Books

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.

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.

Book Review: The World Is Still Your Litter Box by Quasi

The World Is Still Your Litter Box by Quasi, as typed by Steve Fisher, is a “how to” manual for cats, as dictated to Steve Fisher by Quasi, a lovable big white cat with a curious mind and a biting sense of humor.  The book picks up where his first, The World Is Your Litter Box, leaves off, offering more wit and wisdom for cats on topics such as ways to annoy your human just for fun, what to do if your human puts you on a diet, and how to make sure your human keeps your litter box clean.

Quasi understands that humans, no matter how crazy they may be about cats (refer to the chapter on How to Tell if Your Human Is a True Cat Nut!), need a lot of guidance on how to truly appreciate, take care, and serve the needs of the cats who shares their lives.  And who better to enlighten them then Quasi.  This book will have you look at your own feline companions with greater understanding (and perhaps, a bit of trepidation, as you wonder what they’re cooking up behind those innocent looks they’re giving you…).  From sharing 20 reasons why cats are smarter than humans to words and phrases that are not in a cat’s vocabulary (knowing these will save humans much time and frustration!), this book is not only the perfect gift for first time cat parents, but will  have veteran cat lovers laugh out loud as they recognize their own feline companions in some of the pages. 

This is a thoroughly delightful book for all cat lovers.

Quasi is a charming and intelligent 18-pound cat, white with baby blue eyes. Part Siamese, he has an extensive vocabulary and is not shy about using it to get what he wants. Although he admits to being slightly rotund, he will resoundingly hiss at anyone who calls him “fat.” Like all cats, Quasi possesses the wisdom of the ages and an overabundance of kitty cuteness. He lives in Burbank, California with his human, Steve, Steve’s female, Judy, and his recently arrived kitty compadres Bo Diddley and Piglet.

Steve Fisher, Quasi’s Co-Author and Typist,  grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and moved to Southern California in 1980. At various points, he was a musician, a radio disc jockey and a record producer before finding his true path as a writer.  In addition to helping Quasi with The World Is Your Litter Box and The World Is STILL Your Litter Box, Steve has written approximately 50 short stories and one yet-to-be-published novel. He “works” long hours at his computer and (according to Quasi) does not appear to have a real job. A confirmed cat nut, Steve lives in Burbank, California with his wife, Judy, and of course, Quasi, Bo Diddley and Piglet.

You can learn more about Quasi, Steve and their books on their website and their blog.

This book was sent to me for review by the author.

Book Review: Cat House by Lucille Dumbrava

Cat House:  My Love Affair With Cats is aptly subtitled, because the book is just that – the story of one woman’s lifelong love affair with her cats.  From her first childhood cat Boots to the cats that help her through the loss of her husband and her own illness later in life, this book celebrates cats and all they bring to our lives.  Dumbrava shares her cats, and her life, through stories ranging from camping trips with cats to travels to foreign countries with cats (one of her well-traveled cats, Tiger, takes Spain, and the hearts of the chamber maids at the hotel by storm, earning the nickname “El Tigrito”), to the challenges of life-changing moves with cats. 

You will most likely recognize some of your own cats in these stories as the author shares her cats’ particular likes, dislikes, habits and antics.  You will laugh out loud at Koala, the cat who washes her toys in the water bowl, much to the annoyance of one of her feline housemates.  You will nod your head in recognition as Dumbrava tells us about favorite napping spots, bedtime rituals and her cats’ love of sunshine.  You will cry as the author has to say goodbye to beloved cats.  And of course I was particulary intrigued to get to know the tortie on the cover, aptly named Pinky after the pink streak on her nose.

Dumbrava wraps up this lovely collection of stories with a hearbreaking piece titled “The Shelter Cat” and a reflection on how a lifetime spent with cats has enriched her life – something that will resonate with every cat lover.  

Lucille Dumbrava is a retired teacher/counselor whose love of cats and love of writing started when she was a child. Many of her stories about the cats in her life have been collected in a book entitled Cat House, now available from Amazon, Alibris , http://www.bookstandpublishing.com, and Northern California bookstores. You can also order directly from Lucille by e-mailing her. 

This book was sent to me for review by the author.

