violence in Violet series.  The pressure is on as she drives to Birchville to confide in her grandmother.  Little does she suspect that what awaits her may be beyond what she’s able to handle.  There is more than one set of sisters.

Readers will be drawn into the fascinating threads of Author Jackson’s tale.  This book may be fiction but it could also be drawn from real life.  Ms. Jackson is that good at conveying the humanity of each of her unforgettable characters.

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was received from the publisher.  Almost Sisters was released on July 11, 2017.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Highway to Hell

Road to Paradise: A Novel by Paullina Simons (William Morrow Paperbacks, $16.99, 544 pages)

road to paradise amazon

“The highway is for gamblers, better use your sense…”  Bob Dylan

In Paullina Simon’s Road to Paradise, Shelby Sloane takes off for the West Coast in a yellow Mustang in search of her mother.  She embarks on this journey following her high school graduation with the expectation that she will return to the East Coast to attend college in the fall.  Fallacy number one: This girl could not possibly be accepted into college.

Her friend, Gina, accompanies her to help defray the costs and meet up with her boyfriend, and they pick up a hitchhiker by the name of…  Candy Cane (AKA, Grace Rio).  The journey begins with a detour to deliver dogs to a relative.  They meet Candy, whose purpose for the trip is revealed about two-thirds of the way through the novel.  So, they are all on a quest of some kind or another.  [Fascinating!  -Ed.]  In the meantime we learn that Candy is famous on I-80 for engaging in the oldest profession in the book.

Simmons’ narrative jumps around in the beginning as she attempts to be overly clever.  This creates challenges for the reader.  Quite frankly, by the time the reader is 100 pages in – where some clarity finally rears its head, it is impossible to care.  The book mercifully and thankfully ends after 530 pages.  Is there an editor in the house?

The main action of the story takes place in 1981, so throughout the book there are references to late 70s songs that are playing on the radio for no apparent reason.

There is mindless and aimless philosophical, historical and religious conversation among the three traveling characters.  In addition to prostitution, we get porn, a visit to a monastery, an individual who develops a sudden and inexplicable gambling addiction, a “somewhat pseudo-lesbian”  incident, and contrived loyalty.  There’s also a patched-on happy ending as Shelby arrives in Mendocino, California and miraculously meets the man she will marry.  Right, just like in real life.

If all this sounds interesting to you, be my guest.  It’s quite doubtful that I will be reading the next release from Ms. Simons.

Dave Moyer

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Dave Moyer is a public school administrator and is the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Bee My Baby

Beer Review: Track 7 Bee Line Blonde Ale

track 7 bee line blonde draft

 

We live in an era where breweries are only as good as their India Pale Ales (IPAs) and Imperial Stouts.  It’s hard not to get caught up in the craze surrounding these two styles.  I, too, feel like I have to force myself to try beers in varying styles, making deals with myself like, “You can have an IPA after you have a beer of a different style.”  The funny thing is that even though it feels like a chore just to order a non-IPA, I usually drink it with no major issues.  Recently, I got my hands on Track 7’s Bee Line Blonde Ale and I didn’t just think it was a fine beer, but an excellent beer.

There were no surprises in the appearance as it could have been mistaken for honey in the glass.  Seeing a golden beer with a pillowy white head is always a welcomed sight. The head dissipated rather quickly, but left rings of lacing down the glass.  For a blonde ale brewed with honey, it’s appearance was spot on.  5/5

On the nose it is very reminiscent of some classic German pilsners and some adjunct lagers.  You get a head of grain and wheat, but then on the back end you notice some sweet honey that rounds the profile out.  4/5

As expected, this is definitely a thinner beer, but it doesn’t diminish the beer at all.  The honey definitely gives the body a little weight, but it was still light and crisp with decent carbonation making it seem spritzy at times, dancing around the mouth.  This made me think of bees buzzing around!  Maybe I wouldn’t have thought that way if the beer were named something else, but it definitely impacted my perception.  4/5

The honey is definitely more noticeable on the palate than the nose, which I’ve found to be the case with many beers brewed with honey.  There is a subtle hop bite on the back end — very reminiscent of German pilsners — that contrasts the sweet honey in the best way possible.  There is a grainy aspect to the taste as well and reminds me of some adjunct lagers, but thankfully the honey and hop bill combat it and leave you with a lighter low ABV beer with plenty of flavor and character.  4.25/5

track 7 bee line blonde ale

Honestly, this is my favorite blond ale to date.  There is a depth to this Sacramento brewed beer that is often missing in the style.  It’s the perfect summer beer as it is light and refreshing, while delivering loads of flavor.  It won’t wear you down and sit heavy on you like some other varieties do.  Overall, I’d have to give this beer a final ranking of 4.33/5.  Highly recommended.

track 7 bee line cans

I’m glad I got to drink a beer out of my wheelhouse, because this beer makes me want to explore the options outside of stouts and IPAs that rule the beer world and see what else more seemingly simple types can offer.  If you are able to pick this beer up, I would.  This is certainly a beer that people in the craft game can appreciate, but it could also be an excellent gateway beer for your macro-drinking friends.  If they can’t appreciate it, who cares?  That just leaves more good beer for you.

Ryan Moyer

ABV: 5.25%; IBUs: 31; Original Gravity: 1.050; Hops: Fuggle, Magnum, Tettnang

Ryan Moyer is a graduate of Indiana University.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

New York State of Mind

The Widow of Wall Street: A Novel by Randy Susan Meyers (Atria Books, $26.00, 352 pages)

widow of wall street

As with The Murderer’s Daughters, The Widow of Wall Street transports the reader into situations that few people experience.  Author Randy Susan Meyers  maintains her running theme of human frailty in this, her fourth novel.

A bitter opening chapter sends the tale to nearly the end of its long and treacherous timespan, from August 1960 to 2009.  Author Meyers has taken the horrific scandal that was the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme and reworked it into an up close and personal morality piece that provides raw emotion and insight into the lives of her fictional characters.  While the general premise of the telling closely mirrors the real life front page story, the details that are specific to Meyer’s characters are of her own invention.

Phoebe has a better than ordinary life living on a nicer street in Brooklyn.  She’s pretty and doesn’t look like the rest of her Jewish family.  At age fifteen Phoebe has become smitten with Jake Pierce who has just turned eighteen.  Jake’s family is down the economic ladder from Phoebe’s.  Jake is ambitious, agressive and determined to get ahead.

As the chapters unfold, the pace of the tale quickens.  Phoebe and Jake’s life as a married couple in New York has its up and downs.  Jake is clearly obsessed with making money and Phoebe feels she has been relegated to a boring housewife life.  Jake is a risk-taker and he lacks the sort of empathy that would temper his personal drive.  Consistent with the Bernard Madoff scenario, Jake borrows money from his wife’s family, which as we know puts them at jeopardy of being his victims.

Author Meyers does an excellent job of depicting her characters.  Jake is hard edged and deluded, as a Ponzi scheme boss must be to maintain the illusions he creates.  Phoebe, for the most part, lacks the fortitude and willingness to see past the glittering life she leads as the scheme grows and grows.

While the tale is not original, the writing is superb.  Readers will wonder at the lives led by the super rich.  It’s like being behind the scenes of the pages of People magazine.

Well recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

The Widow of Wall Street was released on April 11, 2017.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized