Kitty Cornered: How Frannie and Five Other Incorrigible Cats Seized Control of Our House and Made It Their Home
by Bob Tarte
(Algonquin Books, 2012, 304 pages)
As a slightly cat-crazed librarian I couldn’t pass this book up. There have been an abundance of dog-related memoirs in the past however many years, so it was nice seeing one that focused on cats. Bob and his wife Linda live a unique life in Michigan. They don’t just have six cats, they have numerous birds, rabbits, ducks, geese, and (unwelcome) mice. There’s no question these two are animal lovers.
Bob takes us through what life is like in his world. We see how his life changes when it goes from a one-cat household to a six-cat household – somehow he and his wife become known as the people to call if a cat is about to be handed off to a shelter… they can’t bear the idea when they could just as easily accommodate another feline in the house. I can’t even imagine having 6 cats… (except I can – perhaps one day… ;))
As cats tend to do, the six cats that come to live with the Tartes (Agnes, Frannie, Moobie, Maynard, Tina, and Lucy) eventually find a way of “running” the household. We see the love and effort that goes into making sure the cats are well-fed and content. Even if that means making a giant litterbox out of two kiddie pools (a necessary project after one cat decides she only wants to pee OVER the rim of the litterbox). Or if it requires remembering not to pet a certain cat until they ask for it – if you decide YOU are in the mood to pet this cat, you’ll find yourself nursing a wound…
This was an enjoyable read because it’s clear how much Bob loves his cats. He sees his personality reflected in each of them and he respects them for the intelligent and loving (each in their own way) creatures they are. Yes, cats are very different from dogs. They require a different level of understanding. But if you take the time to get to know them, you’ll find they suck you in quickly. As I was reading I had to keep putting the book down to go squeeze my two cats. Not to mention there were a number of times I found myself laughing out loud at some of Bob’s descriptions.
P.S. If you want to see pictures of the cats featured in this memoir, go here 🙂
The Group by Mary McCarthy
(Mariner Books, 1991, 492 pages)
Written in the sixties, The Group is about a group of girls graduating from Vassar in 1933. Graduating in the midst of the depression the girls set out to carve out a place for themselves in a very changed country. Most settle in New York and become part of the intellectual set. Some marry and some don’t but the detail about their daily lives is extraordinary and even though this is a novel, it is almost like reading a history book detailing the cultural atmosphere of women’s lives in the 30’s. McCarthy gives us a glimpse into attitudes about birth control, breast feeding, women in the work force, the popularity of socialism and communism, and even a look at how food preparation was changing (in the 30’s iceberg lettuce is cutting edge and canned food is gaining acceptance).
I enjoyed this book, not just for the historical/cultural information but for the stories of the women finding their place in the world.
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
(Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, 2011, 432 pages)
I know that Sadie just finished this, but since great minds think alike I had it waiting on my nightstand at home at the same time! I enjoyed this book a lot more than I’d anticipated.
Alice is a 39-year-old mother of three. One morning she’s working out at the gym when she falls and hits her head. When she comes to she’s convinced that she’s 29 and doesn’t understand what she was doing at the gym in the first place. The knock on the head jolted her memory and she has somehow lost 10 years of her life. Needless to say this causes a number of problems. Relationships in her life are strained and she doesn’t understand why. She doesn’t remember giving birth to any of her three children, and she’s shocked to find out that she and her husband are separated (separated?! from the love of her life?! she doesn’t believe it…)
What Alice Forgot takes us on the journey with Alice as she tries to figure out who her 39-year-old self is through the eyes of her 29-year-old-self. You quickly find yourself caring about the characters in this story and I had a hard time putting it down because I was eager to see how things would turn out.
If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won’t) by Betty White
(G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2011, 258 pages)
I know Ying read and reviewed this title a few months ago, but when I saw that the audiobook was read by Betty White I had to pick it up. Plus, I had been wanting to read it anyway. If You Ask Me is really more like a collection of short essays. Betty takes a topic and writes about it based on her opinion and experiences. As I listened to it, the book felt like a comfortable interview with the actress. You get stories about what it was like for her growing up, how she feels about acting, why she hates walking the red carpet, where she gets her love of animals from… all sorts of stuff.
