Tag Archives: canines

For Everyman

Leader of the Pack: An Andy Carpenter Mystery by David Rosenfelt (Minotaur Books, $24.99, 362 pages)

Sometime attorney Andy Carpenter can afford just about anything that money can buy.   His inheritance has been invested well and it keeps growing, which allows him the flexibility to take on cases as it suits him.   Even though he doesn’t need to work, his conscience has prodded him to maintain contact with one of his past clients.   This client just isn’t any old guy; he’s the son of a mob boss.   Andy is convinced that the client, Joey, who was convicted of murder, is innocent.   While revisiting the case, he manages to get himself thoroughly entangled with the mob while stubbornly pursuing new information that might free Joey from prison.   Andy’s diligence is rewarded with a heart-stopping attempt on his life.

Rosenfelt always includes a part in the plot for Tara, the wonderful golden retriever that provides Andy with companionship and comfort.   This time she is playing the role of therapy dog when Andy needs an excuse to visit Joey’s ailing elderly uncle.   The uncle’s babbling makes just enough sense that Andy knows there’s a reason to follow-up on the murder that landed Joey in prison.

Readers of this delightful mystery series written by David Rosenfelt can be confident that the situations encountered by the characters are both dangerous and baffling.   Rosenfelt uses his quirky writing style to provide amusement regardless of the harrowing situations he creates for Andy.   The lack of pretense or exaggeration in these books is refreshing.   Well, maybe there’s a bit of exaggeration when it comes to the feats of strength performed by Andy’s bodyguard Marcus.   Marcus often comes in handy when villains are reluctant to tell what they know or Andy is trapped in a nasty predicament.

Andy is in some ways an everyman.   He doesn’t come off as a super hero or glamorous leading man.   Perhaps it is the down-to-earth nature of his observations that make Andy so likeable.

Laurie has just gotten on the treadmill, which is a device I completely do not understand.   I don’t like walking anywhere, and in a million years would not walk to nowhere.   This particular treadmill has a video screen that shows fake mountains, I guess under the very misguided assumption that mountain walking is an appealing concept.   It isn’t; in fact, it’s one of the reasons they invented tunnels.   I never really envied the Von Trapp family much.

Well recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   Leader of the Pack was released on July 17, 2012.   “Rosenfelt walks a line between pulse-pounding suspense and laugh-out-loud humor…  One of the best in the business.”   Associated Press

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Coming Up Next…

A review of Leader of the Pack: An Andy Carpenter Mystery by David Rosenfelt.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Puppy Love

New Tricks: A Novel by David Rosenfelt (Grand Central Publishing, $24.99, 320 pages; also available as a Mass Market Paperback for $7.99)

You are in for a doggy treat – not to be confused with Milk Bone biscuits.   Author David Rosenfelt is a master of timing, understatement and spoofing.   This Andy Carpenter novel, New Tricks, is an all-around good read; a mystery complete with an attorney who has a reputation for defending dogs (of the canine variety), a temperamental and outspoken judge nicknamed Hatchet and a lady police chief from Wisconsin who just happens to be the attorney’s long-distance girlfriend.   The cast of characters is enhanced by a friend who communicates with the attorney by singing the lyrics of popular songs.   The center of attention is Waggy, an eager and energetic Bernese puppy whose ownership is in dispute.

An exploding mansion with collateral damage that murders the owner is the attention-grabbing action that marks the beginning of the mystery story.   The plot twists, turns and then doubles back on itself.   There are plenty of red herrings, hidden motives, puns and double entendres that give an appreciative reader cause to laugh out loud.  

The plot twists and turns are worthy of The Rockford Files and 77 Sunset Strip.   For readers under the age of 50, author Ellen Raskin (The Westing Game) comes to mind.

Highly recommended.   A charming tail wagger!

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   “Packed with shootings, explosions, murder, and gritty courtroom drama…  a treat.” USA Today

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Read Roam

Roam is a novel by Alan Lazar about a lost dog.   As summarized by the Sacramento Bee:  “Nelson is half-poodle, half-beagle and a natural-born wanderer.   One day he roams too far from home and his beloved owner, Katey, and finds himself lost.   His determined odyssey of trying to reunite (with Katey) spans eight adventurous years.”

