Tag Archives: Tucson

Running Shoe Review: Columbia Montrail Bajada III

The Columbia Montrail Bajada III (hereinafter, Bajada) is said to be “a versatile trail running shoe that can handle a variety of trails…” due to its “reliable cushioning and traction.”  (Running Warehouse)  Do we agree?  See the verdict below.

CM Bajada III

The latest version of the Bajada from Columbia Montrail offers a great fit; it’s snug but roomy in the right places.  The shoe weighs 12 ounces but feels more like 10 ounces under the feet.  It has a FluidFoam midsole, a sticky Griptonite Trail outsole containing an immense number of small lugs providing multi-directional grip, a Trail Shield to protect one’s feet, horizontal and vertical flex grooves, and a 10mm drop.  As with most running shoes these days, it has a seamless “socklite” mesh upper.

Columbia Montrail generally includes an upgraded, deluxe commercial-grade sockliner in their trail shoes, and this is the case with the Bajada.  Another bonus feature of the shoe is the set of elastic laces which provide comfort and “give,” yet they can be securely tied for peace of mind.

While walking to nearby trails, one will note that the Bajada offers a soft, comfortable ride.  And the shoe feels like it is just the right height – not too high off the ground and not too low.

On a gravel and dirt trail the Bajada offers good proprioception (ground feel) while remaining protective.  On a mown grass fire trail the Bajada delivers fine grip and yaw control.  You can feel the shoe moving from side to side but it returns to center quickly.  On a hard-packed dirt trail the Bajada feels fast and light.  It’s like driving a roadster on a curvy country road.

The toughest test for a trail shoe tends to be how it handles a hard rock trail – with both large and small rocks underfoot.  The Bajada earns an A- grade for grip, and a B to B+ grade for both the absence of slippage and protection.  You know a shoe has passed with flying colors on a hard rock trail when no cuss words are emitted by the runner!

CM Bajada III sole

Although the grippy lugs on the Bajada appear to be relatively small they provide tremendous purchase for moving uphill.  This would be a nice shoe to use to run up the Ventana Canyon Trail in Tucson.

On city/suburban roads the Bajada demonstrates its credentials as a hybrid shoe.  It’s bouncy on asphalt, earning a B grade for responsiveness.  On sidewalks it proves to be as stable as earlier-year Montrail shoes, such as the Montrail Fluid Feel from 2013.  (The Bajada offers more stability than the Fluidflex F.K.T. or the Caldorado II models.)

On roads the Bajada delivers B level cushioning.  The springiness provided by its insole is not dissipated; energy builds up supporting forward motion momentum.  Speaking of momentum, one can get on one’s toes and/or high-step in the Bajada to engage in speed training.  Yes, it will deliver a fast response if and when you need it.

Verdict

The Bajada does most everything well.  It is quite likely the Columbia Montrail model that will work best for the average runner.  (While I found the Caldorado II to be excellent, it rests upon a level of firmness that works for only a certain percentage of individuals.)

At a price of $110, the Bajada provides exemplary levels of grip, protection, cushioning, and responsiveness.  It’s a hybrid model that can be used as both a trail runner and a road trainer, and it will prove to be more than satisfactory for mid-range and long-distance runs.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A sample pair was provided by Columbia Montrail for review.

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Leaving Nothing to Jance

Two Series and One Author

Fans of prolific author J. A. Jance – whose books can be found in every airport gift shop, will be entertained by either or both of her series installments reviewed here. The first, Second Watch, is the 10th in the J. P. Beaumont series set in Seattle, Washington. Coincidentally, Ms. Jance maintains a residence in that city. There’s a certain comfort that comes with a story set in a locale where the author feels right at home – literally.

