Book Review – The Christmas Cat

Book Title: THE CHRISTMAS CAT
Author: MELODY CARLSON
Format: HARDCOVER
Published: 2014

Note: This is a mainstream/chick lit/Christmas/novella/thing so there’s a good chance I can’t review this well without spoilers of some sort.

 

The Christmas Cat is a story about a guy, Garrison Brown, who has found himself back in the states without a job after his missionary stint ended.  It’s almost Christmas, and he gets a phone call – about the only thing that can make his life worse.  His beloved grandmother has died, and he’s the only one left to go through her estate.  He heads to Vancouver where he finds out that she’s leaving multiple cats, which he’s allergic to, and has to rehome under really specific circumstances: somebody who *owns* a home in the neighborhood and has been there several years, several checkup visits required, etc.

One of the first people he meets, he takes a fancy to, except she doesn’t meet Granny’s criteria for a cat, and he ends up upsetting her because of it.  She acts like a total bitch when he tells her she can’t have one.  A lot of the book deals with that repeatedly.

He also reconnects with the neighbor, his grandmother’s best friend, and ends up putting her grandson to work on the house while he gets it ready to sell and he makes friends with a lot of the neighbors, because you know, he’s homing half a dozen cats.

This book was a ridiculously fast read.  I started it on the plane from Nashville to Cleveland, which is an hour flight, and was almost done with it when I landed.  The book is entirely predictable and in some ways clichee or trite.  And repetitive.  Like we know right away that he got a disease from a third world country and he talks about it a lot.  “If I hadn’t gotten sick…”  “They won’t let me back because I got sick…”  “…forgot my pills and got sick…” etc.

Also, of course it’s a cat book, and he’s allergic to cats.  And he loves her, but, oh, no, he can’t.  Etc.

I’m not saying it’s a bad thing per sey.  I mean, I don’t ever go “OOOOH, Christmas Novella!!!”  and expect that I won’t have the book figured out before the end of the first page.  So if you just want a gushy feel good story that makes you warm like a cup of hot cocoa [Note: I apologise for writing that.  I even gagged when I did…], then this is totally your story.

The stuff that did make me mad, though…  She wanted a cat and he had a will that said he couldn’t let her have one.  So she treated him like crap for a while.  Like who does that?  Also, one of the cats sort of gets passively abused, which REALLY FUCKING PISSED ME OFF.  Like this is supposed to be a feel good story about a guy and his gramma’s cats, and I have to deal with the fact that you’re abusing a fucking cat in the middle of it.  (The people took the cat because there was a rumor of money and then they let it walk outside and disappear.)

But, even with its predictability, I was okay with it, again because I expected such a thing going in.  And I was willing to give it a good rating until the end.  The book just kinda stopped.  Like, sure we can totally assume the outcome of the group home he kept talking about all book, but would it have killed the author to finish the gift wrapping that she’d started for most of the last chapter?  It’s a Christmas book, I wanted it neat with a bow.  I mean, give us a cheesy Christmas newsletter as an epilogue or something.  ANYTHING.

So…  I mean, it’s predictable but since you expect that, it’s okay.  I’m totally taking off a point for the ending though.  3/5

 

So three out of five stars for this one.

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Book Review – They All Saw a Cat

TITLE: They All Saw A Cat
AUTHOR: Brendan Wenzel
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHED: 2016

They All Saw A Cat is a children’s picture book that goes from the perspective of the black and white cat who walks through the book.

It starts with the cat seeing a boy – from about the knees down – and then the boy seeing the cat. The cat then goes through several animal friends in the same manner.

The best thing about the illustrations is seeing how other animals see.  For instance the bumblebee sees in colored dots.

SO I read this to my toddler, who is four.  I  thought the book might be cute, but I had no idea how much he’d like it. We had to read through it like six times… The cool part is that the words are pretty much what the toddler made up, so it did seem like he was reading to me.

Perhaps my favorite part, though, is the very end when the cat looks in a puddle and sees  himself.

I can see why this book is popular and its a great way to show perception.  It was all a cat, and it was all the same cat, but it was so very different to each creature that it met.

I give the illustrations definitely a 5/5.

The book was very simple, and it had to be, but had I read it before I showed it to the toddler, I would have never checked it out from the library.  Still, his enthusiasm counts at least as much as my lack of enthusiasm, so 4/5 for the story itself from me.

