Audiobook Review: One Breath: Freediving, Death, and the Quest to Shatter Human Limits

Here is the description from Amazon:

“One Breath is a gripping and powerful exploration of the strange and fascinating sport of freediving, and of the tragic, untimely death of America’s greatest freediver.

Competitive freediving – a sport built on diving as deep as possible on a single breath – tests the limits of human ability in the most hostile environment on earth. The unique and eclectic breed of individuals who freedive at the highest level regularly dive hundreds of feet below the ocean’s surface, reaching such depths that their organs compress, light disappears, and one mistake could kill them.

Even among freedivers, few have ever gone as deep as Nicholas Mevoli. A handsome young American with an unmatched talent for the sport, Nick was among freediving’s brightest stars. He was also an extraordinary individual, one who rebelled against the vapid and commoditized society around him by relentlessly questing for something more meaningful and authentic, whatever the risks. So when Nick Mevoli arrived at Vertical Blue in 2013, the world’s premier freediving competition, he was widely expected to challenge records and continue his meteoric rise to stardom. Instead, before the end of that fateful competition Nick Mevoli had died, a victim of the sport that had made him a star, and the very future of free diving was called into question.

With unparalleled access and masterfully crafted prose, One Breath tells his unforgettable story, and of the sport which shaped and ultimately destroyed him.”

“Water is acceptance of the unknown.” Nick Mevoli Perhaps this quote by Nick Mevoli himself most defines his brief life. He focused on freediving, a dive on one breath to the farthest depth possible under water. Even with the best equipment, and a healthy body, a freediver risks uncertainty every time he dives. Nick Mevoli felt impatient to dive to further depths and perhaps impatience hastened his demise.

One Breath: Freediving, Death, and the Quest to Shatter Human Limits by Adam Skolnick offers the background of freediving with the compelling story of Nick Mevoli, an American who felt at ease in international waters and embraced a sometimes nomadic life. I liked listening to the audiobook edition, published by Audible, and well-narrated by Paul Boehmer, because hearing the story gave it a sense of immediacy. Whatever edition you choose, and you can choose book and audio:), One Breath: Freediving, Death, and the Quest to Shatter Human Limits remains a thought-provoking tale that will stay with you for awhile.

Disclosure: I received a copy of One Breath: Freediving, Death, and the Quest to Shatter Human Limits from Audible in exchange for an honest review. This post contains affiliate links.

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Superbowl – Dear Kitten Regarding the Big Game

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Abraham Lincoln and Cats – Presidents & Pets

1860s White House.jpg
Public Domain, Link

When asked if her husband had any hobbies, Mary Todd Lincoln reportedly said, “cats”. President Lincoln welcomed stray cats to the White House. During the darkest days of the Civil War, the company of his cats helped sustain him. He rescued three orphaned kittens at General Grant’s headquarters in Virginia. So the next time you do something nice for a cat, you are following in the footsteps of one of the greatest American Presidents.

Cute grey kitten.jpg
By Nicolas Suzor from Brisbane, Australia – Kittens!
Uploaded by Kaldari, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

Of course Lincoln wasn’t the only President who loved his pets. President Calvin Coolidge and First Lady Grace Coolidge kept cats, dogs, and even a pet raccoon. Grace Coolidge posed for her official portrait with her dog. Should Presidential families include their pets in portraits more often?

Grace Coolidge Official portrait.jpg
By Howard Chandler ChristyWhitehousehistory.org, Public Domain, Link

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Mailbox Monday

Here is the description from Amazon:

“Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2016 Timothy Buchannan buys an abandoned house on the edge of an isolated village on the coast, sight unseen. When he sees the state of it he questions the wisdom of his move, but starts to renovate the house for his wife, Lauren to join him there. When the villagers see smoke rising from the chimney of the neglected house they are disturbed and intrigued by the presence of the incomer, intrigue that begins to verge on obsession. And the longer Timothy stays, the more deeply he becomes entangled in the unsettling experience of life in the small village. Ethan, a fisherman, is particularly perturbed by Timothy’s arrival, but accedes to Timothy’s request to take him out to sea. They set out along the polluted coastline, hauling in weird fish from the contaminated sea, catches that are bought in whole and removed from the village. Timothy starts to ask questions about the previous resident of his house, Perran, questions to which he receives only oblique answers and increasing hostility. As Timothy forges on despite the villagers’ animosity and the code of silence around Perran, he starts to question what has brought him to this place and is forced to confront a painful truth. The Many is an unsettling tale that explores the impact of loss and the devastation that hits when the foundations on which we rely are swept away.”

