Month: August 2010

Feline Nutrition: Who Bears the Responsibility?

Guest Post by Kymythy R. Schultze

At this point in my investigative journey to decide what to feed my cats, the commercial, processed pet-food products were definitely not coming up roses — or even catnip. But let me state for the record that I don’t think the manufacturers are purposely trying to harm our cats. I don’t think there’s a cigar-smoking executive sitting behind his desk (in a corner office with a big window) doing a Snidely Whiplash impression while chanting: “I’m going to hurt some kitties today,” followed by evil laughter, of course. No, it’s not that personal — it’s just business. It’s like any other industry that makes billions of dollars every year: The bottom line is the top dollar.
 
I’m not faulting these companies for trying to make lots of money, but I don’t have to approve of the way they do it. I’m certainly not a fan of animal testing, low-quality ingredients, components that aren’t even appropriate for felines, too-frequent recalls, and questionable marketing tactics. But hey, when it comes down to it, my cat’s health isn’t really their responsibility.
 
Is my cat’s health my veterinarian’s responsibility? Not really. Yes, I go to vets for their professional opinions, which are very important to me. I respect their experience and education in most areas of animal health. But unless they’ve taken it upon themselves to study animal nutrition in an unbiased forum, they may not be the best source of advice for species-appropriate food for my cats. At veterinary schools, they receive very little education on this subject, and what they do get is mostly taught by employees of the larger pet-food companies. The little time devoted to nutrition usually involves the incomplete research we discussed earlier and heavy product pushing — not information about real food.
 
I have very dear friends who are veterinarians. Through their wisdom and my own experience and research, I’ve come to understand better why vets aren’t always the best source of unbiased nutritional information. You see, when I was studying animal nutrition at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine a few years ago, only a couple of my professors weren’t paid employees of pet-food companies.
 
I’ll never forget one particular lecture where the teacher/veterinarian was discussing the different forms of pet-food products — dry, canned, and so on. While she was talking about the semi-moist products, she mentioned in an offhand way that she would never feed them to her pets. Then she quickly laughed and said, “Oh, my boss would kill me if he heard me say that!”
 
I didn’t find it amusing. It was painfully clear that she was repeating (except for her slip-up) what the pet-food company wanted the students to hear — not unbiased information or her actual opinion.
 
The biggest pet-food companies hire brilliant marketers to sell their products. After all, what could be better than having experts (veterinarians) endorse your product? How did this come about? Well, one of the parent companies that’s become very involved with vets also makes toothpaste. Do you remember the old advertisement that boasted eight out of ten dentists recommend a particular brand? It was a brilliant campaign and put this firm at the top of toothpaste sales.
 
At the time, the company also had a very small pet-food division they were about to sell, but an executive came forward with a great idea: If they could use the same tactic with this branch as they had with their toothpaste, they’d be equally successful. So they used the pharmaceutical industry’s practice of spending tons of money to woo doctors. In fact, a retired sales executive from the pet-food company commented on why this marketing strategy works so well: “It’s just like taking drugs: You go to the doctor, and he prescribes something for you, and you don’t much question what the doctor says. It’s the same with animals.”
 
They know that the trust cat guardians have in vets is so strong that they’ll feed what they’re told without question. So the manufacturer spends a great deal of money enforcing that connection. In fact, other than universities, this company is the country’s largest employer of vets.  They fund research and nutrition courses and professorships at veterinary colleges and offer a formal nutrition-certification program for technicians. They’ve also written a widely used textbook on animal nutrition that’s given free of charge to veterinary students, who also receive stipends and get products at zero or almost-zero charge.
 
This relationship doesn’t end after graduation. The corporation sends veterinarians to seminars on how to better sell their products, provides sales-goal-oriented promotions, gives them lots of promotional tools, and offers big discounts so that vets make more money on product sales.
 
There’s really no point in naming names in this situation because these practices aren’t confined to a single pet-food company. Although one or two used to have a corner on the veterinary market, others have now reaped the rewards of employing similar strategies. It’s genius, really, and I can understand that many veterinarians have busy practices and may feel that they don’t have time to investigate pet-foods more closely. It certainly must be easier and less time-consuming to simply suggest a familiar product and be done with it, but if they’ve got such an extremely close association with a pet-food company, we may reasonably assume that it might be difficult for them to offer an unbiased opinion on nutrition to their clients.
 
Please understand that there are more and more vets today who are taking the time to learn about real-food nutrition. And with their busy schedules, I truly respect the ones who do; and I like to support these independent, open-minded individuals who enjoy continuing their education.
 
The bottom line is that my cat’s health is my responsibility, and your cat’s health is your responsibility. We choose which veterinarian to take our cats to. We choose to follow our vets’ advice or not. We choose which type of food to feed our cats. All the choices are up to us, so choose wisely, grasshopper (my cats love to eat those guys)!
 
Kymythy R. Schultze has been a trailblazer in the field of animal nutrition for nearly two decades. She’s a Clinical Nutritionist, a Certified Nutritional Consultant and one of the world’s leading experts on nutrition and care for cats. Visit her at Kymythy.com.

 

About the author

Book Review: The Blessings of the Animals by Katrina Kittle

The title of this book reeled me in immediately, as did the cover – even though I’m not a horse person, the bond depicted between woman and horse touched my heart.  When I read the endorsement by Sara Gruen, the author of Water for Elephants, on the back of the book, I was intrigued:  “A must read not only for animal lovers, but for anyone who has found the courage to come back from heartbreak and find love again, without reservation, without fear.”  Another endorsement, by Lesley Kagan, author of Tomorrow River, “Wonderfully poignant… A deeply satisfying exploration of love in its many incarnations, some of them a bit furrier than others,” sealed the deal.  And I wasn’t disappointed.  Far from it – these two endorsements barely scratch the surface of how wonderful this book is.

The Blessings of the Animals is the story of Ohio veterinarian Cami Anderson.  From the publisher:  Cami has hit a rough patch. Stymied by her recent divorce, she wonders if there are secret ingredients to a happy, long-lasting marriage or if the entire institution is outdated and obsolete. Couples all around her are approaching important milestones. Her parents are preparing to celebrate their fiftieth anniversary. Her brother and his partner find their marriage dreams legally blocked. Her former sister-in-law—still her best friend—is newly engaged. The youthfully exuberant romance of her teenage daughter is developing complications. And three separate men—including her ex-husband—are becoming entangled in Cami’s messy post-marital love life.   But as she struggles to come to terms with her own doubts amid this chaotic circus of relationships, Cami finds strange comfort in an unexpected confidant: an angry, unpredictable horse in her care. With the help of her equine soul mate, she begins to make sense of marriage’s great mysteries—and its disconnects.

The horse is not the only animal who helps Cami heal.  There’s a dog, two cats, one of them a cranky but ultimately loving three-legged one whose life was saved by Cami, a joyful goat, and a pregnant donkey.  Cami’s form of prayer is being in the presence of animals.  As someone who’s always turned to animals for healing and finding peace myself, I was deeply touched by the segments of the book when Cami goes to what she calls her “church”- her barn.  Being in the company of her animals never fails to work its magic for Cami, no matter how painful the twists and turns of her life have become.  Kittle’s sensitive descriptions of the animals and their unique personalities are delightful and are an integral part of the story. 

This is a beautifully written and plotted relationship drama with wonderful, multi-dimensional characters, both human and furry.  I had a hard time putting this book down, but forced myself to read slowly and savor every page.  I didn’t want it to end – and by the time it did, I felt like I knew all the characters as well as if they had been lifelong friends.

