Friday, February 24, 2012

The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey

By Julia Williams

As a writer, books hold a special appeal to me. In a bookstore, I become the proverbial ‘kid in a candy store’ and can’t wait to sample them all. I love the feel of holding a book in my hands, love the way they smell and how the words look on the printed page, which is why I’ll probably never get a Kindle; it’s just not the same.

You can imagine my excitement then, the day Deborah Barnes’ The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey: A Journey of the Extraordinarily Ordinary arrived in my mailbox. I’d read about this book on other cat lover’s blogs and have gotten to know the author through her own blog. My anticipation swelled as I opened the package and took out the book, which was wrapped in leopard print paper and fastened with a custom-made seal. The high gloss cover was simply breathtaking. Zee, a handsome Maine Coon mancat and Zoey, an exotic Bengal, appeared so lifelike that I half expected them to leap into my arms.

Opening the book, I discovered leopard spotted inside covers front and back, and a matching bookmark. Leafing through it, I saw enchanting artwork, charming page borders with butterflies and dragonflies, and lots of beautiful photographs of cats, dogs…and KITTENS! Oh my. I was already smitten with the book, and hadn’t read a single word! I knew then that if the words –the ‘meat’ of any book to be sure – were even half as lovely as the visual presentation, it would be a memorable reading experience.

I was not disappointed. The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey is many different things all rolled into one delightful book. At its core is the touching ‘Romeo and Juliet-inspired’ love story between two unique and extraordinary breeds. The book follows the feline pair from the moment they meet and become inseparable, through the trials and tribulations of accidental kittens and the separation this creates. Unlike the Shakespearean tragedy, however, this love story has a happy ending as Zee and Zoey reunite once their four kittens are grown.

Speaking of kittens, the book also presents an honest look at what raising a litter of them entails, with chapters devoted to their first 8 weeks– from teeny tiny babies with their eyes shut tight, to rambunctious kittens capable of mass destruction in the blink of an eye. I particularly enjoyed these chapters because they brought back fond memories of a time I helped a friend with his kittens. Deb describes the ‘chaos that is kittens’ so well, and it’s clear that although these demanding little beings were not always sugar and spice, she loves them wholeheartedly. “Most people would joke that any cat living with me, had won the cat lottery as far as homes go,” she writes. After reading her book, I completely agree.

The book is also a candid look at the life of a bona fide animal lover and the various creatures that are drawn moth-like to her heart and home: assorted stray cats, purposefully acquired purebred felines and canines, a rabbit, and even a frog. Written with a conversational tone, the book gives you an inkling of what life is like when one has seven cats, as Deb does now. The cats are an integral part of her family, and the sacrifices she makes to accommodate them are exactly what any cat lady worth her salt would do.

I especially loved Chapter 22, Cattitude and Cattisms, a humorous look at those uniquely feline quirks designed to let us lowly humans know we’re clearly not the ones in charge. Deb presents ‘16 Cat Rules’ that anyone who has ever been owned by a feline will instantly recognize as truth, and laugh about…because really, there is no other choice!

Though I enjoyed this book immensely – both for its stunning photographs and appealing storytelling – I do have two minor quibbles. In the interest of giving a fair review, I feel I must mention them. Firstly, the beginning chapters bounce from past to present and back again, which was a bit confusing. A chronological look at all of the different animal companions throughout Deb’s life would perhaps have made it a little easier to understand. Secondly, typos and other errors frequently jarred me out of the story and back to real life, which detracted from the overall wonderful experience of reading the book. However, I also know that because I’ve done proofreading and editing professionally for many years, I notice these things far more than any casual reader would.

If you like cats, you will love reading The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey. The exquisite photographs alone are worth the price of admission! If you’re more of a dog person, there are some great chapters about Deb’s canine friends, too. Simply put, this book is a work of art. It’s a true treasure that belongs on any animal lover’s coffee table or bookshelf.

If you’d like to order the book or learn more about The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey, please visit Deb’s website.

Other than being provided with the book to read, I was not compensated by the author for this review. 

Read more articles by Julia Williams


  1. I've heard good things about this book from a few other bloggers who've read it. Looks good!

    BTW, I've been adamantly anti-e-reader for ages now, but am being tempted to go over to the "dark side" as one blogger puts it. I'd love a Kindle 3G, though they don't yet ship them to Canada. Maybe if or when they do....

  2. This is a wonderful book - we're big fans of Deborah and her equally wonderful blog.

  3. That is a really good book. We enjoyed it. Glad you got to read it. Take care.

  4. Julia -

    Thank you for this lovely review of my book - I am glad you enjoyed it for the many levels of entertainment it provided and I particulary loved your line, "The book is also a candid look at the life of a bona fide animal lover and the various creatures that are drawn moth-like to her heart and home."

    The book was written out of love from my heart and I feel that really translates in the pages. As a first time author, I also thank you for letting me know I have areas in my writing that need improvement, because I do hope to write other books.

  5. wonderful, in-depth review. We also read/reviewed Deb's book and love the parts that you have chosen to highlight. Excellent job, and we loved this book as well.

  6. Lovely (and fair) thorough review, Julia. I too reviewed Deb’s book and loved it. Very clever observations and so funny in places, it had me laughing out loud. Am looking forward to more from her in the future :)

  7. Zee is a Maine Coon like ME! Ooo this book must be good!!

  8. What a good review! We love Deb and Zee and Zoey. This is a book our mom wants to read.

  9. That's quite a stunning review. Sounds intriguing. And the pictures are just fabulous! WOW!!

  10. We LOVED The Chronicles of Zee and Zoey! It is a gorgeous book, and really a heartfelt story that will appeal to just about any animal lover!

  11. When it comes to Maine Coon cat books, I like to be in them and I like to see M.C. furriends and their stories, too! :)


  12. That is a wonderful review. To me this is a match made in heaven between a Bengal and Maine Coon as they are two breeds I have always been fascinated with. We will look into getting the book in the future, sounds lovely. (PS: Thank you for your very sweet comment about Neytiri, I very much enjoy looking at her every day as her beauty is indeed enchanting.)

  13. Thank you for this wonderful review! We LOVE Zee and Zoey, and Deb, too, and are looking forward to reading this book. :)

  14. My Human has a little "thing" for Maine Coons. I say she is just going to have to worship them from a distance!

    We has been haring good fings about this book!


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