TSS ~ If Cats Ruled the World… oh, wait… they do. Nevermind.

This week has turned out to be the week of cats.  I finally got my review of Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper written and posted, then realized I’d forgotten the video clip I had wanted to tack on it.  A couple days ago, Maggie introduced me to an adorable website that also has an app for facebook (I spend entirely TOO much time on facebook lately) called FooPets, offering virtual cats and dogs (really kittens and puppies, perpetually) that you can feed, water, play with and even dress up and enter into fashion shows, as well as become a virtual breeder.  Now I have a virtual pet of my kitty-baby-son who passed away about 8 years ago, as well as a virtual one of our kitty-boy Dabu.  And then, to put the hairball frosting on the tuna cake, an adorable creamy orange tabby kitten followed us home from the grocery store and decided we were his people… no matter how much I screamed NO MORE CATS! 

So, first up… the forgotten Homer video :-)

Some people don’t want to read animal books for fear the beloved pet will meet an unhappy end.  These people were no doubt scarred by books like Where the Red Fern Grows, Old Yeller, and The Yearling as children, and have vowed to never read a depressing pet book again.  For those people, as well as those curious to see and hear Gwen and Homer… like me… I had planned on putting the following video clip at the end of the review, as is my normal thing.  But being a bit out of practice, I totally forgot.  Better late than never :-)

Able to leap tall bookcases! Catches flies mid-buzz! Yet the feline hero of HOMER’S ODYSSEY is blind, and this is his inspirational love story that completely changed the life of author Gwen Cooper.

Oh, and a new one I hadn’t seen before…  Gwen reading a passage from the book while Homer really gets into the gift of catnip :-)

When Maggie came home the other day announcing she had just adopted a new kitten, I immediately boomed an emphatic NO!  She quickly chimed in that it wasn’t a real cat, but a virtual one found on a website her friend had shown her while they surfed on the computer farm at the library.  We sat down at my computer and she showed FooPets.  You’re greeted at once by the soft, furry face with big, hopeful eyes waiting to be loved and fed.

You can interact with your pet, feed and give him water, pet and play with him.  You can also take him shopping and buy him clothing and enter him in fashion shows.  And you can make him a her if you so prefer.  Maggie’s pet is a grey tabby named Laya (her own real-life cat is a grey tabby named Leia, but she couldn’t spell it ;-) )  This one is my FooKitten named Rambo.  Here he is dressed and ready for a fashion show.

Honestly, only a virtual cat would allow someone to dress him that way…

And all of that led up to the short-lived stance against taking in any new pets.  I mean, honestly… we already have 2 cats and a dog and 3 children.  Isn’t that enough animals?  I had told the girls months ago that as the pets died off, I would NOT be replacing them.  I’m tired of buying pet food and cleaning up the after effects of the pet food.  Tired of rewashing clothing because a cat enjoyed the comfort of the full laundry basket.  Tired of hairballs on book covers and seat cushions… do you know how much work you have to do to get cat vom out of upholstery? 

Then Thursday night, as Mags and I walked home from the grocery store, we happened to cross paths with a creamy-orange tabby cat.  Being the ever-loving animal lovers, we put down our bags and gave him a few appreciative strokes and some warm, cooing words, then set off for home.  Maggie updated me every few houses that the kitten (about 4 months old) was still following us, had crossed two streets and was continuing to follow us, and then all evening she informed me that he was still on our front porch.  To which I immediately resounded “NO, we’re NOT keeping him!”

When bedtime came, I kept having to yell at them to go to sleep everytime I heard the front door creak open.  Sometime around 11:30, Maggie whined that she couldn’t sleep because the poor kitty was crying (I never heard him) and it was cold outside.  Genuine tears of concern ran down her tired cheeks.  I told her to put on a CD and turn the volume up.  The cat was NOT staying. 

By 3:30 in the morning, when I was couldn’t sleep because I knew that poor baby kitty was cold and hungry, I went to the door and opened it to see if he was still there.  He was lying on the table on the porch, curled up tightly to keep warm, and didn’t even offer to slip in through the door crack.  It was as if he was saying it was enough to just dwell on our porch… to expect a place inside was too much to hope for.