Book Review: The Confessions of a Catnip Junkie by Allan Goldstein

As much as I love cat themed books, books about cats, and books by cats, it’s rare to come across one that I absolutely cannot put down.  I started Allan Goldstein’s The Confessions of a Catnip Junkie expecting to be entertained.  What I didn’t expect was that for the two days it took me to read it, I didn’t get much of anything else accomplished, so be forewarned – don’t start this book unless you  know you’ll have a good chunk of uniterrupted time ahead of you!

Written from the perspective of an orange long-haired cat named DooDoo, The Confessions of a Catnip Junkie is the account of DooDoo’s six thousand mile journey across America.  A self-confessed catnip addict, DooDoo lived with two much adored humans after having been abandoned by his mother in the backyard jungle of San Francisco.  However, DooDoo has an adventurous streak.   One day, a sudden impulse sends him into the wilds of San Francisco and beyond.  After the initial thrill dissipates, he realizes that he is lost, and he wants to find his way home again.  Never in his wildest dreams would he have imagined that it would take him a year, and that along the way he would encounter a subway cat named Rass who becomes his new best friend, help a homeless drunk find his way home, a minor league baseball player and a smalltown TV reporter find the big time, and a widowed pilot find peace.

DooDoo’s adventures will touch your heart while keeping you on the edge of your seat.  Goldstein has an amazing ability to present DooDoo’s breathtaking adventures from a cat’s point of view, and at times as you may recognize your own tamed tiger’s antics in the pages.  You will be routing for DooDoo and his sidekick, Rass, as they encounter one challenge after another.  At times, I got so caught up in the action, I had to actually skip some sections to make sure that DooDoo and Rass were going to be okay and then go back to catch up on the missed details – I just couldn’t bear the suspense!

This is a wonderful, entertaining, touching and well-written book.   If you’re looking for a fun, engaging summer read, you won’t regret picking this one up.

Allan Goldstein lives in San Francisco with his wife, Jordan, and a minimum of two cats. You can  learn more about Allan on his website, allangoldstein.com. Doo Doo cat lived in San Francisco with the above family. He wants you to know he was as beautiful, loving and wild as described in these pages, and continues to be so in the eternity beyond. He considers Mr. Goldstein to be his faithful literary executor and will expect his cut of the royalties when they meet again.

Book Review: Good Grief – Finding Peace After Pet Loss by Sid Korpi

good  grief

There are quite a few books about pet loss on the market, and I’ve read a good number of them over the years, but none has resonated with me as much as Good Grief – Finding Peace After Pet Loss by Sid Korpi.  Korpi is a writer, editor, journalist and ordained minister, and most importantly, a lifelong animal lover who understands the human-animal bond.   While most pet loss books focus on the stages of grief and the psychology of the mourning process, Korpi goes beyond those aspects in her book.  She shows the reader how to :

  • Emotionally prepare for a pet’s euthanasia and understand when it’s time
  • View death not as an ending, but (as animals see it) a natural transition
  • Cope with being around insensitive people
  • Memorialize and celebrate the pet’s life
  • Move on after loss and love again.

The book addresses all aspects of the grieving process, from understanding what to expect to how to move on after loss.  I particularly enjoyed the two sections Korpi presents about afterlife connections.  She shares stories of humans and animals and how they’ve connected with their surviving loved ones after their deaths.  Some of the stories are taken from her own life, others come from a wide variety of animal lovers from around the world, and all are comforting and will reassure the reader that the love betwen humans and their beloved animal companions truly is eternal.  Korpi also offers suggestions on how we can feel and encourage this connection with our departed loved ones.

The section on memorializing methods offers many wonderful suggestions on how to remember a pet in both public and private ways, stressing that this is an important part of the grieving process.   Korpi addresses the role of spirituality, philosophy and religion in healing from pet loss by sharing the different viewpoints, including some from the perspectives of various religious leaders.   The book contains an impressive bibliography  and grief support resource section.

What makes this book different from other pet loss books is Korpi’s compassion, empathy and sometimes, even a gentle sense of humor.  Rather than feeling like a book written by a counselor, reading Good Grief feels like a conversation with a supportive, caring friend.  It certainly provided comfort for my own grieving heart.

For more information about Sid Korpi and her book, please visit her website.

Book Review and Giveaway: Making Rounds with Oscar by David Dosa, M.D.

