Three Books

I’ve recently received three books to review, including a novel. I hate to review novels because I’m always afraid I’ll give away too much of the plot, or, conversely, tell too little of the plot so no one knows what the book is about. But, here goes. The book is “An Unexpected Grace,” by Kristin von Kreisler (Kensington Books, $15).

The book is about a woman named Lila who has survived a mass shooting at her workplace and her efforts to come to terms with her injuries and her feelings about the shooter. Grace is a rescue Golden Retriever who has her own wounds from abuse, but who handles her recovery better than Lila. As the book progresses, Grace helps Lila let go of her anger and learn to trust again.

I enjoy books with an animal as a main character, and von Kreisler creates a very believable Golden Retriever who helps to bring the two protagonists together to create a loving home for themselves and the dog.

I wish I could say I enjoyed the next book as much. “The World According to Bob” is a sequel to “A Street Cat Named Bob,” by James Bowen (Thomas Dunne Books, $24.99). The book is the further adventures of James Bowen, a recovering drug addict, and his cat, Bob. Both of these books have made the New York Times bestseller list and according to Amazon reviews, people love these books, so I’m apparently a minority opinion. There’s very little about the cat in this book, so if you’re looking for a book about a cat doing clever or interesting things, keep looking.

There’s a YouTube video of James and Bob and in the video, people ask if they can take a picture of the cat, and James requests money and says that’s how he makes his living. I’m fine with that. It’s a great gimmick and, when James is playing his guitar, if people put more money in his guitar case because of an adorable cat, more power to him. What bothers me is that, in the book, he never mentions this. He writes about posing for pictures and all the tourists who snap shots of Bob, and he acts like he’s thrilled that Bob is getting attention. It’s a small point, and it probably shouldn’t annoy me, but it does.

So, if you want to read about a man who successfully breaks his drug habit and who has a very strong, loving bond with a beautiful orange cat, buy the book. Just don’t expect it to be about the cat.

The third book is “Decoding Your Dog” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt $27) by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, edited by Drs. Debra F. Horwitz and John Ciribassi with help from Steve Dale. Steve’s job was to help translate “doctor speak” into language everyone could understand, and he’s done a great job. What’s the book about? The subtitle is “The Ultimate Experts Explain Common Dog Behaviors and Reveal How to Prevent or Change Unwanted Ones.”

The book does just that. I’d like to make it required reading for anyone with a dog. There’s a wonderful section on canine body language, a chapter on how to choose the best breed for your family and a great chapter on housetraining. There’s a chapter devoted to kids and dogs that should be mandatory reading for any family with children and a dog.

In the chapter, “All dogs need a job,” the authors supply a chart, offering suggestions of ways your dog can entertain himself, and things you can do with your dog so that he has an outlet for his energy that isn’t destructive or annoying. There are chapters on aggression, separation anxiety and phobias, such as a fear of thunder. Every chapter is clearly written, with practical information that everyone from the first time owner to the “I’ve had dogs all my life” person can appreciate.

My only complaint is that the authors frequently recommend consulting a member of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists. Since there are fewer than 60 of these in the country, the odds are you don’t live near one. (New York state has two, both near New York City; Pennsylvania has four). An alternate resource might be a behavior consultant, such as a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (

Anyway, it’s a very small complaint when weighed against the entire book, which is excellent. Every dog owner should have a copy of “Decoding Your Dog.”