Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Review of "My Mother Was Nuts: A Memoir" by Penny Marshall




I listened to the audio version of this book, narrated by the author in her unmistakable deep voice and New York accent.

Penny Marshall was born to Marjorie and Tony Marshall in 1943. Her show business career started in Marjorie's dancing school in the basement of their Bronx, New York apartment building. Young Penny, who wanted to run around the neighborhood and do her own thing, grumbled mightily about the mandatory dance lessons. However the numerous performances staged by Marjorie gave Penny confidence and stage experience.

Though Marjorie Marshall loved doing shows Penny didn't become a child actress. She drifted through school and graduated with less than stellar grades. After searching for a suitable college Penny chose the University of New Mexico, which had a very lenient acceptance policy. Penny was surprised by her mom's acquiescence to this distant school....but came to realize that her mother thought all the "New" states (New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New Mexico) were clustered together. Ha ha ha. In any case, Penny headed west.

Penny liked college, especially partying and hanging out with the football team. Before long Penny - who was a little naive about sex - was pregnant. Soon afterward she was married and living in a cramped apartment with her husband Mickey and baby girl Tracy. The marriage soon foundered and twenty-year-old Penny lit out for Los Angeles, where her brother Garry Marshall was becoming a successfull writer/producer/director and her sister Ronny was a producer and actress. Penny was an indifferent mother and left little Tracy with Micky and his parents in Albuquerque. I was put off by Penny's casual attitude about her child.....but mother and daughter grew closer when Tracy grew up.

In Los Angeles Penny, helped by her brother Garry, got small parts in various movies and TV sitcoms. Penny married Rob Reiner (star of "All in the Family") in 1971 and they bought a nice home where they entertained family and friends - including many Hollywood bigwigs and celebrities. Over the course of her career Penny seems to have met almost everyone in show business (she names names.....lots and lots of names), and many of these folks became her close friends. People were always welcome to drop by Penny's house to eat, drink, do drugs, and sleep over....and some guests stayed for months (or even years). I thought this was very generous.

In 1976 Penny landed a role in "Laverne and Shirley" - she played "Laverne" and Cindy Williams played "Shirley." The program became a runaway success and Penny talks about the scripts, cast, crew, filming, locations, etc. She also mentions how pleased she was to be able to hire friends who needed a job. Cindy Williams left the show in Season 8, after which the two women didn't speak for 15 years. Penny was bewildered by Cindy's actions and suggests that Cindy's husband, Bill Hudson (Goldie Hawn's ex), wanted her to quit. It's not clear exactly what happened but Penny never badmouths her co-star. In fact this isn't a 'tell-all' book at all and Penny doesn't 'dish the dirt' on anyone.

Penny and Rob divorced in 1980, a few years before "Laverne and Shirley" ended. This was a difficult period in Penny's life. Afterwards she turned to directing movies. Penny goes into great detail about each movie she helmed, including who auditioned for the leading roles, how the stars were chosen, the film crews she selected, and all the nitty gritty of movie making. I found all this very absorbing and these were my favorite parts of the book.

Penny generously acknowledges the professionals (including Steven Spielberg) who helped her learn the craft and expresses no bitterness about being overlooked - again and again - for (well deserved) Oscar nominations. Penny says she's satisfied doing the work she loves and entertaining people.The movies Penny directed are: "Jumpin' Jack Flash" (I love that movie); "Big"; "Awakenings"; A League of Their Own"; "Renaissance Man";"The Preacher's Wife"; and "Riding in Cars With Boys." Penny also made a documentary about basketball player Dennis Rodman, called "Rodman Rebound."

Penny's personal life was eclectic and intriguing. She talks about flings with various beaus and a long romance with singer/songwriter Art Garfunkel. Penny also traveled all over the world; threw numerous joint birthday parties with Carrie Fisher (featuring fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, and a roster of A-list guests); mourned the deaths of friends; welcomed the birth of grandchildren; took care of her aging parents; repeatedly went to the Pritikin Spa to get healthy and stop smoking (the smoking part didn't work); obtained season tickets to the Lakers and the Clippers; and much more. Penny also speaks about her 2010 diagnosis of lung cancer - which spread to her brain. Penny reports that - right after she heard the news - she asked someone to go out and buy her White Castle hamburgers. The actress glosses over the illness but mentions that she went into remission after treatment.

