Reclamation

Reclamation (Eruption, #2)Reclamation by Adrienne Quintana

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary (adapted from Goodreads):

Jace Vega wakes up three years after the eruption of Mount Hood where she and the man she loves, Corey Stein, tried to use time travel to release Victor Trent’s powerful hold on the world. But life is even greater turmoil. The future seems to be unchanged and Corey is missing. Nothing about her other relationships feel right.

As Victor Trent continues to amass power, using information terrorism Jace knows she doesn’t have much time if she’s going to stop him. Jace’s reawakening begins a race to the place where it all began: the Point of Origin. If she can only remember where it is.

My Review

I waited so long for the conclusion to this story and it was completely worth it. I actually re-read the first book in the series, Eruption, right before beginning Reclamation and that was a great choice. I enjoyed reliving the suspense of the events in Eruption, and the refresher on all of the details was helpful. Reclamation picks up exactly where Eruption ends, and I loved being able to put one book down and immediately pick up the next without interruption.

I love the smart prose, imagery, and powerful description in the writing. I am so impressed and fulfilled by the author’s ability to weave current events, social issues, social media and technology, psychological examination, and even spirituality into a seamless, colorful, and thoughful storytelling tapestry. And she does it without being preachy; rather her keen expression and description says just enough and leaves the intellectual work up to the reader. There is plenty of opportunity for that “aha” moment as you connect the text and characters to your own life, while at the same time the thrills and suspense of their lives keep you turning pages as fast as you can. The sequence of events flows naturally, and all of that is accomplished while presenting a complex science fiction plot involving volcanoes and time travel.

I loved the main character and narrator, Jace Vega, in the first book with her smarts and maturity and her flaws. She continues to evolve, learn, and change in Reclamation, but she stays consistent, believable, and lovable. I really grew to care about all of the characters and their relationships. Even the “villain” has a “human” side that makes him relatable in some sense.

For me, there is really a lot of pressure on the endings of books with complex and plots and deep characters such as in the Eruption series. Even when events and suspense are so well paced throughout a book, endings can ruin it all if they are rushed or do not tie up all the loose ends. But that was not a problem in Reclamation. The ending was timed well; I had no unanswered questions; it made sense within the flow and the events of the story, and most importantly it felt complete and good. Such a satisfying ending will keep me pondering these books and the layers of lessons and meanings for days to come.

If reading were a meal, Eruption and Reclamation would leave you full and satisfied, and dreaming about the next time you could savor those unique and perfect flavors.

Age Recommendation: The complicated plot and some of the themes will be best understood by mature readers, likely 16 and older.

Appropriateness: There is nothing objectionable in this series. Clean language and high moral standards along with plenty of excitement and tension. These books would give plenty of material for book club discussions regarding coping mechanisms, the purpose of tragedy and suffering, our reliance on technology, and the consequence of choices.

Other Book Recommendations: If you like the sound of Reclamation and Eruption I recommend you also read The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski, Graceling by Kristin Cashore,  The Princess Academy by Shannon Hale,  The Great Good Thing by Roderick Townley, and Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath.

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The Perfect Mile

The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve ItThe Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve It by Neal Bascomb

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

 

Summary (adapted from Goodreads)

There was a time when running the mile in four minutes was believed to be beyond the limits of human foot speed, and in all of sport it was the elusive holy grail. In 1952, after suffering defeat at the Helsinki Olympics, three world-class runners each set out to break this barrier.

Roger Bannister was a young English medical student who epitomized the ideal of the amateur — still driven not just by winning but by the nobility of the pursuit. John Landy an Australian who trained relentlessly in an almost spiritual attempt to shape his body to this singular task. Then there was Wes Santee, the swaggering American, a Kansas farm boy and natural athlete.

Spanning three continents and defying the odds, their collective quest captivated the world and competed with headlines from the Korean War, the atomic race, and such legendary figures as Edmund Hillary, Willie Mays, Native Dancer, and Ben Hogan. Neal Bascomb delivers a breathtaking story of unlikely heroes and leaves us with a lasting portrait of the twilight years of the golden age of sport.

My Review

I am a runner and I love it. (Though that hasn’t always been the case. You can read more about my conversion to running here.) So I was naturally interested in this book since it’s all about runners. But there is also historical significance in learning more about this event along with what was going on in the world at the time it took place. I was fascinated by the view of amateur and professional athletics in the 1950’s, and how much athletics have changed since then.

This book also introduced me to true heroes and role models of our day, and the writing is superb. The author paints pictures with words of people and events so that they come alive and are so relatable. I was just as nervous and engaged reading about the races in this book as I was while reading the Hunger Games.