Book Review – LOST

TITLE: LOST: Lost and Found Pet Posters From Around the World
AUTHOR*: Ian Phillips
ILLUSTRATOR: Ian Phillips?
FORMAT: Paperback
PUBLISHED: 2002 (NOTE: this is the 15th anniversary edition – it says so on the cover)

So… This looked like it would be something cute and amusing and I’d flip through the pages for an hour and not be sad I wasted time.  I mean, it’s the anniversay edition, so… they wouldn’t reprint something that was crap, right? I went to check it out of the library, and the librarian gushed about how wonderful this little book was.

And I took it home and I looked forward to it.

The concept of this book is…different.  People have lost (or very rarely found) a pet and of course, they make a poster for it.  The author* of this book for whatever reason collects these posters and once made a call around the world for them.

There’s a quick prologue explaining that, and a quick … epilogue? appendices?  whatever… with a list of tips for making your own lost pet poster (note – it didn’t say you had to lose a pet first) and a few stats about pets that I find hard to believe.  Oh, and the font the author used is kinda hard to read – its one of those that is probably meant to look like somebody with remarkably neat handwriting printed something, but it’s done in like 80% gray, so it’s just annoying.

On the right hand are pet posters, and they’re… um… well…  Crap a lot of times.  There’s exactly one page somewhere in the book in color, and there’s a lot in the book that have been copied to the point where you can’t make out half the stuff in them.  I don’t know if they were that bad to begin with or if they were poorly reproduced for the book or what.  But since so many of these posters don’t have pictures of the pets in them at all, who knows.  (I want to be annoyed by that. After all, who doesn’t have a picture of their pet and still cares enough to make a lost pet poster, but if the book was printed in 2002 and it’s a 15th anniversary edition, I guess we’re looking at the 80s, so I can see why they sucked so bad.  Still, if I hadn’t found the book in the non-fiction section, I would have had to check to see if it was a humor book)

The best part about the book was that the left side pages formed a flip book, and if you flipped towards the back you saw a dog run into the page, followed by a cat, followed by a bird, and they corresponded with the dog, cat, and everything else section (the last of which includes birds, a cow, and even a sandwich).

But, since the book was designed to show of the posters, I have to give this one a bad rating.  Another in the “I really wanted to like it” category, I give it 2/5 stars.

 

 

*Note – can you call yourself an author when all you do is write 50 words at the beginning and then show scans of something you’ve collected?

Book Review – Mr. Wuffles

Title: Mr. Wuffles
Author: David Wiesner
Format: Hardback
Published: 2013

Mr. Wumples is a true picture book. (Okay, there are about six words… but they’re not really the story anyway.)

In this book, the cat ignores its new toy because, duh, cat.  But also because of another cat toy-looking item – an alien spaceship.  And the rest of it looks like a comic book, except there are no words (okay, the aliens talk, but in total symbol gibberish), and it’s all about the aliens trying to deal with the cat and the cat wanting the aliens.

It’s full of weird unexplainable cat behavior, but when the cat is staring at “nothing”, we know that the aliens are in the walls, holed up with the mice, and that’s what has the cat’s attention.

I LOVED IT.

So a word of advice.  I got this to ‘read’ to the baby (11 months old) – not knowing there were no words – and he was bored with it.  But given to a kid of the right age group (or an adult that just doesn’t want to totally grow up old), and you’ll have a winner.  5/5 pages.

Book Review – W is for Wasted

Title: W is for Wasted
Author: Sue Grafton
Format: Hardcover
Published: 2013

W is for Wasted is the 23rd book in Sue Grafton’s alphabet series.
In this story, we follow Kinsey Millhone (rhymes with Bone) as a series of bizarre events unfold around her. To start, a homeless man dies on the beach with her name in his pocket. The story flips back and forth between the first person POV of Kinsey (as the entire series was) and the third person POV of something happening to somebody, but you’re not exactly sure who is involved or why we need to know it. Oh, and for some strange reason, Robert Deets is in town, asking Kinsey about the guy who stiffed him on a bill. Eventually it all ties in.

As the story unfolds, Kinsey ends up with a group of unlikely allies – the homeless friends of the dead man. Henry ends up with a cat. And we eventually find out how it all fits together.

