Cat Who Came for Christmas

Amory, Cleveland. The Cat Who Came for Christmas. Little, Brown and Company, 1987.

Reason read: December is the month for Christmas

Every December I look for a few books that are lighthearted and funny. The Cat Who Came for Christmas fit the bill for the most part, being both a memoir about a specific stray cat coming into Cleveland’s life and a didactic nonfiction containing interesting facts about cats. Here are a few examples: Cleveland delves into the theory of a cat having nine lives; he provides names of politicians and rulers who either loved or detested cats; he shares the dirty secrets of animals shelters, testing on animals (ouch), and price gouging of veterinarians. He shares stories of his work with animals rights organizations. It is not just a warm and fuzzy story about a cat named Polar Bear. But let’s be fair. Polar Bear is the star of the show. The full blown, complete sentence dialogues Cleveland would have with his cat are hysterical.
Cleveland is in good company of famous people who enjoyed cats: Mark Twain, Colette, Walter Cronkite, and Robert De Niro to name a few.

Quote to quote, “You do not, after all, have to walk a wife (p 6).

Author fact: Cleveland likes to drop names. He was good friends with Cary Grant and George C. Scott.

Book trivia: the advance praise for The Cat Who Came for Christmas is star-studded. Bea Arthur, Walter Cronkite, Norman Cousins, and even Doris Day all give a glowing review. See what I mean about the name dropping?

Nancy said: Pearl said many people enjoyed The Cat Who Came for Christmas.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Cat Crazy” (p 51).

The Rabbi’s Cat 2

Sfar, Joann. The Rabbi’s Cat 2. Pantheon Books, 2008.

Reason read: to continue the series started in June in honor of cats.

At the end of The Rabbi’s Cat, the unnamed cat had lost the ability to be understood by humans. The affliction still remains in The Rabbi’s Cat 2. One might say Sfar’s message in The Rabbi’s Cat 2 is how to ask a question. How best do you respond to a growing hate? What is the best course of action to avoid or defuse it?
My favorite character, besides strong-willed Zlabya, was Malka of the Lions. He and his lion are traveling scammers. They travel from town to town saving villagers from the “ferocious” lion until one day the people are no longer afraid of the aging feline. Despite being elderly, Malka can still exude power. [When he delivers an open-handed slap to the mayor I was reminded me of Will Smith’s attack on Chris Rock at the Oscars.] The adventure doesn’t end there. There is this one snake who wants to bite someone. Anyone. Then the story takes an ominous turn when a seemingly dead Russian is found in a crate of books shipped to Zlabya’s husband.
Sfar attacks deeper subjects in The Rabbi’s Cat 2. The argument that art is forbidden; representation is prohibited: “Hey wait! You can kill each other after dinner. And in the meantime, we’d do well to talk quietly and see if it’s necessary” (p 102). Please do not miss Sfar’s subtle humor. The cat’s farts is hilarious.
The dedication right before “Part II Africa’s Jerusalem” made me think this section was intended to be a separate book.
And can we talk about the ending? It feels a little abrupt. I felt like it could have kept going.

Lines I loved, “A real friend tells you that your worries aren’t so bad, that you’ll be okay and you should make the most of each moment” (p 10) and “I love you because there has to be someone who loves you” (p 47). Couldn’t we all think that way?

Author fact: Sfar has written more Cat stories, but I am only reading two for the Challenge.

Nancy said: Pearl said if you are looking for a change of pace, read Sfar’s Cat books.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “North African Notes: Algeria” (p 158).

Rabbi’s Cat

Sfar, Joann. The Rabbi’s Cat. Pantheon Book, 2005.

Rabbi’s Cat is a clever way of introducing Talmudic teaching…sort of like sneaking spinach into a burger to make it “healthier” (yeah, right). The philosophical arguments with a cat about God and love are pretty funny yet serious. To start from the beginning. A parrot annoyed a cat, so the cat ate the bird and gained the ability to speak and lie, not necessarily in that order. Even as a liar, the cat is a straight shooter, albeit a little sarcastic. The cat is also a true cat, randomly knocking over things, or walking on piano keys when you are trying to play, or sitting directly on the very book you are trying to read. But, remember, this cat can talk so it should be no surprise it is demanding a Bar Mitzvah. The rabbi needs to consult his rabbi on that one (although he doesn’t faze him to hear a cat speak). Thus begins the argument, what does it mean to have faith? Does what you practice define your level of spirituality? What about the differences between being a Jew or an Arab? I loved the argument between the cat and the donkey about the name ‘Sfar.’ Truly a clever book.

