cat books

Book review and giveaway: For the Love of Cats by Sandy Robins

For-the-Love-of-Cats-Sandy-Robins

Why do we love cats? Because they’re beautiful, smart, curious, playful and independent. These are just some of the reasons I thought of right off the top of my head.

Sandy Robins has taken answering the question a step further in her new book, For the Love of Cats: An A-Z Primer for Cat Lovers of All Ages, by offering up 26 reasons. Her alphabet covers interesting facts, anecdotes and clever verses, enhanced by Mark Anderson’s charming illustrations.

Among the interesting facts and anecdotes included in this cat alphabet:Continue Reading

Giveaway: Dewey’s Nine Lives by Vicky Myron

Dewey's Nine Lives Vicky Myron

In Dewey’s Nine Lives: The Legacy of the Small-Town Library Cat Who Inspired Millions, Vicky Myron offers nine stories about some very special cats, inspired by the thosands of letters and e-mails she received from readers around the world after the phenomenally successful publication of Dewey: The Small-Town Libary Cat Who Touched the World.

The new paperback edition, which will be released November 1, includes two new stories about Dewey himself and features seven new real-life tales of friendship including the story of a Vietnam veteran whose heart was opened by his relationship with a rescued cat and the story of a woman who vows she will never love another cat until a special one unexpectedly comes into her life. The book also shares the love story of author Vicki Myron and Glen Alberton, and their unexpected connection through Dewey himself.Continue Reading

Cats With Jobs

Bodge cats New York City

Here in the United States, we’re celebrating Labor Day today, so this post is dedicated to all the working cats out there.

I’ve had a number of working cats in my life. Virginia was my first office cat at the animal hospital I managed, followed, of course, by Buckley, as those of you who read my book know. Amber wasn’t so much a working cat as she was the inspiration behind The Conscious Cat, although who’s to say being a writer’s mewse is not hard work. Continue Reading

Clea Simon talks about writing cat-themed mysteries

Clea Simon

Those of you who’ve been reading The Conscious Cat for a while already know Clea Simon. For those of you who don’t, you’re in for a treat.

Clea is the author of three nonfiction books and three mystery series. I first came to know Clea through The Feline Mystique: On the Mysterious Connection Between Women and Cats (St. Martin’s Press, 2002). Her Theda Krakow mystery series was launched in 2005 with Mew is for Murder and continues with Cattery Row, Cries and Whiskers, and Probable Claws, all now available in paperback. She launched her Dulcie Schwartz series in 2009 with Shades of Grey and last year’s Grey Matters, and this year marks not only the third Dulcie book, Grey Zone, but also the launch of her Pet Noir series featuring Pru Marlowe with Dogs Don’t Lie.

Clea’s essays are included in numerous anthologies, including Cat Women: Female Writers on Their Feline Friends. She is also a respected journalist whose credits include The New York Times and The Boston Phoenix, and such magazines as American Prospect, Ms., and Salon.com.

Clea grew up in East Meadow, on suburban Long Island, N.Y., and came to Massachusetts to attend Harvard, from which she graduated in 1983. She’s never left, and now happily cohabits with her husband, Jon S. Garelick, who is also a writer, and their cat Musetta.

Welcome back to The Conscious Cat, Clea!

You have two new releases coming out within three days of each other: Grey Zone on April 1, and Dogs Don’t Lie on April 4. Did you work on these two books at the same time?

Well, I worked on them at the same time, but I didn’t write them at the same time. I had already written Dogs Don’t Lie and my agent was sending it around when my editor at Severn House told me that they would like a third Dulcie book. I was thrilled, as you can imagine, and set right to work on Grey Zone. But then somewhere in there, Dogs Don’t Lie sold and the editor wanted some changes and general polishing. So I was working on them at the same time for a month or two last spring.

What was that like? Was it hard to keep the two separate in your mind?

It was incredibly difficult, honestly. I’m not good at that kind of thing. Also, the voices are so very different. I guess that helped me keep them separate, but I found it hard to switch between the two. I tried various things – working on the raw writing of Grey Zone in the mornings, working on the fixes for Dogs Don’t Lie in the afternoons. Finally, I had to put Grey Zone aside for about two weeks of intensive Dogs Don’t Lie editing. Then it took me a few days to get back into the Dulcie mindset. But I did it, I think!

Authors are expected to do much of their own promotion these days. With your long list of titles, you’re a veteran at promoting. How is promoting two new books at the same time different from promoting one book at a time?

Ask me again in May! Seriously, I think I’m probably shorting Grey Zone a bit. The pet noir series is new; Dogs Don’t Lie is the first with this character and this voice, so I both want to work a little harder to introduce that, and also I think that, because it is new, it has the most news interest. More people are likely to write about the first book in a series than the third. That said, I’m trying to talk about both books when I do readings and other events. It’s really fun to talk about different characters and different voices: they’re both quite real to me, and I hope I can make them both real to readers.

In Grey Zone, Dulcie’s new kitten is presenting her with some behavioral challenges. Dulcie, who still misses her beloved Mr. Grey, finds it difficult to deal with them. What inspired you to add this element to the story? I recognized Allegra in some of her antics!

The fireplace story was taken from an incident with my own late, great Cyrus. He was totally not supposed to go up on the table or the counters – and I thought he never did. Until I moved into an apartment with a fireplace and … well, you read the rest! Since then, I’ve lived through many of the same kitten antics with Musetta, so I had a store to choose from. I think that all of us who are cat lovers deal with these little faux pas (faux paws?). I am hoping that other cat folks will recognize them and laugh and enjoy.

How did the idea for Dogs Don’t Lie develop?

I’m not sure, to be honest. I was reading a lot of the new female-oriented noir, books like Megan Abbott’s Queenpin, and I loved that cool tone – so tough, so in control. But when I try to write like that, it comes out a little cozier… and with a cat. Actually, I guess Wallis is the real tough broad heroine of this book. Didn’t realize that until just now!

Was there a real dog that you based the Lily character on?

No, not really. I knew that I wanted a “dumb blonde” who was being set up to take the fall in a crime she didn’t commit. And she had to be a dog who would automatically be viewed as guilty. Plus, in my research, I ran into an animal control officer who was a really strong advocate for pitbulls. He taught me a lot.

That said, after the book was written, I had a rather scary pitbull experience. A neighbor was sitting her son’s pit and was letting him run around our shared yard. I was sitting on my first-floor porch with the screen door closed behind me, and Musetta was sitting inside the screen door. Well, the pit saw Musetta and went for her – so fast that he got by me on the porch. He went through the screendoor as if it were nothing. Luckily, both Musetta and I are fast, too. Musetta scrambled up inside an opened window in my apartment – climbing up the screen inside the glass. And I tackled the dog right inside my apartment, landing on it with all fours. My neighbor came running. She, of course, said the dog only wanted to play. Yeah, right. Like I’d even take that chance. In truth, the dog didn’t fight back and as soon as I landed on him, was totally still (ha! Poor dog!). But I wasn’t taking ANY chances. That was terrifying for all of us; it took Musetta quite a few hours to return to normal. Me, too. Needless to say… the neighbor’s son’s dog was banished from our shared yard that night. Never, never again.

I think this was the classic human screw up though: My neighbor was a middle-aged woman who should not have been taking care of this young, active dog. Pits need to be exercised VIGOROUSLY. In the course of writing this book, I spoke to one pit lover who told me that he wouldn’t have the dogs if he weren’t a runner – he runs with his at least two miles a day. They also have been bred to react – they don’t go through the dominance/submission role-playing of other dogs – they just GO, and so they need to be carefully supervised and on some kind of restraint. I feel very strongly that the dog should NOT have been let run around the yard without a leash or a lead (the dog had access to my porch/apartment, obviously, but also to the street). But… we all survived and now it is water under the bridge.

We have since moved. Musetta remains a house cat, and the yard that she looks out on is fully fenced.

I loved Wallis – the combination of cranky and wise is absolutely wonderful. Is she based on a real cat?

Of course! I don’t know why, but I often voice Musetta as being quite fed up with all my silliness. “People, humph… sometimes I think you don’t have the wit God gave you…” I’ll say as Musetta leaves the room. Or, “Do you mind? I’m trying to nap,” when I sit near her and she looks up sleepily. Sometimes this confuses my husband, but he’s grown used to it.

Was it hard for you to write a canine character?

I had to do a lot more research, that’s for sure! I want to make sure all my animal characters have species-appropriate behavior and talents. So for that I have to read and talk to experts and visit with animals. From there, I let my imagination run wild.

I was intrigued with the cover for Dogs Don’t Lie – it features a cat. What was the rationale behind that design choice?

In truth, I have very little input or control over the cover. I’m asked for my input, and I give it, but then it goes to a designer and to marketing and I’m only consulted again at the end of the process. That said, right from the start, the one thing that we all knew was that this was a very different type of book from my previous mysteries, so we had to have a very distinct, very different cover. Poisoned Pen’s designer came up with a bunch. Earlier versions had no cat – but the one we all loved did have that cool blue noir look! I had suggested a cat early on, because the cat Wallis is central to the book (and the title would lead readers to expect a dog, not a cat). But then I saw that cool blue and loved it. So I said, “Great!” But the publisher said… let’s try one thing more. And voila, the same cool blue cover, same great typography – and now there’s a cat. I think from their closed eyes and the concentric circles, you’re supposed to get the idea that they are communicating psychically, which they do. I’m thrilled.

What’s next for the two series? Are you working on the next installments?

I am!! I have Cats Can’t Shoot drafted and now I’ve put that aside. I hope to spend the next two months drafting the very first rough draft of the fourth Dulcie, which doesn’t yet have a title. Then I’ll go back and revise Cats Can’t Shoot and turn it in. Then go back to Dulcie. Am trying to be a little more sane about it all this time, but I know that sometime in late spring or early summer I’ll be working all out and going a little nuts.

Thanks for joining us again, Clea. I can’t wait for Cat Can’t Shoot – what a great title!

Thanks so much, Ingrid! I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to talk about these books and the process that went into them. I hope that they bring pleasure to readers.

You can learn more about Clea and her book on her website and on her blog, You can also friend her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

My 10 favorite cat books of 2010

 

Reading is as essential as breathing to me.  I usually have at least two or three different books going, and at least one of them will have something to do with cats.  I’ll read anything from books about cat health to stories about cats who changed their owner’s life to murder mysteries featuring cats.

Here are ten of my favorites from this year, in no particular order:

  • Grey Matters by Clea Simon is a cat-themed murder mystery and the second in a series featuring Harvard grad student Dulcie Schwartz and the ghost of Mr. Grey, her beloved deceased cat, who offers his wise and comforting, but often veiled and cryptic advice.  While the premise of a ghost cat may sound like a bit of a stretch for many readers, Simon makes this work by combining it with immensely likeable and multi-dimensional characters, exceptional plotting, and a fascinating academic setting.  I’m a huge fan of all of Simon’s books, and she just keeps getting better.
  • Your Cat – Simple New Secrets to a Longer, Stronger Life by Elizabeth M. Hodgkins, D.V.M., Esq.  is a comprehensive guide to feline health and nutrition.  From kitten through adult life to the senior years, Dr. Hodgkins explores the full spectrum of cat care, and offers a closer look at the common chronic diseases that afflict so many cats.  Hodgkins believes that the underlying cause for many of these diseases, as well as the key to managing or even curing them, is nutrition.  I loved this book because it approaches feline nutrition from a perspective that makes sense to me.
  • The Confessions of a Catnip Junkie by Alan Goldstein is one of the most unique cat books I’ve ever come across.  As much as I love cat books, I never expected to find one I actually couldn’t put down until this one.   Written from the perspective of an orange long-haired cat named DooDoo, this is the account of how a sudden impulse sends the self-confessed catnip addict into the wilds of San Francisco and beyond, and his subsequent six thousand mile, year-long journey across America, trying to find his way home again.  Along the way he encounters a subway cat named Rass who becomes his new best friend, helps a homeless drunk find his way home, a minor league baseball player and a small town TV reporter find the big time, and a widowed pilot find peace.
  • Complete Care for Your Aging Cat by Amy Shojai.  I have a soft spot for senior cats, and I was thrilled when I came across the newly released and updated edition of this book.  This comprehensive guide on caring for senior cats is a must have for any cat owner’s cat care library, and the “golden moments” stories from real life cat owners caring for senior cats are heart touching.
  • The Cat, the Professor and the Poison by Leann Sweeney is the second mystery in the author’s Cats in Trouble series featuring amateur sleuth and quilt maker Jillian Hart and her three cats, Merlot, Chablis and Syrah.  I loved that this book was not just a highly entertaining and fun mystery, but is also interspersed with plenty of fascinating facts about cats.
  • Houdini by T.J. Banks is the story of Siamese kitten who goes from the despair of being abandoned to the joy of finding happiness when he meets a young girl who smuggles him home on a plane.  I was touched by the author’s deep connection with the feline soul that comes through in every word.  It melted my heart over and over again.
  • Dear Sparkle – Cat to Cat Advice from the World’s Foremost Feline Columnist edited by Janiss Garza is a beautifully designed and unique cat care book that 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, it gives the reader insight into how cats think and provides a fresh new look at some of the same old problems.
  • Cleo:  The Cat Who Mended a Family by Helen Brown is a sweeping memoir of heartbreak, changes, new beginnings, and ultimately, happiness.   When Brown is faced with the unthinkable – the loss of a child – this small black cat becomes the thread that holds Brown’s family together through devastating grief, illness, moves across continents, and other challenges.   This one goes on my list of best cat books ever, right along with such classics as A Snowflake in My Hands and The Cat Who Came for Christmas.
  • The Complete Guide to Holistic Cat Care:  An Illustrated Handbook by Celeste Yarnall and Jean Hofve, DVM is a beautifully designed guide for cat owners interested in natural remedies such as herbs, homeopathy and flower essences, hand-on healing modalities including chiropractic, acupuncture and Reiki, as well as some more esoteric therapies such as Applied Kinesiology, crystal, color and sound healing, and magnetic therapy.  The photographs in this book are stunning.
  • The Blessings of the Animals by Katrina Kittle is not strictly a cat book, but since it features a very cool, cranky, but ultimately loving three-legged one whose life was saved by the protagonist, and since I loved this book so much, I’m including it in this list.  Blessings is a beautifully written and plotted relationship drama featuring a veterinarian who finds solace and healing from her animals as she deals with some of life’s challenges.

What are some of your favorite cat books of the year?

Book Review and Giveway: Dewey’s Nine Lives by Vicki Myron

In Dewey’s Nine Lives:  The Legacy of the Small-Town Library Cat Who Inspired Millions, Vicky Myron offers nine stories about some very special cats, inspired by the thosands of letters and e-mails she received from readers around the world after the phenomenally successful publication of Dewey:  The Small-Town Libary Cat Who Touched the World.  In these letters, readers told Myron how Dewey had touched their lives and shared heartfelt stories of their own special cats.  You’ll read about a determined black cat who changed a Vietnam veteran’s life for the better.  You’ll hear about a spirited kitten who brings back one woman’s childhood memories of a lost mother.  You’ll learn how a city cat with a rough start in life accompanies her adopted human through a series of major life changes.

Myron chose inspirational stories about people who were down on their luck, who mostly came from small towns, and who were faced with tough challenges.  Given Myron’s own background, it is not surprising that these stories resonated deeply with her.   At times, the stories focus a little too much on the humans’ backgrounds, but in the end, it’s always the cats in the stories who not only saved the day, but often saved their humans’ lives – maybe not literally, but most definitely figuratively speaking.   The cats in the stories are a testament to the healing power of cats – they opened hearts, inspired change, and transformed lives. 

Dewey himself is woven throughout the book.  There are some Dewey stories that were not included in the first book, and Myron shares what her life has been like after Dewey.  I was particularly delighted by the book’s final chapter as it answered a question I had been wondering about.

Like most sequels, this, too, does not quite live up to the first book, but it is a thoroughly enjoyable, heart-warming book which will make you hug your own cats just a little harder and thank them for all they’ve brought into your life.

For more about Dewey’s Nine Lives, and to see some of the cats featured in the book, watch the book trailer:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bb3gcR2emMw

Would you would like to see your cat’s story featured in the paperback edition of Dewey’s Nine Lives?  Penguin Books is hosting an I Believe In Dewey’s Magic Story Contest, looking for true tales highlighting how a cat has impacted your life or the life of someone you know.

I’m giving away one copy of Dewey’s Nine Lives to one lucky winner.  Leave a comment on this post to enter the giveaway.   Tweet about it or share on Facebook and leave the link in a separate comment for an extra chance at winning.  This giveaway ends on Friday, October 29.

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

Book Review: Careers for Your Cat by Ann Dziemianowicz

careers

Have you ever wished that your feline companions would get off the couch and contribute to your household budget?  Careers for Your Cat explores what might happen if your feline charges were to join the workforce.  Help your kitty take the Meowers-Briggs Personality Quiz, which is designed to provide an accurate self-assessment of your cat’s personality type.   Is she friendly or reserved?  Whimsical or serious?  Self-effacing or self-confident?   Knowing the answers to those questions will help your cat find a career path which will help him utilize his full potential.  Dziemianowics describes thirty-four career choices ranging from opera singer to landscape architect to marine biologist.  The book includes a section of tips for acing that all important job interview, highlighting such important hints as “keep your tail high,” “do not sit in your interviewer’s lap,” and “do not play with objects on the interviewer’s desk.”

Illustrated with utterly charming drawings by Ann Boyajian that made me smile and occasionally laugh out loud, this little book is a delightful, tongue-in-cheek fantasy of what the world would look like if cats were to head out into the nine to five world and leave their humans at home to relax and take those well-deserved cat naps.

Ann Dziemianowicz is a writer and feline career counselor who is dedicated to helping cats land their dream jobs. She lives with her husband in New Jersey.

Ann Boyajian is a former rock musician turned church choir director and book illustrator. She and her husband support two kitties in Massachusetts.

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

Book Review: Murder Past Due by Miranda James

Murder Past Due is the first in the new A Cat in the Stacks series by Miranda James.  Set in Athena, Mississippi, it features librarian Charlie Harris and a very unique rescued Maine Coon cat named Diesel who, among other things, walks on a leash.

When bestselling crime fiction author and former classmate of Charlie’s, Godfrey Priest, returns to Athena to promote his latest book and make a bequest to his school library, Charlie is less than thrilled.  He remembers Priest as being an arrogant, manipulative jerk, and he’s not the only one.  Priest’s homecoming causes quite a stir in the small Southern town:  by lunchtime, Priest has put a man in the hospital, and by dinnertime, he is dead.  Since it seems as though every last one of Charlie’s friends and coworkers was connected to the murder victim, Charlie gets involved in the investigation into Priest’s murder.

I was drawn to this book by the irresistible cover, and I wasn’t disappointed.  This was an entertaining, well-crafted mystery with a likeable hero and interesting secondary characters, but what really makes this book is Diesel.  I feel in love with the big cat from the beginning.  What’s not to love!  Diesel is friendly, loves attention, walks on a leash, and warbles and chirps rather than meows.  And best of all, Diesel is all cat. He doesn’t talk, he doesn’t help solve the murder, he’s just a thoroughly lovable feline who is central to the story.  I’m looking forward to the next in this series.

Miranda James is a pseudonym for author Dean James, who also writes under the names of Honor Hartman and Jimmie Ruth Evans.

An Interview with Helen Brown, Author of Cleo: The Cat Who Mended A Family

Helen Brown is the author of Cleo: The Cat Who Mended a Family.  She was born and brought up in New Zealand, where she first worked as a journalist, TV presenter and scriptwriter.  Now living in Melbourne, Australia with her family, Helen continues to write columns for the New Zealand media, and she’s been voted Columnist of the Year several times.  Cleo rose to the top of the bestseller lists in its first week in the UK, New Zealand, and Australia and has been translated into more than nine languages.

I’m delighted to welcome Helen Brown to The Conscious Cat today. 

Cleo’s story, and by extension, your family’s story, begins more than twenty years ago.  When did you first know you would write a book about Cleo?

Cleo always behaved as she expected a book to be written about her but I was slow to pick up on the signs. Whenever I wrote about her in my columns she was a big hit with readers. Then about five years ago a friend suggested Cleo would make a great book. I thought he was joking, but when I took the idea to a weekend workshop people seemed really interested in our story.

I’ve always believed that animals are amazing teachers and healers, and Cleo has certainly been all of that and more.  Have you had other animals in your life since Cleo, and how have they affected your life?

A crazy Siamese (though some people swear he’s Tonkinese) called Jonah bounced into our lives two years ago. I was half way through writing Cleo when I found out I needed a mastectomy. About two weeks after I returned home from hospital my sister said she’d just seen an amazing kitten in the pet shop down the road. The rest is history. He’s vain and funny, and a healer in his own right.

I was captivated by your story and by Cleo almost from the very first page, but I was particularly moved by the sensitivity and openness with which you share your journey through grief after you lost your young son so tragically.  What was it like to have to revisit that time in your life? 

Some days I had to take a deep breath before sitting down at the computer. But remembered pain is different from the real thing (ask any woman who’s been through childbirth!). I hoped it was worth scratching a few scars if it was going to help other people.

What was the writing process like for you? 

The days I manage to approach the computer screen with a sense of lightness and joy definitely work better.

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

I stay in bed as long as possible so the rest of the family get themselves off to work and school without asking me to cook or wash anything (they’re pretty good these days). Once the house is quiet I sneak across the road for a sacred cup of café latte. Sometimes the coffee makers ask how my writing’s going, but I think they suspect I’m a middle aged housewife who merely fantasizes about writing books and travelling the world promoting them. Occasionally someone’s kind enough to remind me if I’ve put my coat on inside out.

Once the caffeine starts flowing, I head back to the house and sit at the computer, often with Jonah on my knee. There are heaps of diversions – solitaire, emails, laundry, mysterious cat smells. But I try to write a minimum of 500 words a day. I’m usually burnt out by two or three o’clock. Besides, it’s usually time to think about what to cook for dinner by then.

What do you love most about being a writer?

Readers! What amazing people. Readers have helped me through tough times and celebrated with me through the highs. When I became a grandmother recently, they sent gifts, cards and hand knitted garments. Immeasurable kindness from people I’ve never met.

What do you like least about being a writer?

Loneliness.

Who or what inspires you?

It sounds a cliché, but family (including pets) and friends are my greatest inspiration. I find stories in everyday events like standing in a supermarket line, or cleaning out kitchen cupboards. My antennae are always out for human behavior at its best and worst. I love it when  prejudices (specially my own) are shattered. On a bus soon after the Twin Towers tragedy, I was charmed when a young man stood up so I could take his seat. He then went to the back of the bus to stand beside his partner – who was wearing a burka. I’m inspired by writers who are better than I am: David Sedaris, Alan Bennett, Alice Munro to name a few.

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

About 30 years ago when I was hardly known (even in New Zealand) I was invited to a book store in a provincial town on a wintry Friday night. The book seller didn’t know what to do with me so she parked me at a table with a pile of books at the back of the shop. I waited…and waited. Nobody showed, of course. Eventually, a man in a raincoat made a stealthy approach from the front of the store. I tried not to make eye contact and scare him off. He eventually appeared at my side and asked me to sign a copy. I was so grateful. When I asked who I should sign it to, he said “Nobody. I just collect signed copies of books so that when the author dies they’re worth something.”

Will you be coming to the United States to promote Cleo?

I’m very much looking forward to visiting the States in the near future.

What are you reading at the moment?

Julie and Julia by Julie Powell, John Adams by David McCoullough, re-reading Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee. 

Are you working on another book?

I’ve been inundated with emails from people saying they didn’t want Cleo to end. My next book will probably be a sequel around the power struggle between mothers and daughters, spirituality and – of course – a cat.

Thank you so much for your time, Helen, and much continued success with Cleo!

Thank you, Ingrid, for this opportunity to share some time with you.

You can learn more about Helen and her book on her website.