Katrina is the author of Traveling Light, Two Truths and a Lie, and The Kindness of Strangers.  When not writing, Katrina enjoys gardening, cooking, traveling, acting, and time spent in the presence of animals (especially horses). She is the proud aunt of Amy and Nathan, and lives in the Dayton area with her cat and a kickass garden.  You can learn more about Katrina and her books on her website.

About the author

Hyperthyroidism in Cats

Hyperthyroidism is a common disease that typically affects middle-aged and older cats.  It is caused by an excess production of thyroid hormones, which are produced by the thyroid gland, located inside the cat’s neck.  Thyroid hormones affect nearly all organs, which is why thyroid disease can sometimes cause secondary problems such as hypertension, heart and kidney disease. 

What causes hyperthyroidism?

The most common cause is an increase in the number of cells in the thyroid gland.  Groups of these abnormal cells form small nodules called adenomas on the gland.  Most of these adenomas are formed by non-cancerous cells, only a very small percentage of hyperthyroidism is caused by malignant tumors.

More recently, there has been speculation on a possible link of an increase in thyroid disease in cats and the coating used on cat food cans.  Another theory is that flame retardants used in furniture and carpeting may be linked to hyperthyroidism in cats.

What are the signs of hperthyroidism?

Afflicted cats often develop a variety of signs, and some of them can be subtle.  The most common signs are weight loss, increased appetite without weight gain, and increased thirst and urination.  Hyperthyroidism can also cause vomiting, diarrhea, and hyper-activity.  The haircoat may become matted and dull.  Some cats will begin to vocalize more frequently.  Rapid heart rates are common, and cats can also present with heart murmurs and high blood pressure.

How is hyperthyroidism diagnosed?

You cat’s veterinarian will perform a physical exam and palpate externally alongside the trachea with thumb and forefinger to feel for any enlargement of the thyroid gland.  Heart rate and blood pressure will be checked, and a complete blood chemistry will be run.  Most hyperthyroid cats will have elevated levels of the thyroid hormone T4 in their blood stream.  However, sometimes a cat with concurrent kidney, heart or gastrointestinal disease may have normal T4 levels.  If other symptoms and exam findings point to hyperthyroidism, your veterinarian may order additional testing to arrive at a diagnosis.

How is hyperthyroidism treated?

There are currently three treatment options:  medication, surgery, and radioactive iodine therapy.  Each option comes with advantages and disadvantages, and you should carefully weigh all options and make the best decision for your cat and your lifestyle in conjunction with your veterinarian.

Medication

Drug therapy, using a drug called methimazole (Tapazole), controls, but does not cure the disease.   It is typically given twice a day in either pill form or as a transdermal gel that is rubbed on the inside of the cat’s ear.  Methimazole therapy will be required for the rest of the cat’s life.   While some cats tolerate the drug well, it can have serious side effects including elevation of liver enzymes, low white blood cell counts, low platelet counts, itchiness of the face, and gastrointestinal problems, including vomiting and loss of appetite. If these signs occur, the medication has to be discontinued and other treatment pursued.

Surgery

Surgical removal of the thyroid gland is an option, although many hyperthyroid cats won’t be good candidates for surgery due to the anesthetic risk caused by their elevated heart rates.  Even though removal of the thyroid gland is a fairly straightfoward procedure, it should only be done by an experienced surgeon, since there are potentially serious complications, including damage to the parathyroid glands, which lie close to or within the thyroid glands and are crucial in maintaining stable blood-calcium levels.

Radioactive Iodine

Radioactive Iodine, also called I-131, is the gold standard for treating hyperthyroid cats.  It involves a one-time injection of radioactive iodine under the skin.  The radioactive iodine will destroy the abnormal thyroid tissue but does not damage the surrounding tissue or the parathyroid gland.  The cat will have to remain hospitalized for a specified period of time (typically 3-10 days, depending on geographical location, the length of the stay is regulated on the state level).  It will be released with some special care instructions, such as limiting contact with the cat and special disposal of urine and feces for a few days following treatments.  The treatment is only available at special facilities that are typically found at large veterinary referral centers, and is somewhat costly, but it is curative, and needs to be weighed against the cost of lifelong medication.