According to the official synopsis from Simon and Schuster:  “Roam follows Nelson on his eight-ear stray from home, until one day he is miraculously reunited with his family.   Through it all, Nelson maintains his optimistic spirit and unflagging yearning for the Great Love, his first owner, a concert pianist named Katey.   He never stops longing for her, and she in turn never stops searching for him.”

Bookpage said that, “(Roam) will likely be added to bookshelves that include titles like Dewey the Library Cat, The Art of Racing in the Rain and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle.”   Publisher’s Weekly added, “Nelson’s adventures on the fringe are fascinating…  a touching page-turner…”

I think that anyone who loved Huck: The Remarkable True Story of…  One Lost Puppy by Janet Elder (Broadway, $15.00, 301 pages; also available as a Nook Book and Kindle Edition download) will also probably like or love Roam.   You can click on the link below to read the first chapter of Roam: A Novel with Music by author-composer Alan Lazar.

http://alanlazar.com/roam-chapter1.pdf

Roam: A Novel by Alan Lazar (Atria Books, $22.00, 336 pages).   Also available in e-book editions (Kindle and Nook Book),  and as an unabridged audiobook read by Patrick Lawlor.

Joseph Arellano

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Pick of the Litter

Huck: The Remarkable True Story of How One Lost Puppy Taught a Family – and a Whole Town – About Hope and Happy Endings by Janet Elder (Broadway; $15.00; 301 pages)

“…our little dog, our Huck, had from the very beginning made all of us forget about cancer and its debilitating emotional and physical effects…   From the moment he arrived, Huck brought a lot of love into all our lives.”

I happened to pick up this true tale while encountering a bit of rough sledding and it was the perfect choice.   This is a book that will restore your faith in both humanity and the Universe, with a capital “U.”   I’m not the only person who feels this way – comedian David Letterman said about Huck, “You’ll feel better about everything after you read this.”

Janet Elder and her husband Rich, who live in New York City, finally give in to their son’s pleas to have a dog; pleas which began when Michael was just four.   Years later – after Janet has survived a battle with cancer – they get Michael a red-haired toy poodle named Huck.   Huck appears to be the answer to many prayers until he’s left at a relative’s home while the Elders vacation in Florida.   A neighborhood car accident creates a situation in which Huck gets loose and runs away from the house in Ramsey, New York.   Ramsey is a bucolic rural community with woods populated with coyotes, raccoons and other dangerous predators (possibly even including bears).   It also has high-speed roads that cut through the area, making the odds of survival for a lost animal even slimmer.   Since Huck had never been to Ramsey before, the odds of him returning “home” are extremely unlikely.

Twenty-four hours into their much-needed vacation trip, the Elders learn that Huck has gone missing.   They speed back to Ramsey to look for the lost dog.   The details of the long hunt for Huck are best left for the reader to discover; however, what’s amazing about this true story is the way in which an entire community elected to help the Elders by attempting to find a very small dog lost in a large and dangerous, lightly populated wilderness area.   Each of the volunteers involved brought different skills to the search, with one in particular deciding that they needed to think like an animal (e.g., animals generally re-cross their earlier paths) in order to locate Huck.

“Huck…  is a constant reminder of the simple virtues that matter most in life – loyalty, humor, patience, companionship, and unconditional love.”

Anyone who has ever had a dog or cat or other animal go missing will definitely identify with the Elders, although you need not currently own a pet to relate to this wonderful, highly life-affirming, amazingly true story.   Need your spirits lifted?   If so, Huck may well do the job!

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   The trade paperback version of the New York Times Bestseller contains an Afterward updating the story’s events since its original publication.

“Elder shows us humanity in its best light and we are uplifted.”   The New York Times

“Your faith in humanity – and dogs – will be restored.”   Lincoln Star Journal

“This dog book actually makes you feel better about people.”   O, The Oprah Magazine

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Small Prayer

A Small Furry Prayer: Dog Rescue and the Meaning of Life by Steven Kotler (Bloomsbury USA; $16.00; 320 pages)

Animal lovers of each and every type will love A Small Furry Prayer.   I’m a cat person and yet this story got me to thinking about the joys of living with a dog.   Note that I deliberately did not use the phrase “owning a dog,” as Kotler makes clear that every canine retains a measure of independence.

“My home was now an environment where some level of danger and unpredictability – two of the defining characteristics of wildness – were part of the basic package.”