Second Watch (nook book)

Second Watch: A J. P. Beaumont Novel by J. A. Jance (William Morrow, $26.99, 368 pages; mass market paperback version, $9.99)

Tough cop J. P. Beaumont has finally agreed to double knee replacement surgery. He’s been hobbling around in pain for far too long. His hallucination in the post-op recovery room kicks off a tale involving a 40-year-old unsolved murder case in Seattle. Readers will sense a familiarity to the television show, Cold Case, where victims appear to a cop who cares.

The vision is of a young blond wearing a Washington State University sweatshirt sitting at Beaumont’s bedside while filing her brightly polished red fingernails. The characters are believable with crisp dialogue bantered between them.

The story moves along in stages, including some flashbacks. As J. P. works through his need to figure out why he’s seen the girl, more dead people come into the tale, along with some frustrating dead ends. He sorts out the sparse clues. It helps that he and wife, Mel, are with the Washington State Attorney General’s Office. They make a team of bright folks who are two of a kind – out to bring justice to bear.

Highly recommended.

Remains of Innocence (nook book)

Remains of Innocence: A Brady Novel of Suspense by J. A. Jance (William Morrow, $26.99, 400 pages)

Joanna Brady is the sheriff of Cochise County, Arizona in this, the 17th novel featuring her life and career. The lives of two half-siblings are unfolded across several chapters. The first is Liza Machette, a hard-working 29-year-old restaurant manager in Massachusetts. Liza’s mother, Selma, is a bipolar chain-smoking harridan who has hoarded junk for all of Liza’s life. As Selma’s life comes to its end, Liza goes to see Selma in the hospital. Liza left home at age 18 and has not returned in 11 years. Her task is to clear out the trash and rubble of Selma’s house and life.

The startling discover of a fortune in one hundred dollar bills amid the foul-smelling debris prompts Liza to do some checking up on its source. As Liza looks into her family’s past, she realizes that she needs to hide out. Naturally, Liza makes an escape to Bisbee, Arizona where her half-brother, Guy, is the medical examiner. Oh, and Joanna Brady is the county sheriff with problems of her own. These characters are well developed and even though this is the 17th book of a series, the story line is smooth, making this an easy-to-read stand-alone mystery novel. By the way, Ms. Jance was brought up in Bisbee and now has a home in Tucson where she spends time when not enjoying her Seattle abode. Both are pretty nice choices for living arrangements, and, yes, Ms. Jance has earned her lovely surroundings!

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

Review copies were provided by the publisher.

Remains of Innocence will be published on April 28, 2015.

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Damage Control

Gone Missing: A Thriller by Linda Castillo (Minotaur Books, $14.99, 297 pages)

Gone Missing 2

“What kind of monster does that to a fifteen-year-old girl?” I whisper.

Shocking, that’s the best way to describe the opening chapters of this, the fourth book in an Amish Country series written by Linda Castillo. The narrator is Kate Burkholder, the chief of police of a town called Painters Mill. She also happens to be a former member of an Amish community. Burkholder is troubled and damaged by past problems, yet she seeks to assist others. Her town is located in the Ohio farmlands and the time of year when the mystery takes place is spring. Rumspringa is in full swing; although, this version is significantly tamer than the TV shows about Breaking Amish.

State Agent John Tomasetti with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation teams up with Chief Kate Burkholder when an Amish girl who is out walking along a country road goes missing while doing an errand for her family. A pool of blood and a satchel for carrying vegetables are all that they find by the side of the road. Although the scene is outside her jurisdiction, Burkholder is called in as a consultant because of her Amish roots.

Author Castillo enriches her tale with in depth descriptions and background information related to the Amish folks who farm in Ohio. The stark contrast between these people living their simple bucolic lifestyle and the festering evil that exists in their midst makes for a gruesome and engaging thriller. Castillo is adept at building tension that may compel some readers to stay up late to finish the book as did this reviewer.

Highly recommended.

Every Broken Trust: A Mystery by Linda Rodriguez (Minotaur Books, $25.99, 304 pages)

every broken trust

The chief of police in the next book is Skeet Bannion, a half-Cherokee woman, whose jurisdiction is the campus of Chouteau University which is located outside Kansas City, Missouri. There’s more to the job than just keeping a safe campus. Chief Bannion must participate in local politics and university affairs.

