Friday, December 31, 2010

I Met My Goal! Book #30 of 2010

My 30th book of the year was "On Cats" by Doris Lessing, the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2007. I received this book as a gift from my wonderful Twitter friend, @kayakgal, as I have many other books. She picks out the most amazing books for me to read and I am ever so grateful to her for opening me up to books I would never read otherwise. I think it is quite appropriate that I round out my reading goal for 2010 with a book she sent me.

It is quite clear from this year's reading list that I am an animal lover. Upon seeing a book titled simply "On Cats" I knew I would love it. As it turned out, I was right, but some people would be surprised at my adoration of this work when they read some of the less "fuzzy" feelings toward cats that are described. There are many cat deaths at the hands of humans, including the author herself. It should be noted that many of these instances were in times much different than the one we are in now, not to mention a vastly different land.

It is not a warm, cuddly kitty cat story like that of Dewey. It does show the author's true affection for the many different cats in her life and she describes each of them perfectly, painting a picture that is clear and colorful with her words. It is a true piece of art in written form.

I am now intrigued by this author and can't wait to look into more of her work, which spans from 1949 to her final book in 2007. I encourage you to read this book and keep an open mind. Don't be turned away because of what you might see as mistreatment, you would miss out on something amazing if you did.

Another First Reads Win!

I love to browse through the giveaways on Goodreads. I came across "Unlucky Stiffs: New Tales of the Weirdly Departed" by Cynthia Ceilan and knew immediately that I had to sign up and try to win it. Guess what? I won it!! Not only that, but it came autographed and personalized. I was immediately impressed. It became my 29th book of the year.

Not surprisingly, this is a book about strange ways people have died. I am, in case you don't know me personally, a little twisted. My husband has told me for years that I'm morbid. Either way you look at it, this book was perfect for me. Some stories made me chuckle, others made me groan. And yes, some made me cackle with laughter.

Some of the people died from freak accidents and many others brought it upon themselves. Nothing is too terribly graphic, nor are there a lot of details. You can leave all that up to your imagination!

If you are intrigued by death, this is a book you will enjoy. You might not want your neighbors to know you're reading it, though. They might think you're a little weird.

This was a book that I received for free from the author. Winning a copy in no way influenced my review of the book or the author. The opinion expressed in this review is my honest opinion about the book.

Short Stories

My husband picked up "Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk" by David Sedaris on a shopping trip to Borders one day. When he showed it to me, I said, "Great, I've been wanting to read that." I figured he would finish it quickly and would be in my hands in no time. I listened to him reading it, laughing loudly at the stories, wanting to share them with me. I refused, however, not wanting to spoil the fun for myself. Unfortunately, he does not read as often as I do, so I had to wait a while before I got my turn. It ended up being my 28th book of the year.

My first impression was about the illustrations by Ian Falconer. They are wonderful! Each story has at least one illustration, some of them have several. They are simply drawn, in black and white, sometimes with a touch of orange.

The book was a little disappointing though. After hearing my husband cracking up, I was sure I would do the same, but it didn't happen. I never laughed out loud at any of the tales, not even once. Some of them were cute, many of them were odd, but none of them were hilariously funny like I had hoped.

The stories are all centered around animals in curiously human situations: dating, parenting, relationships, everyday life. Sounds pretty good, right? I thought it would be, but other than making me think "How weird", they didn't have much of an impression on me.
Obviously, some people will love this book, it just wasn't for me. I would suggest reading a story or two in the bookstore before you buy it to make sure it fits your taste.

Some Doggy Inspiration

Book #27 of 2010 was Main Line Animal Rescue's "Dog Blessed: Puppy Mill Survivor Stories" by Lisa Fischer, published by Happy Tails Books. It is a compilation of stories told by dog owners who adopted their pooches from Main Line Animal Rescue in Pennsylvania and are members of MLAR's rehabilitation group called "Over The Mill".

The stories are heartbreaking and inspiring all at once. These dogs were all rescued by MLAR from puppy mills and came to the rescue group (and eventually their forever homes) with varying degrees of physical and emotional issues. Many of us know what goes on in puppy mills, but it is still saddening to hear these very personal stories of what an individual dog goes through in these horrid living conditions. To then read about the people who bring these dogs into loving homes and the patience they show in teaching the dogs that it is okay to be loved is enormously uplifting.

I admire each and every person who has rescued, rehabilitated and adopted these dogs. I hope that these stories reach people far and wide so that puppy mills will one day be a thing of the past and we can enjoy responsible breeders and the dogs they produce. Remember when shopping at a pet store that you don't know the conditions of the place the puppies came from and what you may be supporting by purchasing one of these dogs. ADOPT, DON'T SHOP!

I will put other Happy Tails Books on my to-read list after reading this one. They not only look like enjoyable books, but Happy Tails Books donates at least 25% of their profits to rescue groups. It's wonderful to see what people are doing for our animal friends and I hope you will pick this book up as well!

I received my copy of this book at no cost to me from the publisher. This in no way influenced my review of the book.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Cats and Books-Two of My Favorite Things!

"Murder Past Due" by Miranda James was my 26th book for 2010. I read it for a book club I am part of on Twitter. It is a cozy mystery written under a pseudonym. The author's real name is Dean James, author of the Simon Kirby-Jones mystery series. For this series, Cat in the Stacks, James took on a female name.

In "Murder Past Due" Charlie Harris is a librarian who takes his cat Diesel with him everywhere, walking him on a harness and leash. An old classmate comes back to town to be honored for being a best-selling novelist, but ends up dead-the victim of a brutal murder. Charlie is asked by the lead investigator's mother to poke around for information to help her daughter solve the case. As it turns out, the investigator doesn't really need the help and Charlie (already on her bad side) seems to only irritate her.

The story has several potential killers, all with motives to murder the not-so-nice author. There are a couple of twists, but nothing that is all too surprising. There were times when I didn't want to put the book down, and other times when I wasn't all that interested in what happened. I had mixed emotions about the story all throughout my reading of the book.

The most noticeable difference between this cozy and others I have read is that the main character is a man. Typically, the antagonist is a woman in cozies, so this was a bit odd for me at first. Also, the main character didn't actually end up solving the crime in this book. It was nice to have things mixed up a bit from other cozies I have read, instead of the same format I have read previously.

If you are a cozy mystery fan, you will probably enjoy the book. If not, this may not be the best one to start with to check out the genre.