Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Seasons of Cherokee's Life: A Canine's Final Reflections by Sandra Y. Roberts: Author Interview, Review & Giveaway

The Seasons of Cherokee's Life: A Canine's Final Reflections



Blurb: Cherokee is old. His joints ache. His nose can no longer distinguish between the scent of bacon and a clump of dirt. His eyes see only shadows. On the eve of his death, he lies in a cage in an animal hospital, with a needle in his forepaw, and reflects on his life and purpose of being a faithful companion to his beloved mistress and best friend, Alicia Baxter.

Alicia and Cherokee’s friendship begins when Alicia wanders into a pet shop and finds herself drawn to the puppy prancing before the window with his food bowl in his mouth. From the moment Alicia brings him home, Cherokee becomes an integral part of her journey of self-discovery as she struggles with insecurities, a lack of identity, and an unimaginable loss. Even as Alicia makes a life-altering decision to start over in a place where she is forced to rely on herself, Cherokee’s love and loyalty to her never waver.

Narrated in a voice filled with wisdom, humor, and astute awareness, The Seasons of Cherokee’s Life tells the story of a dog’s deep bond with his mistress as he walks beside her and watches her transform into the courageous and independent woman he has always believed her to be.


Mochas, Mysteries and Meows Review: I questioned my sanity after first agreeing to review this book, knowing I was about to read a book narrated by a dying dog. (The very first line of the book: I am spending the last day of my life in a cage, with a needle in my forepaw.)

What was I thinking?

What I discovered is that although parts of this story made me cry, I also found it to be extremely therapeutic and inspirational.

The Seasons of Cherokee's Life: A Canine's Final Reflections, is told from the point of view of Cherokee, a former puppy mill dog who becomes an integral part of the lives of his mistress Alicia and her family. As Alicia deals with the insecurities that many of us face followed by a devastating loss, culminating in the realization of a dream, Cherokee is her constant companion. Through this book we see life through his eyes and get a glimpse of the wisdom that our four-legged family members possess.

Wouldn't you love to have the ability to see yourself through your pet's eyes? How do you think they see us? Do you share my belief that they would be much kinder to us than we are to ourselves? I would love to hear your thoughts, and I have one paperback copy of this book to give away to a lucky commenter. (US entries only please, ending at noon eastern on Monday, April 28.)

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It was my great pleasure to have the opportunity to interview author Sandra Roberts about this wonderful book, the real life Cherokee, dealing with the loss of a beloved pet, and what humans can learn from these wonderful creatures that we share our lives with.


Interview with Author Sandra Y. Roberts

Please tell us about "The Seasons of Cherokee's Life" and what inspired
you to write it.
The book is narrated by Cherokee, who during his last night of life, tells the story of his life as Alicia Baxter’s loyal and compassionate companion and “guardian angel.”  With humor, wisdom, and keen insight, he draws a portrait of the integral role he played in Alicia’s journey of transformation from a woman filled with self-doubt and limiting beliefs in her talent and abilities to a self-actualized woman of strength and courage.

The inspiration for the story came several months after the real Cherokee’s sudden and unexpected passing.  In life, he was a very calm dog, who was content to observe life around him.  On the way to the animal hospital, Cherokee was wrapped in a blanket and cradled in my arms like a baby.  He was very lethargic and unresponsive.  At one point when I was looking down at him, he turned his head to look at me.  The way he maintained eye contact with me sent a chill down my spine because he had never done that before.  In his eyes I saw an intelligence that exceeded that of a canine.  I felt that he was trying to convey a message to me; and I also knew he was saying goodbye.  After he was put down due to kidney failure, I began to wonder what he was trying to tell me.  If he’d had the ability to articulate in words what he was thinking, how would that have come across?  So, one day, I got a brief flash of inspiration and started to write a few paragraphs of how I imagined Cherokee would have sounded like if he’d had the ability to talk.    And that was as far as I got.  I wasn’t quite sure how to proceed.

 Did you draw from any real life experiences or is the story purely fictional?