And when it comes down to it, this book is less about running and more about working hard with what life has given us to make something of ourselves and to contribute to the world in which we live. The 3 main running figures in the book sum it up best:

John Landy: “Running gave me discipline and self-expression…It has all the disappointments, frustrations, lack of success, and unexpected success, which all reproduce themselves in the bigger play of life. It teaches you the ability to present under pressure. It teaches you the importance of being enthusiastic, dedicated, focused. All of these are trite statements, but if you actually have to go through these things as a young man, it’s very, very important.”

Wes Santee: “Hard work pays off. You have to be just as disciplined to run a business as you do to train for an athletic event. You have to eat right, still have to get up early and work more than others.”

Roger Bannister: “Sport is about not being wrapped up in cotton wool. Sport is about adapting to the unexpected and being able to modify plans at the last minute. Sport, like all life, is about taking your chances.”

All of these factors make this a book that everyone, runner or non-runner, athlete or completely lacking in coordination, should read.

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Age Recommendation: All ages will be interested in this story, particularly those with experience truly sacrificing and working hard toward a goal. The writing is probably best for 16 and older though younger readers with a high reading level would do just fine.

Appropriateness: Clean as a whistle on this one.  Clean language, no violence, no immorality.

This would provide great book club discussion material.  Comparing the  different approaches to running from each of the main runners as well as from their coaches would be interesting.  The different approaches to running could also be discussed in how they relate to the characters view of life.  This book provides great material for discussion on themes such as

1) the merits of athletics

2) the pros and cons to amateur vs. professional athletics

3) what does it take (physically and mentally) to push past barriers? Which is more important – physical or mental?

4) How do circumstances affect our performance in sport and in life? How do we keep our confidence and determination when circumstances all seem to be against us?

5) Why do sporting events and athletes bring out such pride in a country or school?

For more discussion material and for some of my favorite quotes and inspirations from the book see my previous post titled Full of Running.

Other Book Recommendations: If you like the sound of this book you might also enjoy Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, Eat and Run by Scott Jurek, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli, Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World by Jennifer Armstrong, and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer.

Full of Running

Revel

“If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold On!’ “

-Rudyard Kipling (as quoted in the Prologue of The Perfect Mile)

I have been reading The Perfect Mile by Neal Bascomb which is about 3 runners in 1952 who set out to be the first to run a mile in under 4 minutes.  FANTASTIC book!  You can find my review of the book from a “literary” standpoint here, but I also wanted to share some of the inspiration I have received through this book.

“The essential thing in life is not so much conquering as fighting well.” 

-Baron de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Games (as quoted in chapter 2 of The Perfect Mile)

The drive and hard work of the athletes and coaches in this book to achieve a seemingly unachievable goal is unbelievable and motivating. Their personal histories and the historical events of the time really drive home how dedicated and disciplined these people were. Full-time med student and training as an olympian with no financial backing so you can keep your amateur athlete status sounds beyond impossible. But they did it.

“To be great, one does not have to be mad, but definitely it helps.”

-Percy Cerutty (as quoted in chapter 3)

Some of my favorite parts of the book are the headings at the beginning of each chapter. I am a runner and they capture so well my feelings about that part of my life, but they apply to more than just running.  The quotes are insights into the joys and sacrifices that come from complete dedication to a goal or idea.

“Whatever you can do,

Or think you can, begin it.

Boldness has power, and genius,

And magic in it.

-Goethe (as quoted in chapter 9)

When I finished reading about the race in which the 4 minute barrier was broken for the first time, I had to get on YouTube and see if I could find video footage of the actual race.  Sure enough, I could watch the whole thing. The video has commentary from the runner (I won’t tell you who it is so as to not spoil the outcome) and he says he “felt so full of running” through the first 3 laps. I immediately loved and related to that phrase – “full of running.”

Running (and life) can be hard work. Some days it can feel like pulling your feet through thick sludge. But then there are those days when the timing, weather, diet, and rest align perfectly and breathe new life and energy into your legs and soul. I love that feeling of beginning a run and just feeling strong, fast, connected, and alive – full of running.

When that feeling transfers to life in general, it makes for a pretty great day.

Relay 224

John Landy was one of the runners trying to break the 4 minute mile barrier.  He is quoted in the book as saying, “In any running event, you are absolutely alone. Nobody can help you. But short races are run without thought. In very long races you must go a great distance simply to be present in the laps that really count. But almost every part of the mile is important – you can never let down, never stop thinking, and you can be beaten at almost any point. I suppose you could say it is like life. I had wanted to master it.”