I’m trying to not have any spoilers here, so I apologize if the review is vague, but there’s really not a lot of specifics I can give.

I didn’t mind the storyline so much. It was a bit predictable in places – a lot of the third person stuff I had figured out really early on. But then again, this is a cozy mystery, so of course it’s a bit predictable. There weren’t any huge issues, aside from characters that I just didn’t like. But that wasn’t a fault of the author.

I did have a bit of an issue with some of the phrasings in the book and a few of the references. Remember, the series started in the early 80s, and Sue has tried really hard to make Kinsey not age all that much. She keeps her slightly antiquated – she likes using index cards so she can slide them around… She likes the sound of her typewriter – so we don’t feel time as much, but there’s still that little thing in the back of your mind. If Only Kinsey had a cell phone. But then again, if that were the case, she’d be in her 50s, and I’m thinking there’s not that much running down the beach after a guy with a gun that she can do in that state.
Anyway, as I was saying… there were several references that we had to question – some felt too old, some felt too new, some were just weird. Like I said, Kinsey’s my mother’s age, so I kept asking her “would you have ever said…” or “what would you call…”

My biggest problem, though, had to deal with this book versus the rest of the series.
Here’s the thing. When Sue started the series back in the early 80s (it’s almost as old as I am!), the books had a very dedicated format/feel/whatever. The last few, however – since at least Q – have had a different feel than the rest of the series. I’m not saying it’s bad or good, but you sort of want a series to have the same feel all the way through. Maybe that’s the side effect of writing a 26 book series, or the side effect of writing for 30 years on a series. But A, B, C… don’t feel anything like the last half dozen have. (My favorite in the series is still L.)

So this causes the problem of rating the book.
I asked my mother (she read it at the same time I was, which made sharing the book really interesting) what she would rate it and she said 4/5.
As a standalone, I’d agree. The writing is better than the earlier books, and the story is tighter.
As for how it fits the series, I’d only give it a 3/5, if that makes sense.

Book Review – How to Tell if Your Cat is Plotting To Kill You

How to Tell if Your Cat Is Plotting To Kill You
Matthew Inman (The Oatmeal)
Paperback, 2012

My boyfriend bought this book at a recent trip to the bookstore.  As soon as he brought it home, his cat, Ellis, a grey tabby, perched himself three feet away and glared at us as if he could read the cover and we were somehow onto his evil plot.  Yes, this book might just be a bit more than comedy.

The book itself is a collection of comics about how you know if your cat is plotting to kill you.  I’ll give you a clue.  He is.

It includes a series of comics featuring the Bobcats at work, a bit about ways to tell if your cat is a mountain lion, cats vs the internet, and how to tell if your kitten is plotting to kill you.  After reading the book, you will have a better understanding of why your cat eats dog food (hint: it’s bulking up on protein omnomnom), you’ll be reminded that attacking large inanimate objects is practice for hunting large game, and you’ll finally have that oververbal cat talk translated – they’re huge roars of awesomeness!

Sure, the book is cheezy, but it’s nothing that we’ve never thought once in a while owning cats.  I have three – DC, Brynn & Alix – and I’m telling you, if the book is telling the truth and the kneading cats do is really to check for weak spots, I have no chance.  Brynn does that stuff for an hour at a time.

But I do think that the book is fun.  I think it’s a must have for any cat lover.   With that said, I don’t think a not cat lover will like it at all.  So, if you’re a cat lover, It’s a 5/5 but if you’re not, I’m not sure you’ll appreciate the book.

Writer Wednesday – Lauren Rachel Tharp

Let’s start with the basics. Who are you?
My name is Lauren Rachel Tharp.

Tell us (briefly) about you…
I’m 28 years old, I’m hypoglycemic, and I’m a cat owner. Oh, and I’m a writer!

…and a bit about what you’ve written…
I’m a freelance writer for hire. I specialize in taking “dull” topics and making them interesting. Copywriting.

When I’m not doing that, I’m working on short stories, poems, and my young adult novels.

…and what you’re working on right now.
At this exact moment, I’m pretty wrapped up in marketing The Ballad of Allison and Bandit, my first published young adult novel. It’s been very exciting! Next week I’m scheduled to speak to 900 teenagers… Which has left me both ecstatic and absolutely terrified. Haha.