The story, as a whole, is purely fictional.  It took almost two years after Cherokee’s passing before I mustered up the courage to actually pursue my dream as a writer.  I had always wanted to be a writer, but never had the confidence in my talent or ability.  In 2013, I experienced some major life changes.  In my grief, I spent a lot of time walking by the ocean seeking comfort and contemplating my life.  It was during these walks that the story began to form and take shape.  Cherokee’s voice became stronger, and Alicia Baxter’s character was born.  She became the archetype for everyone who has a dream, but stops themselves from pursuing it due to a lack of confidence in their ability to achieve it.  As with me, it took a major life change in Alicia’s life to shake her out of her fear and inertia to tap into the inherent strength we all possess.  Once I began to sit down and began to write, the words began to flow on their own.  The story began to go in directions I never even imagined. I infused her character with my own love of cooking and entertaining, and how she derived her sense of self and identity from being the perfect housewife.  In life, Cherokee always hated to see me cry.  I truly believe that he was around offering comfort and solace this past summer, and that it was his beautiful spirit who guided my hand in the writing of this book.   

I would love to know more about the real Cherokee that you shared your life with.

I actually met Cherokee when he was seven-years old, so I did not know him as a puppy.  I entered a relationship with his owner, and fell in love with Cherokee at first sight.  Cherokee was a very calm and quiet dog.  He had a Zen-like quality about him.  He rarely, if ever, barked, even when the doorbell rang.  But, boy, did he have a stubborn streak!  During his walks, if he was not done sniffing a tree, bush, or lamp post, he would dig his heels in if you wanted to continue with the walk.  And he had to find the perfect place to do his business.  If he hadn’t sniffed out the right spot, the walk would take a long time!  He loved his baths, which I would give him every Sunday, with baby shampoo for his face and oatmeal for his body.  Once he was completely brushed and blown dry, he would tear out of the bathroom, run to his basket to grab a toy and would want to play.  As I’d mentioned earlier, Cherokee did not like to see me cry.  I would be in another room quietly sniffling, and when I would look up or turn around, there he was, looking at me.  Cherokee really began to slow down when he turned fifteen.  It was then that his mortality became evident.  Even though we know that our dogs won’t live forever, we also don’t think about the inevitable too much.  Then one morning in November of 2011, Cherokee woke up with his hind legs buckling under him.  He had difficulty walking and couldn’t make it to his potty pads to empty his bladder.  The vet suggested that he stay overnight for IV treatments to see if they could bring down the elevated numbers in his kidneys.  The next morning when we went to see him, we were informed that there was no change in his condition.  When we were taken to Cherokee’s pen, he was resting with his back turned to the world behind him.  I got the distinct impression that he was waiting for us because as soon as the door to his pen opened up and I wedged myself in there as far as I could, Cherokee immediately went to lay on his side and firmly shut his eyes.  He never opened them as we talked to him.  He very clearly let us know that it was his time to go.  So we made the heart-wrenching decision to put him down.

As someone who has recently suffered the loss of a life-changing pet myself, how did you
deal with your loss? Have you brought another pet into your life?

My grief over losing Cherokee was very acute.  Had he been sick for a while, maybe I would have been better prepared over his sudden loss.  Yes, he was aging and had slowed down, but there was that hope that he would be around for another couple of years.  After he was gone, I couldn’t bear to part with any of his things.  So I laundered all of his sweaters, neatly folded them, and put them in my bottom dresser drawer.  After we got his ashes, the container was placed in the middle of his bed, surrounded by all of his stuffed animals.   Keeping his memory alive that way offered me comfort and consolation.  By not getting rid of his things immediately, it helped to ease the grief and make the transition to acceptance easier.   As far as bringing another pet into my life, no, I haven’t done so yet.  I know that one day I’ll get another dog, but not in the near future.  

What do you think is the most important thing we can learn from our pets?

I think our pets teach us how to live in the moment, and to accept ourselves and life unconditionally.   I have come to think of pets as ‘fur angels,’  who by their example, show us qualities to emulate:  loyalty, unconditional love, going with the flow, lack of judgment.  You will often see those refrigerator magnets that say, “The more I’m around people, the more I love my dog.”  But is it only dogs and cats that have the monopoly on these qualities?  Or are these qualities also inherent in humans, but because of egoic concerns, we have a more difficult time of maintaining those qualities on a consistent basis.  Dogs and cats observe life in a detached way without judging whether an experience is ‘good’ or ‘bad.’  And they live life with present-moment awareness. They don’t allow themselves to get drawn into the drama of it; nor do they carry around what happened five months ago or worry about tomorrow.  Yesterday and tomorrow don’t exist, except in our minds.  It is a more joyful and peaceful way of being.  Is it possible for humans to live life that way?  Absolutely!

What message do you hope readers walk away with after reading your wonderful story?

Thank you for considering my story “wonderful.”  I am so happy you enjoyed it.  What I hope readers  walk away with is a light-hearted attitude.  I hope that readers who have a dream learn to get out of their own way by stopping the negative self-talk and the limitations they’ve placed on themselves; to go out with confidence and make their dream a reality.  It is my hope that the book inspires, motivates, and puts a smile on the readers face.  I don’t think there is any one of us who hasn’t experienced heartbreak, loss or tragedy.  It is my hope that the book will somehow get readers to recognize the beauty of life and to tap into their own inherent strengths and talents.  And, then there’s Cherokee.  His narration alone is worth the price of admission.

Thank you.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Truffles' Toy Review: Edgar's Attic

Hey everybody, Truffles at the keyboard! Are you an Etsy shopper? Mommy does a lot of browsing but has so far resisted the temptation. She says it's getting harder and harder though because there is so much cool kitty stuff on there.

Last month Edgar's Attic handmade catnip toys ran a contest on Facebook to celebrate 100 page likes. The prize was an Edgar's Attic tote bag for the humans and FIVE toys for the kitties...and I WON!!!

Debra Hussey is the owner of Edgar's Attic, and Edgar is the kitty that inspired the shop. He was Debra's faithful companion for 17 years before he went to the Bridge. Debra says of her Etsy Shop, "It grew out of a desire to fill the space where he used to be." To us, that makes these whimsical, catnip-filled felt cat toys even more special because they are handmade with love.

I was so excited when my package arrived. Everything looked so adorable individually wrapped in paw print tissue paper! We adore the tote bag's design with the two kitties and a cup of coffee, and it's perfect for Mommy because she is a tote bag fanatic!


These are the toys we picked out: a mouse, sock monkey girl, cupcake, paw, and maple leaf. (Mommy picked out the maple leaf because it's such a symbol of Vermont, not knowing that Debra is in Canada and of course the maple leaf is on their National Flag.)


I immediately jumped into the toy pile. I love grabbing the mouse by his corded tail and kicking the stuffing out of him! (Teehee!!!)


Many action shots had to be deleted because they were so blurry!


These toys are even pawsome to cuddle up with at naptime!


Thank you, Edgar's Attic! I just love my new toys!


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Release Day Book Review & Giveaway: Duel for the Crown: Affirmed, Alydar, and Racing's Greatest Rivalry

Duel for the Crown: Affirmed, Alydar, and Racing's Greatest Rivalry


Blurb: From the moment they first galloped head-to-head in Saratoga Springs, the two chestnut colts showed they were the stuff of racing legend. Alydar, all muscle with a fearsome closing kick, was already the popular favorite to win the Kentucky Derby. Affirmed, deceptively laid-back streamlined elegance, was powered forward by his steely determination not to settle for second place.

In the Sport of Kings, the Triple Crown is the most valued prize, requiring a horse to win not just one race, but three: the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes. And 1978 would not be just for the record books, but also one of the greatest dramas ever played out in the racing world.

There were names to conjure with, worthy of the Sport of Kings. The bloodline of Native Dancer. The teen wonderboy jockey Steve Cauthen. The once unbeatable Calumet Farm—the Damn Yankees of the racing world—now in eclipse and hoping for a comeback. The newcomer Harbor View Farm—owned by brash financier Louis Wolfson, who wouldn’t let even a conviction and a prison sentence for securities violations stand in the way of his dreams of glory. And the racetracks themselves: Belmont, Saratoga, Pimlico. And, of course, Churchill Downs.

It has been thirty-five years since Affirmed and Alydar fought for the Triple Crown, thirty-five years when no other horse has won it. Duel for the Crown brings this epic battle to life. Not just two magnificent Thoroughbreds but the colorful human personalities surrounding them, caught up in an ever-intensifying battle of will and wits that lasted until the photo finish of the final Triple Crown race . . . and Alydar and Affirmed leaped into the history books.

Mochas, Mysteries and Meows Review: I am not a sports fan. While people around me heatedly debate major sporting events I smile politely and pretend that I know (or care) about what they're discussing. That being said, I am a NASCAR fanatic and passionate about horse racing's Triple Crown.

I am completely swept up in the mystique of the Triple Crown. The last time it happened was in the spring of 1978, and I was less than a year old, so seeing a horse achieve such a spectacular feat is the #1 sports story I want to see in my lifetime (besides seeing Kevin Harvick win a Sprint Cup Championship!!!)

I've religiously watched the Triple Crown races since the late '80s, and have seen some special horses come sooo close...Alysheba, War Emblem, Big Brown, Charismatic, Sunday Silence. I've also suffered through the tragedies of Barbaro and Eight Belles, which almost made me give up horse racing altogether, as Ruffian's tragic breakdown made my mother stop watching in the '70s. It's for this reason I only watch the 3 races per year...I am so terrified for the horses during each race I'm practically shaking until it's over.

To coincide with this passion I have a fairly extensive library of biographies of famous racehorses, and Duel for the Crown now has a cherished spot in my collection. It chronicles the aforementioned 1978 Triple Crown races between the great Affirmed and Alydar. While at times the first half of the book can move a bit slow as it focuses on the humans behind the horses, the thrilling second half is written so vividly I felt as though I was a spectator at the racetrack witnessing history. Shockingly, there is also a possible murder mystery involved. Sad, but true.

Have you ever watched the three classic races? One of the great things about the Internet is that all of these historic horse races are available to watch anytime with the click of a finger. Check them out and I guarantee that after watching them you will want to read the definitive account of that magical spring during which two spectacular 4-legged athletes captured the hearts and imagination of a nation.

Thanks to the publisher I have an extra Advanced Reading Copy of this book to give away. Simply leave a comment (with your email address) by noon eastern on Friday, April 25th. (US entries only) Do you have a favorite horse racing memory?

Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher with the request for a review.


                                           

                                           

                                           




Monday, April 21, 2014

One Good Cowboy Book Tour with Catherine Mann: Interview & Giveaway

One Good Cowboy banner

Today is my blog tour stop during the blog tour for One Good Cowboy by Catherine Mann. It was my great pleasure to have the opportunity to ask her some questions about her animal rescue work. This blog tour is organized by Lola's Blog Tours. The blog tour runs the whole month April on weekdays only, you can view the whole tour schedule here.

Interview with Catherine Mann

What inspired you to write One Good Cowboy?
I’ve long wanted to write a cowboy story – watching all those John Wayne movies growing up certainly made an impression! The opportunity and idea for a cowboy trilogy came along and what a treat it is to see the “Diamonds in the Rough” series launch with One Good Cowboy!

I understand you are actively involved in animal rescue...can you tell us about the work you do?
My family and I foster puppies and special needs dogs for our local animal shelter – we stopped counting at 100. It’s incredibly rewarding to help give these homeless animals the safe haven they need until they find their forever home. I also serve on the Board of Directors at the shelter.

I read on your website that you recently completed hands-on training for the Florida State Animal Response Coalition. What did that entail?
I went through an all-day training seminar, followed by an exam and a practice scenario setting up a temporary rescue shelter. There is also an online course included. FLSARC can be called to participate in rescue scenarios in other states as well. Having completed the FLSARC training also enables me to help with my local shelter’s D.A.R.T. (Disaster Animal Response Team). These teams can be called in to assist in anything from post-hurricane rescues to hoarding situations to puppy mill raids.

(This picture was taken the day I completed the hands-on training to be on the Florida Animal Response Coalition. I'm holding my official uniform T-shirt.)

Please tell us about the fur babies you share your life with.
I have four dogs and a cat, all rescues adopted from a shelter – a puggle, a yellow lab, a beagle, an American bulldog/pointer and a yellow tabby. My adult children, my sisters and my parents have all also adopted some of my former fosters! Family reunions are a treat on so many levels!

The title on your website header is "Rescued by Love". How have you been rescued by love?
There’s an awesome poem animal rescuers share called, “I Rescued a Human Today” by Janine Allen. The poem explains it far better than I can. Hope you are as touched by the poem as I have been.


OneGoodCowboy

One Good Cowboy (Diamonds in the Rough #1)
by Catherine Mann
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Age category: Adult

Blurb:
From Ex to Eternity?

To inherit his family's empire, Texas cowboy-turned-CEO Stone McNair must prove he has a heart beneath his ruthlessly suave exterior. His trial? Finding homes for his grandmother's rescue dogs. His judge? Johanna Fletcher, the woman whose heart he broke.

Sure, Johanna can handle a week traveling the country with her ex-fiancĂ© to fulfilll his dying grandmother's request. She and Stone want different things—plain and simple. But there's nothing plain about Stone, or simple about the heat that still flares between them. One week may not be long enough.

You can find One Good Cowboy on Goodreads

You can buy One Good Cowboy here:

- Amazon

- B&N

- Kobo

- Harlequin

Do you like books with an animal rescue theme? Keep an eye out for Shelter Me by Catherine Mann, it’s being released on August 5, 2014. It’s a heartwarming novel about a returning soldier, the daughter of his fallen commander, and a very special dog with a mission.

ShelterMeCover

Shelter Me (Second Chance Ranch #1)
By Catherine Mann
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Age Category: Adult
Release Date: August 5, 2014

Blurb:
Staff Sergeant Mike Kowalski wants only one thing after he gets home from Iraq: to sleep in a king-sized bed with clean sheets. But first, he has to hand off his fallen commander’s dog, Trooper, to his family without handing off his heart to Sierra…

Sierra McDaniel needs a break. Her family life is crazy, and when she’s not mucking out kennels, she’s slogging through grad school. Sierra certainly doesn’t want another dog, especially one that reminds her of her father. And she definitely doesn’t want to see Mike with that charming smile of his…

But Trooper has a mission of his own. Before too long Mike is moving to the ranch to lend a hand—and hoping for his own second chance with Sierra.

You can find Shelter Me on Goodreads.

You can view the book trailer for Shelter Me on Youtube.


CatherineMannHeadshotB2014

About the Author:
USA Today bestseller Catherine Mann and RITA Award winner, Catherine writes contemporary romance for Berkley, Harlequin, and Sourcebooks, With over two million books in print in more than twenty countries, she has also celebrated five RITA finals, three Maggie Award of Excellence finals and a Bookseller’s Best win. A former theater school director and university instructor, she holds a Master’s degree in Theater from UNC-Greensboro and a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts: Theater (with minors in both English and Education) from the College of Charleston. Catherine and her flyboy husband live on the Florida coast where they brought up their 4 children – and still have 5 four-legged, furry “children” (aka pets). Catherine is an active volunteer with her local Humane Society, serving on their Board of Directors and fostering puppies and special needs dogs (she stopped counting at a hundred). She recently checked off a major item on her “bucket list” by completing the hands-on training for the Florida State Animal Rescue Coalition. Catherine enjoys hearing from her readers and can be found online daily. To receive an autographed bookmark, send a SASE to: P.O. Box 6065, Navarre, FL 32566

You can find and contact Catherine here:

- Website

- Facebook

- Twitter

- Goodreads

- Pinteres

- Blog

- Newsletter

There is a tour wide giveaway for a 25$ amazon gift card! For a chance to win, enter the rafflecopter below:

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In addition to this please leave a comment (with your email address) for the chance to win one paperback copy of your choice: either For the Sake of Their Son by Catherine Mann or 2-in-1 book Grayson's Surrender and Taking Cover by Catherine Mann. US and Canada only, ending at noon eastern on Friday, April 25th.

 



Saturday, April 19, 2014

Caturday Art: Happy Easter!

This will be Truffles' first Easter in her forever home...what do you think the Easter bunny should bring her?



Check out more artsy kitties here.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Murder in the Dog Park/Dog Spelled Backwards by Jill Yesko: Guest Author & Giveaway


The Woman Who Almost Didn’t Love Cats


It may horrify you dear readers to find out that I grew up in a cat-a-phobic family. Both my mother and father disliked cats. My mother was frightened  and my father didn’t like pets—period.

No wonder I grew up suspicious of cats. Gretchen, a shy playmate from elementary school, had hands that bore scars of repeated scratches from her three cats. What kind of animal would do that to gentle Gretchen?

Fast forward thirty years. I fell in love with a man who had a cat. Oh dear, I thought, how am I going to manage this?

At first the cat (a chocolate-colored long-haired former stray named Kitten) and I ignored each other. Sitting in opposite chairs we engaged in epic stare downs. We had an unspoken agreement; we weren't friends, but weren’t enemies either.

One afternoon I awoke from a nap to find Kitten next to me. My boyfriend walked in, took a long look at both of us and proclaimed: “you two need to work this out.”

From that moment Kitten and I became friends. He enjoyed our daily brushing sessions. I discovered a special spot on his head that made him purr like a small motor. I even came up with up nicknames for him (I thought the name Kitten lacked imagination). I called him Bob, as in, “he’s not a bobcat, he’s a bobkitten.” He came running when I yodeled his name and accompanied me on my evening walks.

Over the next year, Bob began paying more attention to me than my boyfriend. Bob knew I’d fallen for him, it just took he a little while to acknowledge it.

When the boyfriend and I broke up, he asked me to take Bob.I thought long and hard. It didn’t seem right to take the cat he had adopted off the mean streets of Albuquerque. I agreed to care for Bob for six months while my ex traveled out of the country.

I cried the night the ex-boyfriend came to get Bob. As much as I wanted to keep him, I knew deep down that he had to go back to my ex.

Bob has since gone to cat heaven. I’m grateful to Bob for being my first cat. I couldn’t have had a better teacher. I’m now a cat lover. To think, it almost didn’t happen.

Dog Park cover

Murder in the Dog Park
Mystery
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Baxter World Publishing (May 28, 2012)
ISBN-13: 978-0985485207
File Size: 242 KB
Print Length: 128 pages
ASIN: B00A10IU7O

Synopsis
Discovering a brutally murdered boy in a rainy dog park sends misanthropic private detective Jane Ronson on a journey through Baltimore’s gritty underbelly. Aided by a sexy cop, a bad-ass bull terrier, and an only-in-Baltimore cast of characters, Jane must use her computer-hacking and street-fighting skills to save her only family member from being framed as the killer.

DogSpelledBackwards

Dog Spelled Backwards: An Unholy Mystery
Mystery
Paperback: 210 pages
Publisher: Baxter World Publishing (August 17, 2013)
ISBN-13: 978-0985485214
File Size: 1355 KB
Print Length: 118 pages
ASIN: B00FDXQVO8

Synopsis
Private investigator Jane Ronson suffers from oppositional defiant disorder, the uncontrollable urge to punch first then ask questions later. When a rabbi with a shady past offers her a bag of cash to spy on a rival rabbi, Jane jumps at the chance to make what think will be easy money. To get her cash, Jane impersonates an Orthodox Jewish woman and infiltrates a black market kidney ring in Baltimore’s Orthodox community. Between Russian gangsters and double crosses, Jane is number one on everyone’s hit list. To save her life, she forms an alliance with a religious woman and confronts a family.

About This Author
Jill Yesko’s 20+ year writing career has included stints as a sport writer, NPR commentator and investigative reporter. She’s written about everything from body piercing to human pyramids in Spain. After a solo trek around the world, Jill was profiled as an “adventurous traveler” in O, the Oprah magazine. Before becoming a writer, Jill was a national-class cyclist and graduate and cartographer. A New Jersey native, Jill now patrols Baltimore’s dog parks with her basset hound.

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