Book Review: Push On – My Walk to Recovery on the Appalachian Trail

Chris Connors has hit us up with another review for the blog! This one is called Push On: My Walk to Recovery on the Appalachian Trail by Niki Rellon.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00074]

[note: this is a review of the first edition. After I submitted this review, I was forwarded an updated copy of the book in which the new formatting makes for a better reading experience; see notes at the end]

This is a 285-page book about extreme athlete Niki Rellon’s struggle to recover from a horrific accident in Montezuma Canyon, Utah that left her with a missing leg and daily pain. It chronicles her struggle to overcome the doctors’ pessimistic prognosis (she should learn to get used to a wheelchair), her injuries, her pain medication dependency, and her own despair (how was a restless nomadic athlete supposed to adapt to a desk job? Spoiler alert: she didn’t, but you’ll have to read it to find out where her adventures took her—aside from the trail, that is).

“A diamond in the rough” probably sums up this book—and perhaps the author—which has some rough edges that hides its value. A rough diamond can look quite unremarkable, but shows its true value when much of it has been cut away and polished.

The book starts well, but it seems the editor did not see much of the book. There are some mild editing problems in the beginning: three foreshadowing sentences in two pages, a few awkward sentences “I’d never even heard of Paradox Sports, but they’d heard my story from a base jumper who’d been at the same time in that Hospital in Grand Junction I’d been there”, and sentences that belaboured the obvious. One humorous spelling mistake about her brother’s wedding produced a great euphemism I’ll be using now. “Every time I posted something on Facebook about a breakdown, they [her parents]got more and more nervous about me making it to Germany in time for my brothers weeding.

By the middle it was similar to a high-school diary with stream of conscious from present day to past with no coherent narrative, what parties she attended, books and movies read and seen, restaurants visited, and interjections about who was a jerk, who was a creep, who was an angel (angels outnumber creeps and jerks, which itself is uplifting).

The Appalachian Trail part of the book starts on page 122, then there are numerous detours back in time to earlier events, as well as numerous social forays at stopping points along the trail or while she was waiting for infections in her leg to heal or prosthetic repairs. We are treated to what life as an active athlete is like before and after the accident. The detours, though, do not seem to relate to the main narrative, but are more random connections—she sees a dog, she remembers her own childhood’s dog.

One’s heart goes out to Rellon. For example, Rellon gave the nurse her height and weight in metric. The nurse hadn’t even heard of metric. Rellon felt like she’d walked into a Third-World hospital. One can only imagine how she felt upon discovering she was at the mercy of a nurse who had managed to graduate without even being aware of the metric system. What else doesn’t she know? This level of incompetence is stunning—even nurses in Third World hospitals know the metric system as only the US, along with Liberia and Myanamar, still use the antiquated imperial system.

The book is littered with inspirational quotes (I view inspirational quotes the same way Rellon views shrinks—her term, not mine) that are randomly salted throughout chapters without obvious relevance to the topic at hand. They were written in 14-point Algerian font with reddish letters, which jarred me out of the flow that was present in the early chapters. I started skipping over quotes the same way I skip over ads on webpages. Perhaps they’d work better at the top of each new chapter, or if they were placed in an inset box where they fit the topic under discussion.

Another big item that distracted from the narrative were the pictures. They’d been resized without regard for proportions (holding the Shift key down while dragging at the corner of the picture will keep the original proportion while you change the size). As well, faces were marred with bad photoshopping. It is good to value someone’s privacy, but permission to use their faces could be obtained from good friends or Facebook friends; the rest could be gently blurred or pixelated.

matt

Eventually, I had to start skipping over the pictures as I found them cumulatively disturbing. I did not find the pictures of her infected stump disturbing though, just missing faces—other readers’ mileage may vary.

faces

Missing faces are always creepy.

This book is more like a biography as only about half of the book takes place on the trail. An editor would have her change the title to reflect this. Or, an editor would keep the title but have her use the trail as a skeleton for the rest of the story. For example, the book begins with the accident. Later, there is a trail story where she almost dies from hypothermia and gale force winds that knocked her off her feet. This story is told beginning to end which leads to no real suspense. Now, suppose the book opens with that story, talks about how she tries to huddle into a wet sleeping bag thinking, “How did I get here, in the middle of a storm on a mountain, far from help, just months after I was told I’d have to use a wheelchair for most of my life?”—then cut away to the accident, leaving us wondering how she got out of the trail predicament. It’d keep people reading to find out what happened next.

The flawed delivery should not take away from Rellon’s message though. The accident was horrible—rocks always seemed more unforgiving in eastern Utah—and her determination to push on, to recover, to prove the naysayers wrong is motivational.

rocks

Unforgiving rocks. Photo by CC

There is so much potential in this book to be far better. It is an inspirational story, and with some cutting, some polishing, it could easily become the diamond that is already there.

Addendum to the newer edition—now with some polishing.

The new edition’s interior layout looks great. They’ve changed from Cambria font to MinionPro, altered the information and look of the headers, gone from blocky-looking paragraphs to smoother paragraph transitions that let the eye flow naturally along without jumping across white spaces between paragraphs. This appears to be the work of NZGraphics and Nick Zelinger, according to the front piece.

The pictures are higher resolution, and some of the distortion has been corrected too. Compare the two editions below—the one on the left is the updated version.

fixes

Night-and-day difference. Kudos to whoever did this (Nick of NZGraphics.com, and Niki and Jeremy?)