After that, I’ll be working on my next young adult novel. I’ve already written down a ton of notes. It will be a while before it’s finished, but I’m prepared to jump right in.

And, of course, my freelance work over at littlezotz.com.

What are your earliest book-related memories?
My dad used to read aloud to me every night. And then taught me how to read via comic books—mostly Uncle Scrooge & Donald Duck. I adore Don Rosa’s Life and Times series.

He also read a TON of Nancy Drew books aloud to my mother and me during family time. We’d all sit around for a couple hours each night and he’d read them…

However, the first “real” book I read on my own was The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. I re-read it about once a year.

What are your three favorite books?
The Phantom Tollbooth will always have a special place in my heart. I’d put that at the top of the list forever. But the rest of the list… It’s always changing. I love the Ramona Quimby books by Beverly Cleary, but I also love Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon. I adore Roald Dahl, but I also get a kick out of Sophie Kinsella. And Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones is brilliant too! And if you throw comic books and graphic novels into the mix… my goodness! Forget it. This question is impossible.

How many books to do you read at any given time? What are you reading now?
I tend to read three books at a time: One fiction novel, one graphic novel, and one non-fiction novel.

Right now I’m re-reading A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle as my fiction book, Absolute Boyfriend by Yuu Watase as my comic book (manga), and Robert Bly’s The Copywriter’s Handbook as my non-fiction book.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I…
…am about to fall asleep. But I try very hard not to!

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.
Oh, definitely re-read.

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
It sounds a bit mean, but it really does depend on who’s doing the recommending…

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
Extremely likely! Haha. I recommend books to people all the dang time. Actually, I recommend all of the books I’ve mentioned in the previous questions!

What do you look for in a good book?
Good pacing. A dash (or a lot) of humor. Good characters and dialogue can get you far with me, even if your plot is simple.

Why do you write?
Because I must!

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
Extremely sad.
Or maybe a private detective?

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Many of my stories start as dreams. So sleep is pretty important. Haha. I also use my own life as a source of inspiration. Write what you know, right?

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
There were a few worried naysayers when I first quit my day job to become a writer full-time, but as soon as I started making a living off of it, they were like “Oh. Okay!” Hahaha.

As Cyndi Lauper says, “Money changes everything.”

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
All of the stereotypes I disagree with have to do with liquids: “All writers drink coffee.” “All writers are drunks by night.”

No and no. I don’t drink coffee or liquor and writing is what takes up most of my time.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
Getting noticed. There are so many writers out there. It’s hard enough to be just starting out, but you’re not going to go anywhere if you don’t stand out as well. And that can be very tough. And a bit depressing if it doesn’t happen right away.

Just hang in there! Persistence pays off.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
Even professional writers make typos. I made one just the other week… I wrote “without further adieu” instead of “without further ado.” Ugh. I could have slapped myself silly for that one! Thank goodness I noticed it on time to fix it before it went to print, but I still felt horrible saying, “Oh, um, on that article I just turned in… I made a really stupid error that I should have caught when I proofread it…” Embarrassing.

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
I’d love to do something to help the homeless in my state. Homeless people and homeless cats.

And I’d love to do something for Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles… I was born without my right hip and they built me a new one—free of charge! I owe them a lot. I try to make donations every year, but I’d love to do something more.

How do you deal with your fan base?
I actually do have a few people that write to me! Haha. That’s always been such a surprise to me, but I love it. I love hearing from people.

I basically write back to them, answer any questions they have, and just… do my best to be friendly? I’m not sure what else to say to this one. I’ve had a problem once or twice with people getting a bit too friendly/flirty, but so far I’ve been able to stop them in their tracks before things got out of hand (unless they’re peeping in at me right now and I don’t know it! Yikes!).

For the most part, it’s been just lovely. I hope to hear from even more people with the release of my new book, The Ballad of Allison and Bandit. Some of my dear friends actually started out as pen pals. So you never know—if you write to me, we may end up being friends!

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.
I’m allergic to soy. Which is in everything here in America—even gum. So, I cook most of the meals I eat myself.

Anything else we should know?
I am absolutely thrilled to be interviewed! I’m usually the one interviewing other people, so it was an absolute joy to be asked a few questions myself. Haha. Thank you so much!

Oh, and please check out my young adult novel, The Ballad of Allison and Bandit. It’s available for FREE as an e-book on my author website at laurentharp.net!

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