Tag Archives: non-recommended books

38 Species x 9 Lives

Wild cats

Wild Cats of the World by Luke Hunter, Illustrated by Priscilla Barrett (Bloomsbury, $40.00, 240 pages)

Wild Cats of the World is a coffee table sized book that at first glance looks like it would be the perfect gift for any feline lover. The book examines 38 species of small and big cats, augmented with beautiful photos and sketches. It also imparts interesting information, like the fact that female cats are actually more efficient hunters than males – since they don’t stalk things they can’t kill, and that wildcats can live a full 19 years in captivity. It’s also repeatedly stated that wildcats can and do interbreed with domestic cats.

Wildcat 2


Unfortunately, this book has several weaknesses. Hunter is far too concerned with what each type of cat kills and eats; there are too many photos of cats with their prey – which deems it unsuitable to be kept around children; and the book over-emphasizes the issue of extinction of species. What could have been a joyful celebration of the world’s most successful mammal – one that exists in both large and small forms – becomes a depressing, dragged-out, textbook-like read.

There’s not enough attention paid to the 43 breeds of domestic cats, which are far from extinct with 500 million of them serving as beloved pets, and an additional 500 million living as feral creatures. (500 million feral versions of Felis catus/Felis silvestris definitely equals a very successful type of wild cat!) And the high-priced book is poorly edited (“[a] survey must… continue for a long enough to sample…”).

Overall, a miss instead of a hit.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book was released on October 13, 2015.

Note: There’s another book titled Wild Cats of the World, authored by Mel Sunquist and Fiona Sunquist (Chicago University Press).


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A Nightmare on Elm Street

Mean Business (north book)

Mean Business on Ganson Street: A Novel by S. Craig Zahler (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, $25.99, 304 pages)

An opening chapter filled with violence is standard fare for writers such as Lisa Unger, Deborah Crombie and Lee Child. Thereafter, the story settles into an exploration of the characters and their motivations that eventually link back to that initial shock. The reader is provided red herring possibilities for the solution to the mystery – who dunnit?

Author S. Craig Zahler has penned a “novel” that is, in fact, a snuff movie on paper. Sadly, the Warner Brothers studio has optioned the book and the author is working on the screen adaptation. His vision may spring to life. My hope is that it will be X rated. Anything less will mean that the gore and violence splattered on most of its pages has been insinuated and a younger audience will be admitted for viewing.

The contrasts set up between Detective Jules Bettinger, formerly of Arizona, and the sworn officers in Victory, Missouri are punctuated by crude epithets hurled every which way. Bettinger is exiled after being less than helpful when the former son-in-law of the mayor comes to the police station to secure assistance in locating his missing would-be bride.

Bettinger is alternatively a well-spoken man with an education, a loving husband and father and a guy out for revenge. Regardless of his role, he’s only marginally likeable. Zahler is sadly lacking in his female character development. Each of the women in his tale is one-dimensional. Even Bettinger’s wife fails to experience authentic feelings.

If trash talk and gory, sadistic and gratuitous violence are your preferred criterion for selecting a book, have at it. Everyone else should steer clear! To be clear, this book is not recommended; far from it.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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(It) Happens Every Day

“I remember that my life was perfect.   It felt so perfect that I thought something was bound to go wrong…   But then I suddenly knew something was bound to go wrong.   And it did.”   With these Joan Didion-like cool and analytical words, the actress Isabel Gillies proceeds to tell the true tale of her unexpected divorce.   Like Didion’s works, the book starts off slowly but with an air of great promise.   Unfortunately, the author begins the journey in first gear and never leaves it.

Perhaps more importantly, Gillies fails to come off as someone likeable; certainly not the type of person we would like to have tea with.   Late in the book Gillies quotes her own mother as a critic of her self-absorption, her complaining, her belief that the world revolves around her.   Indeed, and this probably had more than a bit to do with the divorce that her husband sought and was granted.

Another weakness is that we’re told only one side of the story by a clearly biased source.   Perhaps if the second half had been written by her ex-husband, we might have had the opportunity to learn something from the reading.

As it is, there’s not much to see here, so move along.   No great lessons, no inspirations.   We simply, in the words of Bob Dylan, see life and life only.   Which is exactly why, when Gillies divulged the dramatic news of her impending divorce to a supposed friend, this person responded, “(It) happens every day.”

Scribner, $25.00, 259 pages

Joseph Arellano  

A copy of the book was purchased by the reviewer.

Reprinted courtesy of Sacramento Book Review.   happenseveryday_200

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