I picked him up and carried him in and cuddled in my bed with him.  I’m worse than the kids.  LOL… I have no spine.  My will power was no match to this:

We’ve already named him Kyon-Kyon after the Fruits Basket character, Kyo.  He’s very loving and friendly, hisses a little at the dog and at Leia, but oddly enough gets on well with Dabu, who’s also a male… go figure.  And there just seems to be this gratitude that rolls off of him whenever you pet him, like he’s thankful to have a warm home and a family that loves him.  He’s a Thanksgiving kitty :-)

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

Title:  The Namesake

Author:  Jhumpa Lahiri

Paperback:  291 pages

ISBN:  9780618485222

For being a foreigner, Ashima is beginning to realize, is a sort of lifelong pregnancy – a perpetual wait, a constant burden, a continuous feeling out of sorts.  It is an ongoing responsibility, a parenthesis in what had once been ordinary life, only to discover that that previous life has vanished, replaced by something more complicated and demanding.  Like pregnancy, being a foreigner, Ashima believes, is something that elicits the same curiosity from strangers, the same combination of pity and respect.

-The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, pages 49-50

My first experience with the Ganguli family happened two years ago when I brought the DVD copy of the movie home from the library.  I thought then that it was a beautiful and rich story, and was excited to find out it was also a book.  After a few months of picking it up and putting it back, I finally bought a paperback of it from Waldenbooks about a year or so ago, but it sat on the shelf since then… calling to me whenever I looked in the general area of the bookshelf where it sat.  And after reading Confessions of a Shopaholic, I decided it was time for something a little more lasting and meaningful, so I finally began the journey and story of Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli, and their children Gogol and Sonia.

When thinking about how to describe The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, the word that keeps coming to mind is “quiet”.  Lahiri slowly weaves a beautiful tapestry of the love and living and feelings of being an immigrant family.  The different customs and how the culture of the land in which you live can so overtake you and change you in ways you can’t even realize.  First and foremost, it is a love story:  The love of a man and wife, the love of parents for their children, the love for one’s family, and the love of one’s homeland.  It’s also a story of the journey we all must take of self-acceptance, and, after that, the acceptance of others.  Of course, the “Indian-ness” of it is also beautiful and intriguing.

One of the things I find fascinating from this book is the realization that all people everywhere share the burden of growing up, of culture, and of the hopes and expectations of their parents.  For the majority of us, we caring these burdens among our own people… fellow humans who share similar experiences in this and this helps us not feel so alone.  However, for those who have left their native lands, there can be a constant ache and isolation as they endure the struggles of life without the ability to lean on someone who can understand how they feel.  What’s more, the first generation born in another land are even more isolated, having one foot in the old and new country, they can neither relate to their parents who have no understanding of the way things are in their adopted homeland, nor can they fully relate to their peers who either don’t have any concept of their home life or they find it a curiosity.

Interestingly, after reading this book, it has made me take a second look and given me a deeper respect for Maggie’s dad, who left his own homeland of Vietnam more than ten years ago and has recently become a naturalized US citizen.  Not that I didn’t have respect for him before, but rather gained a bit more empathy for him.  It’s also given me another perspective with Maggie, who made a passing comment recently how she sometimes wishes she was either all Vietnamese or all white, as being both sometimes makes her feel outside of either culture.

For it’s quiet beauty and it’s lasting effect, I give The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri 4 and a 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Confessions of a Shopoholic by Sophie Kinsella

Title:  Confessions of a Shopaholic

Author:  Sophie Kinsella

Paperback:  350 pages

ISBN:  0440241413

On Monday morning I wake early, feeling rather hollow inside.  My gaze flits to the pile of unopened carrier bags in the corner of my room and then quickly flits away again.  I know I spent too much money on Saturday.  I know I shouldn’t have bought two pairs of boots.  I know I shouldn’t have bought that purple dress.  In all, I spent… Actually, I don’t want to think about how much I spent.  Think about something else, quick, I instruct myself.  Something else.  Anything’ll do.

I’m well aware that at the back of my mind, thumping quietly like a drumbeat, are the twin horrors of Guilt and Panic.

Guilt Guilt Guilt Guilt.

Panic Panic Panic Panic.

If I let them, they’d swoop in and take over.  I’d feel completely paralyzed with misery and fear.  So the trick I’ve learned is simply not to listen.  My mind is very well trained like that.

-Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella, page 154

Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella lends a comedic voice to an all-to-real problem plaguing many today.  It’s a story told by the main character, Rebecca Bloomwood, as she struggles to gain control of her shopping addiction.  From the private thoughts and justifications, like the item’s on sale so buying two saves more, to the terror when seeing the credit card bills in the mail.  At times I heard a few of my own thought processes echoed in Bex, lol.

Miss Bloomwood tries to get her spending under control, even going so far as to work through a self help book… unfortunately, though, she ends up spending a lot more money than she did without the book, as well as stinking up the apartment with the smell of defeat and bad curry.  Her father offers the advice that she has two choices:  Cut back or make more money.  Obviously cutting back was a bust, so she tries the MMM approach.  Her short-lived career in retail ends in disaster when she learns the hard way that hiding clothing from the customer will get you fired.  She also finds that she is NOT the craftiest person and the “make money at home” thing isn’t for her.  Nor can she force herself to fall in love with a millionaire, no matter how much her friend might want it.  It would seem that she is destined to retreat to her parents and regress from adulthood, and even there she can’t escape her incompetence.

Can this shopaholic make it?

Just then the post plops through the door, and I go to pick it up.  There’s a handwritten letter for Suze and a postcard from the Maldives.  And for me, there are two ominous-looking window envelopes.  One from VISA, one from Endwich Bank.

For a moment, my heart stands still.  Why another letter from the bank?  And VISA.  What do they want?  Can’t they just leave me alone?

-p. 155

For the most part, I enjoyed this book.  It was funny and truthful.  The scene in the store with the customer wanting the pair of pants Becky had been planning to buy after her first day of work had me rolling.  And the romantic tension between Luke and her is quite delicious.  I did, however, find her mildly annoying after awhile.  Honestly, there were points toward the end where I was yelling at the book, “For goodness sake!  Just tell the truth!”  For shopping is not Rebecca Bloomwood’s only vice, lying seems to be her native tongue.  Sometimes, she even lies for no apparent reason.

All in all Confessions of a Shopaholic is a bit of fluff that can be a quick escape from the more serious books, and I’ve been holding off on watching the movie until I’ve finished the book.  I suspect this will be one of those examples where the movie is better than the book…. then again, after watching a trailer for it, I realized NONE of the movie is what I had remembered the trailers before the book (I thought Amy Adams played Rebecca and Chris Noth Luke Brandon!), nor is it very much at all like the book.  Ah, well!  I give Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella 3 out of 5 stars.

Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper

homers-odysseyTitle:  Homer’s Odyssey:  A Fearless Feline Tale, Or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat

Author:  Gwen Cooper

Hardback:  289 pages

ISBN:  9780385343855

Challenges:  ARC Challenge

The last thing Gwen Cooper wanted was another cat. She already had two, not to mention a phenomenally underpaying job and a recently broken heart. Then Gwen’s veterinarian called with a story about a three-week-old eyeless kitten who’d been abandoned. It was love at first sight.

Everyone warned that Homer would always be an “underachiever,” never as playful or independent as other cats. But the kitten nobody believed in quickly grew into a three-pound dynamo, a tiny daredevil with a giant heart who eagerly made friends with every human who crossed his path. Homer scaled seven-foot bookcases with ease and leapt five feet into the air to catch flies in mid-buzz. He survived being trapped alone for days after 9/11 in an apartment near the World Trade Center, and even saved Gwen’s life when he chased off an intruder who broke into their home in the middle of the night.

But it was Homer’s unswerving loyalty, his infinite capacity for love, and his joy in the face of all obstacles that inspired Gwen daily and transformed her life. And by the time she met the man she would marry, she realized Homer had taught her the most important lesson of all:  Love isn’t something you see with your eyes.

Homer’s Odyssey is the once-in-a-lifetime story of an extraordinary cat and his human companion.  It celebrates the refusal to accept limits -on love, ability, or hope against overwhelming odds.  By turns jubilant and moving, it’s a memoir for anybody who’s ever fallen completely and helplessly in love with a pet.

-Inside dust cover of Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper

Okay… breathe…  I’m going to do my best to review this book on the its merits alone, and not gush about the author herself.  It would be easy for me to go on about how, upon hearing that my daughter, also named Gwen, loves animals and has a black cat, was really excited by the book when I got my advanced reader copy and wanted me to read it to her, emailed me for my address and not only sent her a signed copy of the finished book with a beautiful hand-written card and pictures of Homer, but also sent her a copy of the audio book.  AND that, with all that she’s got going on in her life with book-signings, fundraisers and feeling under the weather, she still takes time message us and even remembers my daughter’s cat’s name.  But this is a review of the book, not the author, so I will focus my attention on that.

Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper is a memoir of how the things that we might never choose on our own can be exactly what we need.  It is about recognizing value in someone or something and building your life around it.  It is about how, by looking at life and love through the eyes of another, we take on the traits we admire in that person.  In Gwen Cooper’s case, that person was a blind wonder cat, through whom she learned courage, how to love, and perseverance.

One thing I really like about this book is the format.  It’s set up as a journey from who and where Gwen was when she got the call from the vet about the eyeless kitten whom nobody wanted and would likely be put down if she, his last chance, didn’t adopt him, continues through jobs and moves and romances, and ends with what she has learned and insights she has gained through knowing and loving and living with Homer.  But, each chapter is also a tale in and of itself, making it a book that can be devoured straight through (honestly, it’s very hard to put down) or you can nibble on it and ponder each lesson.  Also, each chapter begins with a picture, usually of Homer, but occasionally of Scarlett or Vashti, Homer’s big sisters, and a quote from the other Homer, the Greek storyteller.

Another thing that I enjoyed with this book is Gwen’s sense of humor.  There are so many laugh-out-loud moments,  like bringing her date in and the two of them being greeted by a cat who not only discovered the tampons, but how to unwrap them, proudly carrying them in his mouth to show to his mommy.  Also, there is a quality to her writing that made me feel like we’ve been friends for years.

Like life, though, the book isn’t all sunshine and roses.  There are real dangers and some terrifying moments, like waking up to find a burglar in her apartment.  As well as the heart wrenching days after September 11th, when Gwen tried desperately to get back to her cats who were trapped in their apartment, just blocks from where the two towers had stood.

I found Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper to be moving and inspirational, at times hilarious and touching, and am thankful that there was a vet who refused to accept that an eyeless kitten was better off being put down, that Gwen Cooper was in the vet’s contacts list and opened her heart to him, and that she has shared Homer and his wisdom with all of us.  I give Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper 5 out of 5 stars.  It’s one of my favorites and I’ll be rereading it again and again :-)

Falling Woefully Behind… or, Life as Normal

After having the flu and being down in my bed for a whole week, then each girl taking their turn with it, it seems like I will never get caught up.  In between being sick, Halloween and Trick-or-Treating, and parent-teacher conferences, we’ve had a dental emergency (Sam’s tooth broke while she was eating a sucker and the dentist has made a fake one to replace it), the dog has fleas, cats that went missing and were found, and the pizza man not only can drive to our house blindfolded, but also knows all our names and who ordered which food item and drink… and even brings a treat for the dog, whom he knows by name.  *Sigh*  So, it is NO surprise that our house looks like the city dump was relocated to our interior. 

It would seem that cleaning the house without being told is NOT an innate quality in children.  It would also seem that we were too much for our house elf, who has either ran away or committed suicide.  Alas!  I stand in the doorway of the kitchen, staring at the sinks, counters and table overflowing with dirty dishes and debate whether to clean it up, buy new dishes, or set fire to the room and declare it a total loss.  Should I clean the house?  or move…. hmmm….

Well.. I’ve been trying to clean it… though, frankly, the furry oatmeal monster growing in a bowl keeps giving me the evil eye and threatening to kill me in my sleep.  Equally frightening is the pot with what I’m guessing once was spaghetti… though, I can NOT remember the last time we had spaghetti… that the plague of orange lady bugs have claimed as their promised land and are prepared to defend it to the death.

On the upside, while I was sick I managed to finish Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper, which I absolutely loved.  AND while cleaning, I managed to finally finish Confessions of a Shopoholic by Sophie Kinsella, which was meh… okay, I guess.  I keep sitting down to write the review for Homer, and I just don’t know where to start.  I look at the screen for  a second, then click over to a game site.  I’ve just not felt up to writing a review, I guess.  Or, more to the point, doing the WORK of getting links, book cover, and thinking about what I want to say and then putting it into something that makes sense.

Okay… lol… so my confession’s over.  I’m off to start writing the reviews.  Or do dishes.. or just burn the kitchen down… still not decided yet.

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