Regardless of which treatment is chosen, unless there are other, underlying diseases complicating things, treatment is usually successful and most cats will lead normal, healthy lives.

The photo above is of Amber, taken the day she went for her radioactive iodine treatment at Radiocat in Springfield, VA.

About the author

Book Review: Dear Sparkle: Cat-to-Cat Advice from the World’s Foremost Feline Columnist

Sparkle cover

Sparkle the Cat has been called the “Dear Abby of the feline world,” and she has not met a feline problem that she could not solve.  In her first book, Dear Sparkle:  Advice from One Cat to Another, edited by Janiss Garza, the internet’s premiere cat-to-cat advice columnist gave readers an insider’s look into how cats view the world, and how the well-meaning, but often clueless humans living with them can make the world a better place for their feline charges.  In her new book, Dear Sparkle:  Cat-to-Cat Advice from the World’s Foremost Feline Columnist, also edited by Garza, Sparkle continues her quest to help cats figure out humans’ often strange behavior and offers solutions to problems covering everything from playing to eating to introducing a new cat.  She also addresses litter box issues in great detail – a topic that can be challenging for many humans living with cats.  While her book is aimed primarily at a feline audience, her fervent hope is that the humans who dare read the book keep an open mind.   Even though they may not like everything Sparkle has to say, they just might learn something.

There are plenty of “how to” books out there on how to care for cats, but this book is unique not only because it was written by a cat, but because it provides solid information from a cat’s point of view on the various problems Sparkle is asked to address by fellow cats.  Presented in a humorous fashion and always from the cat’s point of view, it gives the reader accurate insight into how cats think and provides a fresh new look at some of the same old problems.  Here are some samples of Sparkle’s wisdom:

You can’t expect your human to behave like a cat.

A cat’s most charming trait should be unpredictability.

The less you act like you care, the more your humans will care.

In addition to providing outstanding advice that even humans who have already been well-trained by their resident felines will find valuable, the book is beautifully designed and includes many stunning full-color photos of the beautiful Sparkle to illustrate her points.  This book is not just a great addition to any cat parent’s cat care library, it also makes the purrfect gift for cat lovers.

Sparkle the Cat’s advice column began in 2003 as an addition to her online diary, www.sparklecat.com, but soon became the most popular section of her website and has earned her thousands of fans on Twitter and MySpace. In 2006, Sparkle’s advice first became available in book form, and went on to win the Wild Card category at the Hollywood Book Festival and honorable mention in the same category at the 2007 New York Book Festival. Sparkle lives with her human, Janiss Garza, and two roommates: Binga and Boodie.   You can find Sparkle on her website at www.sparklecat.com

Janiss Garza is not a weirdo cat fanatic. She has other interests; among other things, she is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in such publications as the Los Angeles Times and Entertainment Weekly.

About the author

Book Review: Travels with George: Paris by David Stone and Deborah Julian

Most cat parents can relate to this dilemma:  you’re about to go on the vacation of your dreams, and you’re excited – but, you also hate leaving your cats behind.  No matter how well you know they’ll be taken care of in your absence by pet sitters, neighbors or friends, you know you’ll miss them every single day.  But what if you cats could come on vacation with you?  And what if you didn’t even know that they tagged along?

In Travels with George:  Paris:  A Cat’s Eye Adventure, George, a much-loved indoor cat living in a New York City high-rise, and a bit restless in his restricted, secure environment, craves adventure.  When his humans prepare to go on a trip to Paris, he seizes the opportunity and hides himself  in their luggage.  When he next sees the light of day, he finds himself in a Paris hotel room.  Much to his surprise (not to mention his humans’ surprise!), his younger cat friend Billy has stowed away, too.