This was a nice, light read. I (like the rest of the world) adore Betty White. I mean, who doesn’t love The Golden Girls?! Plus, it really adds something to hear her read the book 🙂
What Doesn’t Kill You by Iris Johansen
(St. Martin’s Press, 2012, 406 pages)
Catherine Ling was abandoned on the streets of Hong Kong at age four. Schooled in the art of survival, she traded in the only commodity she had: information. As a teenager, she came under the tutelage of a mysterious man known only as Hu Chang—a skilled assassin and master poisoner. As a young woman, she was recruited by the CIA and now, she is known as one of their most effective operatives. Having lived life in the shadows, Catherine is aware of the wobbly moral compass of her existence and even more aware of just how expendable she is to those she deals with. Then her old friend Hu Chang creates something so deadly, and completely untraceable, the chase is on to be the first to get it. With rogue operative John Gallo also on the hunt, Catherine finds herself pitted against a group so villainous and a man so evil that she may not survive the quest to protect those she cares about. Iris Johansen is at her page-turning best in this novel that takes you from the corridors of Langley to the alleyways of Hong Kong, and the darkest places of the human soul.
I’ve read many books by this author, so naturally I had to read this one. It did not disappoint! What Doesn’t Kill You is a definite nail-biter! The suspense is incredible! There is a lot of “Kick Butt” action that will keep you on edge. If you have read her Eve Duncan books you have met Catherine and John. In this book you get to know them. And in the ending you get to know their hearts and passions. One can tell by the ending that we will meet these characters again, and I for one am looking forward to it. It’s an entertaining read! This story has all of the same passion and strengths that all of the Eve Duncan books have. I raise my glass to Iris Johansen!
Most Talkative: Stories from the Front Lines of Pop Culture by Andy Cohen
(Henry Holt and Co., 2012, 288 pages)
This was a fun, light read that I was able to knock out in 2 days. It seems like I watch almost every show on Bravo, so when I heard about Andy Cohen’s memoir I knew I’d be picking it up. A St. Louis-native we are taken through Andy’s youth here in Missouri and see how he rose up through the world of television to eventually become the Executive Vice President and host of Watch What Happens Live on Bravo.I loved getting to know more about Andy Cohen as a person. Reading this I felt the same way about Cohen as I did when I read Mindy Kaling’s book – I wished I was friends with him 😉
If you watch Cohen regularly, you’ll definitely hear his voice through his writing. There were a number of times when I laughed out loud reading his book. Fun read if you’re a Cohen fan, regularly watch Bravo, or just appreciate pop culture.
Mrs. Astor Regrets: The Hidden Betrayals of a Family Beyond Reproach by Meryl Gordon
(Houghton Mifflin Co., 2008, 336 pages)
You can’t help but be intrigued by high society life, especially in New York City. After hearing all the drama and the legal proceedings surrounding Brooke Astor’s will and family, I was curious to get more information about what really happened. This book basically takes a look at Mrs. Astor’s final years and how her family reacted to her during this time. A great deal of time is spent analyzing her relationship with her son, Tony Marshall, who was accused of taking advantage of his mother, writing checks to himself, and weaseling his way into getting her to change her will in his favor.
Brooke Astor lived to be 105 years old. In her later years, as can be expected, she began to deteriorate and we learn that she was battling Alzheimer’s. This is when things started to go downhill as far as family relationships are concerned. Her grandson, Phillip, was clued in that drastic changes were going on in his grandmother’s world thanks to his father and step-mother, Charlene. Mrs. Astor was “forced” to make changes to her will, despite the fact that she wasn’t in a clear mental state. Items of hers were being sold and moved to other locations. Friends weren’t allowed to see her without asking permission from her son. Things just seemed fishy. That’s when Phillip made the decision to take action with Brooke’s longtime friend, Annette de la Renta. By doing so he effectively ended any hope of having a relationship with his father.