I love running because of the ways it teaches me about life and myself, and how much stronger I have become because of it – physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. So Landy’s comparison of the mile to life resounds with me. Though, I have never felt alone in a running event as he describes.  In a race or even just in training runs I have always felt the support and faith of my family.  They cheer me on and make sure that they make it a priority for me to get out on those runs so I can keep my soul healthy. I love the feeling of camaraderie in a race between runners as well. And most of all, I feel my Heavenly Father and my Savior as I connect with the earth and my inner self in a unique and powerful way as I run. It is these same influences that reassure me that I am never alone in life either.

“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same…

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

-Rudyard Kipling (as quoted in chapter 4)

Eat and Run

This is a great follow-up read to Born to Run . Scott Jurek is one of the superathletes featured in the epic race detailed in Born to Run and Scott has now written his own take on what it means to push the limits of mind and body and to be a healthier and happier person because of it. This is what I thought of his book.

Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon GreatnessEat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness by Scott Jurek

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Summary from Goodreads (edited a little by me): “In Eat and Run, Scott Jurek opens up about his life and career—as an elite athlete and a vegan—and inspires runners at every level. From his Midwestern childhood hunting, fishing, and cooking for his meat-and-potatoes family, to his early beginnings in running (he hated it), to his slow transition to ultrarunning and veganism, to his world-spanning, record-breaking races, Scott’s story shows the power of an iron will and blows apart all the stereotypes of what athletes should eat to fuel optimal performance. Chock-full of incredible, on-the-brink stories of endurance and competition, fascinating science, and accessible practical advice—including his own favorite plant-based recipes—Eat and Run will motivate everyone to “go the distance,” whether that means getting out for that first run, expanding your food horizons, or simply exploring the limits of your own potential.”

My Review

I found Scott Jurek’s journey interesting and inspiring at parts. The running tips and recipes thrown in were good, but this isn’t a book about learning how to run. It is a memoir and so it’s really about Scott’s personal journey to finding meaning in life through running. I could relate to a lot of what he said, the feelings he expressed about running and how he related that to anytime we have something hard to do in life, anytime we have to push ourselves beyond the limits we think we have.

It only gets 3 stars though because some of it gets a little repetitive and while he tries to make his journey a universal one (and succeeds in that part of the time) running over 100 miles and having the time and lack of other commitments to be able to train for that is not universal. Also while I gain a great deal through running and love it for the personal, physical, emotional, and spiritual gains it provides, I found Jurek’s devotion to it as the one true source of all meaning and happiness (combined with eating well) to be unbalanced.

He spends a few chapters toward the end of the book describing a time when his life fell apart and after taking some time to wallow and think he is able to get back into running which helps him overcome the sinkhole he found himself in. I’m not quite sure his description of the difficult time or the recovery after ever quite shows that he recognizes it was is unbalanced devotion to eating and running that likely got him in deep doo-doo in the first place, and while I do believe the running and the passion he has for it did help and will continue to help him in other such difficult times, if he doesn’t find a little more balance he’s likely to find himself in a hole just as big or bigger than the last one.

But if you enjoy fitness and eating well you would enjoy this read. It has some interesting information and useful tips. And it is motivating, makes you want to do a little better and taking care of your body, mind, and spirit.

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Age Recommendation: This book probably holds the most interest for 18 and older, but teens with experience running or with other sports training might relate to some of it as well.

Appropriateness: I don’t remember particular swear words, but there likely was some profanity in the book. Some description of drinking as well, but definitely not a promotion for drinking. I didn’t find anything offensive.

Born to Run

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never SeenBorn to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Summary from Goodreads (edited some by me): “Born to Run is an epic adventure that began with one simple question: Why does my foot hurt?In search of an answer, Christopher McDougall sets off to find a tribe of the world’s greatest distance runners and learn their secrets, and in the process shows us that everything we thought we knew about running is wrong. With a sharp wit and wild exuberance, McDougall takes us from the high-tech science labs at Harvard to the sun-baked valleys and freezing peaks across North America, where ever-growing numbers of ultrarunners are pushing their bodies to the limit, and, finally, to the climactic race in the Copper Canyons. Born to Run is that rare book that will not only engage your mind but inspire your body when you realize that the secret to happiness is right at your feet, and that you, indeed all of us, were born to run.”

My Review

Definitely a worthwhile read. I’ll probably read it again someday too. Chapter 25 to the end was my favorite part. Every runner should read chapter 25 and chapter 28 and anyone who has ever wanted to run or even thought about wanting to run should read the book.

I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would though, especially since it is essentially responsible for my conversion to running. My husband read it first several years ago and decided that he and I should try barefoot or minimalist running technique. I had despised running all my life; it had never felt natural, it never felt good to be doing it. Then with my husband’s coaxing, I tried on a pair of minimalist running shoes; I immediately felt a difference. Just walking around the store I could tell my form was different in those shoes than in all the traditional running shoes I had always had. My first 1/4 mile run in the new shoes felt amazing, refreshing, rejuvenating. I felt strong (and also sore) after only a 1/4 mile. I had never run a full mile without walking before. Within 2 weeks I was running 3 miles without stopping and loving how it felt.

