Sunday, February 27, 2011

Bagging the Oscars

Photo taken by me at a fancy boutique where I did a fundraising event for work.

I hate the fucking Oscars.

(Go ahead. Call me a Grouch.  I've been called worse.)

It's not just the Oscars. I hate every other over-produced, over-exposed awards extravaganza of its kind. 

I can't remember the last time I watched any such awards show (that goes for the Grammys and all) so you can argue that I don't know of what I speak.  You'd be right, because the last time I actually HEARD of most of the movies, songs, and people being nominated was probably around the time that E.T. phoned home with a few awards.

It's just gotten so trivial and so ridiculous on so many levels, and the prime example of this is the "Everyone Wins at the Oscars Nominee" gift bag, said to be valued at $75,000. 

See, there apparently needs to be a consolation prize for those bruised egos of those who don't win tonight.  (The swag bags will be going to the 22 nominees, making the total worth of these trinkets a mere $1,650,000.00.)

In case you'd like to make your own Oscar gift bag, here's what $75,000 gets you:

  • StemSational Skin Regeneration Serum (made from honest-to-God adult stem cells)
  • Body Wrap Sheer Iridesscent fashion-forward shapewear
  • blu Cigs special edition electronic cigarettes
  • Cookies by Joey  (eat as many as you like, because you have your fashion-forward shapewear - and your adult stem cell skin serum - to solve any problems that result)
  • An all-inclusive stay at the Winvian Luxury Hotel (seriously, at first I misread that as "Minivan Luxury Hotel," which my former minivan certainly was, given the all-you-can-eat buffet portions of crumbs and fries on the floor of my Caravan)
  • fūl split-level Load Runner duffel
  • earthpawz pet safe + toxic free cleaning products
  • Total Indulgence Skin Trio by LaVigne Organic Skincare
  • Nulo natural & nutritious pet food
  • It’s a 10 Haircare, Chocolatines’ Chocouture Jewelry Box
  • BlacMéra couture tunics/earrings/neckties
  • Kiwaii True Spring Water
  • The Kim Kardashian Signature Watch Collection by The Brissmor Company
  • Huntley Drive Fitness personal training packages  (again, so you can eat all the Cookies by Joey that you'd like)
  • MILLIANNA python cuffs
  • complimentary services from The Salon by Maxime
  • Dreams by Neihulé Nail Polish
  • Slimware portion-control plates
  • J. Holly International featuring Mon Platin Natural Dead Sea Mud Pack
  • Positive Only Celebrity News
  • XTI Active-Shield 360 and Nano Facemask
  • Leg Luxury hosiery
  • sugar-free low-carb Bonita’s Mixes
  • JulAir odor eliminator
  • R.A.T.S. Atelier men’s apparel
  • Kosanka anti-aging açai beverages
  • Virgin Galactic limited edition sub-orbital (what the fuck is a sub-orbital? It sounds like something that belongs to NASA)
  • Lalo Fitness, 1 month unlimited training sessions with Lalo Fuentes  (in case Huntley Drive is inconvenient or not to your liking)
  • 6-month unlimited Executive Membership to Circuit Works (you can go to Circuit Works after you're done with Lalo)
  • Nozin nasal products
  • Notebook and Persian medallion from Shokoufeh Malekkiani benefiting the United Nations World Food Programme in Iran
  • A $5,000 all-inclusive week-long fitness retreat from Live In Fitness Enterprise, Barradoro VIP Luxury Lifestyle Experience
  • Slimming Act body contouring cream from Dr. Jules Nabet
  • A $12,000 Belize getaway at Cayo Espanto – A Private Island
  • A $16,000 all-inclusive getaway to Huvafen Fushi luxury resort in the Maldives compliments of Premier Tours.

The "notebook and medallion" that reportedly benefits the United Nations World Food Programme in Iran is the item that galls me the most.  Really?  Really? Can someone tell me how the hell a fucking notebook and medallion helps to feed the world?

In the world in which we live, giving a $75,000 grab bag to celebrities who don't go home with an Oscar is beyond ridiculous.  Half a world away from where someone is being handed this gift bag, there's a woman or girl walking for miles, for 3 hours, in order to obtain water that will most likely make her and her family sick.  There are millions who need medical attention, education, food.

