Books

Book Review: “Probable Claws” by Clea Simon

probable_claws_145I love reading murder mysteries that feature cats, and this series is one of my favorites.  “Probable Claws” is the fourth in the series, the other three are “Mew is for Murder“, “Cattery Row” and “Cries and Whiskers“.  All feature cat and rock and roll loving freelance writer Theda Krakow and her black and white tuxedo cat Musetta.

In “Probable Claws”, Theda finds herself the prime suspect for the murder of a shelter veterinarian, with Musetta as the only witness to what really happened.  Theda is released on bail thanks to the connections of her former cop boyfriend Bill.  Now she has to find the real killer before she and Musetta become the next victims.

The plot is exceptionally well-crafted, the characters are multi-dimensional and likeable, and you find yourself wanting to savor the story while at the same time wanting to race to the finish to find out who did it. 

You might want to consider reading the entire series from start to finish.  One of the things I enjoyed about all four books, almost more than the actual plot lines, was the character development.  By the time you’re into the second book, you feel like you’re reconnecting with old friends.  I sure hope that “Probable Claws” won’t be the last in this series.

Book Review: “Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog” by Ted Kerasote

Today’s book review is about one of the best dog books I ever read, “Merle’s Door:  Lessons from a Freethinking Dog” by Ted Kerasote.  I think cat lovers will enjoy this book just as much as dog lovers – and there is a cat in the book as well!

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Books about dogs are everywhere – from understanding and training them to stories about them.  But no other book presents the unique blend of being both a moving love story between a dog and his human, and fascinating and well-researched information about how dogs think, communicate, and interact with their world.

The story begins when Merle, a big, reddish dog, appears out of nowhere near the San Juan River, where Ted Kerasote, a well-known nature writer, is on a rafting trip.  Merle chooses Ted as his human, and Ted takes Merle home to Wyoming.  Thus begins a 13-year relationship built on that initial freedom of choice for both dog and man – a choice that enriched both their lives in ways neither of them could have imagined. 

What follows is the story of a deep and balanced human-animal bond.  This is a relationship based on equality and freedom – Kerasote never subjects Merle to his wishes, but always offers him choices.  The door, a real dog door that Kerasote installs for Merle, becomes a metaphor for the opening of a whole new way of looking at how dogs view the world.  It shows how dogs, if given the opportunity to utilize their innate intelligence, can become fully realized beings with their own emotions, interests and thoughts, rather than the eternal puppies so many pet dogs turn into.

The door metaphor also extends to what the book really is – a love story.  It symbolizes the opening to loving fully.  Heart-touching, funny, moving and absorbing, it takes the reader on the 13-year journey of Merle and Ted’s relationship.  If you’re not weeping by the end of the journey, your heart is made of stone.  No matter how many times I’ve read the book, I still cry at the end. 

The book is packed full of interesting facts about dogs, from the latest research on wolves to explaining how sharing leadership with your dog, rather than treating him as your subordinate, can help create happier and healthier canine companions.  It is a must read for any animal lover – it will change the way you look at how animals communicate and deepen the bond with your own canine companion.

An Interview with Linda Mohr, Author of “Tatianna – Tales and Teachings of My Feline Friend” (Win an Autographed Copy of the Book!)

***Find out how to enter the drawing for an autographed copy of the book at the end of this post***

It is my pleasure today to introduce you to Linda Mohr, the author of “Tatianna – Tales and Teachings of My Feline Friend”.

 
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This is one of the most moving and heartfelt books about the bond between a cat and her person that I have read in a long time. The relationship between the author and Tatianna is one of those soulmate relationships with an animal that come once in a lifetime. Tatianna, through her joyful spirit and unwavering courage, teaches the author about love, devotion and spiritual expansion. In addition to sharing her journey with Tatianna, the author provides well-researched information on how to live with and care for a cat with kidney disease. The book is a triumph of the spirit, both feline and human, and a testament to the truth that we are all eternal beings.

 

Please join me in welcoming Linda Mohr to The Conscious Cat!

Linda, “Tatianna” is your first book.  How did you become a writer?