Disclosure: I received a copy of The Many from Audible in exchange for an honest review. This post contains affiliate links.

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Review: Tangled Vines by Frances Dinkelspiel

While the original thirteen colonies were fighting for independence from England in 1779, in California, Franciscans were perfecting wine. Tangled Vines depicts the fascinating history of California’s wines. It’s bookended by the story of the worst wine arson ever: In 2005, Mark Anderson set a wine warehouse on fire and destroyed over 4.5 million bottles of wine worth over 200 million dollars. The author learns that the bottles destroyed include an 1875 vintage produced by her own great-great grandfather: Isaias Hellman.

Tracing these bottles’ origin takes her back to Rancho Cucamonga, the Southern California town that once dominated the California wine industry. She chronicles the ups and downs of California wine — including a depressing period when vintners allowed hogs to run wild through their vineyards eating grapes because grape prices had plummeted beyond the practicality of production. With the gold rush of 1849, vintners prospered and customers rode through on horses decked with silver. Ms. Dinkelspiel describes a time when one could ride horseback for hours and see only cows in the wilderness that once defined California. When California became a state in 1850, laws that you probably didn’t hear about in history classes are passed that deny Native Americans the right to vote, deny Native Americans the right to testify against a white man in court, and allow Native Americans to be arrested for not working. This leads to exploitation by certain vintners. In the 20th Century, Bobby Mondavi led Northern California’s emergence as the dominant territory for California’s wines.

I listened to the Audible edition of Tangled Vines. Narrated superbly by Dina Pearlman, the audio version presents this well-written book with the engaging style of a favorite history teacher. Mark Anderson currently remains in a federal prison serving a 27 year sentence.

Disclosure: I received a copy of Tangled Vines from Audible in exchange for an honest review. This post contains affiliate links.

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Best Of Blog: Hemingway’s Cat is Missing

This post appeared in November 2011. The kitty pictured above wasn’t Hemingway’s cat but she was the inspiration for the Magical Cool Cat Mysteries. The books don’t really do her justice. She died unexpectedly and I’m just grateful now that I knew her in one of her nine lives.

Early readers of this blog — Hi Deb! Hi Ann! Hi Jane! — know that in July, after I read Paula’s McLain’s brilliant book, The Paris Wife, I posted that Hemingway’s Cat is Missing.

I explained that I felt drawn to The Paris Wife, Paula McLain’s novel written from the perspective of Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley, because A Moveable Feast, Hemingway’s own memoir of Roaring Twenties Paris, has passages that remain indelible to me today —- though I read it long ago. One is mentioned in the blurb of The Paris Wife: Hemingway returns after several days in a love nest with Pauline, who becomes his second wife, and sees his first wife Hadley, standing with his son, waiting for him at the train station, and wishes he had died before he loved anyone but her.

And Hemingway describes waking to a Paris morning, sharing breakfast with his son, nicknamed Bumby, and his cat, nicknamed F. Puss, and calls them good company. Denouncing as ignorant anyone who states a cat will suck a baby’s breath, Hemingway vividly portrays F. Puss as Bumby’s babysitter, guarding him in the crib. I envisioned a purring, fluffy cat lulling Bumby to sleep.

So I was part way through The Paris Wife, and feeling transported to 1920s Paris with F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein and John Dos Passos, among the people the Hemingways knew, when I thought, Where is the cat? Surely the cat entered Hadley’s consciousness. I kept reading this beautifully written book expecting at least a line for F. Puss —- maybe watching Parisian birds from a window, grooming a paw after sharing Papa’s meal, or nuzzling Bumby in his crib. I finished the book. Hemingway’s cat is missing.

