Category Archives: book review

Book Review – The Existential Musings of an Angst-Filled Cat

Belle loves Henri!

By Julia Williams

William Braden, the creative genius behind the Henri, le Chat Noir empire, has done what I’ve dreamt of doing for years. William not only put his cat to work, but now supports himself fully with Henri-related ventures!

Whereas most pet owners merely watch their cat or dog blissfully sleeping away and just wish they’d wake up and do something to defray the cost of their kibble, William had a vision.

Well…actually I made that last part up. I don’t really know if William had a vision for his now-famous French-speaking cat or not, way back in 2006 when Henry (the tuxedo kitty’s real name) appeared in his first internet video. But after the second video catapulted Henri to fame, lightbulbs surely went off in William’s brilliant mind.

He had created an unforgettable character — the world’s first existential cat philosopher – who was filled with ennui and bent on pondering his tormented existence. Filmed in black and white to parody French film noir, William’s video won the Golden Cat Award at the 2012 Internet Cat Video Film Festival, and late film critic Roger Ebert declared it “The best internet cat video ever made.” Yes, it’s that good!

Legions of Henri fans snapped up the t-shirts, coffee cups, posters, mouse pads, Henri “pawtographs” and other merchandise that followed, and now…William lives off his cat! At least that’s what the press release said for the latest Henri endeavor – a delightful little book titled The Existential Musings of an Angst-Filled Cat.

The hardcover book (in black and white, naturally!) is a collection of doleful Henri quotes that purrrfectly illustrate the disenchanted house cat’s cynical outlook on life. There are also 45 gorgeous photos, mostly of the handsome Henri but a few of his supposedly simpleminded feline roommate, aka “the white imbecile.”

If you’re a fan of the Henri videos, you simply must have The Existential Musings of an Angst-Filled Cat in your library! It also makes a great gift for a cat lover. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:

“When I watch you go about your activities, make no mistake about my intentions. I am not curious or coy. I am judging you.”

“I sleep because every time I open my eyes, the world is still there.”

“Looking into the garden today, I saw another version of myself meeting my gaze. A celestial counterpart, free in all the ways I am trapped, yet longing for the safety of my prison. It turns out it was just a raccoon.”

Cat treats are a poor substitute for real answers to the mysteries of our existence. Yet, I do not reject them.”

“My thumbs are not opposable, yet I oppose everything.”

If I had one itsy bitsy quibble with this great book, it would be that the experience of reading it is far too short. It’s certainly not a book you’ll take on summer vacation to while away a lazy day at the beach. In fact, you can finish the book in ten minutes. I definitely wanted more Henri after that last page! But here’s the thing – you’ll come back to the book again and again, and each time the experience will be just as enjoyable.

Buy it. Read it. Give it to a fellow cat lover. Or keep it on your coffee table to (in Henri’s own words) “make you look smart.” Indeed!

Henri, le Chat Noir: The Existential Musings of an Angst-Filled Cat is sure to become a cat classic.

Disclosure: The publisher provided me with a copy of this book for review, but all opinions and philosophical musings in this post are wholly my own.

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Book Review – Love Saves the Day by Gwen Cooper

By Julia Williams

The best novels not only keep us engaged from beginning to end but create such memorable characters that we think of them long after the last page has been turned. Good writers have the ability to “paint” a masterpiece with their words, to describe people, places and events in a way that makes us feel like we’re right there in the scene. We feel what the characters feel; we rejoice when things go well, and cry when they don’t. We wish the story would never end, because it’s hard to bid farewell to people who have become as real as those in our own lives.

Gwen Cooper’s new novel, Love Saves the Day, achieves all of this and then some. With a sassy brown tabby as its primary narrator, the book is certain to appeal to cat lovers. However, it has so much more to offer – with universal themes of love, loss, healing, family and relationships – that I honestly can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t be touched by this hauntingly beautiful tale.

Gwen and Homer

Cooper is a wonderful writer who has a true gift. Her memoir titled Homer’s Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, became a New York Times Bestseller, and it’s highly likely that Love Saves the Day will be equally popular.

Love Saves the Day Synopsis

Prudence is a very cool cat with a great purrsonality. Love Saves the Day allows us to see life through the eyes of a cat – one who is sweet, sassy, wise, witty, clever, loving and funny. Her unique feline perspective is artfully captured by Cooper, who obviously understands cats (and knows them as well as any human can!). To wit: “All cats are born knowing that there’s no point in paying attention to unreasonable rules made by humans,” says Prudence.