The story begins in a chatty bouncy manner as the chief expresses her dislike for hosting a welcoming party for the university’s new dean of the law school, as the growing guest list threatens to overwhelm her. It’s obvious that socializing with politicians and smarmy co-workers who have disillusioned her is bringing out the worst of her temper.

Once the stage is set and the character relationships are established, the story settles down. Of course the party includes drinking and at least one guest has one or two drinks too many. What follows is a post-party-murder after the drunk blurts out a scathing revelation that upsets the entire party. The body is found on university property which makes it Bannion’s task to catch the killer.

To complicate matters, Bannion is the guardian of a fifteen-year-old boy named Brian who is developing a friendship with the daughter of one of the smarmy politicos. Bannion is an evolving character and Rodriguez places her in situations that demand maturity and caring beyond the level Bannion has for her job.

Author Rodriguez is a Latina writer who brings a significant depth of understanding of the ways women and especially women of color are treated. The book is the second in her series featuring Skeet Bannion.

Well recommended.

Liars Anonymous: A Novel by Louise Ure (Minotaur Books, $14.99, 275 pages)

Liars Anonymous

He made sure there was no grime from the blast, then leaned back against the cab of my truck. “That’s the funny thing about the justice system. It makes no distinction between not guilty and innocent. I do.”

Shamus Award winner Louise Ure crafts an unusual mystery tale that is more suspense thriller than mystery. Her narrator, Jessica Damage, is a woman with a troubled past. Jessica works at a call center in Phoenix, Arizona for a service called “Hands On” that might as well be GM’s OnStar. An incoming call from a 2007 Cadillac Seville connects to her line. Jessica can’t help calling back after the call terminates abruptly even though the rules of her job make it technically illegal to eavesdrop when the call is reconnected.

Trouble finds Jessica daily as she searches for the answers to the questions sparked by the sounds she heard on the covert call. As Tucson is her hometown and two years earlier she was acquitted of a murder charge, her sleuthing actions take place all over the greater Tucson area.

Ms. Ure proves herself a true native by accurately telling the reader where Jessica is going and what she sees around town. This reviewer is quite familiar with Tucson and the descriptions were good enough to create a cinematic effect during the read. The characters’ deep feelings and crisp dialogue make Liars Annonymous a good read.

Well recommended.

“Louise Ure is an exciting new voice in the mystery field.” Laura Lippman

Review copies were received from the publisher.

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I’ll Follow the Sun

Gone: A Novel by Cathi Hanauer (Atria Books, $24.99, 347 pages)

Take what you need…  Take what you want.   Figure it out, find it, do it.   That’s what he was doing.   That’s what he did.

Cathi Hanauer is one heck of a writer; she’s a woman who can write about serious things and funny things in equal proportions.   This may be because this is the way life is…  Sometimes it plays out the way we think it will, sometimes it shocks and astounds us, and sometimes things simply seem to happen at random.

In Gone, we meet Eve Adams, a mother of two and a wife, whose husband Eric has suddenly left their comfortable home in Massachusetts.   Eric, a once successful sculptor, said he would drive the ultra short-skirted babysitter home, and then simply failed to return.   Eve, the author of a decently selling reality-based diet book, finds out from the credit card statements that Eric has headed west to Arizona (his mother lives in Tucson) – and he’s apparently used the credit card to spend nights in hotels with the babysitter.

We run from our lives, from the mediocrity and the abandoned plans and dreams and the people we’re sick of, including ourselves.   But wherever we go, there we are.   And so we go back, to the people we love.   But you can’t really go back, of course.

The story is told in alternating chapters, first in Eve’s words and then in Eric’s.   As might be expected, each has a different perspective on the pressures that drove them apart.   Eve has had to become the family breadwinner since Eric seems to have lost his artistic inspirations.   Eric feels like a failure and comes to view Eve as overly harsh and judgmental – especially when compared to the babysitter Dria, who tells Eric that he’s both an artistic genius and a nice man.

