All I need to be entertained are cats within ear-scratching distance and a good book . . .OK, maybe that's not ALL I need, but it's a good start.

I love to read. And I love to get recommendations for books to read.

I started Cats and a Book to share the books I read with others. Some I love, some I don't, but you may love the ones I don't, so you're welcome to post your own comments and suggestions.

To make it easier to purchase books you may read about on the blog, I've linked to through The Cats and a Book Bookstore, which is located on the bottom of this page. Your purchases are fulfilled and handled through Amazon. To assure your privacy, Cats and a Book doesn't handle any of your payment or contact information.

Happy reading!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky, is touted as a "coming of age" novel, aimed at young adult readers, but its audience is much more expansive.  In fact, The Perks of Being a Wallflower's themes are so adult, that it may not be suitable for some teens and younger readers.

The book is written as a series of letters to an anonymous friend by Charlie, who is later identified as "the wallflower."  Charlie begins writing after his friend Michael commits suicide because of "problems at home."  He is befriended by Patrick, himself something of an artsy outcast, and his sister Sam.  Charlie is very attracted to Sam, although she is older and inaccessible, but he sees her as his "ideal" for much of the book.  He becomes involved in their world and circle of friends, which includes regular attendance at Rocky Horror Picture Show reenactments. The challenge to "participate" in life drives Charlie to act but not necessarily out of his own desire to do so, which puts him in situations that he might not have chosen, such as parties and near sexual encounters with a girl he's not particularly attracted to.  Charlie also writes about his siblings, an older sister and brother, whose interactions with him are less kind, but accurately portray sibling relationships.  All the while, Charlie aches to be part of the "infinite."  As the book unfolds, some secrets are revealed, including the homosexual relationship between Patrick and the quarterback of the football team, and the damaging relationship between Charlie and his Aunt Helen.

Just as the last book Charlie has read is his favorite, he artfully describes how his favorite music affects him and how he imagines it might feel to the song's creator:  "And I thought about how many people have loved those songs.  And how many people got through a lot of bad times because of those songs.  And how many people enjoyed good times with those songs.  And how much those songs really mean.  I think it would be great to have written one of those songs.  I bet if I wrote one of them, I would be very proud.  I hope the people who wrote those songs are happy.  I hope that they feel it's enough."  Charlie struggles throughout the book to feel anything is "enough" although the book's conclusion gives readers hope that Charlie might find it.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower was first published in 1999 by Simon and Schuster.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Pigeon Pie Mystery, by Julia Stuart

Julia Stuart’s third novel, The Pigeon Pie Mystery, won’t disappoint Stuart’s fans who are accustomed to her quirky characters and underlying themes of love and loyalty.  Princess Alexandrina, also known as Mink, who is the heroine of the book, and Pooki, her Indian maid, are displaced from their London home when Mink’s father, the Maharaja of Prindur, dies under scandalous circumstances.  As her father’s only child and surviving family member, Mink learns that her father had been spending well beyond his means, and she is forced to make drastic changes to her lifestyle.  This included letting servants go, except for Pooki, who had been with her since childhood. When she can no longer avoid her creditors, Mink reluctantly accepts a “grace and favour” home on palace grounds, offered to her out of deference to her father.   “Grace and favour” residents lived rent-free, but the palace accommodations were not without their inconveniences, such as the ghosts of former residents. 

As Mink and Pooki settle into their new life and meet the other “grace and favour” inhabitants, they discover a complicated web of connections and deceptions that figure prominently in the dramatic event that is the book’s central focus:  the suspicious death of Major-General George Bagshot, a cad who was roundly disliked by almost everyone. Mink commits to unraveling the mystery when her maid Pooki, who made the last dish the Major-General consumed—a pigeon pie—is suspected of poisoning him.  She discovers, through flattery and wiles, that nearly everyone had a reason to murder their unpopular neighbor, and it was up to her to clear Pooki’s name. 

Stuart’s stories are whimsical and fun.  And although characters have their quirks, they reflect the quirkiness we all have—a certain vanity, a soothing habit, or a harmless obsession.  Yet underlying it all is a love story—not a romantic one in this case—but the love of people who have grown up together and the loyalty they feel to each other.  That isn’t to say there aren’t potential love interests for Pooki and Mink, whose potential suitors are revealed as the mystery unwinds. 

The Pigeon Pie Mystery was published in 2012 by Doubleday, a division of Random House.  Stuart is also the author of The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise and The Matchmaker ofPerigord.