After the initial surprise wears off for the cats’ humans, and basic needs such as litter box, food and water have been satisfied, the two humans decide that, rather than leaving the two cats in their hotel room all day while they’re off sightseeing, they’ll include them in touring Paris.  The reader follows along as George and Billy discover the beautiful city on the Seine while either being comfortably carried (well, comfortable for the cats, at any rate!) in two secure bags, or walking on harness and leash.  They encounter such sights as the Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Elysee, and the Jardin du Luxembourg (a particular favorite with both cats).  They even get to take a boat ride down the river Seine.

Through the eyes of George, the reader follows along as the two cats and their humans explore the city and gets to experience Paris from a cat’s point of view.  George gets to know aspects of the outside world that he’s only been able to see from his window in the past.  Charmingly told by Stone, and beautifully illustrated with Deborah Julian’s whimsical full-color prints, this book is a delightful fantasy, travelogue and cat story all rolled into one thoroughly enjoyable package.

David Stone is the author of two other works of fiction, The Garden of What Was and Was Not, a counterculture classic, its sequel, Traveling Without A Passport, and of the nonfiction title: A Million Different Things: Meditations of The Worlds Happiest Man.

Deborah Julian is a photographer, innovative artist and art gallery director whose favorite subjects are cats, New York City, and travel.  

About the author

An Interview with Lorna Barrett, Author of the Booktown Mystery Series

Mum&Fred corrected

It is my pleasure today to introduce you Lorna Barrett.  Readers of The Conscious Cat have come to know Lorna as the author of the Booktown Mystery Series featuring Tricia Miles, owner of the Haven’t Got a Clue bookstore, and her feline sidekick, Miss Marple.

Lorna Barrett is the nom de plume of author Lorraine Bartlett.  Lorraine’s other alter ego, L.L. Bartlett, writes psychological suspense and the Jeff Resnick mystery series.  She’s done it all, from drilling holes for NASA to typing scripts in Hollywood, and lives a life of crime in western New York.  Her first sales were to the confession magazine market.

The latest in the Booktown Mystery Series, Chapter and Hearse, was released on August 3.   Read my review here.

I’m delighted to have the opportunity to ask Lorna/Lorraine some questions today.

How did you get the idea for the Booktown series?

My editor came up with the idea, but I ran with it.

Miss Marple doesn’t help solve the crimes in the series, but she’s an integral character of the books.  Is she based on a real life cat?

Yes, she’s based on one of my cats:  Cori.  She’s was a long-haired gray cat with a white blaze.  She never weighed more than eight pounds and was a gentle, loving soul who lived to be 20.  She was toothless and deaf by that time, but none of the other cats ever bothered her or tried to take her food away.  I have pictures of her on my web site, along with a drawing of her my husband did.

Tell us about your cats.

Currently we have two pairs: boys and girls.  My husband is owned by Chester (who’s all black) and I am owned by Fred, a handsome Tuxedo.  The girls (Betsy and Bonnie) are sisters—who are pretty cranky (and always have been).  My husband and I share them.  We can’t sit down without some cat coming and getting on our laps.  It’s wonderful on a cold winter night—not so wonderful on a hot summers day.

You are a prolific writer – did you always know that you wanted to be a writer? 

No.  Although I always had stories circling around in my head, it wasn’t until I learned about Star Trek fanzines that I decided to put my own stories on paper.  It hadn’t occurred to me that regular people wrote stories.  (A real “duh” moment.)  I was hooked from the very start, although they were terrible stories.  I learned an awful lot from several excellent mentors.  Some of them have gone on to be “traditionally” published authors themselves.

Why did you decide to write under several different names?

Long story.  Short version:  Cozy mysteries are very different from psychological suspense.  It was thought that having a pseudonym would be better than to “confuse” my readers.

My names are:  Lorna Barrett, author of the Booktown Mysteries.  Chapter & Hearse, released on August 3, as well as the whole series on audio as mp3 files.

