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!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen, by Susan Gilmore

Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen, by Susan Gilmore, is the story of Catherine Grace Cline, of Ringgold, Georgia.  Growing up with her sister Martha Anne, Catherine can’t wait to move to Atlanta on graduation from high school, to a big city, and away from the small town world.  Her animosity toward the town is clear.  As she tells her sister when a tornado threatened the town, “Martha Ann . . . if that twister hits this town, nobody’s even going to notice it’s gone.” 

The girls’ mother, Lena, drowned when they were small, so they were raised by their father, a third-generation protestant preacher.  But Catherine is also mentored by the next door neighbor, her mother’s friend, Gloria Jean Graves, who channels Lena’s independence and helps the girls learn about the mother—how beautiful she was, and how she could sing.  But Gloria is also a little too brash and colorful for Catherine to feel proud of her, and the story of the Mother’s Tea at school is particularly poignant. 

Upon graduation, Catherine leaves for Atlanta and finds a job in a large retail store.  She lives with an elderly lady and her maid, themselves in, what readers may feel is an uncomfortably stereotypical arrangement, until Catherine’s father dies suddenly.  Catherine’s return to Ringgold, and a visit to the local Dairy Queen she frequented growing up, reveals much more to Catherine about her family and her destiny than she had discovered in her beloved Atlanta. 

Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen was published in 2008 by a subsidiary of Random House. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan

Mr. Penumbra’s 24 -Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan, is a quirky, modern fantasy/mystery set in the digital age.  Sloan’s novel features books of clues to the wisdom of the ages and a curious cadre of young computer geniuses to unravel the mystery. 

After losing his job during a downturn in the digital design field, Clay Jannon takes the night shift job at a 24-hour bookstore.  He quickly determines that the store gets very little business but contains tall shelves of dusty old tomes that are borrowed but not purchased.  Occasionally, a “new” one of these books arrives but he is cautioned against opening the books by the store’s manager, Mr. Penumbra.  However, he is asked to make specific note of the person who borrows one of these books, down to their appearance, demeanor, and clothing.  It doesn’t take long for him and a daring friend to start exploring the books, which they discover must be written in a type of code, and to determine that the borrowers are checking out the books in a specific order.  Using his computer skills (and working with a new lady friend from Google), he is able to construct a face in the design of the bookshelves, following the pattern of borrowing.  Things become stranger when Penumbra disappears to meet with a mysterious benefactor, and Clay and his friends follow and learn about the underground world of the “readers” and their life stories. 

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is an entertaining book with likable characters.  Although the resolution may not be as satisfying as some readers might like, there are parallels between this group of “readers” and other secret societies driven to find meaning and preserve it for their members.   Sloan also raises the philosophical issue of introducing artificial intelligence to solving mysteries that had been taxing to human bandwidth.       

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore was published in 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.  

Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls, by David Sedaris

David Sedaris' most recent collection of stories and essays, Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls, is a quirky, honest, and hysterical collection of his work. While Sedaris admits he loves the attention of being on stage and reading from his work, he also reveals himself as a flawed character in the story of his life--flawed, but very also very funny, and some of those "flaws" may explain his unique approach to recording life.
Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls is an upbeat collection overall, and made even more enjoyable if readers have an opportunity to hear Sedaris read from his collection in person, either by audiobook or at a local appearance. 
This collection was published in 2013 by Little, Brown and Company

Inferno, by Dan Brown

Inferno, by Dan Brown, is one of his typical thrillers.  Although "typical" isn't a fair descriptor of this page-turner, it’s only “typical” for Dan Brown.
Robert Langdon, Brown’s recurring hero, returns to solve a new nail-biter. A mad scientist, intent on saving the world from its own population explosion, has created a viral time bomb. Accompanied by a smart and pretty blonde, Langdon attempts to decode the clues left by the suicidal scientist while being chased by corrupt government officials and a virtual private army through the streets of Florence and the canals of Venice. His task is complicated by the fact that he awoke in a hospital in Florence with amnesia, having no memory of how he got there or why. Visions of the dying and of a mysterious silver haired woman haunt him, and a tiny projector sewn into his jacket leads him to Dante's Divine Comedy. The only thing the reader knows for sure is that Langdon is the good guy, as always, and the other characters Brown introduces could be playing for either side. In fact, Brown cleverly pulls the rug from under the reader more than once, with unexpected revelations that induce literary gymnastics and the desire to return and reread sections of the book so the reader can be “in on” the surprise, too.
Brown's books are smart and engrossing. The action in this book primarily occurs in just a day’s time, and is gripping from the first page. Made for a movie, it’s not difficult to picture Tom Hanks reprising his role as Langdon.
Inferno was published in 2013 by Doubleday.