BTT ~ I’m a Gwen Cooper Disciple

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Who’s your favorite author that other people are NOT reading? The one you want to evangelize for, the one you would run popularity campaigns for? The author that, so far as you’re concerned, everyone should be reading–but that nobody seems to have heard of. You know, not JK Rowling, not Jane Austen, not Hemingway–everybody’s heard of them. The author that you think should be that famous and can’t understand why they’re not…

Well, I suppose Neil Gaiman doesn’t count on the list of “unknowns”, lol, but he’s probably my favorite author.  I love his writing style, he sings the stories into being and paints the canvas of my mind with words.  Fragile Things was my first Gaiman book, and I’ve never been the same since.  But do I campaign for him?  Hmm… not really.

I think the best author to fit into the category of “unknown favorites” who I evangelize and believe in would be Gwen Cooper.  I told absolutely everyone I met that I thought might read something more than the funny papers that Homer’s Odyssey was a wonderful book and that the author, Gwen Cooper, is an amazing person with a big heart.

Well, the kids are home from school today.  Apparently buses don’t run well on sheets of ice, and outside it looks like a giant donut maker drizzled glaze all over.  My attempts to write something intelligent is greatly inhibited by the blaring yellow sponge on the TV, and Gwen and Maggie fighting about the latter writing something about the former’s Meez character ON her character.  I think they need to do some extra chores.

You can find more answers to this week’s Booking Through Thursday here

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Books-to-Movies: Hit or Miss?

Trisha at eclectic / eccentric has a really fun post, Adaptations Lists and Giveaways, where she’s listed 5 books that she wishes were movies, and 5 books that she wishes never were.  I have to agree with her on Eragon, one of the worst travesties done to a book EVER, but not on a few of the others.  I enjoyed reading hers so much, I wanted to play to 🙂  So here’s my 5 and 5.

FIVE books that I’d trade a body part to be movies:

  1. Nation by Terry Pratchett ~ It was fantastic, funny, had a great message, and it just lent itself to visualization.  AND it’d have gorgeous South Pacific scenery that would be breath-taking on a big screen.  I think that’d be worth a spleen, at least… I mean, what does that thing do, anyway?
  2. The Stephanie Plum Novels by Janet Evanovich ~ I’d trade a kidney for a TV series of this.  Grandma Mazur, in my living room, every week.  Oh, that would almost make up for the end of LOST!
  3. Molly Moon and the Incredible Book of Hypnotism by Georgia Byng ~ It’d be worth a lung lobe just to watch a gummy Miss Adderstone use her false teeth like castanets.  And I think they could do a lot of fun stuff visually with the hypnotism.  Oh, any movie can be improved by throwing a pug dog in the story 🙂
  4. Goblins! An UnderEarth Adventure by Royce Buckingham ~ Goblins.  SNOT. and it’s all underground.  It’d be a good cult classic.  Ok, so I LOVE movies like A Gnome Named Gnorm… and am apparently alone in that given it’s 4 out of 10 stars rating, Super Mario Bros, and Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, and I think this one could be a cool movie.
  5. Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper ~  Okay, I’d trade a cornea for this one.  El Mochito, the Daredevil, the blind Wonder Cat who defends his mom from the burglar, and whose heart is so big that he enraptures everyone who ever meets him… well, except for Lawrence.  He was too smitten with Vashti.  It’d be way better than that Marley & Me movie, and BEST OF ALL, the cat would still be alive at the end.  Gawd, I hated the end of Marley.  I don’t want to think about my pets dying.  I know it’ll happen, but don’t put it in my “feel-good” movie.  Marley & Me was like being a manic/depressive for 110 minutes… and I still gave it 5 stars at Netflix. 

