Thursday, May 31, 2012

Book #9: Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs: A True Story of Bad Breaks and Small Miracles by Heather Lende

This book is yet another one sent to me by my lovely friend Lisa in Seattle. It's not a book (or an author) I had heard of, and those are usually the best kind that she sends me.

In Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs, Heather Lende is an author living in small town Alaska, basking in the glow of her upcoming book tour when she is run over by a truck while riding her bike. In telling the story of her accident and her recovery, the reader is introduced to her faith, her family, and her community of Haines, Alaska.

We get to know the different personalities that make up the town of Haines and how they all pulled together to help Heather and her family as she healed. We see all the intimate connections between the residents and how their lives intertwine with Heather's.

Heather also gives us some great examples of positive energy and faith, and how they can make a difference when things are not going well. It seems to be a choice that she makes in life-to be strong, to make the best of her situation, and to be grateful for what she has.

There are descriptions of the natural beauty of her town and the surrounding area. If you are a fan of the wilderness, that alone is a reason to read the book. I connected with the author just by the fact that we are both animal lovers and the experience I had with a community coming together to help me when things were at their worst.

The book shows that there really are good, caring people everywhere.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Book #8: Ballistics by Billy Collins

"Ballistics" by former Poet Laureate Billy Collins was sent to me by my wonderful friend Lisa in Seattle. She sends me the best books and takes the time to check my Goodreads shelves to see what I'm interested in. She saw that I had "Ballistics" listed as to-read and sent it to me.

"Ballistics" is a book of poetry, many times the poems touching on dark elements of life. All of them are straight-forward, not a confusing mass of words. My favorite in the book is titled "The Four-Moon Planet", and not just because it mentions tequila!

After I finished each poem, I couldn't wait to start the next one. I read the entire book in one sitting and have read a few of the poems over again. They made me see things in life from a different perspective.

It was nice to read something a bit different and I'm very glad I came across it.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Book #7: Stories of Cats We Love: Seventeen Tales of Unforgettable Feline Companions by Various Authors

One of the first books that I bought after the fire was "Stories of Cats We Love", a collection of 17 short stories about cats. I had only read one of the stories included in the book: "Black Cat" by Edgar Allan Poe. I was hopeful that the other stories were just as good and would keep my mind off of what we were going through.

I was disappointed. There were a couple of stories in the book that I enjoyed, but the rest I just muddled through. In fact, I began the last three stories in the book, but didn't finish any of them.

I think the best part of this book was the cute little kitten on the cover. Unfortunately, that's the best thing I can say about it.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Book #6: Cat Daddy: What the World's Most Incorrigible Cat Taught Me About Life, Love, and Coming Clean by Jackson Galaxy

I know what you're thinking. Another cat book? Well, yes, but it's so much more than that. Jackson Galaxy is a cat behaviorist with his own show on Animal Planet, My Cat From Hell. If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I watch it religiously and my husband even makes sure that we're at home on Saturday evenings to catch new episodes.

Mr. Galaxy's book, Cat Daddy: What the World's Most Incorrigible Cat Taught Me About Life, Love, and Coming Clean is the story of Benny, a very special cat in his life. Of course, Mr. Galaxy can't share Benny's story without sharing his own story. His story is one that includes multiple addictions, working in a shelter, and pulling out of darkness. Benny's story is one of a broken cat, but not beyond hope. These two souls came together and a bond was formed. Benny has since passed away, but Mr. Galaxy promised him he would tell his story. That's what this book is-a promise kept.

I was lucky enough to get to interview Mr. Galaxy after reading his book. I was a nervous wreck waiting for his call. I was absolutely star struck-this was the tattooed cat man that I watched work his magic every week. And he had my phone number! (Insert high-pitched squeal here.)

The first thing I wanted to know about was what Mr. Galaxy described as "ridding." When Benny passed away, he cleared out all of his things from his bed to his cat food container. Mr. Galaxy explained to me that it was all part of a ritual. It's a ritual to walk through the grieving process and we all have rituals that we perform. He also said, "I'm a ridder, a Gypsy. We get rid of stuff."

I wondered how he could let go of all of those mementos, but after hearing him say it in his own words, I now realize that it's just his way of dealing with death. We all grieve differently, this is his way.

I mentioned Mr. Galaxy's tattoos. Being a fan of tattoos, cattoos in particular, I asked if he had a tattoo in honor of Benny. He told me that he did not have one yet, but it will be coming soon. When he's in Boulder on the book tour, he's going to see the tattoo artist who has done some of his previous work. He will then get his Benny tattoo and will use the picture included on the back flap of the book cover as a model. He's not sure where on his body it will go though.

Speaking of pictures, I wanted to know why there were no pictures in the book. Mr. Galaxy is very descriptive of his own appearance. At one point he had multi-colored dreadlocks. I would love to have seen that! He also writes about being 400 pounds at one point in his life. He told me that there really aren't that many pictures of him and that he's a bit camera shy. He says that many pictures he has been in, he has given away to other people.

