Tag Archives: October book releases

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

wildcat-076

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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Don’t Talk

Things Unsaid B&N

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.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the author.

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It’s Only a Paper Moon

Paper: An Elegy (A Celebration of the Age of Paper) by Ian Sansom (Fourth Estate, $24.99, 230 pages)

Paper

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.

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

This book was released on October 24, 2013.

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Paper 3

A review of Paper: An Elegy by Ian Sansom.

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As Good as Dead

Inherit the Dead (nook book)

Inherit the Dead: A Novel by Lee Child, et al. (Touchstone, $25.99, 288 pages)

Twenty Thrilling Writers. One Chilling Mystery.

Mystery fans will be happy to know that the twenty writers who contributed to this serial novel are supporting a good cause, Safe Horizon — a charity in support of victims of violent crimes. Lisa Unger, Lawrence Block, Marcia Clark and John Connolly are this reviewer’s favorites in the mix. In a serial novel, each writer adds to the story thread in his or her own writing style (although each author was given an outline of the plot).

The plot twists and scenes follow along with these styles. Some chapters are all action and others are based on character conversations. Entries at the conclusion of several chapters are printed in a different type font — clearly originating from an unseen character who is either bonkers or a sociopath.

Pericles “Perry” Christo is hired to find a missing heiress named Angelina (Angel for short). Perry is a former New York Police Department homicide detective who is down on his luck but not defeated. Angel’s mom is fading fast and wants to reconnect with her daughter. The hunt for Angel takes Perry from New York City to the Hamptons and back.

Inherit the Dead is a good read with plenty of tension building to the reveal.

Well recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Inherit the Dead was released on October 8, 2013.

Here is an interview with Jonathan Santlofer, the Editor of the book:

http://blogcritics.org/interview-with-jonathan-santlofer-eeditor-of-inherit-the-dead/

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Coming Up Next…

Inherit-the-Dead

A review of Inherit the Dead, a novel written by 20 prominent mystery writers.

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You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling

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.

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   Blood Line was released on October 23, 2012.   “Fun, fearsome, and fiercely independent.”   Sunday Telegraph (London)

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Waitin’ On A Sunny Day

Bruce by Peter Ames Carlin (Touchstone, $28.00, 494 pages)

I was living in Los Angeles in the winter of 1975 when a live concert by a then-unknown East Coast band was stereo-cast late one evening by a Metromedia FM radio station.   The group, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, was playing at the Roxy Theatre and for all of Southern California.   The performance began with a song called “Thunder Road,” and the band proceeded to play all of the songs that we would soon come to know as the Born to Run album.   (I saw Springsteen and the E Street Band when they hit San Francisco the following year.)

Fans of Springsteen know that despite all of their digging, not much is known about his personal life.   Peter Ames Carlin, author of the well recommended Paul McCartney: A Life, and of Catch a Wave: The Rise, Fall and Redemption of the Beach Boy’s Brian Wilson, attempts to remedy this in Bruce.   Carlin draws upon numerous interviews to flesh out a picture of a real human being behind the rock legend.

Some will be surprised to see how vulnerable Springsteen is.   He’s a man who often worries about what others think of him, one who has been unsuccessful in numerous personal relationships, one who has experienced a high level of depression and relied upon years of professional counseling, and one who has often sought a geographical solution to his problems (moving from East Coast to West Coast and back, to the South and back to the West before settling back down in New Jersey).   The mature Springsteen is now a family man, with a wife, son and daughter, who has repeatedly stuck his neck out for social causes and for political candidates – notably supporting Barack Obama in the 2008 and 2012 presidential races.

Carlin has an insider’s ear for music and provides a quite satisfying amount of information about Springsteen’s recording sessions over several decades; some of the insights may cause readers to purchase albums or revisit the ones they already own.   Carlin’s best, detailed work comes in reviewing how The Rising album – a work of healing and redemption if there ever was one – was recorded after 9/11.   His analysis is excellent except for the fact that it fails to mention the very best song on the album, “Waitin’ On A Sunny Day.”   (How did that happen?)

“(Springsteen is) an artist fixated on the intimate stories of ordinary folks whose labors make wealthier mens’ dreams come true…”

Bruce provides the insight that Springsteen has crafted his albums in the same manner in which a movie producer crafts a film.   Each album is intended to represent a story, generally about the people left behind in an otherwise prosperous society.   It’s no wonder that Springsteen’s most recent release pleaded for us to take care of our own.

This story of a performer and his unique band of brothers is more satisfying than most musician bios and it makes for a fast read despite its length.   It is, however, likely to have a short shelf life as the “definitive” biography – to quote Publishers Weekly – of The Boss.   As with bios of Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Mick Jagger and other rock notables, there’s certainly more to come

Well recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.  

“There are many things I could and should be doing right now, but I am not…  I am reading and rereading this book.   Why did you do this to me?”   Jon Stewart to Peter Ames Carlin  

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Coming Up Next…

A review of Bruce by Peter Ames Carlin.

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Coming Up Next…

A review of Joni: The Creative Odyssey of Joni Mitchell by Katherine Novak.

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