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The Natural Cat: The Comprehensive Guide to Optimum Care by Anitra Frazier and Norma Eckroate

I wanted to get a cat. I knew nothing about cats. Picked up this book at the B&N and proceeded to read it in two days. It’s huge. It focuses on a more natural approach to caring for cats and how to better interact with them. There was talk of magical kisses and telepathic communication. I should have known this book was mostly bullshit written by a crazy cat lady. When the book wasn’t talking about how to blink speak ‘I love you’ to your cats, it was dedicated to how to avoid getting bit and what kind of diseases your cat will get.

I thought I had a pretty good grasp of what to look for, so we headed off to the shelter. Where a blue russian cat proceeded to bit the living shit out of my hand without warning. Hmm…the book recommended if you get bit to instead of pulling your hand away, push it further into the cats mouth because they won’t expect their prey to want to go further into their mouth and then they’ll let go without piercing the skin. The searing pain of four needle sharp teeth trying to get to bone made me forget that awesome tidbit so I yanked my hand back to my body.

This book also claims that when a cat sees its reflection in a mirror, its senses of hearing and smell will be too keen to allow it to believe there’s another cat in the room. When I brought home the two cutie cats I eventually picked out that didn’t try to kill me, the one sat in front of my full length closet mirrors looking behind the doors to find the other cat it was staring at. While the other one upon seeing his reflection, head butted the mirror with a sickening thud, not once, but twice, before running into the closet and hiding for the next seven hours.

This book has great advice for how to make your own raw food and what suppliments to use for the cats. But it doesn’t offer practical advise for someone who’s never owned cats before and knows nothing about them. It left out the chapters on “what to do if you are bitten and it traumatizes you so badly you can’t take care of future cats you get” or “how to get over a broken heart because you had to return the good cats to the shelter.”

Lesson learned: Don’t read stupid books like this. Just go get a cute cat that lets you hold it and then look up what you need to know on the internet.

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The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1) by Rick Riordan

Apparently my boyfriend has been recommending this series to me for a while. But in one ear and out the other, even though I had been searching in vain for a good Harry Potter replacement. When we went to see some movies recently, one of the preview trailers was for The Lightning Thief. I really liked the trailer, so all the signs pointed to finally reading this.

I was very intrigued by the idea of Greek mythology in modern times since I took four years of Latin in high school and learned just as much, if not more, mythology as I did Latin. The book is obviously written by someone who knows their stuff when it comes to the Gods, the Titans, the demigods, and all the myths between them. The premise of the entire series is so smart and brilliant. It’s so perfectly woven together, yet simple and entertaining that I was left with a jealous feeling of “why didn’t I think of writing this!” And I’m going to go ahead and proclaim that this series is better than the Harry Potter series. Sorry Harry. I’m Team Percy now.

The story begins with Percy Jackson, age 12, getting kicked out of another school. Trouble just can’t seem to stay away from him. While on a field trip, his math teacher turns into a Fury and tries to kill him. His Latin teacher gives him a pen that becomes a sword and Percy kills the math teacher. But once she’s dead, no one remembers her or believes Percy when he mentions her. This tips him off that things aren’t right, and he eventually finds out he’s the son of one of the big three Gods, making him a demigod in modern times.

The way things are explained to fit into present day time is flawless. Percy has ADHD and dyslexia because his brain is programmed to fight monsters and read ancient Greek.  Mount Olympus sits above the Empire State building because New York is the center of Western Civilization and the Gods follow the civilization. And humans can’t see any of it because “the mist” protects them.

Percy’s mother sends him to Camp Half-Blood where he trains to be a Hero like all of the other half bloods who find out one of their parents is immortal. He befriends Annabeth, the daughter of Athena, and he makes enemies of some of the other campers. At camp he learns his dad is Poseidon, and his dad has been accused of stealing Zeus’s thunder bolt. Percy goes on a quest to find the thunder bolt, try to return it to Zeus, and not get killed by all the mythological creatures who want him dead along the way.

Unlike Harry Potter, who’s all doom and gloom and boo-hoo Voldimort’s after me, Percy is an unlikely hero who really develops over the course of the book and maintains a witty, humorous stance the whole time. I had a crush on HP because, he could do magic! But my crush on Percy is more enjoyable since he makes HP seem one-dimensional. Percy has powers and personality.

Personality is something this book has in abundance. Each of the Gods and Godesses are so much more than their traditional archetype. Ares isn’t just a blood thirsty, war machine; he’s charismatic, likes cheeseburgers, rides a motorcycle, and falls victim to someone smarter than him. And the monsters are more than just cannon fodder. Medusa runs a statue store and is a beautiful blend of the witch from “Hansel and Gretel” and a scorned killing machine.

