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 28, 2013

The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller

The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller, tells the story of a world ravaged by a flu virus.  Hig, the central character in the novel, is a pilot and the guardian of a small airport near Erie, Colorado.  This post-apocalyptic setting is marked by rising temperatures, depleted animal communities and species, roving bands of scavengers seeking provisions and weapons, and a highly contagious disease referred to as “the Blood.”

Together with Bruce Bangley, a ruthless tactician with a mysterious past, Hig defends a “perimeter” around the airport.  He plants and maintains a garden.  He fishes and hunts, although fish are not as prevalent, deer are, so Hig is able to supply them with food.  Flying “the Beast”, a 1956 Cessna 182, he scouts for wildlife, watches for marauders, and occasionally stumbles on salvage he can take back to Bangley.  In the meantime, Bangley manages the weaponry and the defense of their installation. 

Hig reaches out to others as humans in need of contact, against Bangley’s counsel.  He visits the Mennonite families who suffer from “the Blood,” sharing his garden’s bounty and salvaged soft drinks.  When a faint signal from an airport closer to Grand Junction reached him, Hig was determined to know whether civilization survived somewhere else. 

The Dog Stars is written in a stream of consciousness style: poetic, narrative, emotional.  It is a compelling and gripping story that leaves the reader with a sense of hopeful resignation. 

The Dog Stars was published in 2012 by Vintage Books.  

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson with Veronica Chambers

Yes, Chef is the memoir of the winner of the 2010 Top Chef Masters competition, Marcus Samuelsson.  Written with Veronica Chambers, the book follows Samuelsson’s culinary trajectory to the ranks of Executive Chef, restaurateur, and James Beard Award winner. 

Readers may recall Samuelsson from the television program “Chopped” where he is often a judge on the cooking competition program.   Samuelsson’s demeanor—calm and measured—comes across in his memoir.  The reader doesn’t get the sense that he is exaggerating or overstating the facts or manipulating his readers’ emotions with maudlin stories of his growing up years. 

Samuelsson was born in Ethiopia and believed to be orphaned along with his sister when their mother died.  They were adopted by a Swedish couple and raised there, which imbued him with a rich sense of culinary experience.  Although his early exposure was to Swedish food, as he began training as a chef, his exposure to new food cultures and flavors extended throughout Europe and eventually to the United States.  As Samuelsson explores his birth heritage, he discovers the flavors of his native Ethiopia, along with an extended family he didn’t know existed. 

Samuelsson is forthright in sharing his experience as a chef of African descent in the kitchens of Europe and North America, allowing the reader to draw her or his own conclusions and experience their own emotional reaction to his treatment.  His focus is on food and cooking, so that unfair treatment, slurs, and outright bigotry are like annoying gnats to him, not nearly powerful enough to deter him from his ultimate goals. 

Yes, Chef is an enjoyable read.  Samuelsson is likable and intelligent, and readers can’t help but root for him as he reaches each milestone along his culinary journey. 

Yes, Chef was published in 2012 by Random House.