The story, set in New York City, begins with Prudence describing her home and her Most Important Person, Sarah. Prudence was just five weeks old when Sarah rescued her from a deserted construction site. Now three, she and Sarah have forged a beautiful bond. Prudence has Sarah fully trained in the feline courtesies and customs, and life is good.

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The Dalai Lama’s Cat: Book Review and Giveaway!

By Julia Williams

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live with one of the world’s greatest spiritual teachers? Well, wonder no more! In The Dalai Lama’s Cat, a novel by David Michie, a sassy Himalayan gives us a cat’s eye view of life in the inner sanctum of His Holiness’s household. True to feline nature, the curious cat soaks up the teachings that take place when visitors – everyone from Hollywood celebrities and self help gurus to philanthropists and royalty – seek an audience with the Dalai Lama. To be sure, life is never dull when you’re the Dalai Lama’s cat!

The Buddhist wisdom is artfully interwoven with entertaining tales of a cat just being a cat…getting into mischief, making the most of every opportunity, and purring her way into the hearts of all who meet her. One would expect no less of any feline, let alone one who spends every morning curled up with the Dalai Lama while he meditates.

The Dalai Lama’s cat, a.k.a. Mousie-Tung, The Snow Lion of Jokhang, His Holiness’s Cat (HHC), The Bodhicatva, and “The Most Beautiful Creature That Ever Lived,” is so charming, funny, wise and witty that it’s hard to imagine anyone who wouldn’t love her. She even shares her most embarrassing moments for the sake of giving us a good laugh, which is something most dignified felines wouldn’t dream of doing! But the Dalai Lama’s cat is no ordinary feline, and she never lets us forget.

She makes no apologies for eavesdropping on the conversations between the Dalai Lama and his guests, and she puts a uniquely feline spin on the basic Buddhist principles she overhears. Through the Dalai Lama’s cat we learn about concepts such as karma, mindfulness, enlightenment, compassion, and the meaning of life.

The mark of any good novel, at least for me, is that it captures my attention on page one and compels me to keep turning pages despite other distractions and obligations. I read this book in two days because I just couldn’t put it down. And when I finished, I found myself wanting more. You really can’t ask for more from a good book, can you?

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The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey

By Julia Williams

As a writer, books hold a special appeal to me. In a bookstore, I become the proverbial ‘kid in a candy store’ and can’t wait to sample them all. I love the feel of holding a book in my hands, love the way they smell and how the words look on the printed page, which is why I’ll probably never get a Kindle; it’s just not the same.

You can imagine my excitement then, the day Deborah Barnes’ The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey: A Journey of the Extraordinarily Ordinary arrived in my mailbox. I’d read about this book on other cat lover’s blogs and have gotten to know the author through her own blog. My anticipation swelled as I opened the package and took out the book, which was wrapped in leopard print paper and fastened with a custom-made seal. The high gloss cover was simply breathtaking. Zee, a handsome Maine Coon mancat and Zoey, an exotic Bengal, appeared so lifelike that I half expected them to leap into my arms.

Opening the book, I discovered leopard spotted inside covers front and back, and a matching bookmark. Leafing through it, I saw enchanting artwork, charming page borders with butterflies and dragonflies, and lots of beautiful photographs of cats, dogs…and KITTENS! Oh my. I was already smitten with the book, and hadn’t read a single word! I knew then that if the words –the ‘meat’ of any book to be sure – were even half as lovely as the visual presentation, it would be a memorable reading experience.

Zoey

I was not disappointed. The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey is many different things all rolled into one delightful book. At its core is the touching ‘Romeo and Juliet-inspired’ love story between two unique and extraordinary breeds. The book follows the feline pair from the moment they meet and become inseparable, through the trials and tribulations of accidental kittens and the separation this creates. Unlike the Shakespearean tragedy, however, this love story has a happy ending as Zee and Zoey reunite once their four kittens are grown.

Speaking of kittens, the book also presents an honest look at what raising a litter of them entails, with chapters devoted to their first 8 weeks– from teeny tiny babies with their eyes shut tight, to rambunctious kittens capable of mass destruction in the blink of an eye. I particularly enjoyed these chapters because they brought back fond memories of a time I helped a friend with his kittens. Deb describes the ‘chaos that is kittens’ so well, and it’s clear that although these demanding little beings were not always sugar and spice, she loves them wholeheartedly. “Most people would joke that any cat living with me, had won the cat lottery as far as homes go,” she writes. After reading her book, I completely agree.

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