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text 2017-06-26 21:57
Sing to the Moon: Tales from the Kitten Cam (Pickford)
Sing to the Moon: Tales from the Kitten Cam - Jill Pickford

This is a slight book of occasional short stories and poetry that gives me a really disproportionate amount of pleasure: or, at least, I'm sure people would think it disproportionate who aren't also followers of the 24-hour live streams of foster kittens upon which its "characters" are based. Chief amongst these streams, and the only one I follow with any regularity, is the kitten cam of Foster Dad John, a middle-aged IT guy who lives just outside of Seattle, a gentle, knowledgeable cat-lover who is that rarest of males, neither camera-shy nor a grandstander. Though he sometimes gets other assignments, generally he sees a litter of kittens through from birth to adoptable age at 8 weeks or a little older; most often the mother cats are also part of the deal. He takes his educative role seriously, but never pompously, and famously does undignified things like sweeping out his "Critter Room's" floors, building elaborate anti-climbing contrivances (which inevitably fail eventually) and falling asleep on camera with the kittens crawling all over him.

 

Jill Pickford is part of his international following (she's based in Britain), but whereas others content themselves with chatting online, or donating to FDJ's parent shelter Purrfect Pals, or making drawings or craft-y gifts for the kittens' going-away, she has been composing occasion-driven cat point-of-view stories (or verse) for several years now, often helping other viewers through some of the more traumatic events in that little world like the death of a kitten. Encouraged by those other viewers, she has developed that alternate cat world - and chiefly its relation to the "other side" of the rainbow bridge - into a fantasy world with its own rules and dominant characters. The mother cats figure prominently in her stories, as do the fragile kittens who failed to thrive, those of their living siblings whose adoptive owners have signalled tolerance for publicity by inviting cam viewers on to dedicated post-adoptive facebook pages, and the brother and sister cats of those same adopted facebook cats. In short, there is a fairly large circle of reference through social media which pretty much dictates the extent of the expected readership for these stories.

 

That said, in the later stories in the volume, Pickford has allowed herself a bit of freedom from the constraints of real incidents and courtesy to private individuals (including FDJ himself), by inventing whole other lives for cats once they are across the Rainbow Bridge or, in the case of two lost kittens, their "next lives" (since cats have 9). This is where Pickford's generous imagination and clever writing sings, in my opinion - and it is here, too, that there is the opportunity to find readership not just amongst those in the social media fan club.

 

All proceeds go to Purrfect Pals, by the way - like many fan communities, this is a gift culture, as is evident by the wide variety of (international) collaboration that has gone into the publication. Even had it given me far less pleasure than it did, I would have been happy to know that its purchase (it was a generous gift from my sister, another Kitten Cam follower) put a few more pennies into the hands of that worthy shelter.

To find FDJ and his current batch of kittens, google "The Critter Room", or search youtube with that same phrase (youtube is his platform now; he was priced out of his previous one).

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review 2017-06-26 03:17
CatStronauts: Race to Mars (graphic novel) by Drew Brockington
CatStronauts: Race to Mars - Drew Brockington

The CatStronauts are back and...they're kind of bored. And not really doing much besides accepting awards and going to free lunches and dinners held in their honor. But then the CatStronauts are called back into action. It turns out that several other space programs around the world are planning Mars missions, and the CatStronauts are the last ones to get involved. Will they lose to the CosmoCats or one of the other two groups, or will they triumph and be the first cats to land on Mars?

In some ways, this volume felt a little more solid than CatStronauts: Mission Moon. For example, the internal logic was much better. However, it also had less of the first volume’s silly fun, and the competition between the various space programs made things a little more tense overall. Sometimes the cats had to prioritize between their “race to Mars” timeline and the scientific experiments they wanted to do once they got to Mars, because there wasn’t enough time to get everything done. Brockington included some nice visual jokes and random references in the background (I noticed Star Wars, Star Trek, and maybe Teletubbies), but overall this volume didn’t seem quite as light as the first one, even though there was less at stake.

Each space program seemed to be analogous to a real-life space program, although I wasn’t 100% certain about one of them. The CosmoCats were definitely Russian, and the COOKIE mission (quick and inexpensive) appeared to be Indian. I wasn’t sure about the MEOW mission. Maybe German? I came across another reviewer who seemed to think it was a stand-in for Luxembourg.