Great lines to quote, “He tells me that they don’t circumcise cats” (p 10), “You know, sometimes you kill just one person and it takes care of everything” (p 82), and “I love my master, too, it doesn’t mean I have to act like an electric fan” (p 128),

Author fact: Sfar won the Jury Prize for The Rabbi’s Cat.

Book trivia: The Rabbi’s Cat is a graphic novel and the illustrations express volumes (like being underwater and drowning to symbolize helplessness). Really cool designs.

Nancy said: Pearl recommended The Rabbi’s Cat “for a change of pace” (Book Lust To Go p 161).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “North African Notes: Algeria” (p 158).

Joey Goes to Sea

Villiers, Alan. Joey Goes to Sea. Mystic, CT: Mystic Seaport, 2014.

Reason read: a gift from my aunt Jennifer and because I love cats.

This is such a cute story and the fact that is is based on true events makes it even more special. Joey is a little ginger kitten who went to sea aboard the Joseph Conrad with author Alan Villiers. According to Villiers, the events in the story are real. Joey caught flying fish, fought with a bird, and really did fall overboard!
The illustrations are wonderful, too.

Turn the Page October


  • The Chronoliths by Robert Charles Wilson – in honor of October being Star Man month.
  • Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andric (EB) – in memory of Mehmed Pasa Sokollu’s passing. He designed the bridge over the Drina river.
  • Playing for Pizza by John Grisham (EB) – in honor of the Verdi Fest in Parma that takes place every October.
  • Call It Sleep by Henry Roth (AB) – to remember the Tom Kippur War.


  • Oxford Book of Oxford edited by Jan Morris – in honor of Morris’s birth month.
  • African Laughter by Doris Lessing – in honor of Lessing’s birth month.
  • Always a Distant Anchorage by Hal Roth – October is Library Friend Month & I had to borrow this from a distant library.

Series continuations:

  • Tandia by Bryce Courtenay – to finish the series started in September in honor of Courtenay’s birth month.
  • The Race of the Scorpion by Dorothy Dunnett (EB) – to continue the series started in August in honor of Dunnett’s birth month.
  • Finding the Dream by Nora Roberts (EB) – to finish the series started in August in honor of Dream Month.


  • Joey Goes to Sea by Alan Villiers – a gift from my aunt Jennifer.

Early Review for LibraryThing: nada. I have the promise of three different books but they haven’t arrived yet.

Cat Daddy

Galaxy, Jackson. Cat Daddy: What the World’s Most Incorrigible Cat Taught Me About Life, Love, and Coming Clean.New York: Tarcher, 2013

If you have seen Jackson Galaxy on Animal Planet you know how he talks and how he thinks, for the most part. Reading his book is more of the same. More or less. He has a way of wrapping words around a deeper meaning and in the end you more than know what he is talking about. You get it and hopefully, you get your cat, too. Because that’s the whole point. But, watching “My Cat From Hell” is no substitute for reading Cat Daddy. Jackson bares his soul and lays his demons to rest as he recounts how a broken cat named Benny came into his deeply scarred life. Just as the title hints Jackson abused drugs and alcohol while struggling to find his way as a musician in Boulder, Colorado. Finding work in a shelter was the beginning to his saving grace. He found solace among the animals, more so than with his human counterparts. As Jackson learned to understand animals he began to sort out his own life. Identifying with addiction with the first step in recovery.

Reason read: I have been watching Animal Planet’s “My Cat From Hell” and was intrigued by Mr. Galaxy. He seemed to have a story all his own lurking beneath the strange exterior of piercings, shaved head and piercings.

Author fact: According to Jackson’s memoir he used to weight 400 lbs. I can’t picture it at all.

Book trivia: there are no pictures in Galaxy’s book which was sad. I would have like to have seen the dreads with various things woven in them. Or better yet, the cats! Most people reading his book are cat people to be sure. They would definitely want to see the cats!

Cat Who Ate Danish Modern

Braun, Lilian Jackson. The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern. Read by George Guidall. New York: Recorded Books, LLC, 1990.