Oscar, the cat who can predict when nursing home patients die, has received quite a bit of press over the last few years.   Oscar, one of several resident cats at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Rhode Island, seems to instinctively know when one of the patients at the facility is getting ready to die.   After over fifty correct calls by Oscar, Dr. David Dosa, a geriatrician and assistant professor of medicine at Brown University, began to investigate this phenomenon and, in 2007, published an article about it in the New England Journal of Medicine. 

Making Rounds with Oscar – The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat is the result of Dosa’s interviews with family members and of patients and staff members at Steere House.   Dosa, who admits that he doesn’t know much about cats, and who is initially skeptical about Oscar’s abilities, hears a common thread in all the interviews:  over and over, patients and staff members tell Dosa how much Oscar’s presence has meant to them and their families during their time at the nursing facility.  Oscar provides comfort and quiet, gentle support when nothing or noone else can. 

This cat’s extraordinary talents will come as no surprise to cat lovers, nor will they question Oscar’s abilities.  He truly is a remarkable cat, and he, and the other cats who live at the nursing home, clearly demonstrate how having cats at a nursing home can have a wonderfully calming and beneficial effect on the patients, staff and visitors. 

Sadly, the title of the book is a bit misleading.  If you were expecting to learn more about Oscar’s extraordinary abilities and how he knows when someone is about to die, you will be disappointed.  The majority of this book is devoted to dementia and Alzheimer’s, and the devastating effect these diseases have not only on the patient who is suffering from them, but also on the patient’s family members and caregivers.  As such, the book surely is a wonderful resource for families who are dealing with this heartbreaking disease in a loved one, but it will leave cat lovers feel a little cheated. 

I really wanted to like this book.  I love the idea of a nursing home with resident cats.  There have been numerous accounts of how patients who stopped responding to and recognizing loved ones will still respond to animals.  This has been written about exceptionally well by Jon Katz in his book Izzy and Lenore about Izzy, his hospice trained dog.  Dosa, too, acknowledges that he believes that animals are a way for these patients to still connect, but, in my opinion, falls short of exploring the premise more deeply.

This is, perhaps not surprisingly, given Dosa’s medical specialty, primarily a book about dealing with dementia and Alzheimer’s, and it addresses those topics well and in great depth.  However, Oscar, the star of the book and its title, an exceptional cat with the special ability to not only predict death, but to comfort a dying patient through his or her final moments, does not get the attention he deserves.  I had hoped that the book would take a look at a possible scientific explanation behind Oscar’s abilities, and perhaps, also address the spiritual dimension of why this gifted cat does what he does.  This is a good book, full of compassion, caring and hope, but it left me wanting more.

I’m giving away one copy of this book to one lucky reader.  For a chance to win, please leave a comment telling me why you want to win this book.  For an extra chance to win, tweet about the giveaway or share on Facebook and post the link in a separate comment.  This giveaway ends Friday, June 25.

Purrfect Crime Fiction

Guest Post by Margot Kinberg

Thanks so much, Ingrid, for welcoming me to The Conscious Cat. As a pet lover myself, I was very excited at your invitation. For many of us, pets are an important part of our lives. They’re our companions and often our comfort and solace. So it’s not surprising at all that animal companions also play roles in crime fiction. And cats are natural matches for crime fiction novels. They have the reputation of being somewhat mysterious, and cats have a certain presence that can add a great deal to a good mystery. They also often have delightful personalities that can add humor to a mystery, too. 

Lilian Jackson Braun has had one of the most successful mystery series that features cats. Her sleuth, Jim Qwilleran, is a columnist for the Moose County Something, a paper that serves Pickax, a town “400 miles north of nowhere.” Qwilleran is aided in his cases by two extremely intelligent seal-point Siamese with interesting histories of their own. One, a big male, is named K’ao Ko-Kung, named for a 13th Century Chinese artist. K’ao Ko-Kung, usually called Koko, has been with Qwilleran since before he moved to Moose County. In fact, Koko meets Qwilleran in The Cat Who Could Read Backwards, Braun’s first Cat Who… novel. At the time of their meeting, Koko lives with George Bonifield Mountclemens III, the Daily Fluxion’s powerful and roundly-hated art critic. Qwilleran’s doing a feature for that paper on the art world, and interviews Mountclemens. Mountclemens then goes out of town, entrusting Qwilleran with Koko’s care. Not long afterwards, Qwilleran finds out that the owner of a local art gallery has been murdered and his gallery left in disarray. Then, two other murders occur, including that of Mountclemens himself after his return. As Qwilleran sorts through the clues, he’s helped by Koko, who has unique ways of communicating. In the end, Koko adopts Qwilleran, who learns to have a lot of respect for Koko’s instincts.

