Tag Archives: pets

Coming Up Next…

A review of Cat Telling Tales: A Joe Grey Mystery by Shirley Rousseau Murphy.


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A Furry and Feathered Giveaway

Thanks to Diane S., Munchy has two copies of a new book to give away!   This is Being with Animals: Why We Are Obsessed with the Furry, Scaly, Feathered Creatures Who Populate Our World by Barbara J. King.   This hardbound release from Doubleday has a value of $24.99 ($29.99 in Canada).

Here is a synopsis of the book:

We surround ourselves with animals, and yet rarely do we truly stop to think about the pull they have on us.   Animals have dominated our lives for tens of thousands of years and continue to rule our existence, but why?   Why do people the world over respond to a cartoon mouse named Mickey?   Why do sports teams name themselves the Bears and the Eagles?   Why does the pet industry thrive even in difficult economic times?   Why are we compelled to share our lives with cats, dogs, fish, snakes, turtles, or any other kind of domesticated creature?

In Being with Animals, King offers answers to these questions and more.   She looks at this phenomenon, from the most obvious animal connections in daily life and culture and over the whole of human history, to show the various roles animals have played in all civilizations.   She digs deeply into the importance of the human-animal bond as key to our evolution, as a signficant aspect of understanding what truly makes us human, and looks ahead to explore how our further technological development may affect these important ties.

King’s fresh look at the human-animal relationship will resonate deeply with animal lovers, the environmentally minded, and the armchair scientist.

Barbara J. King is a biological anthropologist and Chancellor Professor of Anthropology at the College of William and Mary.   She has studied monkeys in Kenya and great apes in various captive settings.   Together with her husband, she cares for and arranges to spay and neuter homeless cats in Virginia.  (To this, Munchy says Yeowk!)

To enter our giveaway contest to win one of two copies of Being with Animals, you can either post a comment here or send an e-mail with your name and e-mail address to Josephsreviews@gmail.com .   This will count as a first entry.   For a second entry, answer this question, “How is it that an animal has added value to your life and/or to the lives of your loved ones?”  

Munchy will pick the 2 winners at random.   In order to be eligible for this giveaway, you must live in the United States or Canada and have a residential mailing address.   Books will not be shipped to a P. O. box or to a business-related address.   You have until Monday, February 28, 2011 at Midnight PST to submit your entry or entries.

This is it for the “complex” contest rules.   Good luck and good reading!


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Coming Up Next…

A furry, scaly, feathered book giveaway!

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Everybody’s Got Something to Hide*

*except for me and my monkey

Kasey to the Rescue: The Remarkable Story of a Monkey and a Miracle by Ellen Rogers (Hyperion; $23.99; 288 pages)

“Walk through one door at a time, I told myself, then look for a key to the next.   That was my strategy, and I was sticking to it.”

If you’re looking for a heartwarming present for someone this Christmas, this book may be it.   I had a copy of Kasey to the Rescue in my stash of books at the office, picked it up to scan during the lunch hour, and found it hard to close.  

Ellen Rogers’ 22-year-old son Ned was a student at the University of Arizona when he had a horrible auto accident that left him close to death.   The opening scene describing how Ellen got from Concord, Massachusetts to Tucson overnight is worth the price of admission as something amazing happened to speed her journey.   Her son survived the crash but as a quadriplegic with a brain injury.

“Pride.   Courage.   Hope.   They were all there in those three little words.”

Ned had always been extremely athletic and daring – despite a lack of natural skills – so his life came to a grim halt after the tragic event.   Inaction and depression crept in until the gift of an amazingly smart and social female Capuchin monkey gave him back his spirit, his mobility and his hope of persevering.   Kasey the monkey had been ever so patiently trained by foster parents and by the Monkey College maintained by Helping Hands: Monkey Helpers for the Disabled.   (As with a human college, it takes two to four years to matriculate at Monkey College.)

Rogers’ telling of this tough, but inspirational, tale is as humorous as it is gripping and touching.   If this were an advertisement for a Disney film, you would read, “You’ll laugh, you’ll cry.”   This story is not a Disney film…  It’s real life.   You’ll laugh, you’ll cry.

Well recommended.

“This gem of a book will capture the hearts of readers everywhere.”   Doris Kearns Goodwin

“A book to change your life.”   David Doss, Making Rounds with Oscar

“The story told in this book is one of hope, perserverance, laughter, and most importantly, family.”   Megan Talbert, Executive Director, Helping Hands: Monkey Helpers for the Disabled, Inc.

This review was written by Joseph Arellano.   A review copy was provided by the publisher.


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Stray Cat Blues

Ginger and the Mystery Visitor by Charlotte Voake (Candlewick Press, $15.99, 40 pages)

Readers who are familiar with Ginger the cat will be happy that Charlotte Voake’s latest book is the perfect – or purr-fect – companion to Ginger.   They are the same size with very similar covers, which makes them a lovely set.   The cast of characters has expanded with the introduction of the mystery visitor.   The storyline involves a cat who sneaks into Ginger’s house to eat.   The tale is short and sweet with a built-in message or two.   It offers opportunities for the reader and listener to discuss what can happen when we feed other people’s pets.

