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.
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.
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).
Things Unsaid: A Novel by Diana Y. Paul (She Writes Press, $16.95, 300 pages)
“She had a college-age daughter now who needed her attention. Her daughter’s dream choice was Stanford. Everyone deserved to have dreams. But in order to make her daughter’s dreams a reality, Jules needed to change. Now. And fast. And her parents had to change, too, or they would all be destroyed.”
Leo Tolstoy said, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Things Unsaid is a novel about a very unhappy family; it’s a tale which may prove Tolstoy wrong as they appear to be unhappy in a common way. This is a typical American family in which each member cares far too much about what other family members think, do and say; for some reason, each member of the family is afraid of every other member.
Paul’s novel makes for an engaging, yet often disturbing, read. My suspicion is that readers who hail from highly dysfunctional families will get the most from it; they will identify with its characters. Those raised in emotionally healthy families – where people actually speak and listen to each other, and value each other’s hopes and dreams, may find it nearly incomprehensible.
Things is about a woman who sacrifices almost everything in her adult life, including her husband and daughter, to please her extremely demanding, elderly, parents. She must hit bottom before seeing that she’s throwing her own life away. It’s a valuable morality play, but I’d like to see Paul tackle something lighter and brighter the next time around.
Recommended for a select audience.
A review copy was provided by the author.
Paper: An Elegy (A Celebration of the Age of Paper) by Ian Sansom (Fourth Estate, $24.99, 230 pages)
Since paper books seem so clearly to embody knowledge it’s hardly surprising that we have come to believe that the possession of books is in itself sufficient to possess knowledge.
A copy of Paper: An Elegy in e-reader format is unthinkable! From the deeply embossed dust jacket to the creamy off-white thick pages resplendent in their crisp dark type font, the reader needs to experience the physicality of the hard cover original. Inside, the text is supplemented with illustrations and pithy quotes appropriate for the focus of each chapter. It’s not often that tactile, visual and auditory experiences are bound up together so neatly.
At first glance, Paper might be taken for a garden variety survey of the title subject. Author Ian Sansom quickly adjusts the reader’s perspective to his own, wherein he offers an approach that is thoroughly different from the routine of every day non-fiction. Sansom details in depth the notion of paper as a receptacle for knowledge (book), a communication tool (advertising handbill), an object conveying authority (warrant or judicial decree), a stand-in for value (currency), and therapy (origami). His is a style of indulgence that teaches and distracts while ultimately engaging the reader’s imagination. Oddly, the book provides feelings of coziness, charm and intellectual expansiveness — quite a combination for a single-subject non-fiction topic.
Detail oriented readers will delight in the depth of information provided. Book collectors may be willing to lend their volume to a trusted friend.
A review copy was provided by the publisher.
This book was released on October 24, 2013.
A review of Paper: An Elegy by Ian Sansom.
A review of Inherit the Dead, a novel written by 20 prominent mystery writers.
Blood Line: An Anna Travis Novel by Lynda La Plante (Harper Paperbacks, $14.99, 480 pages)
She gave him a smile and then returned to weaving in and out of the traffic, constantly using the car horn and swearing as they hit a snarl up by Ladbroke Grove. Paul felt very uneasy and not just because of her erratic driving, although it did make him cringe back in his seat a few times, but rather because of her attitude. Anna seemed pleased about Alan Rawlings possibly being a victim.
Betrayal is the mother of invention in this rambling tale of a missing person and possible murder victim. Author Lynda La Plante is a celebrated and highly successful mystery writer. Her most famous work is the British television series, Prime Suspect. In Blood Line, La Plante takes every opportunity to delve into the psychology of each of her main characters. She literally weaves the story among the characters and around the landscape where the action takes place.
The story line provides some rather blunt evidence of man’s inhumanity to man and to helpless creatures as well. A reader would have to be numb not to feel an emotional connection to some of the victims – the subject of the prologue and a herd of retired circus seals. When it comes to knowing more about the prologue victim, a handsome young man whose body is missing, the emotions felt for him may change for the reader.
Anna Travis is a newly-badged detective chief inspector who is recovering from the loss of her fiance. To complicate matters, Anna’s supervisor is her former lover. To say that she has raw spots in her heart is an understatement. What begins as a missing persons report filed by an anxious father, morphs into an all-out race against evil to bring the disparate elements of the case together for a satisfying conclusion.
As a fan of the Prime Suspect series, this reviewer turned the first page of Blood Line with a definite bias toward trusting the author to provide an enjoyable read. That trust was validated.
A review copy was provided by the publisher. Blood Line was released on October 23, 2012. “Fun, fearsome, and fiercely independent.” Sunday Telegraph (London)
A review of Bruce by Peter Ames Carlin.
A review of Joni: The Creative Odyssey of Joni Mitchell by Katherine Novak.