…he didn’t lose himself around Eve.   If anything, he found himself through her, and lost himself when she wasn’t there to reflect it back to him: to praise his work, to admire what he did.   To love him.

Separated for many weeks, both Eve and Eric have some major decisions to make.   Eve needs to decide if she’ll ever forgive Eric once he returns, if he returns.   And Eric needs to determine if he can be the type of practical family man who can place earning a paycheck in front of his need to be creative (as he’s forced to admit that he hasn’t been a creative artist in years).

In Gone, Hanauer serves up not only an admirable family novel, but adds a couple of bonus items to the menu.   First, she does a fine job of describing the essence of Tucson, Arizona – a city she resided in while teaching writing at the University of Arizona.   (Bear down.)   Secondly, she offers a book-within-the-book, as Eve’s practical tips to dieting and nutrition will serve the average reader quite well.   The tips are both common sense-based and near-brilliant, and, if followed, may add years to one’s life.

One nice aspect about the conclusion of Gone is that the reader discovers that Eve and Eric both have new facets of themselves to reveal.   Neither is a stereotype, and each is a human being loaded with underlying strengths and weaknesses.   That’s the way life is.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   “Cathi Hanauer succeeds beautifully in creating a story that will make you care and keep turning the pages…”   Dani Shapiro, author of Devotion.   “It’s a compelling, big-hearted book.”   Joshua Henkin, author of The World Without You.

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Coming Up Next…

A review of Gone: A Novel by Cathi Hanauer.

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Tequila Sunrise

Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America by Gustavo Arellano (Scribner, $25.00, 320 pages)

“Americans: unite under Mexican food, just like your ancestors, just like your descendants!   It doesn’t matter your dish choice: it’ll sometimes be derided, sometimes mysterious, oftentimes scorching, and not always good, but always, always eaten.   A lot.”

I can guarantee you one thing about this Mexican food survey book by the finely-named Gustavo Arellano.   Read it and you will feel…  hungry!   Of course, it’s probably politically and factually correct to say that this account is about Mexican-American food, although Arellano does often clarify which foods had their creation in Mexico – before being adopted north of the border – versus those foods that are known as Mexican but are purely American/Mexican-American creations.

A trip through the table of contents shows the order in which the food topics are discussed.   They are: the burrito, tacos, enchiladas, Mexican cookbooks written by Anglos, the late Southwestern cuisine, the virtually doomed and much-attacked world of Tex-Mex food, Mexicans cooking food for other Mexicans (really?), the arrival of Mexican food in our supermarkets, the tortilla, salsa and tequila.   There’s also a bonus chapter on the five greatest Mexican meals served in the U.S.; at least it’s one man’s humble listing of the meals that are “just bueno.

“Mexican food had arrived to wow customers, to save them from a bland life, as it did for their parents and grandparents and great-grandparents.   Again.   Like last time – and the time before that.”

The author has great fun in praising the heroes of the Mexican-American food movement (or revolution, if you prefer), such as Larry Cano who developed the El Torito chain of restaurants.   He even praises Steve Ells, the founder of Chipotle Mexican Grill (the second-largest Mexican food chain in the U.S.), and Glenn Bell, the founder of the ubiquitous Taco Bell food stops.   If you’ve ever wondered where Bell got the recipes for his tacos, the answer is found in Taco USA – and it happens to be a hole-in-the-wall taco shop in San Bernardino, California.

On the flip side, Gustavo names names when it comes to finding villains.   Two of them are Rick Bayless and Diana Kennedy who have repeatedly called out for “authentic” Mexican food while allegedly – by Gustavo’s account and others – being somewhat less than authentic themselves.   And then there’s Tex-Mex:

“Tex-Mex.   Tex-Mex.   A hyphen separates two cultures that faced off in blood but are forever linked around the world.   Each exists on its own, each is fine separate from the other, but together the phrase now conjures up something almost universal:  culinary disgust.”