The illustrations are charming and full of expression.   Clearly, this is a book to be read aloud to young children.   Later, it will be a good one for practicing reading skills.   Lastly, a grandma or grandpa who is creating a library for the grandchildren can count on Ginger and the Mystery Visitor as a welcome addition.

If we’re lucky, Charlotte Voake will create more books about Ginger.   Highly recommended.

This review was written by Ruta Arellano.   Reprinted courtesy of Sacramento Book Review.


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Love You To

A Dog’s Purpose: A Novel for Humans by W. Bruce Cameron (Tor Forge; $22.00; 320 pages)

“And the people who hide themselves/ Behind a wall of illusion/ Never Glimpse the truth/ Then it’s far too late/ When they pass away.”   George Harrison (“Within You Without You”)

A Dog’s Purpose is a 320-page novel targeted for adults.   This is a story of a dog named Toby who dies and is reborn as Bailey, then becomes the female Ellie and finally Buddy.   It is a novel on the subject of reincarnation that will not convince anyone that it actually happens, but it’s told in a charming voice.   The dog’s voice, no matter which of the four dogs is being portrayed (and regardless of age) is that of a non-threatening and generally naive pup which is why children will identify with it.

Had this been truly written for adults, it would have been better structured as a novella.   It goes on too long to make the rather simple point that love between humans and their pets is always reciprocated.   Any child who has loved stories like My Dog Spot will likely be enchanted with this one, but the adult reading it to a child is best advised to break it into 40 or so digestible bites.

Any they lived happily ever after, and were reborn again and again and again.   Woof!

Take Away:   This novel, sold as a childlike story for adults, is actually a long children’s story that might be read to children by adults.   There are, however, dozens and dozens of great children’s books currently available, any one of which might be a better choice.     

This review was written by Joseph Arellano.   A review copy was provided by the publisher.  

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Potential is a heavy burden

“There’s no heavier burden than a great potential.”   Charlie Brown

I’m usually a cheerleader for stories involving animals but this one lacked something, I’m not exactly sure just what…   excitement, charm, humor, human relevance?   The Gerbil Farmer’s Daughter: A Memoir is the true tale of a woman whose father literally raised up to 9,000 gerbils at a time.   The publicity for the book made it seem as if the father did this to promote medical research for the condition (cystic fibrosis) that killed the author’s sister.   But sister Gail died well before the mega gerbil farm was established.

It may also be that the author’s father – the prime character here, more than the author –  is simply not someone the average reader will identify with.   A retired navy commander, he comes off as gruff and argumentative; someone who uses and abuses his wife and children.   (At one point he fires his wife from the family business replacing her with his mother.)GerbilThen there’s author Holly Robinson, who displays some odd contradictions.   For example, at one point (pages 140-142), she asks her high school classmates, “Why do you hate me so much?   I haven’t done anything.”   She asks this as the victim of mean behavior and bad language.   But then just one  page later (143) she uses very negative language to make fun of some neighbors:   “…the Albino children wore plastic bread bags wrapped around their feet instead of boots.”   The Albinos, a derogatory term adopted by Holly’s mother, are poor – “The one thing they all had in common besides missing teeth was their white-blond hair and pink-rimmed eyes…”

As far as the reader can tell, the neighbors never did anything to the author and her family…   So why did they hate their neighbors so much?   Simply because they were poor?

Once we realize that there’s no nexus (connection) between the gerbil farm and life saving research, a lot of the assumed charm and relevance (if not romance) of the story melts away.   Robinson might have been better off writing a straight biography of her life – with her family members as secondary figures – or a cute modern guidebook to raising gerbils (an updating of the books her father used to write).   As it is, there was just something missing in this book’s 289 pages.

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Racing in the Rain with Enzo the Dog: A Book Giveaway

We’re going to give away a trade paperback copy of the five-star (Powell’s Books) book The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein.   Here’s a summary of the book as prepared by the publisher:

Enzo knows he is different from other dogs:  A philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver.   Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn’t simply about going fast.   Using the techniques needed on the race track, one can successfully navigate all of life’s ordeals.

On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through…   Having learned what it takes to be a compassionate and successful person, the wise canine can barely wait until his next lifetime, when he is sure to return as a man.   A heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story.

Contest Rules

We’re keeping this simple and easy.   To enter, you must be a resident of the continental United States with a mailing address that may (unlike the case in most contests) include a P.O. box.   Send your entries to josephsreviews@gmail.com  by Friday, September 4, 2009.   To be entered once in this contest, send in your name and e-mail address; the latter will only be used to contact you if you are the winner.   To be entered a second time, send in the name of your all-time favorite or current pet and indicate what type of animal this is (dog, cat, bird, etc.).

All entries received by the end of the day on September 4th will be placed in a very large and inexpensive plastic container and Munchy the Norwegian Forest Cat will pick out the winner – using his very sharp claws – on the following weekend.   The winner will be notified via e-mail on Monday, September 7, 2009.art of racing

That’s it.   Good luck and good reading!

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Coming Up Next…

Our second book giveaway!   If you love animals, you might like to win a copy of our featured book.   Stay tuned…Art of racing 2

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Coming Up Next…

Darwin 4A review of A Cat Named Darwin: Embracing the Bond Between Man and Pet by William Jordan.

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