Lorraine Bartlett:  Author of the Victoria Square Mysteries (A Crafty Killing will debut in February 2011.)  I also have two short romances available under this name on Kindle/Smashwords, plus a short mystery.  They are:  What I Did For Love, Only Skin Deep, and We’re So Sorry, Uncle Albert.

L.L. Bartlett, author of the Jeff Resnick Mysteries.  Currently I have two Jeff novels available on Kindle and Smashwords (Nook, Sony E readers, etc.):  Murder On The Mind and Cheated by Death.  (I also have two short stories related to this series available electronically:  Cold Case and Bah Humbug.)  Murder On The Mind is also available as an audio book.

What does a typical day of writing look like for you?

Bleak.  No, seriously, I like to do most of my writing in the afternoon.  I do “office work” in the morning, which can include writing a blog post, answering email, or packaging up bookmarks and bookplates for my readers.

What do you love most about being a writer?

Not having a day job. Of course, I miss the security of the day job, but this is a fabulous job and much less stressful.  Although, I’m a harder taskmaster than most of my former supervisors.

What do you like least about being a writer?

The lack of job security.  Without readers buying my books, Im out of a job.  And it’s difficult having three names.  I was thrilled to sell my Victoria Square mysteries, but now I’m worried that most of Lorna’s readers won’t get the connection that they’re written by the same person and will never hear about the new series or be willing to give it a chance.  (I’m definitely a “see the glass half-empty type of person” – but I’m working on changing that.)

Who or what inspires you?

I have no idea.  I like to keep busy.

What is one of the most memorable experiences you’ve had at a book signing or event?

The most memorable?  The times when very few or nobody came.  They feel like failures.  One library event stands in my mind.  It wasn’t a talk – just a gathering of authors at the library’s Arts Festival.  I asked a woman if she read mysteries, and she glared at me and said, “I only read worthwhile books.”  Whoa—that took the starch out of my sails pretty darn quick.  You try not to let rude comments like that rattle you, but they do.

What are you reading at the moment?

Organize Your Corpses by Mary Jane Maffini.  Next up on the TBR Pile:  Night of the Living Deed by E.J. Copperman.

Thank you so much for this opportunity, Lorna, and much success with Chapter and Hearse!

You can learn more about Lorna and her book on her websites http://lornabarrett.com and http://www.lorrainebartlett.com/ and on her blog,  http://lornabarrett.blogspot.com.

About the author

Feline Heartworm Disease

Most people think of heartworm disease as a problem that affects only dogs, but even though cats are more resistant hosts to heartworms, and they typically have fewer and smaller worms than dogs with a shorter lifespan, it is considered a more serious threat in cats and can lead to significant pulmonary damage and even sudden death.

What causes heartworm disease?

Heartworm disease is caused by a parasite that is carried by mosquitoes, and cats become infected when a mosquito bites into a cat for a blood meal and deposits heartworm larvae into the cat’s bloodstream.  These larvae migrate and mature through several lifestages into adult worms.  At about 3-4 months, they usually settle into the arteries and blood vessels of the cat’s lungs, where they continue to mature into adult worms for another 4-5 months.  Worms do not have to develop into adults to cause symptoms.

Which cats can be affected?

While outdoor cats are more susceptible, even indoor cats can be affected (all it takes is one mosquito bite).  Studies have shown infection rates as high as 10-14% in endemic areas.

What are the clinical signs of heartworm infection?

Symptoms can be non-specific and are often similar to those of other feline diseases.  Affected cats may exhibit general signs of illness such as intermittent vomiting, lack of appetite, coughing, and asthma-like signs such as difficulty breathing or wheezing.  Some cats may show acute symptoms, often related to the organs where the adult worms are thriving.  Cats with an acute onset of symptoms may die quickly without allowing sufficient time for diagnosis or treatment.

How is heartworm disease diagnosed?