When I was in high school, I entered an essay contest sponsored by Rural Electric Area Cooperative. Winning writers won an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C.  I still have the essay and a photo album full of memories! In my mid-twenties, I worked on a college text on the psychology of clothing, but the publisher decided against it. I taught microwave cooking classes in Palm Beach County, and I have unpublished chapters of a microwave cookbook. I wrote Bobbin’ Along sewing column for a local newspaper during that decade as well.

 So I have dabbled in writing for a long time. My mother recalls me announcing when I was younger that someday I would write a book. Decades later, Tatianna was placed in my life to finally help me accomplish that goal. The best part is that my mother sat next to me at my book signings!

What was the process of writing about Tatianna like for you?

I did not make a conscious decision to write this book. A Higher Being decided for me. The day after Tatianna passed away I was compelled to sit down with a spiral notebook and write. The pen was flying across the pages. I did not know where the thoughts were coming from. But I stayed with it. A few days later I realized I had a message to get out to people and their pets. 

What do you hope your readers will take away from the book?

Animals are a sacred gift, and they deserve our love and respect. We are all connected. Miracles can be accomplished by love and an enduring belief in God. My hope is that the timing is right for this book and that it contains all the best ingredients for learning, laughing, grieving, and growing that makes us better people—to counteract animal cruelty and disregard for animal life that permeates part of our society. Ultimately, I want to make a difference in the lives of people and pets.

In your book, you share what it was like for you to live with and care for a cat with kidney disease.  What was most challenging for you during those years, and what was most rewarding?  Do you have any tips for others whose cats are dealing with this disease?

The most challenging aspect was dealing with a disease that does not have a cure. Managing the progression of the disease was tiring, and there were ups and downs, good days and bad days—for Tatianna and me. However, the most rewarding part was seeing the disease could be kept at bay for several years—if I was willing to make a commitment. For Tatianna, that commitment was daily fluid therapy, herbal therapy, customized meals, vet visits for periodic blood work, and acupuncture. But the payoff was immense because our bond deepened day by day.

The best tip I have is to catch the disease early. That is tricky since more than two-thirds of the kidney function can be destroyed before a cat shows physical symptoms. But if you have regular diagnostic work done starting when the animal is 6 or 7 years old, that will give you a baseline to compare from year to year. If you notice any changes such as drinking more water, losing weight, vomiting, or not eating, immediately go to the veterinarian. Sometimes, we think the cat will get back to normal in a few days and do nothing. But in a few days, the cat could be in a critical state.

Who or what inspires you?

Three things: My cats (past and present), my home office, and restaurants. Tatianna’s spiritual presence continues to inspire me along with the spirits of all her other fur buddies including Noelle, Taittinger, Marnie, and Katarina. My constant companion is Lexie Lee, a beautiful Norwegian Forest cat mix who blew into my yard after a hurricane. My special writing space is on the third story with tropical breezes blowing through light-spilling windows. I had extra wide window sills made for Lexie Lee, and she loves them! When she’s not on the window sill, she stretches out on the glass top desk, right up against my laptop. Every once in a while she hits a key! When I want a change of pace, I head off to Greek, French, or Italian restaurants all within five minutes of my house!

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

My eighth grade teacher, Mrs. Kice, came to my hometown book signing in Kahoka, Missouri. She had something for me and pulled a glass out of her handbag.

“You gave this to me for Christmas when you were an eighth grader. It’s been on my desk all these years! I think it’s time I returned it to you.”

 I was astounded she had saved the gift. I recognized it as one of my craft projects. The six inch clear goblet on a short footed pedestal was decorated with pink and white hearts around the rim along with three sets of pink and white cloverleaves above the pedestal.

One of my favorite teacher quotes is by Henry Brooks Adams–A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops. It occurred to me when I saw Mrs.Kice that her effect on the world will continue to ripple with each person that reads the book.

Are you planning on writing another book?