Qwilleran’s other cat is Yum-Yum, a small, dainty female. Qwilleran and Koko meet Yum-Yum in The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern. In that novel, Qwilleran’s assigned to edit Gracious Abodes, a weekly magazine on interior design. He’s not thrilled about the assignment, but a job is a job. He meets several of the local decorators, and even gets the chance to sublet the posh apartment of one of his new acquaintances, Harry Noyton. Qwilleran’s first assignment is to visit and profile the home of G. Verning Tait, a local “blueblood” with a fabulous jade collection. Just after the first issue of Gracious Abodes hits the news-stand, Tait’s wife, Signe, is killed, and his jade collection stolen. The next few profiles of designer homes seem just as ill-fated. Qwilleran soon realizes that the deaths and burglary are all related, and that if the magazine is to continue, he’s going to have to solve the original mystery. In the end, Koko’s habit of sniffing furniture helps Qwilleran figure out what’s behind all of the events, and he’s able to solve the mystery. He also adopts Signe Tait’s beloved Siamese, Yum-Yum. Eventually, the two cats move with Qwilleran to Moose County, where they soon rule his home. Koko, especially, is especially intelligent and often gives Qwilleran clues that help him solve his cases.

Several other cats also feature in the Cat Who… series, including Brutus and Catta, who are companions to Polly Duncan, first the librarian of Pickax, and later, owner of a local bookstore. In many of the books, she’s also Qwilleran’s love interest. Then, there’s Jet Stream, companion to Joe Bunker (AKA Weatherby Goode), meteorologist for the local radio station. Joe and Jet Stream live in a condominium community where Qwilleran has a winter home.

The Cat Who… series is by no means the only mystery series that features cats. There’s also Rita Mae Brown’s Mrs. Murphy series, which she’s written with her feline companion, Sneaky Pie. This series features Mary Minor “Harry” Haristeen. As the series begins, she’s the postmistress of tiny Crozet, Virginia. Harry’s recently been divorced from the local equine veterinarian, Pharamond “Fair” Haristeen, and is starting life on her own. Harry shares her life with Mrs. Murphy, a wise tiger cat, and Tee Tucker, a Corgi. Mrs. Murphy’s quite fond of Harry, and often helps solve the mysteries Harry investigates. She worries for her human companion, because Harry is insatiably curious and has a habit of getting herself in danger. Later in the series, Mrs. Murphy and Tucker are joined by Pewter, a large gray cat who’s much more interested in her own comfort – and food – than just about anything else. What’s interesting about this series is that some of the action is told from the point of view of Harry’s animal companions, so Mrs. Murphy and Pewter play very important roles in the stories. We also get a fascinating and fun look at their different personalities.

Lorna Barrett’s Book Town series mixes bookstores, mysteries, and a delightful cat named Miss Marple – an irresistible combination, and as an Agatha Christie fan, I love the choice of name for the cat. Tricia Miles and Miss Marple own Haven’t Got a Clue, a mystery bookshop in beautiful, small-town Stoneham, New Hampshire, where one of the local leaders has been behind an effort to revitalize the town by making it a bookshop mecca. In the first installment, Murder is Binding, Tricia’s moved to Stoneham from New York City after a divorce, and set up shop. All’s well, except for Tricia’s cranky next-door-neighbor, Doris Gleason, who owns The Cookery, a cookbook store. Doris blames Tricia for their landlord’s raising the rents on their shops, and she’s not a particularly nice person to begin with, so the two don’t get off to a good start. Then one night, Tricia finds Doris stabbed to death in her shop. What’s worse, a rare and valuable cookbook is missing. Sheriff Wendy Adams suspects that Tricia may be responsible for Doris’ murder, and so do several of the other bookshop owners. So Tricia decides, as the saying goes, to take matters into her own hands and clear her name.