UPDATE: Later, I emailed Paula McLain and asked about Hemingway’s beloved cat, F. Puss. Paula McLain graciously replied and said that when Hadley was interviewed about F. Puss, and the great babysitting service F. Puss provided, Hadley said that Hemingway built it up too much. Mystery solved. I think we can also surmise that when F. Puss meowed for breakfast, Hemingway lept up to serve breakfast while Hadley slept.

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Mailbox Monday

I like California, history, and wine and I’m looking forward to listening to the Audible edition of Tangled Vines: Greed, Murder, Obsession, and an Arsonist in the Vineyards of California by Frances Dinkelspiel. Here is part of the description from Amazon:

“On October 12, 2005, a massive fire broke out in the Wines Central wine warehouse in Vallejo, California. Within hours, the flames had destroyed 4.5 million bottles of California’s finest wine worth more than $250 million, making it the largest destruction of wine in history. The fire had been deliberately set by a passionate oenophile named Mark Anderson, a skilled con man and thief with storage space at the warehouse who needed to cover his tracks. With a propane torch and a bucket of gasoline-soaked rags, Anderson annihilated entire California vineyard libraries as well as bottles of some of the most sought-after wines in the world.”

Disclosure: I received a copy of Tangled Vines from Audible in exchange for an honest review. This post contains affiliate links.

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Review: Chain of Title

Chain of Title by David Dayen presents a never dull story of mortgage fraud and mortgage foreclosure. For a brief time, some would say not brief enough, no income and no assets were required to buy houses. People were pushed into subprime mortgages even when they qualified for better.

When the deceptive bubble collapsed, homeowners in the midst of foreclosure couldn’t always speak to their mortgage holders. Mortgages were repeatedly assigned and reassigned to new holders. Even finding a mortgage holder could be challenging because businesses closed quickly after the crash. Chain of Title asks, if only mortgage holders can legally foreclose, how did certain banks foreclose on mortgages they did not even own? This is the story of homeowners who fought back against unscrupulous foreclosures. Chain of Title should become required reading in American History classes. I listened to the Audible edition, well-narrated by Kaleo Griffin, of this gripping account of foreclosures spawned by the subprime mortgage frenzy.

Disclosure: I received a copy of Chain of Title from Audible in exchange for an honest review. This post contains affiliate links.

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Best Of Blog: Lipstick at the 1920s New Yorker

This post originally appeared in October 2011. I can’t believe I’ve been blogging for five years.

With her love for cocktails and wit, Lois Long reviewed speakeasies for The New Yorker. She signed her articles “Lipstick” and defined 1920s Flapper style. She would famously show up at The New Yorker at about 4 a.m. without her keys and leap over the top of her cubicle like a cat.

Lipstick had an eloquence all her own. She wrote that men at one speakeasy “were not handsome but they looked like good providers”. In the 1920s, she’d meet bootleggers carrying $1,000 bills. That wasn’t a typo. If you haven’t seen a $1,000 bill, it’s because they were discontinued in the 1940s. And it’s for the best, isn’t it? Can you imagine someone handing a beleagured barrista at Starbucks a $1,000 bill for a morning latte?

“Will somebody do me a favor and get me home by eleven sometime? And see that nobody gives a party while I am catching up? I do so hate to miss anything.” Lipstick

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

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Cat Cafe San Diego

Dodger, the adorable to the max cat pictured above, resided at Cat Cafe San Diego until humans worthy to take him home arrived. Cat Cafe San Diego offers the company of cats, locally brewed coffee, and locally baked pastry every day from 9 to 3 in downtown San Diego:

Cat Cafe San Diego
472 3rd Avenue
San Diego, CA

Opened in January 2015, Cat Cafe San Diego gives cats from the San Diego Humane Society a home until they meet the right humans. Over a hundred cats have met the right humans here.

And even if it isn’t the right time to adopt a new cat, what is more fun, coffee with cats or coffee without cats?

Photo used by permission of Cat Cafe San Diego

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