That is a popular question! My focus right now is marketing and getting Tatianna’s message into as many paws as possible! I also write weekly Catnip Connection blogs for my Web site and Seattle Post-Intelligencer.com and enter little writing contests. So these activities keep me busy. Last summer my sister and I compiled a cookbook for our mother’s 90th birthday. I also was involved in another cookbook project this past year. My profile and a family recipe, Apple Crisp, appear in Literary Feast—The Famous Authors Cookbook that was just released this spring. It is a beautiful cookbook featuring 90 authors and stories about their recipes. Sales benefit the King County Library System in Washington.

I am interested in the topic of the loss of our fur friends and the grief process. So I could see doing a book like that in the future. I am also interested in writing shorter booklets on different cat topics. I would also love to see Tatianna in a children’s book!

What are you reading at the moment?

Middlemarch by George Eliot (807 pages!), Perfect Cupcakes (can’t wait to try Pineapple Upside-Down Cupcakes), Dog Years by Mark Doty (did I really say dog?—just have to keep the book hidden from Lexie Lee!). I just revisited Deepak Chopra’s The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success—I love that little gem.

Thank you so much for this opportunity, Linda!

Thank you for inviting me to The Conscious Cat, Ingrid. I appreciate the time with you. Warm Purrs!

linda_mohr_photoYou can learn more about Linda and her book on her website  and on her blog, The Catnip Connection.

***Linda has generously offered to give an autographed copy of her book to one lucky winner!  To enter the drawing, offer your comments and thoughts on this post.  All who participate will be automatically entered in the drawing.  The deadline to enter the drawing is June 9 at 11:59pm EDT.  The winner will be notified via e-mail.

Book Review: “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein

Amber has an open mind and thankfully, she allows me to read books about dogs.  I would have hated to have missed “The Art of Racing in the Rain.”  I highly recommend this wonderful book.

Synopsis:  Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver.

Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn’t simply about going fast. Using the techniques needed on the race track, one can successfully navigate all of life’s ordeals.

On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through: the sacrifices Denny has made to succeed professionally; the unexpected loss of Eve, Denny’s wife; the three-year battle over their daughter, Zoë, whose maternal grandparents pulled every string to gain custody. In the end, despite what he sees as his own limitations, Enzo comes through heroically to preserve the Swift family, holding in his heart the dream that Denny will become a racing champion with Zoë at his side. Having learned what it takes to be a compassionate and successful person, the wise canine can barely wait until his next lifetime, when he is sure he will return as a man.

A heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautifully crafted and captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human life . . . as only a dog could tell it.

But don’t take these words for it  – watch Enzo tell you himself:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZ0CTcU0Fd0

I actually think that both the synopsis and the trailer sell this book short.  In addition to being heartwarming, gut-wrenching, and ultimately uplifting, there is also a deeply spiritual component to this book.   For me, the most memorable part of the book (and there are so many of them)  was Enzo’s mantra “That which you manifest is before you.”  We all create our own reality, and I particulary enjoyed having this concept presented from a dog’s point of view.

For more good reading, check out my Reading List.

The Feline Mystique: On the Mysterious Connection Between Women and Cats

This post contains affiliate links*

As those of you who’ve been following me for a while know, reading is as essential as breathing to me.  When I read a book that I find educational, inspirational, helpful, moving, interesting, or just plain fun, I want to share it with everyone.  I thought it might be fun to periodically  introduce and review some of my favorites here.

Today’s  book is The Feline Mystique: On the Mysterious Connection Between Women and Cats by Clea Simon.

This is one of my favorite cat books.  It’s a book for cat lovers.  It’s a book for women who love their cats.  And it’s a book for men who love women who love their cats.

Author Clea Simon examines the bond between cats and women from all angles – from history and mythology to interviews with cat women from all walks of life, the book is a compelling mix of facts about cats and the women who love them.  It’s also a memoir of the seventeen years Simon spent with Cyrus, the kitten she adopted as a young single woman.

This is a joyful book, celebrating the role cats play in womens’ lives.   If you are a woman who loves cats, or if you want to better understand a woman who loves cats, you will enjoy this book.

For more information about the book, click here.  For more information about the author, go to http://www.cleasimon.com

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*The Conscious Cat is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to products on Amazon and affiliated sites. This means that if you decide to purchase through any of our links, we get a small commission. We only spread the word about products and services we’ve either used or would use ourselves.