book reviews

manny the buffalito

Manny the buffalito in his 3D glasses

Lawrence M. Schoen’s tales of the amazing Conroy and his buffalito Reggie are always fun to read. This latest entry in the series is a collection of shorter works, including new novella “Barry’s Tale.” Prepare to be amazed and entertained as you follow along his adventures. Read the full review at buzzymag.

An excerpt:
Let me introduce you to the Amazing Conroy, interstellar hypnotist and buffalito wrangler. What’s a buffalito? I’ll tell you. They’re an alien lifeform that look just like tiny buffalos–what’s more, they can eat absolutely anything, and then they fart it back out as oxygen. This makes them an incredibly valuable commodity.

Come with Perry on a walk to figure out who he is. Butterfly Potion by Trent Zelazny is a well-written story of change in one man’s life and my review is up at buzzymag.

An excerpt:
Strong in symbolism, complex, and layered, this book will take you on an emotional ride as Perry tries to redefine himself in a world beyond his tragedy, beyond his blackout, as a stronger person.

Back in May at Balticon, I did a panel with Joshua Bilmes, of the JABberwocky Literary Agency. He was nice enough to help me acquire an advanced copy of Libriomancer, Jim Hines latest, which I enjoyed every moment of. Read my full review over at buzzymag.

An excerpt:
The characters are interesting, well-developed, internally consistent, and most important, fun to read about. Silly at times, dryads interact with historical figures, a redneck vampire pets a beagle, or a librarian is . . . a librarian.

New York Times Bestselling authors Mercedes Lackey & Rosemary Edghill have an amazing new book called Dead Reckoning. It’s fast-paced, fun, and well-written–everything I’ve come to expect from these ladies over the years. My review is up at

Here is an excerpt:
Yet another entry in the subgenre of zombie steampunk westerns.

This is the story of three young people, Jett Gallatin, [Honoria] Gibbons, and White Fox, brought together by circumstances . . .

If you love it, and you want more, I also recommend The Last Ride of the Iron Cowboy by James Daniel Ross, a novella in the same subgenre . . .

Friday night it was time to tromp into Philly (dodging raindrops all the way), for the June edition of Philly Fantastic at Moonstone Arts Center (aka Robin’s Bookstore). A damp evening featured Kyle Cassidy, Philadelphia-area photographer and writer, speaking about his current projects.

First up was Caitlin R. Kiernan’s The Drowning Girl, a book Kyle found inspiring enough that he worked with Caitlin to create a series of still images: Stills from a movie that never existed. The same photo shoot spawned a book trailer shot by Kyle Cassidy & Brian Siano, who was also in the audience. Kyle showed the trailer–it’s gorgeous and it’s on youtube, go watch it! There was also a slideshow of the stills from the shoot, which may or may not be put an exhibition at some point . . .

Then Kyle showed some of his favorite images from his new book War Paint, and read/told some of the accompanying stories (see my review of the book below).

Outside it rained, and rained more, and hailed. Miraculously, it stopped raining long enough for us to walk the several blocks over to Ruby Tuesdays for dinner and conversation. Also miraculously, I managed to eat there, and not break my diet (I’d been away from the house since noonish, and I was starving!).

War Paint: Tattoo Culture & The Armed Forces
by Kyle Cassidy
Hardcover May 2012
Schiffer Publishing
ISBN: 978-0-7643-4086-4

Over the last few years, I’ve developed an interest in tattoo art (some of you know why). When I saw the publication announcement for War Paint, the concept immediately intrigued me: photos of tattoos on military personnel by one of the best pros around, and the stories behind the art. It’s always interesting to hear why people get the tats they choose.

Publishing the book on Memorial Day really made sense, too. It was already on my list of books to buy “one day”–and it kept moving up. When I realized that Kyle Cassidy was going to be speaking at Moonstone Arts Center in Philadelphia in just a few weeks, it motivated me to order a copy now–so I could get it inscribed.