This was a depressing book to listen to because you just feel for the family as a whole. While I listened, on the one hand I could understand some of the things Mrs. Astor’s son was doing, but on the other hand you learned he did things like give himself a $2.4 million bonus and a raise (his mother paid him to manage her finances – consider that number when you learn that he had been making about $400K… quite the jump) and sold a famous painting of hers after telling her that she “needed the money.” This book gives us a behind the scenes look into the later years of Mrs. Astor and demonstrates just how much money and greed can influence people’s actions. Even when it comes to their own mother.
You get a little information about Brooke Astor’s background and the good deeds she did, but the focus of the book wasn’t to be a biography. It was to analyze the scandal. I’m curious to read more about her life.
In the Water They Can’t See You Cry by Amanda Beard
(Touchstone, 2012, 256 pages)
This memoir by famous Olympian, Amanda Beard, gives the reader a great deal of insight into what it was like being a professional athlete. There’s a lot more to it than the notoriety and requests for autographs. Beard grew up wanting to be in the water. There was a nice age gap between her and her two older sisters so when she saw them swimming when she was three, she was eager to join them in the pool. She officially became a part of the swim team at 4 years old. After her skills were honed as a pre-teen, it became clear that she needed more of a challenge than just competing in the summer. She joined a competitive swim team that went year-round. This is what took her to her first Olympics at the age of 14.
Beard never really got used to the attention she got as an Olympic athlete. She just knew she loved being in the water. When she was swimming she could let things go and just focus on the task at hand. This started to change after she went through puberty and she had to readjust to the water in her new body. Eventually she went to college in Arizona where she competed on their swim team. Here she gets her first taste not only of being a part of a supportive team, but also of what can happen when you’re in an unstable relationship. Her relationship with another Olympic athlete was by no means a healthy one. He wasn’t attentive, she felt self-conscious, she became bulimic, she started cutting herself, she did drugs to fit in with him… It was clearly a downward spiral that set the tone for the rest of her relationships.
The reader is taken through the many pitfalls Amanda experiences in her life. She reveals that despite the outward appearance that she tried to maintain as a professional, inside she was constantly battling herself and her inner demons. She never felt happy. Then she meets someone who is FINALLY there for her. From here on out things begin to turn around. It’s a struggle to come back from the dark world she had been dwelling in, but she’s willing to put in the work.
This was a quick read, but I didn’t really get sucked into it. I thought there would be a little more scandal, maybe? It was nice getting some of the inside scoop of what the Olympics are like from a competitor’s perspective.
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
(Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, 2011, 432 pages)
In 1998, Alice is 29 years old, married, and pregnant with her first child. So imagine her surprise when she suddenly wakes up in a gym in 2008 where she is 39 years old, getting divorced, has three kids and doesn’t remember the last decade of her life. After hitting her head in the gym, Alice has to try and piece together all the changes in her life in the last ten years, including learning who her children are and why she’s getting a divorce. And why does everything keep leading back to Gina, someone she doesn’t even know? There are just too many questions and too few people that are willing to give her answers.
What I enjoyed about What Alice Forgot is that Moriarty doesn’t show who Alice really is when she’s 39. You wake up with Alice thinking that she’s 29 and pregnant and learn things about her life as she pieces them together. That is what really made the story for me. The narrator, Alice, wasn’t holding anything back or keeping any secrets from the reader, she just simply didn’t know.
Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks
(Grand Central Publishing, 2010, 340 pages)
Katie Feldman is a newcomer in the small town of Southport, North Carolina. Southport is the kind of town where everyone knows everything about one another. So it’s strange that no one knows what Katie’s story is or why she moved to the small sleepy town. Reluctantly Katie starts to befriend her next door neighbor, Jo, and Alex, a widow with two small kids. As her friendship and relationship with Alex starts to grow, Katie is glad that she is finally able to relax but she battles with herself on whether she can trust them with her secret.
Nicholas Sparks books are usually safe bets, including this one. It was a fast read that kept me entertained and was relatively light. Sparks does a great job with releasing bits of information to Katie’s secret that keeps you engaged and then leaves one last twist for the very end. This was a good summer read for me. Also I was curious to see if there was any plans for Safe Haven to have a film adaption, since so many of his books have transitioned to film the last couple of years, and Safe Haven is set to release in 2013.