In Leann Sweeney’s Cat in Trouble mysteries, we meet Jilian Hart. Recently widowed, she lives in Mercy, South Carolina, where she owns a home business making specialized quilts for cats. Since the death of her husband, John, she’s been comforted by her own three cats: Syrah, the Abyssinian; Merlot, the Maine Coon and Chablis, the Himalayan. In The Cat, The Quilt and the Corpse, Jilian comes home from a business trip one day only to find that her home’s been broken into and Syrah’s been abducted. The police chief isn’t exactly open to using a lot of police resources to search for a missing cat, so Jilian begins to do some searching and asking questions on her own. Her search leads her to stories of other missing cats – and to Flake Wilkerson, a local eccentric hermit. Shortly after she traces Syrah to Flake Wilkerson’s home, Jilian finds Wilkerson stabbed to death. She also finds herself the most likely suspect, since she certainly had a motive. So Jilian decides to find out who killed Wilkerson, to keep herself from being arrested.

The series I’ve mentioned thus far are cozy mysteries. Lest you think that those are the only type of mysteries where cats play a role, though, think again. Robert Crais’ sleuth, private detective Elvis Cole, is also a cat owner. He “inherited” the cat when he bought his current house on Woodrow Wilson Drive in the Los Angeles area. In fact, his cat’s rather particular about the humans he prefers. He loves Cole himself, and really worships Cole’s partner, ex-Marine and gunshop-owner Joe Pike. Ed Lynskey’s private investigator Frank Johnson is also a cat owner, and never forgets to call the cat sitter to check up on his companion when business takes him out of town. There are several other books and series, too, that I haven’t had space to mention, where cats play roles. Sometimes, those roles are critical to solving a mystery. They also set scenes, provide welcome comic relief, and make human characters, well, more human. No matter what role they play, cats can add to a crime fiction novel. Meow!

Thanks again, Ingrid, for hosting me!

Novelist Margot Kinberg was born and raised in Pennsylvania, where she graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and later received her Master’s degree from LaSalle University. After teaching at the University of Delaware for several years and earning her Ph.D. there, Kinberg moved west. She taught at Knox College in Galesburg, IL and is currently an associate professor at National University in Carlsbad, California. Kinberg now lives in southern California with her husband, daughter and two dogs.  You can learn more about Margot on her blog, Confessions of a Mystery Novelist.
 
 

 

Kinberg’s newest novel is B-Very Flat, a murder mystery about gifted violinist Serena Brinkman, who dies suddenly on the night of an important music competition. Serena’s partner becomes convinced that her death was no accident, and asks Dr. Joel Williams, former police officer-turned-professor, to help find out the truth.

 

Book Review: The Cat, the Professor and the Poison

In The Cat, the Professor and the Poison, the second book in Leann Sweeney’s Cats in Trouble series, we once again join Jillian Hart and her beloved three cats, Merlot, Chablis and Syrah.  Jillian, busy with her cat quilt making business, is settling into the small town of Grace, South Carolina, where she moved with her husband, looking forward to a long retirement.  Within a few months of moving there, John died from a sudden heart attack and Jillian found herself alone in a strange town.  But now, she has found a new best friend in Deputy Candace Carson, and once again, she gets involved in helping solve a murder.   It all begins with a missing milk cow from a friend’s farm, which leads to the discovery of fifty stray cats and a dead body – a victim of cold-blooded murder. 

As Jillian gets involved with helping to save the stray cats, even taking one calico mother and her kittens home with her, she also gets drawn ever deeper into the murder investigation.  And if that weren’t enough, in the middle of all of this, her husband’s daughter arrives for an unannounced, and apparently open-ended, visit.  A former journalist, she becomes intrigued with the mysteries hiding in the small town of Grace, and also begins to look into clues to the murder and possible suspects – and there are plenty of those.  Even the cats get in on the act!  From academic research to dysfuctional family dynamics to cat food, the investigation takes Jillian on a wild ride as she comes ever closer to helping solve the mystery.

This book will delight readers of amateur sleuth stories and cat lovers alike.  Interspersed with plenty of fascinating facts about cats, this book is a fun and entertaining read and is very hard to put down.    It’s the purrfect book for curling up with your favorite feline for an afternoon of suspense, cat trivia and small town charm.

The Cat, the Professor and the Poison will be released on May 4.