As we know, we don't have to look to other countries for problems - we've got enough of our own issues. Imagine what that $1,650,000.00 could do for communities and nonprofits right here.  (That's more than the budget of the nonprofit agency that I work for, which is a statewide organization.)

I don't begrudge the entertainment and marketing company their right to promote the tchotchkes in the bags or their use of celebrities to market them.  Everyone's got a right to make a living, and as long as they can sleep at night, that really shouldn't be my problem, right? And I know we're not really talking about real money here; we're playing with Monopoly money because the companies donate these vacations and these stem-cell serum lotions and these python cuffs (WTF?!) for free in hopes that some starlet is ... what, photographed on the arm of some Radio Disney ingenue with these things?

And I know some celebs often donate all this shit to charities, which then becomes a waste of someone's time to figure out how to get rid of this crap or eBaying it or whatever they do with such worthless junk.

Still, this shit makes me crazy.  It is the principle of the thing, that these things cost so much and lead to so much waste. 

At some point, when is enough really enough?

UPDATE, 2/28/2011, 11:30 AM:  One of the aforementioned companies actually contacted me this morning to talk about advertising on the blog via an affiliate program. I'm probably going to decline to work with them, but thought it was amusing nonetheless.  (However, if you don't see any posts for a few days, that might be a clue that the all-inclusive private island vacation people came calling. I've given my people carte blanche to talk to their people. :)

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

The Sunday Salon: In Which Simon LeBon and Rob Sheffield Pull Me Out of My Funk

There's nothing like a little '80s music and nostalgia to pull one out of a funk, is there?

I think I might be starting to come out of the reading funk I mentioned in last week's Salon, and I have Rob Sheffield to thank.  Rob is the genius of the brilliantly written and absolutely hilarious memoir Talking to Girls About Duran Duran: One Young Man's Quest for True Love and a Cooler Haircut, which is the book I turned to this week after yet another DNF.  (More on that in a bit.)

If you are a child of The Big Hair Generation, as I am, then you will love this book.  I think I needed something funny and irreverent to break through the reading funk, and this is certainly delivering in a big way.

(It's more than the reading funk, truth be told. It has been A Week. The kids were off from school for six days - parent-teacher conferences, inservice days, President's Day - making them all dysregulated and out of sorts, and then on the day they were supposed to return to school we were greeted with the upteenth snow day of the year.  The Husband's last day of his job was on Wednesday, so there was the stress of finishing that up.  Then on Thursday, he got into a car accident.  Thankfully, he is OK (it was the other guy's fault and everyone agrees that such was the case) and everything seems to be moving along with the car repairs and getting a rental - which was important because he leaves for the new job this morning, which is 5 hours away and making me a single parent during the week and probably some weekends, at least until our house sells. Which I am in the process of getting ready for the market in order for that to actually have a chance in this crappy market of happening.)

So yeah, you could say that I need to revisit my carefree youth.  With Talking to Girls About Duran Duran, I'm definitely enjoying the opportunity to forget about life for awhile (yeah, yeah, yeah, I know "Piano Man" was from '73 and the previous generation ... so sue me) even if I don't recognize all the '80s songs Rob Sheffield writes about in this memoir.

During this crazy week, somehow I was able to read two other short novels: Tinkers, by Paul Harding and All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost by Lan Samantha Chang.

Paul Harding's writing in Tinkers is gorgeous and poetic, and I enjoyed this short novel on that basis alone.  The narrative is a little confusing and unwieldy in parts, but the writing always brings one back to the story of George Washington Crosby, who reflects on his life and the memory of his father as he is dying.

After Tinkers, I turned to All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost.  I saw this one on the library's new books shelf and was intrigued to learn that author Lan Samantha Chang is the director of the famed Iowa Writers Workshop.  (As a teen in the '80s, I always thought it would be fascinating to go to the Iowa Writers Workshop.  'Course, the fact that it was in Iowa was a bit daunting to this girl in the Philly suburbs, but an aspiring writer needs something to dream about, right?) 