Much of the volume was devoted to showing the various space programs preparing to go to Mars. Anytime someone decided to remove something from their Mars mission “To Do” list in the interest of saving time, or pushed their employees too hard, I wondered if and when it would come back to bite them. The CosmoCats were presented as villains,

at least at first

(spoiler show)

. One of the top CosmoCats was especially willing to do whatever he had to in order to be the first to get to Mars, setting a grueling pace for their workers and creating terrible working conditions.

In the end, though, this turned out to be a story about learning to work together.

The supposed villains really weren’t.

(spoiler show)

I loved seeing Pom Pom and Gemelli bonding over their shared love of science, and it was kind of nice to see that even the oh-so-serious Major Meowser wasn’t infallible. I was also glad that Cat-Stro-Bot got to have a role in this story too, although its part in the story became a little chaotic and confusing near the end.

All in all, the first volume was a little more fun than this one, but this one seemed to be a bit more solid and well-thought-out.

A side note: this volume made me realize that I’d made some character design assumptions that weren’t necessarily true. For example, cats whose eyes were drawn so that they had eyelashes were female, while cats whose eyes were just dots were male, meaning that all the CatStronauts were male. Or so I thought. I don’t know if pronouns were used in the first volume and I just missed them, but the second volume definitely referred to Pom Pom using she/her pronouns.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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text 2017-06-24 21:00
Ummm ...

... well, yeah.

 

Something of the sort, I guess.

 

So anyway, I'd decided to set out on my own in business at the beginning of this year and things were moving along nicely and as planned (lots to do, but nothing truly unforeseen), when precisely in the matter that is allowing me to finally do my own thing in the first place, and which has already been eating up the major part of my work time even at ordinary times for the past few years, the tribunal hearing the matter in question decided to do a short-notice-180-degree switch flip on the ground rules for the evidentiary hearing (aka trial) in early June that we'd been preparing for, and then in short order, evidently not satisfied with already having us do double overtime to adapt to the new and completely reversed ground rules, decided to do a backwards 180-degree switch flip at even shorter notice, making everybody and everything run full circle and now making us all do triple overtime.  So, at some point in late January (when the first switch flip occurred) I found myself reduced to curtailing all non-work-related activities ... even reading, believe it or not.  The only thing that kept me sane during the almost six months from then 'till now was a regular diet of audio recordings of some of my favorite comfort reads, chiefly ingested on the way to and from meetings, with Tolkien and Golden Age mysteries making up the stock of said literary diet; as well as the decision to reward myself with a London and Stratford-upon-Avon shopping trip as soon as the June hearing was over. (Separate post on that trip to come.)  Oh, and a certain amount of frustration purchases from my book wishlist ... not that I've touched even one of these shiny newly-ordered books so far, but somehow even receiving, unpacking and adding them to my physical TBR pile made my life feel better, if only for a few brief moments.

 

In addition to all of which, I let myself get talked into adopting one of our local animal shelter's "experienced owners only" special needs cats -- goes to show what happens if, in dire need of cuddly creatures and kitty love, you innocently inquire about a pair of kittens that have, alas, been decided to go to other new parents in the interim.  He's extremely bright, but has evidently grown up as a stray, is totally unused to (and distrustful of) humans -- hair trigger default communication mode: monster hiss and razor-sharp claws ... so much for the "cuddly creatures and kitty love" thing -- and has been diagnosed as FIV positive to boot (though the virus is expected to remain dormant for years to come, and lke most HIV positive humans, he will probably die of a secondary illness eventually). It was quite a while until he was finally ready to come home with me, and for the moment he's taken up residence under my bed, so right now I only have photos of him taken while he was still at the shelter, but anyway, here's my beautiful and special new four-pawed boy:

 

 

 

 

They named him Horst at the shelter, which is empahtically not a name I would have chosen myself ... for him or any other cat, period.  I'm taking my time coming up with a new name, though -- for the time being, he's simply my Miezekater (literally: "pussy tomcat" or "male pussycat" ... I swear, it sounds decidedly less ridiculous in German than it does in English), a pet name that he has started to respond to and seems to like.