Jim Qwilleran is a reporter for “The Daily Fluxon.” He has led a simple life until he is asked to write for “Gracious Abodes,” a magazine specializing in interior decorating of lavish homes. Qwilleran is paired with David Lyke, an interior designer who leads him to all the fashionable homes he has put on his designer touch. Oddly enough after each cover story is published something terrible happens at the featured home. First, there is the home of George Tait. His expensive jade collection is stolen and his wife dies of an apparent heart attack. Then, house number two is raided for being a brothel after it is featured on the cover of “Gracious Abodes.” At the third residence there is a murder…Qwilleran keenly watches the behavior of his Siamese Cat, Koko, to figure out the mystery.

“Reason read: June is National Cat Month…or something like it.

Book Trivia: Get the audio version and listen to George Guidall read the character of David Lyke. It’s hysterical.

Author fact: Braun passed away two years ago which is a shame because I really think I would have gotten along with her. Her descriptions of cat behavior are spot on!

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Cat Crazy ” (p 52). Incidentally, Pearl says this particular “Cat” book is her favorite.

May ’10 was….

Pretty in Pink

May. What to say about May? For obvious reasons it wasn’t the month for reading. I still haven’t mastered walking and reading without doing both at an excruciatingly slow pace!

  • Endless Love by Scott Spencer ~ apparently this was made into a movie. I am curious how they handled the anal sex scene…
  • You Make Me Feel Like an Unnatural Woman: Diary of a New (Old) Mother by Janet Newman ~ funny, funny, funny (although, an odd choice to honor Mother’s Day)
  • Wobegon Boy by Garrison Keillor ~ my first Keillor book. Now I know what all the fuss is about. Another funny one!
  • Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis ~I admit it. I gave up on this after 50 pages. I moved onto a Jillian Michaels book. More on that next month….

For LibraryThing & the Early Review Program:

  • Fundamental Weight Training by David Sandler
  • Fall Asleep Forgetting by Georgeann Packard ~ this should be a movie. It was weird but good!

For the hell of it:

  • Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper

Homer’s Odyssey

Cooper, Gwen. Homer’s Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat. New York: Delacorte Press, 2009.

A friend of mine gave this to me a few weeks ago. No, I take that back. She gave it to me several, several weeks ago. I meant to write a review about it in April but I wasn’t quite finished reading it. I wanted to make sure I was on page 287 (which is the last page in case you were wondering) before I wrote anything about it. The sad truth is, it took me until now to get to page 287. The training for Just ‘Cause simply took reading away from me for a few months (18 weeks to be exact). But, now that I am back on track I can finish what I started.

Gwen is great. Her story of Homer (the blind wonder cat) makes you fall in love with all things cats. I am clearly defined as a cat person (either you are or you aren’t) so this wasn’t a stretch for me. What I wasn’t prepared for was enjoying Gwen’s style of writing as much as I did. She is funny, sensible (dare I say logical?), and sometimes downright sassy. Homer’s Odyssey takes you on a journey from Homer’s start as a kitten, but you also get a sense of Gwen’s growth as well. How she handled the events of September 11th, 2001 and its aftermath are heroic and probably my favorite part of the entire story. If I had to gripe about any of it, it would be a small gripe and it would have to be about a story  towards the end. Homer gets sick and stops eating. I had a cat who stopped eating. I didn’t have to Google this to know what it could mean: cancer, tumors… Indeed, My Chessie died a few weeks later. But, I digress. Gwen’s detailed account of Homer’s listlessness and refusal to nibble at the most favorite of meals brought back painful memories. As I was reading I feared the worst and I honestly think that was Gwen’s plan. Decidedly, it was nothing more than a dirty drama trick. Homer regained his health and the illness was explained away as an unsolved mystery. But, as I said before this is a trivial gripe. It didn’t ruin the read for me. I’m sure Gwen has been asked (and asked and asked) about a Homer sequel. I, for one, would read it.

March 2009 was…

March was all about the new house. Moving, moving, moving. Living in limbo. For books it managed to be:

  • The Concubine’s Tattoo by Laura Joh Rowland ~ fascinating tale that takes place in 17th century Japan (great sex scenes to get your libido revving). So good I recommended it to a friend.
  • The Bethlehem Road Murder by Batya Gur ~ Israeli psychological thriller.
  • The Drowning Season by Alice Hoffman ~ a grandmother and granddaughter struggle to understand one another.
  • Daniel Plainway or The Holiday Haunting of the Moosepath League by Van Reid ~ this was a really fun book with lots of subplots and meandering stories.
  • The Famished Road by Ben Okri ~ I will admit I failed on this one. Magical realism at this time is not a good idea.I need to keep my head grounded, so to speak.
  • The Old Gringo by Carlos Fuentes ~ This was a powerful little book, one that I definitely want to reread when I get the chance.
  • Lone Star by T.R. Fehrenbach ~ The history Texas. More than I needed to know. More than I wanted to know.
  • Saint Mike by Jerry Oster~ an extra book in honor of hero month. I was able to read this in a night.
  • Industrial Valley by Ruth McKenney ~ in honor of Ohio becoming a state in the month of March.
  • The Fan Man by William Kotzwinkle ~ in honor of the Book Lust of others. Luckily, it was only 182 pages.