I was most struck by Mr. Galaxy's addictions. I described it as a "cocktail" of drugs and alcohol. He said yes and that he was a "kitchen sink addict." Between street drugs, alcohol, and Klonopin, you would think somebody wouldn't be able to get through a day standing up, but Mr. Galaxy was able to perform his job and fulfill his responsibilities. He was a high-functioning addict. I asked him how long he has now been sober and he told me that his ninth birthday is approaching quickly-May 16th.

It wasn't just drugs and alcohol he was addicted to, however. He was also addicted to food and had been a smoker since he was a teenager. Needless to say, getting clean from drugs and alcohol wasn't all he needed to save his health. He ended up undergoing gastric bypass surgery. Then, after smoking for most of his life, he gave up cigarettes a year and a half ago.

I asked him about the food addiction, specifically and if that was still a struggle for him. He told me that it wasn't about vanity, but it was about having the health and energy to keep helping the cats. He said that he wasn't going to risk any of that for a momentary escape. He also added that he "gives a shit" about himself now. He explained that he's moving away from a meat based diet and feels much better now physically, plus he feels that he is eating more responsibly.

Whether you are a cat lover or not, this book is worth reading. You get to follow a man make his way through challenges and learn to live in order to make the world a better place for someone else. It's also quite motivating that someone can become an expert on a subject not because they went to college, but because they studied the subject first hand.

If you are a cat lover, check out Jackson Galaxy on TV and on the web. He has amazing insights into cat behavior even if you don't have a hellish cat.

I hope to be lucky enough to catch him on his book tour (hopefully Kansas City will be added to the list!) to see his new Benny tattoo in person.

Books #4 & #5 OR Catching Up

In my haste to finish the Stephanie Plum series before I saw the movie, I read the books but did not post reviews. Then, of course, we had the fire which really put me behind!

Just to keep the flow of the blog going, I don't want to completely skip those books. It will come as no surprise that I again laughed out loud while reading Janet Evanovich's Fearless Fourteen and Finger Lickin' Fifteen. I have still not completed the series but hope to as soon as I get the books replaced.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Book #3: Plum Lucky by Janet Evanovich

"Plum Lucky" is a Stephanie Plum Between the Numbers novel. I look forward to reading these because they are shorter and lighter than the numbered novels. Janet Evanovich is able to mix things up a bit with the Between the Numbers books too. Diesel, an Unmentionable, is a recurring character in these books. He pops in and out of Stephanie's life without much explanation. The plot is usually simpler too.

In "Plum Lucky", Stephanie finds herself dealing with a guy who thinks he's a leprechaun, the horse that talks to him, and the crazy mobster that is after them for stealing his money. Thankfully Diesel is there to help out-as well as to make things interesting.

The story line was a bit predictable, but enjoyable. I laughed a lot and the cat looked at me like I was crazy when I did. There wasn't a lot of extra tension because of Morelli and Ranger since they weren't major players in this novel, either. It's just a light, quick read. Great for a short flight!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

I'm Laughing Again: Lean Mean Thirteen by Janet Evanovich

My second book for 2012 is another Stephanie Plum Novel: Lean Mean Thirteen by Janet Evanovich. In this installment, Stephanie has another run-in with her ex-husband, Dickie Orr. After she goes after him-again-he disappears and she is a suspect in his disappearance. Then, Joyce Barnhardt is after Stephanie because of Dickie's disappearance. Oh, and don't forget about Ranger and Morelli. They're involved too.

Stephanie has some hilarious things happen to her, which I've been missing for a while. "Thirteen" had me laughing out loud again. Exploding taxidermied animals, dinner with a stuffed cat, and everybody's reaction to the cable company were some of my favorites in this book.

Fun to read, I really recommend this book in the series. My neighbor probably wonders what I'm doing up here with all the laughing!

Monday, January 2, 2012

My First Book of 2012: Plum Lovin' by Janet Evanovich

I'm trying to get through the Stephanie Plum series before the movie, One For The Money, comes out later this month. My latest read in the series is a "Between The Numbers" novella. Janet Evanovich wrote a few of these shorter, lighter books to fit in between the numbered books.

"Plum Lovin'" is set near Valentine's Day and Stephanie is once again visited by Diesel, an Unmentionable who pops in and out of her life, literally. There isn't a good explanation as to how he appears, but we know that he's a human with special qualities. This time, Diesel needs Stephanie's help and she ends up taking over some cases for a matchmaker. Her skills as a relationship expert closely match her skills as a bounty hunter. She's luckier than she is good.

I really enjoyed "Plum Lovin'." It is a short, quick, fun read. It doesn't have all the excitement and explosions you find in the numbered series, but it still has the humor. I recommend this book to fans of the series as well as to those unfamiliar with it.

My 2012 Challenge

My goal for 2011 was to read 35 books and I ended up reading 36 books. Makes me feel like I can increase my goal again this year, so I will. My goal for reading this year is 40 books. Can I do it? I guess we'll see!

My short-term goal at the moment is to finish the Stephanie Plum series before the movie comes out in a few weeks. That should be easy enough to accomplish since I love the series and I'm over halfway through it already.

I'll be starting some new series this year as well, including the Cheese Shop Mystery series. What could be better than cheese and books?

Feel free to send me any recommendations you may have and let me know what you think of any of the books I read and review. I love feedback!