In due course War Paint arrived, and I put it down next to the computer to log it in to the library system. Big mistake. The colorful cover images are mesmerizing, enticing you to pick up the book and leaf through it. So I did. I read a few of the stories, and finally put it down and did some work. Then I picked it back up and read some more. The book is positively insidious, sucking you in with beguiling images when you should be working!

Only buy this book if you’re actually interested in reading it, because it will sneak up on you and insist that you look inside. It’s full of well-taken photos paired with fascinating stories–incredible insights into the men and women that defend our country.

It gives the armed forces names and faces and makes them people you know and understand. It makes history personal.

Recommended for anyone who appreciates tattoo art and/or likes hearing “old war stories.” It also makes a lovely gift.

A Beautiful Friendship
by David Weber

cover for A Beautifl Friendship by David Weber
Hardcover 2011
Baen Books
ISBN: 978-1-4516-3747-2

Rating: 5 paws (out of 5)

five poly paws on trans background

David Weber is an exceptionally well-known writer among those who read science fiction, most particularly for his military science fiction series featuring Honor Harrington. The series spans Honor’s career in the Royal Manticoran Navy from midshipman to Grand Duchess and Admiral. And wherever Honor went, she was accompanied by her treecat, Nimitz, usually riding on her specially-padded shoulder.

Honor was born on Sphinx, a planet in the Star Kingdom of Manticore–a world settled by colonists from Earth. Treecats were the native sentient species on Sphinx, six-legged, telepathic, and looking something like domestic cats with very long prehensile tails. Treecats and humans sometimes formed an empathic lifelong bond.

A Beautiful Friendship is the story of Stephanie Harrington, one of Honor’s ancestors, and the colonist who made first contact with the treecats. This is a coming-of-age story, showing interactions between human and treecat even as Stephanie is growing up and trying to figure out what to do with herself and her future. It’s a colonization story, set on a pioneer planet that still holds many dangers, with people exploring and learning about their new home. And it’s also a classic “first-contact” story, handling the complicated twists and turns that occur when the colonists realize that they share the planet with another sentient species–and that species was there first!

Most of the story is told from Stephanie’s point of view–this is her story, make no mistake. Occasional scenes and chapters fill in gaps using some of the adults as viewpoint characters where absolutely necessary to the plot. The other main viewpoint character is Lionheart, Stephanie’s treecat, or as he is referred to by his clan, Climbs Quickly. The chapters from his point of view, explaining treecat society and motivations is a real treat. The treecats find “two-legs” very confusing. For those familiar with Carole Nelson Douglas’s Midnight Louie mysteries, these chapters are a similar read to those from Louie’s viewpoint (a Las Vegas private eye with four black paws–see here for a review of Midnight Louie’s latest).

While Stephanie is an exceptionally bright girl, she is also quick-to-anger, and fiercely protective of those she loves. When she is in trouble, she looks for a logical solution to the problem, and really tries to think outside the box. But sometimes there isn’t an easy or quick solution, and she ended up frustrated, but that made the book a more satisfying read as she worked her way through more complex and layered problems.

I particularly enjoyed the insight into treecat society and their description of human activities–“Why should they need a nest place so large?” I also enjoyed the brief forays into the economics of colonization, and the concept of aided immigration: paying for your passage to the colony and earning the right to vote sooner versus having the government cover your passage and then paying taxes for several years before you voted in planetary elections.

While clearly aimed at and marketed as a young adult book, A Beautiful Friendship is suitable for people of all ages, most especially those who have shared a special relationship with a feline at some point in their lives.

A Beautiful Friendship is based on a short story of the same title, which appeared in the anthologies More Than Honor and Worlds of Weber.

REDEMPTION: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America
by Nathan Winograd

Trade Paperback 2007
Almaden Books
ISBN: 978-0-9790743-0-1

Rating: 5 paws (out of 5)

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Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America

Redemption is not an easy book, but it’s an crucial one. It’s full of information, and for those who love animals, it’s important information. At this moment in time, with legislation concerning the number of pets we own and breed increasing daily, understanding what motivates the opposition in this complex issue is one of the keys to beating them. But be prepared for some pain along the way–some in the form of statistics, but most in the realization of how many animals could have been saved, if shelters changed the way they were doing things. Most of the book is an in-depth explanation of the following quote:
“In the final analysis, animals in shelters are not being killed because there are too many of them, because there are too few homes, or because the public is irresponsible. Animals in shelters are dying for primarily one reason–because people in shelters are killing them.”