Chang's prose is tight and the pacing is such that the narrative in All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost  flows almost effortlessly. (I read this over the course of one day, starting at lunchtime and then finishing it up in the evening.)  It's a nicely-written character-driven book that makes one think about how much credit we owe those who have influenced our success and the intangible currency that we all use to pay the price.

I have the reviews of these written, but am not sure when I'll post them.  Probably sometime this week.

Two more books to tell you about today.  Alas, there was a DNF (did not finish) in my stack these week. While browsing the library's shelves, When She Was Electric by Andrea MacPherson piqued my interest because of the title and the cover.  I hadn't heard anything about this (it was published in 2003) so I picked it up.  This one was just slow getting started, and just seemed flat.  I gave this one the ol' page 50 test and abandoned it.  These weren't characters who I felt like spending much time with, to be honest.

Finally, I finished the audiobook of American Salvage (which also marks my reaching my 3 audiobook goal for the 2011 Audiobook Challenge, which I am now revising since that was way too easy).  This collection of 14 short stories by Bonnie Jo Campbell was a finalist for the 2009 National Book Award. You all know how much I love my short stories, but this collection was rough. They're well-written, but these are people who are more than down-and-out; they are meth addicts, abusers, and thieves, and the stories are so damn depressing.  Not recommended if you're in a tough place of your own (because the reality is that in this sad economy, there are many people who can relate to the folks in American Salvage, or fear they will wind up like them.)

So today, a new chapter in our lives awaits with The Husband's new job.  While he's driving toward our future, I'm planning to go back to the future by spending some time Talking with Girls About Duran Duran. 

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Sweet Emotion, Autism Style

Sunset in our neighborhood ~ March 6, 2010

The Husband was in a car accident this afternoon, right down the road from us, on a drive he does all the time. He was headed to pick up the kids from afterschool care.

(As of right now, I think he's OK, but we know enough about these things to know that sometimes the damage reveals itself in the morning. It was the other guy's fault, one of these instances where Person 1 waves Person 2 into traffic and Person 2 hits Person 3 ... which in this case was The Husband.)

Before this, we'd just spent a relaxing day at home, sans kids. A rarity. While I finished writing a grant at my dining room table office, The Husband read in the family room, did errands, got his teeth cleaned ("I hope I have teeth like this when I'm your age," said the 27-year old dental hygienist), listened to McCartney.

It was a day when you could almost feel the house itself exhaling a final sad song, the slow-but-certain evaporation of the stress that had consumed him (and, as a byproduct, our entire family) for the majority of the past four years. We talked over lunch he brought home, mainly about the excitement and anticipation of the new job (he starts on Monday; this was the first of two days off to relax).

We debated who would go pick up Betty and Boo.  We had flipped roles.  I'd handled this morning's routine, allowing The Husband to sleep in, so I joked that it was his turn to pick up the kids.  He obliged, and I took the opportunity to take a short nap. 

The phone rang.  I looked at the Caller ID, expecting the Caribbean to be calling.

It was ONSTAR.

See, because The Husband is between jobs, he's also between cell phones. Surely he could get by without a cell phone for a couple days.  Hell, we did so back in the dinosaur ages, didn't we?  Anyway, we had ONSTAR in our cars in case of something like an accident.

I didn't pick up the phone.  (Sometimes I'm not too bright, but in my defense, I was half asleep.)

It rang again.  ONSTAR.

"Hello?" I said, steeling myself for a sales pitch of some kind.

"Hello, Melissa, I have The Husband on the line."

(It's true, those calm, cool and collected ONSTAR folks really do work as they do in the commercials. They're not paying me for this post, by the way, but, hey, if they happen to be reading, I love them.)

"I need you to pick up the kids. I've been hit." 

The State Police (the police department for our tiny town) were en route. The car wasn't driveable.  He thought he was OK. He sounded coherent enough, I thought. 

I drove to get the kids (stopping by the accident scene itself) and even though I was relieved to find The Husband generally seeming all right, I was shaken when I greeted the kids.

Boo looked at me.

"What's wrong?" he asked.

Did you get that, people?  He looked at me.
This boy, my child with autism. 