The quotes are also formatted with DancingScript (I think) and delineated with lines above and below the quote. I wouldn’t have thought that technique would be effective, but as I read through parts of the book again the quotes no longer jarred me out of my reading rhythm. In both pictures note the changes in paragraph layout to the more eye-pleasing updated version.

fixes2

Quote formatting made a world of difference in presentation and reading

I didn’t see any editing of the words or sentences themselves—I was happy to see her brother was still going to be weeded—but I only compared small sections. Still, even without grammar and typo corrections, the book is greatly improved just by these changes alone; they also added a shark photograph at the end—you can never go wrong with a shark photograph (says the completely unbiased biologist)—well done, folks. A vast improvement, quite reader-friendly, and shows more of the diamond that was hidden.

Book Rating: 3.5/5 stars

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads!

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us in ebook format to read and give an honest review.

Kobo Canada

Book Review: The Long Body That Connects Us All

Another book review to scratch off the list. This one was called The Long Body That Connects Us All by Rich Marcello.

20181118_224457_hdr1176260212.jpg

Book Synopsis: Provocative and profound, Rich Marcello’s poems are compact but expansive, filled with music as seductive as their ideas, and focused mostly on how to be a good man. This is a collection of deep passion and wisdom for fathers, husbands, and sons, but also for mothers, wives, and daughters, many who began with a longing for the things they were taught to desire by their forefathers, only to later discover a different path, one lit by loss and welcoming of the vulnerable, one made of the long body that connects us all.

As far as poetry goes, this one was pretty good. It had a lot of nature in it but also played on family, relationships, and hardships. As I was reading, I found that a lot of the passages had me reflecting on my interactions in the past with those I had loved and lost. It warmed my heart to read things like this and as I have probably said before, the beauty of poetry is that everyone can take a different meaning away from it. It works on a personal level and is interpreted in different context with every reader or performer (if you go to poetry readings).

Overall, I rather enjoyed this one and would suggest it. It is a very quick read at only about 60 pages so give it a shot.

Book Rating: 4/5

You can find this book on Amazon and Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us in physical format to read and give an honest review.

I am hosting a giveaway for the next week! If you’re interested in winning some Star Wars Magnetic Bookmarks, an Iron Man coaster, and some fun stickers, then click the link below!

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/5760930a5/?


There is also another book on the block that you should check out if you haven’t heard of it yet. It is called Addicted To Hate by Lucia Mann and it is a great one! You can find it on Amazon or on her website: www.luciamann.com!

Addicted to Hate - Front Cover


Early Access Black Friday (ends Nov 20)

Iceland Trip

I know I said I would post about this when I got back from my trip but I have been so busy with catching up at work and I went to Escapade Music Festival last weekend so there hasn’t been much time to write. But I have finally found some time to sit down and write a post about how amazing my trip was.

First off, we flew with WOW air to Iceland. The flight didn’t cost that much which was good but the plane had a weird smell to it (reminded me of pee) and the seats were very cramped (although they always are for me since I am 6’6). On the return flight home, the guy beside me was chugging beers when the flight attendants weren’t looking and then trying to hide the empty cans all over the place. I’m sure WOW air can be a good experience, we just didn’t have the best one with them. Nonetheless, we didn’t let this get in the way of our trip!

We arrived in Iceland at around 5am and went to pick up our car rental. We rented with Green Motion and got a little Mazda to drive around the country. The rules were very amusing for their rentals. We had insurance that covered for sandstorms because apparently, that is a big thing over there. The #1 rule was to not hit a sheep or goat. They are the equivalent to our deer here in Canada. I just want to say that I did not hit any animals although I did have to stop because there was a herd of sheep crossing the street. We had a staredown and I feel like the sheep blinked first so HA.

Then at 7 am, we went to the Blue Lagoon to enjoy the geothermal spa. It was so warm and we got a drink + mud mask with our admission. We spent a solid 2 hours just chilling in the giant geothermal pools and saunas. It was my first experience at a spa and I think it was great.

After that, we decided to explore the city of Rekyavik. It is beautiful and they have some really cool murals and churches.

There was a little gem of a museum that we visited too. Now, this museum was pretty special because it was a “penis museum“. It featured all different types of animal penises including whales, giraffes, zebras, elk, mice, etc.

We stayed in Airbnb’s for our entire trip because we could pay in CAD instead of Icelandic Krona. Some of them were good and some were just ok. Our favorite one was the first one we stayed in our first night. The host was so nice and got us to drink the pure Icelandic water. She also fed us some little baklava cakes which I kept accidentally calling balaclavas.

On our second day, we went snorkeling in the Sulfra fissure! This was my highlight of the trip. The water was super clear and you could see all the way down to the bottom. It was pretty cold and my hands went numb but it was so worth it. Our dive guide even let me free dive in the lagoon at the end of our snorkeling tour.

I drove a lot during this trip. I can actually officially say I have driven around an entire country. All of the landscapes were incredible and there were waterfalls everywhere you went.

We went all the way to the other side of the island to go whale watching in Husavik. I was very happy with this because we saw so many humpback whales. I had previously done whale watching in Nova Scotia and we never saw anything so this was a step up. The night before this, we stayed in a hostel because it was the only accommodations that we could afford and it was an interesting experience, to say the least. Our room was basically a little 9×9 box with and an open roof. Surprisingly, we slept pretty well. The Husavik harbor was a real sight.

I took a lot of scenery pictures along the way. We saw some glaciers, icebergs, and their famous black sand beaches while driving along the coastline.

All in all, it was a wonderful trip and I would do it again in a heartbeat. The only thing I would say is that Iceland is very expensive because they have to import all their food in so be careful when eating out. Also, gas can be a pain in the ass to figure out. We bought prepaid cards to use the gas machines because they were giving us a lot of trouble.

But I strongly recommend visiting this beautiful country. You will not regret it.