Redemption is divided into several sections–it begins with a history of animal sheltering in the United States, starting with the birth of the “humane society” in the 19th century as one man’s compassionate vision. It chronicles the movement as a whole, showing how it slowly went wrong and somehow began to focus on killing animals rather than saving them, finally ending up where we are now.

It explains how the blame was shifted from animal control agencies to the public and the animals themselves, through initiatives like “LES”–Legislation, Education, and Sterilization. LES supports laws to license cats and dogs, animal limit laws, required spay/neuter, legal prohibitions on the feeding of feral cats and gives animal control broad seizure powers. Shelters weren’t taking the next step, however, and providing low cost spay/neuter options, nor were they trying to reduce shelter deaths. They were too busy pointing fingers.

It details the first success story in American sheltering–when Richard Avanzino took over the San Francisco SPCA and began implementing programs aimed at saving lives rather than just abiding by the status quo. Policy changes during his tenure would eventually lead to no healthy animals being killed in San Francisco, and greatly reduce overall shelter deaths.

And it’s the story of a man, Nathan Winograd, who saw the success of No Kill in San Francisco, and took the lessons learned there to upstate New York, where as Director of the Tompkins County SPCA he built on the success of San Francisco to create the first No Kill community in America. Later, he would move on to found the No Kill Advocacy Center, with a goal of creating a No Kill nation.

It lists the steps needed to achieve No Kill, and where and how it worked–in urban American, in rural America, in the South, etc. and how various programs can lead the way there. It tells you what you can do to help.

There are a lot of amazing ideas put forth in this book, and I urge anyone who loves animals to read it. There are several key concepts that Nathan goes back to again and again. One is that No Kill is achievable if the people involved believe in it and work with a goal of saving lives. Another is that the building blocks of No Kill are simple, and that each piece helps: volunteering at the shelter, feral cat trap-neuter-return, spay/neuter before adoption, fostering, breed rescue, etc. These building blocks are things that individuals can contribute to, each according to their abilities, resources, time, etc. We can all help.

This is a very personal book for me, for a number of reasons. I lived in Tompkins County until a few years ago, and was very aware of the issues facing the SPCA, and the problems they had with funding. In the early 1990s, the Tompkins County SPCA was handling both dog and cat control for the county, with the towns funding some of the dog control. Everything else was paid for by donations. A task force was formed to look into licensing cats as a revenue stream to fund cat control. I sat on that task force. Ultimately, the task force recommended against licensing as a revenue stream–but we discussed many of the same issues brought up in Redemption. I met Nathan when he first became Director at the SPCA, and had a front-row seat as many of the events described in the book happened.

Later, when Redemption was first published, Nathan came back to Tompkins County, and spoke at the SPCA as one of the stops on his book tour. He is a fine speaker, and is both passionate and knowledgeable about animals and the No Kill Revolution.

I make no claim to being impartial about this one–my copy of Redemption is personally inscribed. Highly, highly recommended.

Cat in an Ultramarine Scheme: A Midnight Louie Mystery
by Carole Nelson Douglas

cover image for Cat in an Ultramarine Scheme Hardcover August 2010
Mass Market Paperback October 2011
A Forge Book
ISBN: 978-0-7653-1863-3

Rating: 5 paws (out of 5)
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Cat in an Ultramarine Scheme is the latest entry in the long-running Midnight Louie series of mysteries. Temple Barr, a petite redhead working as a Public Relations specialist in Las Vegas, seems to fall over dead bodies at the drop of a hat. In this installment, two separate bodies show up (or the pieces thereof) and everyone is struggling to figure out who they are, who killed them and why.