Heartworm disease in cats is much harder to diagnose than in dogs, once again proving the old adage that cats are not small dogs.  Physical examination will often be non-specific.  Further diagnostics may include x-rays, echocardiogram, and blood testing.   Diagnostics have limitations, and sometimes, even a negative test cannot rule out infection.

How is heartworm disease treated?

Currently, there are no medications approved in the United States for treatment of feline heartworm disease.  Cats who don’t show any clinical signs will often simply be monitored periodically and given time for a spontaneous cure.  Monitoring through x-rays every 6-12 months may be all that is needed.  If there is evidence of the disease in the lungs or blood vessels, treatment is generally focused on supportive care, sometimes using gradually decreasing doses of prednisone, a steroid.  Cats with severe manifestation of infection may require additional supportive care such as intravenous fluids, oxygen therapy, antibiotics, cardiovascular drugs, and restricted activity through cage confinement.

Can heartworm disease be prevented?

Currently, there are four heartworm preventive products approved for use in cats:  Heartguard for Cats (Merial), Revolution (Pfizer), and Advantage Multi for Cats (Bayer).  Heartguard is taken orally, Revolution and Advantage are topical products.  All of these products come with known side-effects, and deciding whether to use them for your cat will require an informed risk assessment in conjunction with your veterinarian.   It is recommended that cats are tested for antibodies and antigens prior to beginning use of these preventatives.  Never give heartworm or any other parasite prevention product for dogs to cats.

As with all parasites, it is believed that a healthy immune system makes cats more resistant to them.  A healthy diet is key to a healthy immune system.  Feeding a species-appropriate grain-free canned or raw diet may help prevent heartworms and other parasites.

About the author

Book Review: Chapter and Hearse by Lorna Barrett

Even if I wasn’t already a fan of Lorna Barrett’s Booktown Mystery series, I would have picked this book up just based on the cover design.  I think it’s one of the prettiest covers I’ve seen in a while and it contains everything I love:   a cat, books, coffee, and a bright, cozy spot by a window to sit and enjoy all of them.  Can’t you just picture yourself there?   

In Chapter and Hearse, the fourth book in the series, we return to Stoneham, New Hampshire, a small town where not much remains a secret.  We find Tricia Miles, the owner of the Haven’t Got a Clue mystery book store, at the Cookery, Stoneham’s cookbook store owned by Tricia sister Angelica, who views herself as the next celebrity chef and is hosting a launch party for her newly released first book, Easy-Does-It Cooking.   The event appears to be jinxed – not only is it lacking in guests, but a nearby gas explosion injures Angelica’s boyfriend Bob Kelly, the head of the Stoneham Chamber of Commerce, and kills the owner of the town’s history bookstore. 

Tricia suspects foul play when she finds Bob being tight-lipped about the incident, and she gets drawn into investigating the murder.  As the list of suspects grows to include the victim’s mother and Angelica’s employees at her restaurant Booked for Lunch,  Tricia still seems no closer to identifying the murderer.  Then a series of strange occurrences on Angelica’s book tour have Tricia increasingly worried about her sister’s safety and raise the stakes in finding the murderer before he or she can strike again.  Filled with surprising plot twists and turns and well-developed secondary characters, including Tricia’s lovely cat Miss Marple, the story builds to a surprising ending.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found it very hard to put down. 

As a bonus, the book includes Angelica’s recipes for Hacienda Tacos, Coconut Cake, Blueberry Muffins, Cinnamon Coffee Cake and Lemon Bars. 

Chapter and Hearse was released on August 3.  The first book, Murder Is Binding, was published in April 2008. The second book, Bookmarked for Death, was a February 2009 release, and the third, Bookplate Special, was released last October.  If you love books, cats and food, you will love this series! 

You can learn more about Lorna Barrett by visiting her website.  You can also find her at her delightful blog Dazed and Confused.

Look for an interview with Lorna Barrett here on The Conscious Cat next week.  Lorna will talk to us about writing, her cats, and more!

I received an ARC of this book from the author.

About the author