There should be a special place in HELL for the people who made thes FIVE books into movies:

  1. The Inheritance Cycle (or the movie Eragon) by Christopher Paolini, obviously.  A place in Hell where they’re forced to sit in front of a movie screen and endure inane details of a random person’s life, but NEVER get anything good or inspiring or accurate.  Every good part was cut from the books and then they watered down the surface story, left even more out, and called it a movie.  First off, ERAGON is the name of ONE book, and yet they made the whole book series in this one movie.  Nasuada is one of my favorite characters, and she’s an important character, but she’s no where in the movie.  What about Eragon’s training with the Elves?  and where’s Solombum, the were-cat?  Grr… horrible rendering.
  2. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards ~ That movie sucked so bad, I actually dropped my rating on the book after watching it.  The book was complex and had depth, but the movie was just weak.  Whoever made THAT drivel should be stripped of their sense of smell, have their taste buds seared off, be stricken color-blind and then spend eternity seated at a table loaded with all their favorite foods.
  3. Hearts in Atlantis by Stephen King ~ You know, the sad thing about this one is, SK himself approved the script.  The book itself has 2 novella stories to it, one centered around playing Hearts at college, and the second where the guy’s an alien hiding out and other aliens come looking for him.   But the movie has NONE of the Hearts to it, and what’s left of the Atlantis part is stripped of all the magic that made me love it.  In the end, it’s just another lousy Stephen King book-to-movie.
  4. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini ~ Honestly, it’s not the movie makers fault that it was a bad book-to-movie.  There was NO WAY for them to translate all that goes on inside the narrator’s head, the nuances of the people, and the sense of fear/doom/loss/inadequacy that made up this book.  It wasn’t JUST about him not standing up for his friend and allowing him to be hurt, but it’s about how that one moment was the still point that his whole life and identity grew out of.  I think it’s fair to give the movie people a pardon on this one.
  5. The Hours by Michael Cunningham ~ Okay, I’ve never read the book, so I can’t say whether they did a bad job of making the movie, but here is what I can say:  After watching that movie, I would NEVER read the book.  What’s more, I don’t want to go near a Virgina Woolfe book because of it.  It gave me the impression that her books are very depressing and I’d want to kill myself after reading it.  I might’ve read one of her books before that, I think I even have Mrs. Dalloway somewhere, but every time I think about her books, I think about drowning myself in the bathtub and it’s all because of that movie.

A couple books being made into movies that I’m reserving space on my WORST movie adaptations EVER mental list are:

  • The Giver by Lois Lowry ~ right now, it’s set to come out 2011, but that’ll probably get pushed back.  It’s suppose to be done by the director who did the last few Harry Potter movies, so they’ve had to wait for those to wrap up. I just can’t see how this book could work as a movie for the same reasons The Kite Runner was a miss.  There’s so much going on mentally, how can they show that on the screen?
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy ~ Viggo Mortensen as the man… big, big plus.  It could really be another Mad Max or Blade Runner and be a raging success, but it could just as easily tank hard.  It’s another one of those mental books, though the scenery could be amazing.  They HAVE to have the cellar scene in it, though, or it’ll be a deal breaker.
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak ~ The book was perfection.  A movie will screw it up.  There’s NO WAY it can be done.

Oh, and by the way… Don’t forget to Trisha’s having a contest for this:

Giveaway:

If you make a post about this topic and leave a link in the comments section, I will 1) add you to the list below and 2) enter you into a giveaway for one of the following books:

1.  It’s Easy Being Green by Crissy Trask
2.  No Touch Monkey by Ayun Halliday
3.  Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
4.  The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

The contest closes at midnight January 17.

So what books do you think would be a hit or were a miss?

TSS ~ I’m Planning a Realignment

The Sunday Salon.com

This is the last Sunday Salon of 2009, and it’s got me thinking about how things has gone this year, as well as what I want to do next year.  For one thing, in looking back at all the books I’ve read this year (76 as of right now), it seems like it’s been a LOOOONG year, lol.  AND I started the year late, finishing my first book, Bedlam, Bath and Beyond by J.D. Warren on February 10.  I also took a detour into the land of Azeroth, discovering the world of MMORPG (the acronym for “Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game”) when I decided to check out what all the WoW fuss was.  And while I still enjoy playing, I’ve gotten over it as such an obsessive distraction.  Recently, a friend of mine tried to get me into another game like World of Warcraft (or WoW is like it, since it was first) called Guild Wars, but I didn’t really dig it.  I also gave Warhammer a try, and was unimpressed by it, as well.  Books just beat any other medium of escape!