Leann Sweeney was born and raised in Niagara Falls and educated at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Lemoyne College in Syracuse, NY. She also has a degree from the University of Houston in behavioral science and worked for many years in psychiatry. Currently a school nurse, she began writing about fifteen years ago, fulfilling her lifelong dream. After perfecting her writing skills with classes and a small fortune in writing books, she joined MWA and Sisters in Crime. Her short fiction won many awards and several mysteries were published in small market mystery magazines. One novel and another mystery novella went straight to audio. Leann is married with two fabulous grown children, a wonderful son-in-law and a beautiful daughter-in-law. She has lived in Texas for almost thirty years and resides in Friendswood, Texas with husband Mike and her three cats.  You can learn more about Leann and her books at http://www.leannsweeney.com.

FTC full disclosure:  I received an ARC copy of this book from the author.

Book Review: Almost Perfect, Edited by Mary A. Shafer

Almost Perfect – Disabled Pets and the People Who Love Them, an anthology of eleven stories of animals with special needs edited by Mary A. Shafer, is more than just a collection of heartwarming pet stories.   I’ve always believed that animals come into our lives to teach us, and the lessons from these wonderful animals with often seemingly insurmountable challenges and their compassionate human caretakers are truly inspirational.   You will learn about courage from a blind Huskie mix who trades the horrible life of a puppy mill for living on a farm.  You will be inspired by the grace with which a paralyzed tuxedo cat finds moments of joy each and every day.  You will be amazed by a Labrador-Doberman mix with a devastating muscle wasting disease who gives new meaning to the term “roll with the punches.” 

These wonderful stories will remain with you long after you’ve read them.  They will delight and inspire you.  You will laugh, and you will cry, and you will get a better understanding of why caring for a disabled pet can be immensely rewarding.

The Conscious Cat is delighted to present  a teleseminar titled Inspired and Inspiring – The Rewards and Challenges of Living with Disabled Pets.  On Tuesday, May 11 at 8pm Eastern,  Mary Shafer will join Barbara Techel, the author of Frankie the Walk ‘n Roll Dog and Frankie the Walk ‘n Roll Therapy Dog Visits Libby’s House to share how their disabled pets have enriched their lives in ways they never could have imagined.  You will get an opportunity to ask questions or share your own stories.  The seminars are free, but long distance phone charges may apply.  To participate in the conference, simply dial 1-712-432-3100.  When prompted, enter conference code 674470

Mary and Barbara are offering autographed copies of their books to one lucky winner each.  If you’d like to be entered into the drawing for the books, you will need to register for the seminar here.

FTC full disclosure:  this book was sent to me by the publisher.

Book Review and Giveaway: One Good Dog by Susan Wilson

OneGoodDog

Today’s review is about a book with a d-o-g in it, but thankfully, Amber allows me to read them every one in a while.  I would have hated to miss One Good Dog.  In the tradition of Marley and Me and The Art of Racing in the Rain, this is a moving book about how a dog changes a human’s life for the better.

Adam March, a ruthless, self-made Boston millionnaire seems to have it all, living a picture perfect life, surrounded by wealth and privilege.   Then, in one instant, all of that changes, and he finds himself alone, unemployed, and doing community service in a homeless shelter.  Chance, a pit bull mix bred as a fighting dog, living in a dark and vicious world, takes a random moment to escape from his captors.  Human and dog come together, and as One Good Dog unfolds, both fight for a chance at a new life.  This is a tale of love, loyalty, new discoveries, and redemption, told from the point of view of Adam March, but also from the point of view of Chance, the former fighting dog.

Wilson masterfully lets Chance tell the story in his own words.  Some of the passages describing his fighting life are disturbing, but his gradual introduction to the world of being a pet dog is charming and touching.  I found this book hard to put down.  The narrative from the two different points of view was fascinating and added to the pace of the story.  You’ll find yourself routing for the initially extremely unlikeable character of Adam March and for the tough dog with the rough beginning.

Entertaining, moving, and heartwarming, fans of dog memoirs, or pet memoirs in general, will thoroughly enjoy this book.

I’m giving away one copy of this book to one lucky reader.  For a chance to win, please leave a comment telling me why you want to win this book .  For an extra chance to win, tweet about the giveaway or share on Facebook and post the link in a separate comment.  This giveaway ends Friday, April 30.