Some of the scenes aren’t really necessary other than the author got to throw in more mythological characters. The pace of the book zips along until those points, but I’m not complaining about them because most are very clever modern-day adaptations of old myths.

Since I live where I do, it did bug me that the author made Los Angeles the entrance to Hades. It works in the story, but really? It’s a cliche and all those other buzz words like stereotypical, biased, and ham fisted. It could have been somewhere else like Hell, Michigan or Texas.

The whole time I was reading this book I cringed when love interests were being established because all of the Gods and Goddesses are essentially one big incestuous family. The author skirts around this completely or simply explains it as “they don’t have DNA to pass on.” So Percy is a clone of his mother genetically? When it lends comedy to the story, the author will point out how the characters are related, but he never mentions that Percy has a crush on his cousin’s daughter, or that a lot of Percy’s relatives were results of rape.

The comparisons to the Harry Potter series are everywhere, but this was such a more entertaining series to read. It’s so refreshing and exciting. I read the first book in two days because the action and characters were so addicting. I forgot it’s a children’s book. And I started book 2 of the series right after I finished this one.

I’m really excited to see the movie, but looking back on the trailer after reading the book, I don’t know what I’ll think of the changes I noticed. I loved in the book how the daughter of Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom, had blonde hair. But in the movie, she’s a brunette. Percy and Annabeth are both 12 in the book, and there are four more books to be turned into cash cows, but the actors playing them are already 18 and 24. Uma Thurman as Medusa does frighten me, so maybe there’s hope. If the movie sucks, I’ll just read the book over and over to wash it from my mind.

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The Vortex by Esther and Jerry Hicks

This is the 3rd book in a second series about the buzzword topic  – the law of attraction by Esther and Jerry Hicks.  Esther had been writing this type of information since 1986 and I learned about them in 2004. Everyone else learned about it when “the Secret” came out.

Just like I did with the earlier books, I played the CD version while following along in the book version. I don’t know if this is just a longing for someone to read to me, but I love doing it. I seem to get more out of the books and my mind stays focused on the material. The CD version was 8 CDs, each about an hour and a half long.

The book’s subtitle is “Where the Laws of Attraction Assembles All Cooperative Relationships”. The main idea of the book is that there are flawed premises most people believe in that hinder getting what they want out of life. A few examples are “If I leave an unwanted situation, I will find what I am looking for “, “To be in harmony with others, we have to believe and want the same things”, and “If I push hard again something long enough, it will go away.” They don’t read very in-depth out of context, but within the book, everything seems so profound.

I’ve read other reviews about this book that say it’s just the same thing they said in their previous books. To me, it was all brand new and brought so much clarity to what the other books where saying. Initially I was the least excited about this book coming out because I didn’t really have relationship issues, but of course, this book was the most meaningful to me. It is the ultimate book to tie all the ideas from Esther’s other books together. I really feel like I’m starting to “get” what it’s all about.

In essence the book states that when we encounter something that makes us feel negatively, we create its equal, happier counterpart in a personal ‘vortex’. When we learn to chill out and concentrate on being happy, the universe arranges ‘cooperative components’ like chance meetings, helpful people, synchronicities, and the likes that will help bring us the happier versions of the things we’ve put into our vortexes. This is an extremely simplified version of the ideas I’m still trying to fully understand after 6 years of study. And when I read the sentences out of context or someone asks me to explain it, it sounds so crazy and unbelievable. But I have so much evidence that it’s worth learning, like my brand new car.

If you’re brand new to the idea of creating your own reality and want to get started learning it, this probably isn’t the book you should start with. But then again, it might be the best. And no matter what anyone else tells you, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to learn how to make your life better.

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Creative Flowdreaming by Summer McStravick

Many years ago I started listening to Hay House Radio online (www.hayhouseradio.com). There’s some seriously kooky names for some of the programs.  Ex. – “Angel Therapy”, “Feng Shui and Space Cleaning Secrets of Your Animal Guides.” Among the weird hosts there were a few gems I listened to faithfully and applied to my life and got good results. I can’t recommend this radio station enough if you work in a hostile environment or for an asshole employer.

One of the gems is a show called Flowdreaming with Summer McStravick. It was the perfect blend of contemporary spirituality and stress reduction techniques. Her main platform was teaching people how to use a blend of meditation, daydreaming, and focus to change their lives. It made me all warm and tingly all over and made me feel hopeful again about my life.