This past year I’ve read a variety of genres from sci-fi like Freedom’s Landing, Dune and Dune Messiah (not yet reviewed) to classics such as Silas Marner, Emma, and Northanger Abbey (not yet reviewed).  I’ve read horror, like Heart-Shaped Box, children’s books, like The Tutu Ballet, and serial books like Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6 of the Harry Potter series), Marked (Book 1 of The House of Night series), and Brisingr (Book 3 of The Inheritance Cycle).  I’ve read books that have been made into movies, sometimes for the better, like Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day, The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons, and Confessions of a Shopoholic.  I didn’t limit myself to fiction, either, and read The World Without Us, The Stettheimer Dollhouse, and  An Inconvenient Book (not yet reviewed) and read poetry and plays like Dr. Faustus and Custard and Company, too.

For the most part, I’ve enjoyed the books I’ve read this year and it’s hard to pick favorites.  But I shall try!  The following are my stars of 2009 (in no particular order):

1.  The Book Thief by Markus Zusak ~ My all-time favorite book, I fell in love with the story and Zusak’s writing style.  I hope to give his other books a read as well someday.  After finishing this book, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  I couldn’t start another book for awhile.  I still find myself thinking about the beauty of the writing, the characters, and I want to reread it sometime soon.

2.  Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury ~ First off, I love dystopic books, it’s probably my favorite genre.  My definition of dystopia is:  Someone’s Utopia is another’s HELL.  I’ve been thinking a lot about this book lately, as I look at pictures I’ve taken of my 16-year-old this year.  In every one she’s got her mp3 player going in her ears.  At one point in time this year, all four of us were sitting in the same room, all of us listening to our own little soundtracks of our own lives.  We were all in huggable difference, and yet we were in different universes.  All I could think about were the seashells that Montag’s wife wore in her ears.  It was a disturbing and surreal moment.

3.  Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen ~ This book was vivid and well-researched, and it made me feel the magic of going to a circus as a child for the first time.  It had intrigue, romance, and the Great Depression.  The moving back and forth from the present Jacob Jankowski (who was 92, or 93, or 94.. he couldn’t even remember anymore) to the young Jacob who walked away from his vet finals after the death of his parents, becoming the vet for the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth.

4.  Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen ~ I recently finished this one, but in my rush to reach my goal of 75 books I’ve put off writing a review.  Hopefully I’ll get to it this coming week, but it’ll probably not happened until after the kids get back to school in the new year.  Northanger Abbey is my FAVORITE Austen book.  It’s witty and fun and Austen uses it as a great vehicle for arguing the criticisms of her day.  Reading this book was like watching myself as a teen.  I was soOOo Catherine Morland!  Dreamy, romantic who read way too many books and had no grasp of how the real world worked.

5.  Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper ~ Probably the book with the longest full title I’ve read:  Homer’s Odyssey:  A Fearless Feline Tale, Or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat.  This is my pimping-book for the year, meaning it’s the book I’ve been telling EVERYONE I see to read.  In addition to mad reco’s, I gave away copies as Christmas presents.  It’s such an inspirational and heart-warming story that I just can’t stop talking about it.  I know I’ll reread this one again and again 🙂

So, what are my plans for the New Year?  Well… I don’t really want to say I’ve made RESOLUTIONS because they never really work.  I’ve been thinking in terms of REALIGNMENTS.  I’ve gotten a bit lazy or distracted about things and have gone a bit off mark from where I wanted to go at the beginning of this year.  So, here’s what I’m wanting to do as we begin 2010:

1.  Um… I really need to do some house cleaning.  Bad.  I keep waiting for Miss Niecy to show up, lol, but I don’t think she’s coming.  Honestly, with all my online game-playing (WoW and facebook games being the main offenders) in the last few months, the laundry has piled up as have the dishes, and it’s starting to look like we have a dirt floor in the kitchen.  So, that’s first on my list of what I need to get done.