For the Early Review program:

  • When the Time Comes: Families with Aging Parents Share Their Struggles and Solutions by Paula Span ~ this was gracefully written. Definitely worth the read if you have elderly people in your care.

For fun:

  • Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron ~ really, really cute story. Of course I cried.

I think it is fair to say work had me beyond busy. But, I will add it was a learning experience and for that, I am glad. Reading these books during the crazy times kept me grounded and for that, I am doubly glad and grateful.


Myron, Vicki. Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World. New York: Grand Central, 2008.

This is the perfect book for me. One of my bestest, bestest friends reallllly knows me. What could be more perfect than cats and libraries in a book? This was one of the best Challenge diversions I’ve had in a long time. It was also a really nice way to wake up my first morning alone in Hilltop. What could be more luxurious than reading in bed for several hours on a Saturday morning?

Dewey Readmore Books was a kitten discovered in the bottom of a library bookdrop in Spencer, Iowa. Despite being nearly frozen to death he demonstrated such charm and love the library director couldn’t help but fall in love with him. From that day forward he belonged to the Spencer public library. He grew up in the library charming every library employee, every patron everyday. Before long Dewey was receiving attention from people all over the country. Before he (and the librarians) knew it, he was an international success. There is no doubt Vicki Myron loved Dewey. Weaving her own personal story with that of Dewey’s, she pasionately describes how much Dewey came to mean to her.

Probably the hardest part (for me) was to read of Dewey’s death. At 18 years old you would think old age took its course on the kitty. When I read that it was actually cancer, I cried. I could definitely relate to saying goodbye to a feline friend that way. I can relate to not wanting her to suffer, either. When Vicki put Dewey to sleep I was right back in my own vet’s office, holding my cat in the exact same way. It’s funny how pets grow to mean so much to us. Dewey was no exception. He not only grabbed the heart of Vicky Myron, but he captured the world.

Man on the Bus

A true story.

The man needed to take his cat to the vet. She had stopped eating and was starting to vomit. All the time. He had her in a carrier. He had a carrier for his cat, but no car for himself. His cat came first, always. So he took a bus and took his cat to the vet. Cancer, they said. Nothing we can do, they said. They did not charge him. So the man left to take his cat home. Went to the same bus stop he got off from. When the bus pulled up he slowly climbed aboard, holding his carrier more carefully than before. A cat dying of cancer needs more care. He took his seat with a sigh.  “No animals on the bus” the driver said looking up in the mirror. What do you mean no animals? But, that is how I got here, the man replied. “I don’t care. No animals on the bus.” The bus driver was louder now, glaring back at him in the reflection. “You’re holding up my schedule. Get off my bus.” But, this isn’t your bus. The man argued back. So, I’m not leaving. The bus driver, furious now, ordered everyone else off the bus and called the police. The man with the cat stayed where he was.
When the police arrived they questioned the driver. The man with the cat looked down on the interrogation from his high bus window. The police officer’s arms were folded across his chest. The bus driver was gesturing wildly. Soon, the officer climbed onto the bus and headed back to the man with the cat. “What seems to be the problem here?” he asked. No problem, the man answered. I just want to take my cat home. She’s sick. “It’s a law – no animals on the bus.” The police officer looked at the cat. You will have to arrest me because I have no other way home. Take me in handcuffs, the man replied. And that is what the officer did.

But, the story doesn’t end there. On the ride to the station the man with the cat and the cop got to talking. The officer mentioned he had a cat. The man with the cat mentioned he was bipolar and relied on the goodness of strangers to help him cope with his disease. The officer mentioned his sister was bipolar. Soon they were exchanging stories about the ups and downs of illness, human and feline. Instead of taking the man with the cat downtown he asked him where he lived. Then, he took the sick man and his sick cat home.