Summer published her first book about Flowdreaming in 2006, and it was the perfect manual to supplement her radio show. In her second book Creative Flowdreaming, Summer sets up some pretty big promises for her book, like how she didn’t rely on scientific evidence and instead reveals personal information as her support. And nothing lends believability like getting rid of icky science and going with personal accounts.

The first third of the book held up nicely and flowed with what she started in her first book, but then it took a weird turn. Around the middle, Summer started to sound like she just found out how the universe works and now she’s telling us the “truth” that she, all by herself, discovered. It has such a tone of “This IS what you should believe because it’s what I know to be true” and “if you want a better life faster than you better adopt these beliefs as soon as possible.” But it’s common sense stuff to anyone remotely practicing in the New Age arena.

The book spirals down into what reads like Summer just trying to convince herself of some newfound spirituality diet she started on. This book really turned me off from any book she writes in the future and her radio show. After reading this, I just can’t listen to her anymore and take her serious.

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Holidays On Ice by David Sedaris

My sister gave me an NPR compilation CD for Christmas last year, and I was intrigued since I never listen to NPR, my sister knew this, and still she got that CD for me. I started listening to the little stories and they were all so good. By far the best recording was an extremely funny story called “SantaLand Dairies” read by the author David Sedaris. I had never heard of him before and the end of the recording mentioned his book by name.

I went out and bought two of this little gem, one for me and one for my sister to give her next Christmas. The Christmas I gave her the book we took turns reading to each other from it. It really got us into the Christmas spirit better than when Grandma would prolong the inevitable gift opening by reading about a long eared donkey that carried Mary before she gave birth to Jesus. A new Christmas tradition was born by reading part of one of the stories from this book, only after we opened our gifts.

The characters in David’s stories are so real. In a few pages, he creates people you can enthusiastically hate or completely relate to. That’s the best part. There’s always so much I can relate to. Working retail right before Christmas, getting days off from school because of a snow delay, watching a poorly acted elementary school pageant. And they’re all so funny.

There are one of two dud stories, but a dud by David is still far better than a lot of other comedy fiction I’ve read. His best story is “SantaLand Diaries” which had so much more detail than the recording I fell in love with. The next best story is called “Us and Them” about a family that moves next door to David, but they don’t believe in watching TV. He remarks about how odd it is they seem to like talking to each other at dinner and they go on fishing trips on the weekends. The best part of the story is when the neighbors show up on Nov. 1st to trick or treat because they were out of town on a trip for Halloween, and now David and his sisters must give the neighbor kids some of their hard earned candy. Reading how David must decide which candy to give up and eventually how his mother must intervene are hilarious.

David is a master at taking his seeming innocent point of view narration and turning it into the twist of the stories. I look forward to reading more of his books now that I have discovered he wrote more than this one.

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Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay: And Other Things I Had to Learn as a New Mom by Stefanie Wilder-Taylor

What a quick read. I thought I was going to get a job at a parenting magazine, and since I’m not a parent, I went out and bought a bunch of books on baby raising. I didn’t get the job, and didn’t bother reading this. I finally gave this book a read this weekend.

The author advertises her book as a no nonsense, straight shooting, telling it like it is, reporting from the trenches, real book about having a baby. None of the cutesy fluffy “motherhood is wonder” drab. She lays down the law that she hates it when people tell her how to raise her kid, and she’s going to give the reader the honest look at motherhood no one has dared to put into print.

Yeah, that’s not what this book is. When she starts talking about how she’s a big producer and writer living in LA, that pretty discounts this book will be relatable to 95% of the people who have children. The book reads like it’s a throwaway script of jokes that didn’t make the cut for a crappy parenthood TV show. One such gem is “if you’re dying for your child to speak Chinese, why not adopt a Chinese kid? The upside is in a few years they can do your taxes. On the other hand, they’ll cost you a bundle in car insurance.”

Like I said, I’ve never had a child, and this book still didn’t seem to line up with anything any of my friends who do have kids have told me about motherhood. She goes to great lengths to prove she’s not one of those crazy alpha moms. The ones who take charge at mommy and me classes or demands the toys are sterilized before a play date. With the great use of italics, sentences that begin with “Believe me”, and overused cliches, she tries to prove she was a laid back, cool mom right out of the gate, and that’s what all new moms should try to be. Maybe she was so oblivious before having her first child that literally everything related to a baby was new to her, but there’s so much she makes a big deal out of that even I knew as commonplace.

It’s probably because I couldn’t relate to all the screaming, sleepless nights, or something biting my boobs, but I just didn’t find this book that entertaining. If you are sleep deprived and want to read someone trying to tell you in fifty different ways how much that sucks, then you might really enjoy this.

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