2.  I need to get back to cooking dinners.  Again, I’ve been lazy about not wanting to stop playing the games, and Domino’s has become #1 on my speed dial.  My kids are probably the only ones in the world that have said “Please, no more pizza!  I’m sick of pizza!”  And no,  frozen dinners don’t count as “cooking more”… lol.

3.  Get back to blogging regularly.  I’ve been bad about writing meme posts (which I enjoy) and writing reviews (which is sometimes a bit of work, but I also enjoy), mostly because *cough* it’d require me to get off the game and write them.  Yeah… like I said, I’ve been bad about the games here lately.

4.  Try to take things in balance.  I have a bad habit of going “all one thing at the expense of everything else”.  When I’m reading, that’s all I’m doing.  That’s how I’ve managed to read almost 20 books in a little over a month.  It’s pretty much all I’ve done.  When I was playing WoW, that was all I did, too.  All day, every day… sometimes for more than 24 hours straight.  I just don’t seem to know how to do moderation.

5.  Get through all my ARC-alanche pile.  Period.  Some of them have been on this pile for almost 2 years now.  I still have Stealing Athena, The Aviary Gate, Zoe’s Tale, and The Good Thief on it.  SOME are now available in AUDIOBOOK FORM.  I really need to focus on getting these books done.  I have FIVE LibraryThing Early Reader books to read, including Any Given Doomsday which I received back in February. 

So, how about you?  Any resolutions?  What do you hope to do in the year to come?

Mags and I love watching Style Network’s Clean House (the ones with Niecy Nash… not the other lady) and we love to veg in my bed together and watch marathons of the show.  Miss Niecy is lovely and hilarious, and after a few shows we can’t help but walk around doing Miss Niecy impressions… lol.  But, of course, it’s never as good as the original 😉 

Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron with Bret Witter

Title:  Dewey:  The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World

Author:  Vicki Myron with Bret Witter

Hardback:  277 pages

ISBN:9780446407410

That’s life.  We all go through the tractor blades ever now and then.  We all get bruised, and we all get cut.  Sometimes the blades cut deep.  The lucky ones come through with a few scratches, a little blood, but even that isn’t the most important thing.  The most important thing is having someone there to scoop you up, to hold you tight and to tell you everything is all right.

For years, I thought I had done that for Dewey.  I thought that was my story to tell.  And I had done that.  When Dewey was hurt, cold, and crying, I was there.  I held him.  I made sure everything was all right.

But that’s only a sliver of the truth.  The real truth is that for all those years, on the hard days, the good days, and all the unremembered days that make up the pages of the real book of our lives, Dewey was holding me.  He’s still holding me now.

Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron with Bret Witter, page 271

*sniff I am not going to cry

Dewey Readmore Books was one of the luckiest felines in the world, but his life didn’t start out so hot.  In fact, it started out very cold, when he was dumped into the book drop box of the Spencer Public Library on the coldest night of the year.  When author and then assistant director of the library, Vicki Myron, and her co-worker Jean Hollis Clark found the eight-week-old shivering gray ball of fluff, his foot pads were frost-bitten.  It wasn’t until after giving him a warm bath, through which he purred non-stop, that they discovered he was actually orange, he had been so dirty.  After working through a bit of red tape and the cat charming the hearts of the library board, one member at a time, it was decided he would live there and become the Spencer Public Library cat.

Called Dewey after the inventor of the Dewey decimal system, used by libraries as a way to organized books effectively, it bacame official after allowing the town to vote on his name.  “Readmore” was added by the Children’s Department and “Books” gave his name an official and stately feel.  Not only was his name a reflection of his living arrangements, but turned out to be an auspicious challenge “Do we read more books?”  Spencer, Iowa answered yes, and library attendance rose dramatically.

Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World tells how this small cat, this extraordinary feline, came along just at the right time and helped provide the bridge between people, gave hope to those who were down, lent his ear to the lonely, and loved every single person, from infants to the handicapped to the elderly, and made each of them feel special.  He loved them through their hard times and, in the process, put Spencer, Iowa on the map of the world. 

I really enjoyed this book.  Funny story on it, though…  Originally, I bought a copy when it first came out.  I saw the bright-eyed kitty on the cover and was compelled to pick it up.  After reading the description and the first few pages, I was hooked and had to buy it.  Being from a midwestern small-town, and a farming community to boot, I could relate to the people and the feel of the story-telling.  The book sat on my TBR shelf for over a year.  Then last week I decided I wanted to read it.  After reading Homer’s Odyssey, I was in the mood to read another touching kitty book, but when I went to look for Dewey, he was no where to be found.  Poo!  And I so wanted to read it!  I gave up and decided to go to the next book on my short stack, but I couldn’t stop wanting to read Dewey.  So I went to my small-town library and checked out The Small-Town Library Cat.  After reading the book, I think this is all very Dewey… lol.

Besides being touching and heart-felt, Dewey is written from the heart of a librarian.  I love Myron’s description of how we picture a library:

When many people think of a library, they think of a Carnegie library.  These are the libraries of our childhood.  The quiet.  The high ceilings.  The central library desk, complete with matronly librarian (at least in our memories).  These libraries seemed designed to make children belive you could get lost in them, and nobody could ever find you, and it would be the most wonderful thing. -page 118

She also beautifully answers the fears many have that books are a dying genre, and libraries with them…

And when you walk into the library, you still notice the books:  shelf after shelf and row after row of books.  The covers may be more colorful, the art more expressive, and the type more contemporary, but in general the books look the same as they did in 1982, and 1962, and 1942.  And that’s not going to change.  Books have survived television, radio, talking pictures, circulars (early magazines), dailies (early newspapers), Punch and Judy shows, and Shakespeare’s plays.  They have survived World War II, the Hundred Years’ War, the Black Death, and the fall of the Roman Empire.  They even survived te Dark Ages, when almost no one could read and each book had to be copied by hand.  They aren’t going to be killed off by the Internet.  And neither is the library.  -pages 163-164

I could not help mentally drawing a comparison between Dewey and Homer’s Odyssey, the other cat book I read recently.  Is there a need for two cat books?  Doesn’t it get redundant?  I mean, both started out their lives being rejected and unwanted, and both found a niche in the hearts of almost everyone who met them.  So how are they different?  Well, both cats are unique individuals.  They had similarities, but where as Homer changed Gwen’s world, and those in her orbit to a lesser extent, Dewey’s life was much more public.  Gwen writes about how her life was blessed when she saw value in an eyeless kitten and decided to build her life around him, where as Vicki writes about how Dewey touched lives, gave hope and helped heal a community and beyond.  Both have very different and worth messages, and it makes me hug my own kitties and pause to think what they have done for us, as well.  Did I save them? or did they save me.

It’s not much of a spoiler to tell you that Dewey passed away.  The language of the book gives you that.  I only add that here because I know there are some people who want to know that before choosing to read a pet book.  He didn’t die a horrible, painful death or anything… honestly, Vicki’s own life stories made me run through more hankies than Dewey’s death.  What was more heart-tugging was how far-reaching the news of his passing was and what he meant to so many people from his own small-town and those far away from it. 

I give Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron 5 out of 5 stars.  I also recommend you check out Dewey’s website at http://www.deweyreadmorebooks.com/  There are videos there of the Dew himself, as well as other tid bits 🙂

Find your place.  Be happy with what you have.  Treat everyone well.  Live a good life.  It isn’t about material things; it’s about love.  And you can never anticipate love. -page 270

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!

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.