On this, we shall leave the details up to the reader – and an opinion on this much-appreciated or highly-despised cuisine.

What Arellano does quite well is to present us with the scope of the popularity of Mexican food in this country.   For example, you may have heard that more salsa is sold than ketchup, but were you aware that the sale of tortillas is now an $8 billion a year industry?   It’s mind-boggling, and thanks to Taco USA the facts are now literally on the dining table.

“Is the (Sonora) hot dog truly Mexican?   Who cares?   In Tucson, the birthplace of Linda Ronstadt, Americans became Mexicans long ago; it’s now the rest of the country that’s finally catching up.”

Yes, Gustavo’s listing of the five best Mexican meals in the U.S. includes the bean-wrapped Sonora hot dog that’s served only at El Guerro Canelo in Tucson, Arizona.   And while it’s not a bad list (which includes stops in Oklahoma, Arizona, Southern California, Texas, and Colorado), I think he missed one place that I’ll gladly take him to the next time he’s in the Capitol City of California – which is Emma’s Taco House in West Sacramento.   It’s been in business at the same location since 1953, and there’s a reason why this is true.   It is one of the most muy bueno taco houses in all of Taco USA!   And as the fans of Emma’s like to say, if you don’t like “real” Mexican food, there’s a Taco Bell right down the street!

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   Taco USA is available as a Nook Book or Kindle Edition download.   Gustavo Arellano is also the author of Ask a Mexican! and Orange County: A Personal History.

Note:   Gustavo would and does argue in Taco USA that ALL Mexican/Mexican-American food is “real” and “authentic”; probably as real as “Chicken Nuggets” from McDonald’s. (Which part of the chicken does the nugget come from?)

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Everybody’s Got Something to Hide*

*except for me and my monkey

Kasey to the Rescue: The Remarkable Story of a Monkey and a Miracle by Ellen Rogers (Hyperion; $23.99; 288 pages)

“Walk through one door at a time, I told myself, then look for a key to the next.   That was my strategy, and I was sticking to it.”

If you’re looking for a heartwarming present for someone this Christmas, this book may be it.   I had a copy of Kasey to the Rescue in my stash of books at the office, picked it up to scan during the lunch hour, and found it hard to close.  

Ellen Rogers’ 22-year-old son Ned was a student at the University of Arizona when he had a horrible auto accident that left him close to death.   The opening scene describing how Ellen got from Concord, Massachusetts to Tucson overnight is worth the price of admission as something amazing happened to speed her journey.   Her son survived the crash but as a quadriplegic with a brain injury.

“Pride.   Courage.   Hope.   They were all there in those three little words.”

Ned had always been extremely athletic and daring – despite a lack of natural skills – so his life came to a grim halt after the tragic event.   Inaction and depression crept in until the gift of an amazingly smart and social female Capuchin monkey gave him back his spirit, his mobility and his hope of persevering.   Kasey the monkey had been ever so patiently trained by foster parents and by the Monkey College maintained by Helping Hands: Monkey Helpers for the Disabled.   (As with a human college, it takes two to four years to matriculate at Monkey College.)

Rogers’ telling of this tough, but inspirational, tale is as humorous as it is gripping and touching.   If this were an advertisement for a Disney film, you would read, “You’ll laugh, you’ll cry.”   This story is not a Disney film…  It’s real life.   You’ll laugh, you’ll cry.

Well recommended.

“This gem of a book will capture the hearts of readers everywhere.”   Doris Kearns Goodwin

“A book to change your life.”   David Doss, Making Rounds with Oscar

“The story told in this book is one of hope, perserverance, laughter, and most importantly, family.”   Megan Talbert, Executive Director, Helping Hands: Monkey Helpers for the Disabled, Inc.

This review was written by Joseph Arellano.   A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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