Book Review – Zina’s Jade by Robin Bisha

Happy Sunday everyone! Today I have the pleasure of reviewing the book Zina’s Jade by Robin Bisha. For those who don’t know Robin, she’s mom to several cats, including my pals @CheshireK and @NutmegTorby. She also helps @CheshireK with his blog, Cheshire Loves Karma.

Zina’s Jade center’s around Zina, a woman with unusual powers, but who doesn’t really know she has them. It is a journey of discovery. She’s trying to find her way in the world, but her mother (and, she thinks, her father) are pressuring her to be who they want her to be. Her whole life has been mapped out for her.

Then Zina meets a mystic who gives her a special stone, and her journey begins. She’s betrayed by someone she trusts, and the same mystic and a spiritual guide help her heal and find her true self. What she learns about herself is amazing.

I had a bit of a hard time getting into the book when I first started reading it. Zina’s Jade is written almost entirely in the third person like it’s a narration, except for when there’s dialog. Then it relaxes. It felt rather stiff and formal and so it took me a little longer to get into the story. But once I did, I was hooked. The book ends just when Zina’s story is really getting started, leaving me wanting more of the story. I’m hoping this is just the first in a series. I’d like to find out what happens to Zina now that she’s really found herself. I give this book 3 paws up.

Zina’s Jade is available in both paper and ebook at Amazon.com. Have a great week everyone!

Temple Grandin – Animals Make Us Human

It’s funny how you never hear of something, and then you’re hearing it all the time. Our book for #readpawty tomorrow night is ‘Animals Make Us Human’ by Temple Grandin. I’d never heard of her before. Mom’s a member of the local PBS station. About a month ago, the PBS station sent out an invitation to the members to meet Temple Grandin in person. They were premiering a new documentary about her that was a partnership between the station and Colorado State University, which is where Ms. Grandin teaches. Then I started hearing the name coming up in conversations with people whose kids are autistic or have Asperger’s Syndrome. Suddenly, Temple Grandin was everywhere! And with good reason.

‘Animals Make Us Human’ is about some of the animals we’ve domesticated either as pets or farm animals, what makes them tick, and how to give them all a better life. I’m not sure how the book’s title relates to it’s content, but that’s not important. What is important is how Temple Grandin, her special view of the world, and her drive to make a difference has changed the face of the livestock industry in this country. In this book you get a glimpse of why this is so important.

Ms. Grandin explains how the different natural behaviors and characteristics of each animal can be used to give that animal a better life, treat it more humanely, and in the process, actually improve production in our nation’s food supply. Or, if it’s not a food animal, how to train and care for our companion animals in a way that works better, makes more sense, and is better for everyone involved (humans included).

Example – Mom never knew before that cats don’t respond to avoidance training, only to positive reinforcement. Or that wolves (and probably dogs) don’t live in packs, but in families. In that context, Ms. Grandin’s observation that what we’ve traditionally thought of as the dominance structure in dogs and wolves ‘packs’ isn’t so much about who’s the boss but who are the mom and dad. Stuff like that makes a huge difference in how we train and relate to the animals in our lives.

Temple Grandin is an amazing woman. She’s autistic, and grew up in a time when kids like that usually wound up in institutions. But because of the family she grew up in, she was nurtured, educated, and helped to be the person she is today. Her family focused on what she could do, not what she couldn’t. And this world is a much better place because of it.

One facet of Ms. Grandin’s autism is that she thinks in pictures more than in words. One day it occured to her that animals think the same way. Their world is very concrete – they only know what their senses tell them. Their world consists entirely of what they see, smell, taste, hear, and touch. They don’t really have abstract thought. So she started looking at their world the way they do. The insights gave her changed her world, and theirs, for the better. Ours too, really.

Ms. Grandin’s written many books, both about livestock handling and behavior; and about autism. She’s a strong advocate for early intervention and giving autistic children as much as they can handle in their lives so they can become self-sufficient. She travels the country and speaks tirelessly about the things she’s passionate about.

The name of the documentary is ‘The World Needs All Kinds of Minds’. It most certainly does. The world of animals would be a much poorer place without hers.

Please join us on twitter tomorrow night at 8PM ET for our discussion of ‘Animals Make Us Human’. Use #readpawty to join the discussion.

The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey – A Journey of the Extraordinarily Ordinary

Do you like love stories? If you do, you’ll want to read The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey – A Journey of the Extraordinarily Ordinary. Because that’s what this is – a love story. It’s about the love within a family, the love of a family for its pets, and the love of Zee and Zoey for each other and for their family (both two and four legged).

Reading The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey is like sitting down with Deb and going through her family album. The photography (which was mostly done by Deb’s fiancé, Dan) is exquisite. I loved the pictures in the book. They really capture the personalities of Zee, Zoey, the kittens, and everyone else in the pictures. The book is printed in full color on high quality paper that definitely does justice to the photography and the beauty of these very special cats.

The book is written in a conversational tone. The beginning jumps around between places, time, pets, and family members, giving us background on the family before getting to the meat of the story. It’s  called The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey, but there were times I thought it should have been called The Chronicles of Deb Barnes. The book follows Deb’s life as she changes states, jobs, homes, goes through divorce, finds a new person to share her life, goes through a hurricane, gets laid off, and starts on a new adventure! The one staple through it all are the animals that share Deb’s life. You can tell on every page how much these animals are a part of the family and how much they’re cherished.

When the book reaches the point where Zoey joins the family, the focus changes and the book does become more about living with Zee and Zoey, the bond between them, and how special they are. These two cats bonded with each other in a way seldom seen. To them, life was an adventure and they explored it together. Then the kittens joined the picture and the fun really began. Everything was new to them; every day brought new wonders to experience. I think this quote from the book describes it best – “The only thing I can justly compare it to, is the innocent wonder of a small infant or child – the endearing quality of one who is so mesmerized and smitten with the joy of just being, with no expectations, prejudices, or previous tainted judgment, that they are completely incapable of perceiving life, other than through rose-colored glasses.” (pg. 78.) Their approach to life truly exemplified “a journey of the extraordinarily ordinary”.

The book’s strength is also its weakness. Because of its conversational nature, the beginning does tend to meander and jump back and forth through time. I got somewhat confused trying to keep track of who was who and what time period was being talked about. It took a while to get to the point where Zee and Zoey were the focus of the story. There are also a number of run-on sentences and glaring typos and grammatical errors throughout the book. Most probably wouldn’t notice them, but part of mom’s job is to check reports for this kind of stuff so she notices these things. I enjoyed reading The Chronicles of Zee and Zoey despite its faults. If the gorgeous photography and stunning layout aren’t enough to make you want this book, the obvious love exhibited on every page will keep you reading. This book isn’t just for cat lovers. It’s for anyone looking for a story about facing adversity with grace and love. It truly is about taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary.

You can order The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey – A Journey of the Extraordinarily Ordinary directly from the Zee and Zoey website. http://www.zeezoey.com/the-book.php. The website itself is worth the visit. It has the same gorgeous design as the book. It features information about the book, photos and videos, a link to the blog, and other information.

Make sure you come back next week. It’s Candy’s and EK’s gotcha day and I’m doing a commentathon. Mom’s going to give me 50 cents for each comment. Half the green papers I get are going to Duncan’s Place and the other half is going to the Santa Paws Drive. I need to get lots and lots of comments so please spread the word.

Have a great week everyone!

Disclosure – Deb Barnes provided the book to me at no charge for review purposes. The opinions in this post are entirely mine.