 

Incidentally, during my self-enforced absence I finally bit the bullet and created a rudimentary Twitter presence ... haven't tweeted a single time myself, yet, but in default of enough time to indulge in newspapers, the major news organizations' headline feed at least made sure I didn't completely fall off the planet as far as awareness of major goings-on was concerned.  And I figured that while I was there, I might as well follow those of you whose Twitter IDs the software recognized and actually suggested me to follow ... if I've missed anyone, or if you would like to follow back, my Twitter ID is (you'd never have guessed this) @ThemisAthena (https://twitter.com/ThemisAthena).

 

Well, in any event, I'm very happy that this site and this community is still around and here to come back to!  Not necessarily a given, after last year's woes ...

 

Glad to be back, and I hope you're all doing well!!!

 

Merken

Merken

Merken

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review 2017-06-20 01:25
Christmas Wishes
Christmas Wishes - Debbie Macomber

I've had this book on my shelf because one of the stories, Christmas Letters, was part of the Blossom Street Series by Debbie Macomber. I've read it before but it had been so long I couldn't remember it and I am rereading the series starting from the beginning. I thought Christmas Letters was the better story of the two in this book and enjoyed the humor in it. The other story, Rainy Day Kisses was okay but I am not big on romance stories.

 

Mainly, I needed something light to read because I've been feeling bad and today I had another optical migraine so that made reading difficult.  I had to look up the audiobook so I could listen for a while until it passed.  I switched back and forth between reading and listening and actually realized I enjoyed the audiobooks.  This book consists of two stories and the audiobooks are separate.  I really enjoyed listening to the audiobook for Christmas Letters read by Renée Raudman.  She made it much more entertaining with her different voices.  I really felt like I was listening to different people speaking to each other.  The first time I read that book I remember that I didn't especially like it but I really couldn't remember it, which is why I was going to read it again.  I didn't want to skip anything as I reread the Blossom Street Series.  Well, the first time I only read to Hannah's List and never finished that book.  This time I plan to finish it and read the rest of the books in the series.  As I listened to the audiobook for Christmas Letters I started to remember some details but she made it so much funnier.  I will definitely look for more audiobooks read by her.  

 

Christmas Letters is about Kathleen O'Connor, usually called K.O. by her friends, who is currently working as a medical transcriptionist while looking for a job as a publicist. She also writes Christmas letters for people to make a little extra money on the side. She has recently been infuriated by her sister's decision to follow the parenting advice found in a book called The Free Child by Dr. Wynn Jeffries.  Her twin nieces have evolved into terrors and now, her sister has decided to follow his advice to "bury Santa under the sleigh" and isn't planning to have a Christmas tree or Santa this Christmas. K.O. is appalled and when she realizes he lives in her building decides to confront him. She also has an interesting older neighbor who has been taking classes at the community Center and recently took one on unleashing her psychic abilities.  While getting ready to scoop up her cats "business" in the kitty litter she saw the future for K.O.  Specifically, she saw love in her future and decided to set her up.  

 

The other story in this book, Rainy Day Kisses was, eh.  That's my review. for it  Eh.

 

 

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review 2017-06-08 07:03
CatStronauts: Mission Moon (graphic novel) by Drew Brockington
CatStronauts: Mission Moon - Drew Brockington

Energy consumption is too high, and in only 60 more days the world is due to run too low on  power to keep everything going. The World’s Best Scientist’s coolest plan is to build a solar power plant on the surface of the moon, because it will always be exposed to the sun. Major Meowser (the leader), Waffles (the pilot), Blanket (the technician), and Pom Pom (the scientist) are called together and tasked with training for and completing the mission.

I bought this as a birthday present for my niece, along with the sequel, CatStronauts: Race to Mars. It was cute, although I had some problems with it, mostly due to my being unable to make my brain shut up about the internal logic issues. For some reason I could accept that the cats' spaceship came out of a giant box and included instructions, and yet it bugged me that a power blackout during the day could cause complete darkness, and that Waffles was able to eat a sandwich through his spacesuit helmet.

Blanket was probably my favorite CatStronaut - I particularly enjoyed Blanket’s love for his little robot friend. Waffles was probably my second favorite. It made me smile to see that Waffles and Blanket had such similar levels of affection for completely different things.

My few issues with it aside, this was a nice little volume, and my niece enjoyed looking at the cats. I haven’t heard from her yet about whether she liked the story.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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