I enjoyed Penny's book and think it would be fun to join her for pizza (or hamburgers) and beer and hear more stories about television, movies, and Hollywood personalities. This is a fun light book that I'd recommend to fans of celebrity memoirs.


Rating: 3.5 stars

Monday, June 18, 2018

Review of "Uncommon Type: Some Stories" by Tom Hanks



Tom Hanks is an award-winning American actor and producer who has appeared in films, television, and on the stage. He's also an imaginative writer, as demonstrated in this book of short stories.

The collection includes a variety of vignettes that run the gamut from funny, to touching, to heartrending. In a nod to Hanks' well-known passion for vintage typewriters, these durable machines make an appearance in every story.

*****

The opening story, one of the funniest in the collection, features four friends - Alan, Anna, MDash, and Steve Wong - who make multiple appearances in the book. Alan and Anna - who've been platonic friends for years - unexpectedly embark on a romance. They're an odd match since Alan is easygoing to the point of sloth and Anna has an activity planned for every minute of the day.

By day 21 of the fling, a worn out Alan is just getting over the flu (despite his girlfriend's grueling recovery regimen)…..and Anna leaves this note: 'Eat the soup in the refrigerator, cold in the morning.....hot at lunch; do the exercise bike twice before noon; take an hour for the stretch routine on the link I emailed you; then take a steam bath and drink 3 bottles of distilled water.

Alan has a different plan though. 😊

The four friends are featured in two more stories in the anthology. In their second appearance the foursome prepare a rocket, pack up granola bars and water, and take a trip around the moon.

In the group's final bow, Steve Wong uses his custom bowling shoes and bowling ball to score a perfect 300 game. Against all odds, Steve repeats the feat again and again and again, becoming a huge local celebrity.....much to his chagrin. When Steve reluctantly agrees to appear on a TV sports show, he doesn't want to bowl any more....until hecklers' shout 'Hoax.' 😝

*****

In a Christmas/war story set in 1953, Virgil and his family are preparing for the holiday - with a tree, gifts, and the standard milk and cookies for Santa. The occasion reminds Virgil of Christmas Eve of 1944, when he was in Normandy fighting the Germans. On that occasion Virgil lost three fingers and his left leg above the knee.....but made a friend for life.

*****

In a story about Hollywood, B-list actor Rory Thorpe suddenly becomes famous when he appears in a movie with the gorgeous Willa Sax. Thorpe is sent on a worldwide promo tour for the film, which is jam-packed with interviews and activities. Thorpe's schedule, outlined in the story, is hilarious.....and exhausting. Nevertheless, Rory is enjoying the hotels, food, and other perks and is looking forward to his next stop. Then the tour is abruptly canceled in a 'ripped-from-the headlines' scenario.

*****

Hank Fiset, a cranky journalist for the Tri-Cities Daily News/Herald, is the main character in four stories. In his debut appearance, Fiset laments the fact that most modern readers get their news from digital devices.

Next, Hank visits New York City, and snottily notes that it's not 'all that.' In fact NOTHING in New York is better than what's available in the Tri-Cities area.

Later, Fiset riffs on coffee, talking about the Tri-Cities' many coffee shops and the elaborate beverages they sell - though Hank himself lives on the mundane newsroom stuff. ☕

Finally, Hank goes to a flea market and buys an old typewriter. While writing on the machine, Hank recalls other times he's used a typewriter: in his dad's store when he was a kid; as the editor of his 8th grade newspaper; during high school typing class; when he was a sports reporter for his college paper; and as a journalist for the Shopper's Guide....which led to him meeting his wife.

*****

In a bittersweet family story, Kirk - who's turning 19 - goes surfing with his dad Frank....a father-son birthday tradition. The duo are having fun at Mars Beach when Frank takes a break to make a few business calls. Kirk is accidently injured, goes looking for his dad, and observes something he's not meant to see.

*****

Bette, who's a tad clairvoyant, is a recent divorcΓ©e who wants a fresh start.....without men. Bette and her kids move into a new house, and Bette immediately gets the feeling that Paul -the single man next door - plans to hit on her. For weeks Bette makes convoluted efforts to avoid the neighbor, though her kids - who are enthralled with Paul's homemade telescope - visit him often. In time Bette discovers that Paul is a different man than she pictured.

*****

In a fun success story, Sue - a budding young actor from Scottsdale, Arizona - moves to New York City to make it big. Sue bunks on her friend's sofa for too many weeks, with no luck and dwindling resources. Then Sue happens to meet an old acquaintance, Bob Roy, who works in theatre management. Bob re-writes Sue's resumΓ©, gives her a new showbiz name, and sends her out into the world.

*****

A nostalgic story details a boy's birthday celebration with his mom. Kenny, who's about to turn 10, is waiting for his (non-custodial) mother to pick him up from his father's house for a celebratory weekend.

Mom pulls up in a snazzy convertible sports car and off they go. During the birthday festivities Kenny visits his mother's office and fools around with her typewriter and other desktop doodads; learns to eat 'grown-up food' - with kid-friendly desserts - in nice restaurants; sleeps in a murphy bed in his mom's apartment; goes to fairytale town, visits the zoo, and plays peewee golf; drives past his old house; and meets some of his mom's acquaintances.

In a wonderful grand finale, mom's boyfriend flies Kenny home in his private plane - and Kenny gets to man the controls for a few minutes. Now that's the kind of weekend a kid will remember forever! 😁

*****

A girl getting over a breakup is given a vintage typewriter for free.....if she pledges to put it in a prominent place and use it all the time. The young lady takes the machine home and uses it for all manner of writing, including a to-do list; a shopping list; and - most importantly - 'a meditation from my heart.'

*****

My favorite story - reminiscent of Stephen's King's "11/22/63" - is about going back in time. Burt is a very rich man who thinks nothing of plunking down 6 million dollars a pop for time travel vacations at New York City's 'Chronometric Adventures.' You pays your money and Chronometric Adventures sends you back to 1939 for 22 hours.....after which you MUST return.

For his first time travel journey Burt takes his wife, and they visit New York's 1939 World's Fair. On his next trip, Burt goes alone and meets a beautiful young woman named Carmen, who's visiting the fair with her niece Virginia. Burt is enamored and keeps going back.....maneuvering to spend more time with Carmen and Virginia on each subsequent trip. (Then Burt sticks around and kills Hitler.....just kidding!!! 😜)

*****

In an immigration tale, Assan is a Bulgarian native who flees horrific persecution from the communists and ends up in Greece. Assan then bargains for a job on a Greek ship headed for New York - and sneaks his friend aboard as a stowaway. When the ship arrives in America, Assan's friend heads for Chicago and Assan remains in in New York. The Bulgarian takes English classes, sees strange and wonderful sights, and tries to land a job.....which isn't easy for an immigrant.

*****

In a story about fresh perspectives, the very wealthy Francis Xavier Rustin (FXR) owns the gigantic 'New Olympus Hotel' on the Las Vegas strip. FXR has assistants at his beck and call 24/7......to deliver his breakfast, take care of his paperwork, do his shopping, and so on. FXR decides that the purchase of a particular parcel of land will net him a killing, and takes his invaluable assistant, Ms. Mercury, on a buying trip.

To appear like a member of the hoi polloi, FXR acquires a VERY cheap car.....and heads out with his aide. FXR and Ms. Mercury bunk down in a run down hotel in the desert and hobnob with the eccentric owners.....which leads to a new outlook on life.

*****

I listened to the audiobook, narrated by the author - which is a nice fringe benefit. As in any anthology, some stories are better than others, but all the tales are all well-written, with interesting characters and realistic dialog. Some stories made laugh, some made me sad, and a few made no particular impression. Overall this is a good collection, worth reading. Recommended to fans of literature and short stories.


Rating: 3.5 stars

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Review of "Death Angel: An Alexandra Cooper Mystery" by Linda Fairstein





In this 15th book in the 'Alexandra Cooper' series, Assistant District Attorney Cooper and her colleagues - Detectives Chapman and Wallace - investigate the murder of a homeless girl. The book can be read as a standalone.

*****

A young homeless girl, dubbed "Angel", is found dead in Central Park and the trio of Assistant District Attorney Alex Cooper, Detective Mike Chapman, and Detective Mercer Wallace investigate. The three professionals are friends as well as colleagues and enjoy joking, dining, and playing "Final Jeopardy." In addtion - being free of other romantic entanglements - Alex and Mike allow their long-simmering, low-key attraction to take a tiny step forward. Though the familiar characters in the series are fun to visit, the book is not a success.

Linda Fairstein's crime novels always involve murder at iconic locations in New York City. Thus the reader is treated to a healthy dose of the architecture and history of the site(s) along with an interesting investigation, good detective work, and a satisfactory resolution. Not so in this book. It seems like about 90% of the book is devoted to discussing the geography, history, structure, and uses of Central Park and about 10% to a disjointed, sprawling, almost incomprehensible mystery novel.

As the story proceeds Angel's death somehow leads investigators to the Dakota, a super-ritzy apartment building next to Central Park. In the past, the wealthy Dalton family bought up the 8th floor of the Dakota for themselves and housed their servants on the 9th floor. The family also experienced a terrible tragedy, the disappearance of a 3-year-old Dalton child. Meanwhile - in the present - as Angel's killer is being sought a rapist with the words "Kill Coop" tattooed on his hand is attacking women and another death occurs. Are these events all connected somehow?

To top it all off, Mike Chapman has gotten himself into hot water by having an affair with - and dumping - a disturbed lady judge who's out for revenge. This causes trouble all around. Other characters in the story include an elderly Dalton, Dalton family servants, homeless people, mental patients, and more.

Eventually, Angel's killer is uncovered in a resolution that seems almost disconnected from the rest of the story. Moreover, some plot points seem to go unresolved - but by the end I didn't care. If this book was billed as a story about Central Park it would be a success. If you're looking for a good mystery, skip this book.

Rating: 2 stars

Friday, June 15, 2018

Review of "The Fast and the Furriest" by Andy Behrens



This book was recommended to me by my Goodreads friend Banny Kirsten Marie, who knows I like books about dogs. Though the story is written for kids from 9 to 12, it can be enjoyed by dog lovers of any age. 😊

*****

As the story opens, it's summer break for Chicago schools, and 12-year-old Kevin Pugh is looking forward to lazy days in his basement - playing video games, watching television, munching cheesy snacks, and hanging out with his beagle-mix Cromwell, a dog so lazy he could be mistaken for a dog-shaped throw pillow.

Kevin's getting started on his torpid summer.....channel surfing.....when he comes across The Animal Channel's broadcast of 'The Purina Incredible Dog Challenge' - a canine agility competition. Amazingly, Cromwell is galvanized by the program. He sits up, stares at the television, and starts blinking, shaking, and panting with excitement.

Kevin is shocked that Cromwell moved, then flabbergasted when the chubby beagle-mix leaps off the couch and dashes around the room, knocking things down and leaving chaos in his wake. After Kevin cleans up, Cromwell presents his leash for a walk - an unheard of occurrence.

Cromwell proceeds to run, jump, and bounce through the backyard, ending with a jump into the tire swing....where he gets stuck. Impressed with Cromwell's newfound energy, Kevin decides to email a canine training school he saw advertised on TV - 'Paw Patch, Inc. - Obedience Training and Dog Agility' - on Cromwell's behalf.

The facility's owner, Elka Brandt - who looks like a pirate on her TV commercials - emails back immediately.....addressing Cromwell. Elka congratulates Cromwell for leading Kevin to Paw Patch and informs the dog that sessions cost $200.

Kevin asks his parents if they'll fund Cromwell's agility classes, but this presents a problem. Kevin's dad is Howie Pugh, a former Chicago Bears linebacker who's now a football analyst, local sports hero, and the most competitive creature on Earth. Howie's a good father, but he wants his kids to be athletes.

Kevin's 10-year-old sister Izzy fits the bill, being a soccer superstar. Kevin, however - who's chunky and uncoordinated - doesn't want to do sports. Howie doesn't seem to get this, though, and makes a deal with his son: if Kevin goes to summer football camp Howie will CONSIDER paying for Cromwell's agility lessons.

Football camp doesn't go too well and it looks like Cromwell won't be going to Paw Patch. Then Kevin's best friend Zach - who's very impressed with the beagle-mix - makes an offer. He'll pony up the $200 for dog school and become Cromwell's 'manager' - recouping his money when Cromwell becomes famous. Zach even has 'Team Cromwell' shirts made - for himself, Kevin, and the dog.

So.....Cromwell goes to agility classes, with Elka Brandt as his dog whisperer (literally) and Kevin as his trainer/handler. Kevin and Cromwell spend a lot of time running, exercising, and practicing on the doggie obstacle course, which includes: running up and down an A-frame ramp; jumping over three hurdles; racing through a fabric cylinder; leaping over three more hurdles; dashing up an incline, across a plank, then down an incline; racing through a U-shaped tunnel; jumping onto a table; weaving through a series of poles; running up and down a seesaw; then.....for the final obstacle.....jumping through a hoop.

All this - and a proper diet - shapes up both Cromwell and Kevin, and the beagle-mix is entered in the 'Paw Patch Invitational' agility competition.....whose winner goes on to the 'Midwest Kennel Club Championship.' To find out what happens, you'll have to read the book.

This is a charming story filled with engaging characters, lots of humor, and a heartwarming finale. It's a great book for kids.....and adults who want a light frothy read. Highly recommended.

Rating: 4 stars

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Review of "Sacrilege: A Novel" by S.J. Parris




In this third book in the 'Giordano Bruno' series, Bruno tries to track down a killer in Canterbury while he exposes Catholic plots against Queen Elizabeth. The novel can be read as a standalone.

*****

It's 1584 and antagonism rages between Protestant England and Catholic countries of Europe. Many people, even in England, would like nothing better than to to depose (or kill) Queen Elizabeth and install a Catholic monarch on the English throne. Thus the Queen's adviser, Sir Francis Walshingham, has an extensive network of spies working to sniff out Catholic sympathizers. One of the spies is the Italian ex-monk Giordano Bruno, currently living in the French Embassy in London.

As the story begins, Bruno is hurrying through London when he's surreptitiously approached by Sophia Underhill, an old (sort of) flame he still loves. Sophia has come from Canterbury to seek Bruno's help. Sophia tells Bruno that she was forced to marry Sir Edward Kingsley, an abusive older man who made her life a misery. Sir Edward was recently bludgeoned to death in Canterbury Cathedral and Sophia is accused of the crime. Fearing she'd be hung Sophia escaped to find Bruno, who she thinks can expose the real murderer. She's sure the killer is Sir Edward's son Nicholas - a lout interested only in women and gambling.

Bruno asks his employers' permission to go to Canterbury, which is a suspected haven for Catholic sympathizers. Catholic Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170, after which he was declared a saint. Many people believe saints' bones can perform miracles, but Sir Thomas's bones have presumably been lost or destroyed.

Bruno goes to Canterbury where he has two tasks: find the real killer of Sir Edward and search for Catholic plots against Queen Elizabeth. Sophia, disguised as a boy, accompanies him. In Canterbury Bruno stays with his elderly friend Dr. Harry Robinson, a Protestant official and spy for Sir Francis Walsingham while Sophia stays with protective Huguenot friends.

As Bruno pursues his investigations he learns that something sinister seems to be going on in Canterbury and that several young boys are missing or murdered. Bruno's inquiries incur hostility from various people, including his host's manservant, the local physician, and the church treasurer. Then, when a local shopkeeper is killed, Bruno himself is accused of murder. This is followed by more murders, and it seems clear that one or more Canterbury residents are covering their tracks about something.

I'm not a history buff and don't read a lot of historical fiction but the depiction of Canterbury's streets, houses, people, and ambiance feels authentic. So does old England's rather hasty (and probably unfair) dispensation of 'justice' at the time. Seems you could be accused of murder (a crime for which you were not allowed a lawyer), tried, and hung all in the space of a week or two!

The book's plot is engaging and the characters are sufficiently well-rounded and believable. There's even a courtroom scene, where Bruno (and others) are tried for their crimes. The book has some twists that surprised me and an almost satisfying ending. Could be some unfinished business is addressed in subsequent books in the series.

Over all I'd say this is a good historical mystery that fans of the genre would enjoy.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Review of "The Wanted: An Elvis Cole and Joe Pike Novel" by Robert Crais




In this addition to the 'Elvis Cole - Joe Pike' series, the Los Angeles private detectives try to help a trio of over-privileged teenage thieves. The book can be read as a standalone.

*****

Devon Connor is worried about her 17-year-old son Tyson. The troubled boy was booted out of two high schools, making it necessary to enroll him in an expensive 'alternative school' - and now Tyson's room contains wads of cash and big-ticket items he can't afford, like designer clothes from Barneys; electronics; and a Rolex watch that costs at least $40,000.

Concerned that Tyson is doing something illegal, Devon hires Los Angeles private investigator Elvis Cole - the self-styled 'World's Greatest Detective' - to find out what's going on with her son. Using the serial numbers on the Rolex, Cole learns that it was stolen from Dr. Richard Slausen. Cole's visit to the physician's house brings him to the attention of two LAPD detectives - Cassett and Rivera - who are investigating a string of 18 home burglaries in the area, including the heist at Slausen's place.

The detectives reveal that three people were seen on CCTV, breaking into the looted homes, but the burglars always hid their faces.....until one boy accidently glanced up at the camera. This was Tyson, but the cops haven't identified him yet, and have no idea who his accomplices are.

Cassett and Rivera want Cole to reveal what he knows, but the PI keeps mum - hoping he can arrange for Tyson to get a lawyer, turn himself in, and make a deal. This isn't going to happen though. Tyson robs homes with two other teens, Amber and Alec, and he'd never rat them out - especially not Amber, who has Tyson wrapped around her little finger. So, instead of surrendering, Tyson goes on the run.

Unfortunately for the larcenous teens, they stole a laptop from someone who's desperate to get it back. The laptop owner hired a couple of shrewd toughs, named Harvey and Stemms, who have a spy in the police department AND know how to track people down. When the thugs - who pretend to be LAPD detectives - find people with information about the teens, they 'interview' them.....then kill them.

Meanwhile, Elvis Cole is also hunting for Tyson and his friends, to keep them alive. Needing assistance, Cole calls on his partner in the detective agency, Joe Pike - a formidable former mercenary who uses few words, has red arrows tattooed on his biceps, and wears sunglasses 24/7.

With people getting killed left and right, you'd think the teenage crooks would be frightened - but Amber seems to think the whole business is a hoot....and that a Hollywood movie will be made about the gang's exploits.

Other interesting characters in the book include Tyson's former schoolmate Carl - a computer nerd who wears suits to his 'office' in the shed; and Amber's mother - who's annoyed when she has to abandon her skiing vacation to assist her daughter. Furthermore, Harvey and Stemms are more than just thugs for hire. When they're not killing people, the men discuss guitar riffs; changing a ringtone from the stabbing scene music in 'Psycho' to The Association's 'Windy'; and their personal lives.

There's plenty of action and excitement in this page turner, which ends in a dramatic climax.

I'm a big fan of Cole and Pike, two smart, capable guys who get the job done. I enjoyed the book and recommend it to thriller fans.


Rating: 3.5 stars

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Review of "Bono: The Amazing Story of a Rescue Cat Who Inspired a Community" by Helen Brown



Helen Brown is a wife, mother, journalist, blogger, author, and cat lover. Over the years Helen has written several books about her adopted felines - Cleo and Jonah - who helped her family heal after the tragic death of a child and Helen's bout with breast cancer. This book is about yet another kitty, Bono, whose resilience and joie de vivre helped Helen navigate her 'two-thirds life crisis.'


Helen Brown

In 2015 Helen was restless and bored in her Australian home, feeling like her relationship with her husband Philip was going stale. Helen writes "We’d been married 22 years, the kids had all left home and....I felt this terrible need to go away and find out who I really was."

Helen opted to go to New York, thinking, "What better place to be alone than in a city full of millions and millions of people?" In addition, New York was the home of Helen's editor, Michaela Hamilton. Michaela - a fellow cat enthusiast - was thrilled about Helen's visit and suggested the author foster a 'cat-in-need' during her visit. Helen (very reluctantly) agreed.

The author acquired a one-month Airbnb rental for a tiny studio apartment near the United Nations, and headed for the Big Apple with her daughter Lydia - who agreed to go along for a couple of weeks. The two women spent a few days sight-seeing; partying with Michaela; shopping at high-end department stores; and purchasing cat supplies before they met their foster cat, Bono, at Manhattan's Bideawee Shelter. Because Bono's fur had been severely matted he was shaved, and looked like a tiny black lion....complete with a mane and a pom-pom on the end of his tail.



Bono's solicitous caregiver at Bideawee, Jon Delillo, explained that the cat - who had been orphaned by Hurricane Sandy - had kidney disease and required extensive care and costly medication. Thus the little guy had almost no chance of finding a forever home. After Jon chatted with Helen and Lydia about Bono's 'vacation', he showed them how to administer the cat's pills, placed him in a carrier, and - grinning broadly- stated, "This is the best thing that's ever happened to Bono."😁

Helen didn't agree. Soon after Bono entered the studio apartment he climbed up the dirty chimney, got stuck, and knocked down years of accumulated grime. Afterwards, Bono hid under the bed, refused to take his medicine, ate sporadically, and wouldn't poop. In spite of it all, Lydia fell in love with Bono, while Helen (not so secretly) couldn't wait to take the cat back to Bideawee.

Lydia wouldn't have it though, and - before returning to Australia - made her mother promise to keep Bono for her entire stay in New York. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Helen's feelings for Bono changed when he showed himself to be a wonderful companion who was happy just to be alive. After Bono adjusted to his new circumstances, he greeted every day with happy exuberance and - like many pets - knew when Helen needed comfort - like after the horrific bombings at the Boston Marathon. Bono liked to play with a sock; arch his back leg in a graceful arabesque; have his forehead and neck stroked; sleep on Helen's pillow; wake Helen by patting her eyes; purr contentedly; and so on.




As Bono recovered his zest for life, so did Helen - partly from Bono's companionship, and partly from the fun she was having in New York: hobnobbing with interesting people; eating breakfast in the neighborhood diner; observing street vendors selling knock-offs; dining in fine restaurants; visiting fabulous museums; going dancing; shopping in elegant stores; strolling through diverse neighborhoods; befriending fellow cat lovers; and so on. I love New York too, so I completely understand this.

Helen's husband Philip was an absolute prince through all this. He completely supported Helen's 'sabbatical'; skyped with her regularly; always said 'I love you'; and took good care of their cat Jonah while Helen was away.

Bono's situation was still precarious, however, and - at Michaela's suggestion - Helen started a blog about the feline, to try to find him a permanent home. The blog attracted thousands of responses from people all over the world, with personal anecdotes about their cats.....and words of praise for Helen and Bono.

Did Bono find a forever family? Yes! But you'll have to read the book to find out how.

In the end, Bono helped Helen overcome her restlessness; grow closer to her daughter Lydia; gain a new appreciation for her husband; enhance her enjoyment of her children and grandchildren; agree to Philip's dream of buying a holiday cottage and a boat; and more. Quite a cat! And very beautiful when Helen visited him on a subsequent visit to New York, after his hair had grown back.



I enjoyed the book, but was sometimes put off by (what seemed like) Helen's self-centered behavior. More than once Helen spoke about staying in New York permanently, while the rest of her family remained in either Australia or New Zealand. Then I thought, maybe Helen's 'two-thirds life crisis' was connected to the tragedies in her life, including the life-endangering breast cancer. Anyway, who am I to judge? Given the option of fleeing to Hawaii (or Australia), maybe I'd do it. 😎 πŸ‘™ πŸ’™ So, what Helen does is her own business (IMO).

All in all this is a good book about an endearing cat and the people who love him. Recommended to cat lovers everywhere.

I understand that part of the earnings from this book go to Bideawee Animal Shelter and Hospital.

Thanks to Netgalley, the author (Helen Brown), and the publisher (Citadel) for a copy of the book.

Rating: 4 stars