A note about The Cuddlywumps Chronicles

This blog is written and maintained by Miss Cuddlywumps, a fluffy-tailed calico cat who is both classically educated and familiar with mysteries. She receives creative input from the Real Cats and clerical assistance from She of Little Talent (old SoLT, a.k.a. Roby Sweet). Comments or complaints should be addressed to Miss C rather than to old SoLt (Ms. Sweet). Ms. Sweet accepts no responsibility for Miss C's opinions.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Book Review: Ali Brandon’s “Plot Boiler”

It was with great delight that we dipped in to the latest installment of the Black Cat Bookshop mystery series by Ali Brandon. This fifth book in the series is called Plot Boiler, and in it bookshop owner Darla Pettistone and feline friend Hamlet are at their best as they delve into another Brooklyn mystery.

This time, the Fourth of July is coming up fast, and Darla and other business owners are putting together a neighborhood block party. The idea is to bring in new customers, and it looks like it might work, provided they can get the nasty old George King, owner of Perky’s Coffee Shop and the self-proclaimed “King of Coffee,” to go along and play nice with everyone—and to pay his share of the costs. It’s just a good thing George has Livvy, his wife, to provide some actual perkiness to their shop and smooth over his rough spots for everybody else.

As Darla and Hammy (that would be the aforementioned Hamlet, who I should mention is a slightly oversized black cat who became an Internet sensation in his Karate Kitty video) make the rounds of the party, things seem to be going off without a hitch. Even the somewhat questionable band is a hit. Seriously, this is a party we would like to be at, and purrsonally I don’t even care much for parties.

But of course something goes wrong (or what would be the point of writing about it?), and that something is a dead body, belonging to the previously perky Livvy. Thus begins the mystery, which is to discover how Livvy died (accident, illness, murder?) and who killed her (because you know it has to be murder, right?). Could it be a simple case of jealousy, of love gone wrong, or might it have something to do with Livvy’s “special” Kona Blue Party coffee (emphasis on “party”—or not)? And when a second body is discovered, a whole new set of possibilities arises. Could it have been a murder-suicide? Or might there be a serial killer stalking their neighborhood?

In any case, it’s not great for business. Might not be so great for Darla either (and I am talking here about her continued existence on this earth), if her personal snooping gets her a little too close to the truth.

As we read Plot Boiler, we felt like we were walking through this Brooklyn neighborhood, encountering the characters and feeling our own way through the mystery. The Black Cat Bookshop series is peopled with a cast of characters who seem to just step off the page. There’s the ever-proper store manager, James, and Darla’s best friend and handy private investigator, Jacqueline (“Jake”). And of course Detective Fiorello Reese, who is… What? Friend? Love interest? This is its own little mystery, though Reese’s new fiancĂ©e may be about to solve it. Or not.

Ali Brandon’s writing is, as always, a joy to get lost in, and once again, the plot is nicely crafted and unfolds perfectly. And boy, would we like to meet Hamlet! I should also mention that the kindle version of the book has a very nice design, with chapter openings that took a little more thought than many we’ve seen. That little touch adds even more to the enjoyment of reading this book.

If you happen to need a little Fourth of July heat as we head into December, Plot Boiler could be just the thing. Highly recommended!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanksgiving Is Better with Cats

Wordless Wednesday

Somehow, cats have been left out of depictions of many famous events, when surely there must have been a feline or two around when the event took place. On this (almost) Wordless Wednesday and Thanksgiving Eve, She of Little Talent tries to remedy that. Don't be disappointed with her effort; there's a reason I call her She of Little Talent.

What's wrong with this picture? 
Well, surely there was a cat at the first Thanksgiving, right?

That's better. And undoubtedly more accurate.
And in case you had trouble spotting the cat, here he is,
right in the middle (where the cat belongs).

Picture credits:
The First Thanksgiving by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Cat, the Rooster, and the Fox: A Russian Folktale

Miss Cuddlywumps retells a Russian classic, with a few adaptations

Once upon a time, a cat and a rooster lived in a cozy little house together and were great friends. The cat took care of everything like rent and food, while the rooster spent his days admiring himself in the mirror. One day, the cat had to go out and do some, you know, “cat things.” Before he left the little house, he told the rooster to stay safe inside and not even open the door or window to anyone. But as soon as the cat was out of sight, along came a sly and hungry fox, who scattered some grain under the window and sang out to the rooster to come and get it. She also sang of his supposed great handsomeness and of how much she would love to just see him for a moment.

Rooster, pretty but not smart.
Pays no rent.
© Teodota |
Rooster Photo
Now, we know birds are not very smart (really, the smartest thing this rooster ever did was to team up with a wise cat to protect him), and this rooster was particularly vain about his looks, so he opened the window and stuck his head out, whereupon the fox seized him by the neck and carried him off into the woods. The rooster of course called out for help, and his friend the cat, not being too far away, heard him and ran to save him. He clawed at the fox until she finally released the poor rooster, who was most distressed to have lost a few feathers in the scuffle.

Fox, has a plan.
Will soon have a meal.
© Tamagocha | Dreamstime.com
Angry Red Fox Photo
When they were home safe and sound, the cat made the rooster promise to never listen to the fox again. The rooster promised.

The next day, the cat again had to go out, and before leaving, he reminded the rooster not to go outside, open the door or window, or pay attention to any foxes that happened by. The rooster promised. But as soon as the cat was out of sight, along came that same old fox. Again she scattered grain under the window and sang out to the rooster, adding in a few verses about his beautiful feathers, and again the rooster opened the window and stuck his head out, only to be snatched up by the fox. Again the rooster called out for help, and again his friend the cat ran to his rescue.

When they were home safe and sound, the cat again made the rooster promise to never, ever listen to the fox. The rooster promised.

The next day—the very next day—the cat again had to go out. This time he had to go farther away to do his cat things, and he reminded the rooster not to go outside, open the door or window, or listen to any foxes. The rooster promised. But not long after the cat had gone, along came the fox. Again she scattered her grain under the window and sang her enticing song to the rooster. Again the rooster opened the window and stuck his head out, and again the fox snatched him and ran off into the woods. Again the rooster called for help, fully expecting his friend the cat to come along and save him. But this time the cat was too far away to hear him, and so help never came for the poor rooster. The fox made rather a tasty meal of him, leaving only a few of those beautiful feathers behind.

Cat, seeking new roommate.
Successful applicant will have job, no feathers.
© Pirxyazon |
Now when the cat returned home, at first he was upset to have lost his friend, for he knew the fox must have taken the rooster and devoured him. But then he thought, “Well, there’s nothing to be done with a friend who won’t listen to your good advice.”

He also resolved to get a roommate who was (a) smarter and (b) had a job and could pay part of the rent.

The end