Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey

A book review by Christine Michaels

Announcing...the release of a new book, The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey. I am honored to have had the opportunity to read this book before the official release today and share my review. 

This is the first book written by author, Deborah Barnes. Deb shares a story that is enchanting, engrossing, educational and uplifting. The cover alone and subsequent pages filled with photos and artistic illustrations are stunning. I anxiously await more stories or to follow Zee and Zoey's journey on Facebook and Twitter.

For animal lovers, dog owners and feline philes, read on! This is a personal diary and a romance with lessons in life amplified by two cats, the main characters, Zee & Zoey. The lessons are numerous about responsibility, the fruit of hard labor, love and respect, the bond between human and pet, and how the ordinary is truly extraordinary. Deb writes with a warm, conversational and light-hearted tone it reads like a Disney story.

The book begins with Deb's life as a child and her home full of stray animals and pets. Entering adulthood, that love grows but she also realizes the responsibility in caring for a pet, similar to a child.  This is the first lesson to a reader who is considering a pet--it's a permanent, lifelong commitment. In one chapter, Deb adopts a kitten from a place that looked and smelled like unchanged cat litter--a bad sign. (As a side note, Deb quickly clarifies that having multiple cats does not mean a home should wreak like one. ) As expected, the kitten suffered an infection. But she did not return the kitten like a clothing item that had a tear or stain.

Due to his sickly condition, in retrospect, I could have probably taken him back to his previous home and gotten a refund. But as any parent knows, a child is a child is a child.  You love them as they are, sick or not...The thought of exchanging him was something too cold and callous to even contemplate...

An underlying story but great lesson--dogs and cats can get along.  Deb initially had a parade of dogs and a rabbit followed by a menagerie of cats. And while they may not all have been bosom buddies both canine and feline respected one another and on occasion shared the same bed or sofa.  Imagine a world where humans follow this example. Less conflict, more peace, more happiness.

Oh the adventures of four-legged children that would fill a scrapbook and many journals.  The chapter on Deb's home renovation reads like an action-packed Disney movie.

Speaking of escapades, it is at this point in the book we learn more about the principal character, Zee. What makes this cat so special you ask? Appearance-wise if there is a cat that can make a grand entrance and turn heads, it's a Maine Coon cat with their long luxurious coat like a regal cape. 

The almighty Zee

As a cat caretaker, I'm all too familiar with the range of personalities exhibited by cats. Zee is no exception and also demonstrates his cleverness and intelligence. So much that he was placed in "time out". Yes Zee, like a typical mischevious little boy, intentionally disobeyed and was punished. Shockingly, when Zee was scolded he understood the repercussions that something fascinating occured I don't want to reveal in this review. Read the book! Another sign of the intelligence of cats.

Then the much anticipated introduction of Zoey, a Bengal cat. I recently learned about and was intrigued by this type of cat on the Animal Planet channel. So upon learning that Zoey is the descendant of a wild Asian Leopard Cat with gorgeous leopard markings called "rosettes", I savored every sentence and description as if I were admiring a Picasso masterpiece.  While Zee may win the "beauty" contest, Zoey's sinewy body and fluid motion would certainly qualify her for the Olympics in presentation and athletic ability.

Zoey--just look at those eyes!

Then Zee meets Zoey. Their "love at first sight" rivals that of Romeo & Juliet with an intense passion. It's a whirlwind courtship and mating that is abruptly halted. Now while Deb is an advocate to spay/neuter, Mother Nature pulled rank and before anyone knew, Zoey was pregnant. The ensuing gestation period of three months and delivery of the kittens inspired awe, laughter and tears of joy. It's during this chapter that Deb and Zoey are in constant communication. Now if you have never owned a cat or even a dog, you may consider this odd or another attribute of a "crazy cat lady". My dear reader, this is a fallacy.  Just like long-married couples, the gestures, sounds, meow pitches and body language speak volumes.  Deb Barnes knew her cats well and understood catease and even their specific dialects.   So when Zoey alerts Deb she's about to deliver, like a supportive mother, Deb is by her side every minute ensuring Zoey's bed and surroundings are suitable and comfortable. The birth and growth of the kittens is another series of comical adventures.

Now for my fellow cat rescuers and educators who struggle finding homes for countless, homeless kitties, do not fret. Deb acted responsibly and had  Zee, Zoey and the kittens spayed/neutered. More importantly, she ensured the kittens had a safe, loving, permanent home. Three kittens remain with Deb and one, Zeuss, went to a friend who still cherishes the cat. Zeuss now has a following on Facebook and Twitter.

So how does Deb juggle seven cats?  Let's just say the key is routine. And her home? Immaculate. Unless you see a cat scamper across the floor or climbing or jumping onto the sofa, you would have no idea cats occupied this house and would think they were decor fixtures.  This is the modern cat lady.

Deb in Leopard Cat Glam
 Throughout the book is a recurring theme and the most important lesson of all. It is simple but powerful: Through out life's trials and tribulations especially in this gloomy economy we are easily dragged down, on the verge of plunging into a dark abyss. Deb learns from her cats, creatures who are confined to a finite space and world, that a simple event can be extraordinary. They remind her to take the time and "smell the roses" and life is all the better.

I also know with all certainty that I will continue to learn from my beloved Zee and Zoey who have given me the invaluable gift of teaching me how to re-examine how I perceive the little moments in life.  By sharing my time with them, they have taught me to slow down a bit and to really embrace what I already have in my life--to revel in the everyday ordinary and reinterpret it to make it extraordinary...I am not implying the traditional, over-the-top meaning of the word extraordinary that evokes images of bungee jumping...Just imagine for one brief moment that you are Zee and Zoey and you happen to glance out your dining room window and an unsuspecting squirrel happens to be within your eyeshot. For them, just like that, in  a mere split second, their lives become extraordinary as they immerse themselves in the excietment of that unexpected little change in their otherwise ordinary day.

A true cat person knows this secret. As a caretaker of 21 outdoor cats, some friendly, some feral, I have never been more thankful of my life than when I feed these "houseless" cats. Living outdoors, in extreme heat, sticky humidity, daily summer thunderstorms, mosquitoes and ants, these cats are grateful for a little food, attention and sometimes affection. Every night while making rounds even in the pouring rain, to witness these cats that jump out of hiding and come prancing to greet me is the most uplifting part of my day. To have a book written that so eloquently and precisely explains this concept is a testament to Deb Barnes as a talented author and will do wonders to further raise awareness about the magical essence of cats and their connection with humans.

Speaking of magical, The Chronicles of Zee and Zoey is an ideal read and gift for the Christmas season! This book is a page-turner and a must-read for anyone who claims "I'm not a cat person". With an open mind and heart, you will fall in love!



  1. Christine -

    Thank you so much for taking the time to review my book. I admire you so much for all you do for Riverfront Cats and the Cat Network and your opinion means the world to me.

    This book was a labor of love for me and a tribute not only to my beloved felines, but to all cats. They are an extraordinary creature that we all can learn so much from.

    I am thrilled you took so much from the story and I look forward to meeting you one day soon!

  2. Christine,

    Wonderfully written review! Thanks so much for doing this for Deb. Look forward to meeting you soon and seeing all the great work you're doing down in Miami.


  3. Deb, Dan, it was my pleasure and honor. Nonfictional books like yours that are enchanting and informative will help change misperceptions about cats. They are unique, indeed! CHRISTINE