It took me a year to actually read the book that inspired that change, partially because I just don’t read much nonfiction. Hearing my husband talk about it I had thought I would be most interested in the story part of the book, that I would care most about “the greatest race the world has never seen.” But actually, I didn’t care all that much about it as I was reading. I felt there was lots of repetitive description of the Copper Canyons and the Tarahumara. Finding Caballo Blanco and getting the race all prepped also dragged for me. It was the science and the research that caught my attention. I would have loved to read more about the coaches and college running teams that train partially barefoot. I want more info about the studies scientists and coaches have been doing about running technique.

The writing is engaging though. It does not read like a textbook, but more like a novel. I came away from the read better able to describe why I finally fell in love with running, why I still love it, and why it was only after discovering “barefoot/minimalist” or good form running technique that I could truly consider myself “Born to Run.” Makes me want to get out and run. Maybe the Grand Canyon rim to rim?

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Age Recommendation: This one will likely be of most interest to adults. Teens, especially those who are runners could appreciate it too.

Appropriateness: There is some profanity and drinking in the book. It is not the focus of the story by any means and did not detract from the motivating message.

I loved my sister-in-law’s review of this one too:

“It definitely makes you think. About running, about your feelings about running, about all your experiences running…It also makes you curious, about all the same things. It makes you go a little crazy…thinking about running 5k’s, 10k’s, half marathons…what the hell, let’s run the Grand Canyon. It makes you start to hope, a little bit, that maybe, just maybe, you could learn to love to run, too. I’ve hated running ever since track in junior high. Now?….well, let’s just say I’m thinking…and hoping…and running.”

of hope and horsesIf you know her story it’s pretty incredible for her to be running, or even walking, after a accident with a horse left her with a crushed pelvis. If you want another amazing story please buy her audio CD called “Of Hope and Horses.” You can buy it here. I guarantee it will change your life, make you more grateful, more humble, and more ready to face your fears and LIVE.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

The movie just came out and I haven’t seen it yet. But I will. I don’t doubt that it is fantastic given the source material, but I am certain that the book is even better, which is probably true for most book to movie adaptations.

For those of you unfamiliar with both the book and the movie here is the description from Goodreads (I edited some because it seemed like it gave quite a bit away):

“On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Corps bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini. He started out as a cunning delinquent boy but channeled his defiance into running, which took him to the Berlin Olympics. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman which lead to his crash into the ocean. 

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

Telling an unforgettable story of a man’s journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit. “

That sums it up pretty well, but if you want to know what I thought here is my review.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and RedemptionUnbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am humbled by the lives presented in this book, amazed at their strength, fortitude, and ability to forgive. They have spurred some self-reflection. Louis Zamperini and so many others endured indescribable pains and tortures both physically and mentally. They survived years of cruelty. They did not come out unscathed, but they came out. And over time they made themselves better because of their experience. My personal struggles look like mole-hills when contrasted with the mountains they faced. But they never stopped climbing and so the message I found in the book was not one of darkness despite the horrors that occurred. Instead I was inspired and motivated.

I want to respond to the events and difficulties in my life with the same dignity, courage, and tenacity I read about. These amazing people lived through hell and came out the other side willing to teach and help others, and if they can do that then I can be a force for good in my life that is pretty much heaven compared to the atrocities of war. I am so grateful for the sacrifices of others that make my heaven possible.

The author is a great storyteller, mixing in the biographical with little known facts and statistics. I had no idea how risky being in the air corps was, and while I knew that physical treatment of POW’s was beyond horrific, my eyes were opened to the mental and emotional manipulation that also went on. Hillenbrand brings out the information that makes this story about more than just one man’s experience. And she does it entertainingly. The book reads much more like a thriller than a biography.

As a runner myself I completely connected with Zamperini and the role running played in his development and survival. He is a true olympian and hero.

This is one of those books that you finish reading but then think about for days. It is a life-changer and a person-changer.

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Age Recommendation: 16 or older. This is not one for the faint of heart. Some 16 year olds may not be able to handle the stark realities presented, but it’s all worth it to become acquainted with the greatness in people.

Appropriateness: There is some swearing, soldier talk. It didn’t bother me. The story needs to be told and strong language is necessary to get the point across. There is description of war and cruel treatment which was the reality of the events. With that in mind consider carefully the members of your group before selecting it for book club or for the classroom. Some readers may be bothered by such harshness, but you can probably guess my opinion. This really happened and when you get to know the man that it happened too you will be better for it.