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Book cover: The Chronicles of Zee & ZoeyAs I mentioned in the Paws and Effect Holiday Gift Guide, I recently received a review copy of The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey: A Journey of the Extraordinarily Ordinary by Deborah Barnes. Today during my lunch break, I carved out some time to read the last few pages of the book, and I can finally write the review.

At its heart, The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey is the tale of a pair of unlikely feline soul mates and the family with whom they share their lives. Although the publisher’s blurb describes the book with all the hackneyed words you’d expect to hear — heartwarming, humorous, heartfelt, compelling, heartbreaking, and so on — the story itself is in no way a cliché.

Why? Because it’s not just the Heartwarming, Heartfelt, Inspiring and Uplifting Tale™ of a gallant Maine Coon, his high-spirited girlfriend, and their wacky hijinks. It’s the story of author Deb Barnes’ life, framed around the cats that have shared their homes and hearts with her. Through marriage, childbirth, love, loss, and everything else, Barnes’ feline friends have been the one thing that remains constant.

It was actually a crisis in Barnes’ life that brought The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey into existence. If she hadn’t lost her job in the economic wreckage of the last few years, nobody except her family, friends, and a few other acquaintances might have learned the story of the amazing feline couple and their family. But, as I know from experience, when you get laid off, not only do you suddenly find yourself with time on your hands, but you need something to do to stave off the depression that results from spending day after day looking for work when there isn’t any.

The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey is a beautifully designed book. Seriously, the only more graphically appealing books I’ve ever read are game manuals for White Wolf role-play games and for Deliria, a role-play game created by a former White Wolf author and game consultant. (Why yes, yes I am a nerd. Why do you ask?) The photos and illustrations are beautiful, and the type used for the text is easy to read.

Like mothers talking about their babies, we cat lovers spend ridiculous times talking about our feline housemates. The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey reads pretty much like conversations in the bar at a cat writers’ conference: these are the kinds of tales, full of laughter and tears, that my cat-loving friends and I would share over an evening of wine and goodies.  And Barnes isn’t lying when she refers to the book as “a journey of the extraordinarily ordinary.” One thing that living with cats has done for Barnes is to help her notice that every day, no matter how routine or normal, has the potential to be an amazing adventure.

There’s only one serious critique I have about The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey: It definitely could have benefited from a good editor.

The first couple of chapters were easy to read and the writing flowed well. But then I noticed the first apostrophe error. And then I saw another … and another. Basic grammatical and usage errors have this effect on me — which is great when I’m getting paid to edit, but not so great when I just want to sit down and have a nice read. And the worst part about noticing one error is that it creates a chain reaction: after I see one, I see them everywhere, and pretty soon the book starts to feel like a ride in a New York City cab.

I don’t know if the first couple of chapters got extra spiffed-up for proposals and pitches and the others just didn’t get as much careful reading as they should have, or if the print house accidentally used the wrong version of the document — but whatever the cause, it’s unfortunate. I do hope Barnes is able to do a second printing of The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey, after a good once-over by an editor willing to do not just copy editing but some substantial text editing to make certain passages clearer, because there are a lot of wonderful and sweet things about this story and they deserve to be heard, unencumbered by typographical challenges.

To learn more about The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey or to buy a copy (it really is a good story and well worth reading, particularly if you’re not as anal as I am about editorial issues), visit ZeeZoey.com.

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