This true tale of a dog rescuing fortyish couple starts in Los Angeles before moving to the comparative wilds of New Mexico.   They begin by serving as emergency foster parents to one dog, then two before winding up living in a dilapidated farm-house in Chimayo, New Mexico – with 20 dogs!   (They later lose count of the total when it exceeds 20.)

Steven Kotler and his wife Joy (known to the locals as el angel de los perros) wind up being less foster parents than the providers of a wooly home for abandoned dogs.   Because six or so of the dogs are Chihuahuas their abode comes to be known as Rancho de Chihuahua.

The Kotlers don’t have a lot of money in 2008 but nevertheless they must purchase $500 worth of good quality dog food each week (sickly dogs require good nutrition) and spend their savings on expensive life-saving operations for their wards.   Kotler is sceptical that he’s going to get much payback from this situation other than having kept his commitment to following Joy’s number one rule in life, “Love me, love my dogs.”

Eventually, of course, Kotler gets his reciprocation in the form of love and acceptance from the rescued dogs, some of whom had been feral and mistrusting of humans.   And there’s the instance in which one of the dogs saves the author’s life when a mountain climbing expedition goes bad.   The dogs, in a sense, demonstrate that love and affection is always paid back in full.

As a former newspaper and magazine writer, Kotler is used to doing extensive research and in this book he includes many fascinating summaries of research performed with (not on) animals.   Much of the research verifies the benefits – mental and physical – that dogs and other animals bring to our existence.   Kotler also makes a convincing case for the notion that the modern dog is just as smart as (but perhaps shrewder than) his wolf ancestors.

At the end of A Small Furry Prayer, the reader will likely come to accept the positive message that our lives on this planet are meant to be shared with furry creatures; creatures that are never owned but which reward us with their unique and special presence.   Part of the truth about what it really means to be human can be expressed in the phrase, “Love me, love my animals.”

Well recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   A Small Furry Prayer will be released in trade paper form on October 11, 2011.

“This is a delightful, rich read sure to take you to unexpected places and beyond.”   Bark magazine

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Furry and Feathered Giveaway

Thanks to Diane S., Munchy has two copies of a new book to give away!   This is Being with Animals: Why We Are Obsessed with the Furry, Scaly, Feathered Creatures Who Populate Our World by Barbara J. King.   This hardbound release from Doubleday has a value of $24.99 ($29.99 in Canada).

Here is a synopsis of the book:

We surround ourselves with animals, and yet rarely do we truly stop to think about the pull they have on us.   Animals have dominated our lives for tens of thousands of years and continue to rule our existence, but why?   Why do people the world over respond to a cartoon mouse named Mickey?   Why do sports teams name themselves the Bears and the Eagles?   Why does the pet industry thrive even in difficult economic times?   Why are we compelled to share our lives with cats, dogs, fish, snakes, turtles, or any other kind of domesticated creature?

In Being with Animals, King offers answers to these questions and more.   She looks at this phenomenon, from the most obvious animal connections in daily life and culture and over the whole of human history, to show the various roles animals have played in all civilizations.   She digs deeply into the importance of the human-animal bond as key to our evolution, as a signficant aspect of understanding what truly makes us human, and looks ahead to explore how our further technological development may affect these important ties.

King’s fresh look at the human-animal relationship will resonate deeply with animal lovers, the environmentally minded, and the armchair scientist.

Barbara J. King is a biological anthropologist and Chancellor Professor of Anthropology at the College of William and Mary.   She has studied monkeys in Kenya and great apes in various captive settings.   Together with her husband, she cares for and arranges to spay and neuter homeless cats in Virginia.  (To this, Munchy says Yeowk!)

To enter our giveaway contest to win one of two copies of Being with Animals, you can either post a comment here or send an e-mail with your name and e-mail address to Josephsreviews@gmail.com .   This will count as a first entry.   For a second entry, answer this question, “How is it that an animal has added value to your life and/or to the lives of your loved ones?”  

Munchy will pick the 2 winners at random.   In order to be eligible for this giveaway, you must live in the United States or Canada and have a residential mailing address.   Books will not be shipped to a P. O. box or to a business-related address.   You have until Monday, February 28, 2011 at Midnight PST to submit your entry or entries.

This is it for the “complex” contest rules.   Good luck and good reading!

14 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized