cat books

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, http://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 http://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.

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.  

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: 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.