Mingled with the mystery is the ever-more-complicated romantic relationship in Temple’s life, the trials and travails of Mystifying Max, her amnesiac ex-lover currently seeking his memories while traveling in Europe and the comic relief of trying to be the next big time in Vegas, from a PR angle.

The charm of this series from the very beginning lies in the unique points-of-view. The chapters alternate between various viewpoint characters, two of which have remained consistent throughout the series: Temple Barr and Midnight Louie. Louie is a Vegas native (unlike Temple) and helped show her the ropes when she relocated there. He is also something of a sleuth and utterly fearful. And he is solid black, sleek, and about sixteen pounds of domestic shorthaired cat. His chapters are among the most fun to read.

For those who haven’t been following the series, there is a review of The Show So Far, ably explained by Louie, including the current cast of characters and a list of the prior books in the series, as a prologue to the story. So, if you like, you can dive right in.

My recommendation: start at the beginning. It’s worth it. This series starts out fun, featuring a visit from two scottish folds and keeps getting better. Pampered persians, sneaky siamese, a mysterious birman, and a gang of street cats (mostly solid black) all have reoccuring roles through the series, along with a few dogs.

It’s even easy to keep track of. The first book is Catnap, followed by Pussyfoot. With the third book, Cat on a Blue Monday, a pattern emerges. The subsequent book titles are of the form: Cat in a Color Something, where color is the next letter in the alphabet (B for Blue, C for Crimson, etc).

If you’re a cat lover, you’ll enjoy these books. If you don’t believe me, just ask Louie.

The Cat’s Job Special Edition
by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

Chapbook 2010
SRM Publisher Ltd.
ISBN: 1-935224-07-7
available at

Rating: 5 paws (out of 5)
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cover image for The Cat's Job

The Cat’s Job is an engaging smorgasbord of short features starring various and sundry fantastic felines. Some of them are true tales about real cats, spun by master storytellers. Others are pure fantasy. All are fun to read and will touch your heart.

Within you’ll find out about the interesting assortment of felines who have shared the lives of the authors through the years, about the cat who saves the world (on a regular basis), and who the King of the Cats really is. You’ll read about cat behaviors that might seem odd, but are perfectly believable to anyone who lives with cats.

You’ll giggle and sometimes you’ll cry, and you’ll enjoy every single word. This is a beautifully put together collection, chock full of entertaining tales. Recommended for anyone who loves cats, and suitable for all ages.

Naughty No More
by Marilyn Krieger

cover from Naughty No More!
Trade Paperback 2010
Bow Tie Press
ISBN: 978-1-193395893-7

Rating: 4 paws (out of 5)
four poly paws on trans background

On the surface, Naughty No More is a book about the problems you can run into when you own a cat, and how to correct them. And it’s a manual on clicker training, and how to use it not only to correct problems but to teach your cat to perform tricks. More than any of these, though, it’s a book about how to bond with your cat, whether you’ve just acquired your first kitten, or added a new adult to a multi-cat household.

What I especially like about Naughty No More is that the emphasis is put on understanding why your cat is behaving in a particular way. Different cats will exhibit the same behavior for wildly divergent reasons, and the first step to changing that behavior is recognizing their motivations. A careful reading will also give you valuable insight into why cats act the way they do.

The book groups problem behaviors by chapter (improper elimination, introducing a new cat into the household, etc.), and breaks each issue down into multiple variations. Each possibility is then subjected to a thorough analysis of cause and effect, followed by multiple suggestions and examples of how to correct the problem.

The prose is very clear and easy to understand, and the layout includes lots of explanatory pictures. Everything is broken up into easy to digest pieces, and the instructions are very encouraging for the novice. Someone already frustrated with a misbehaving cat would be able to find answers here, and the recipe for success always includes directions for how to take a step back (if the cat isn’t responding well) and move ahead more slowly. More difficult concepts and training goals build on simpler ones explained earlier in the text.

By the end of the book you can be teaching your cat to jump through hoops!

This review was published in the TICA Trend, as well as Bengals Illustrated magazine and Savannahs Illustrated magazine

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