He saw the expression and fear on my face. 

He knew something was wrong.  He asked me, "What's wrong?" 

I'm a straight-shooter with my kids.  I tell them the truth, as much as we can all muster at the time.  (The Husband, on the other hand, is the king of sugar-coating as much as possible.)  This type of situation - a crisis, with logistics needing to be coordinated and quickly, was my domain.

"Daddy's been in a car accident," I said.

Boo gasped, dropped his book bag, his hands flying to his mouth.   

"IS HE DEAD???" 

The afterschool care class went silent.  The teacher froze.

"He's OK, honey, but I need you to move quickly.  We might need to take him to the hospital."

"Betty!" he hollered Stella-like to his sister, oblivious to all this while playing with a friend across the room.  "WE NEED TO GO RIGHT NOW! DADDY'S BEEN IN A CAR ACCIDENT BUT HE'S NOT DEAD. It's OK, but you need to hurry up."

Betty came over and I repeated myself about the accident and of the urgency to not dawdle as much as we typically do.  She put her hand on her heart. 

"Oh, my goodness ...." she breathed. 

After we ascertained that Daddy was OK and we were back home, I had more bad news to deliver to her. One of her beloved killer whales, an orca in the San Juan Islands named Ruffles, is missing.  Because of the length of the whale's disappearance (he hasn't been sighted since November 21) and his age (he's 60), there is the strong possibility that Ruffles might indeed be dead. 

Upon hearing this news, Betty disintegrated into a hot mess of tears. 

Boo rolled his eyes, shook his head.  "Betty. DADDY has been in a CAR ACCIDENT.  He could have been KILLED.  This is more important than Ruffles." 

I stared at him.  Who was this kid with autism and what was he doing, displaying these sorts of ... dare I say it? ... appropriate emotions here in my house?

I didn't know what to do, so I watched.  (And breathed.  And prayed a bit.)

The Husband called.  After talking to him, I put the kids on.  Betty first.

"HiDaddyareyouOK I havesomebadnewsforyou areyouready? RUFFLES HAS GONE MISSING!"

Boo's turn.  "Hi, Daddy.  Are you OK from your car crash?  I was worried because, you know, sometimes you know some people die in car crashes and I don't want that to happen to you.  Are you in the hospital? ... No?  OK, good, will you be home soon? I'm glad you're going to be OK.  Betty's all upset about the orca but I am trying to tell her that isn't as important."

What the ... ?? 

Truly, I swear to you, I heard the voice of the developmental pediatrician from hell, speaking at the moment of diagnosis.  "See, this is an example. You're crying, and he doesn't understand what that's about.  (As if anyone at such a moment could understand what this is all about, much less a toddler who just celebrated his 2nd birthday.)

And:  "He's displaying highly inappropriate emotion in this instance.  You're falling apart and he's smiling and wanting you to notice him.  He doesn't recognize emotions.  That's one of the biggest signs of autism." 

One of the biggest signs, indeed.  Look at him now, lady.  Highly inappropriate, my ass.

So, we're all breathing better now as I write this in the wee small hours of the morning. The Husband went to bed early, understandably, with a day ahead that was going to be relaxing now replaced by one that will be full of insurance and rental cars and body shops. 

I sat with a still-crying-over-Ruffles-the-orca Betty for longer than usual, explaining that in such cases as Ruffles' unfortunate situation, sometimes we need to hope for the best while preparing ourselves for the worst.  That he was much older than most orcas tend to live and that God was watching over him, regardless.

(I am, lest there be any misunderstanding, genuinely concerned about the orca.  The fate of each and every orca on this earth is A Very Big and Important Deal in our house. Still, given the circumstances of the evening and that we're in the midst of a huge transition with The Husband starting a new job on Monday that is 5 hours away, you'll forgive me if Ruffles isn't at the forefront of my mind all the time.)

As soon as I departed Betty's room, my boy appeared from his.

"Mommy?" he said.  "My head is full of sad music tonight, and I just can't get to sleep." 

You could almost feel the house itself exhaling a final sad song ....

"How can I help you?"

"Can you, maybe, sing me a happy song? Maybe two?"

This I can do, my boy.  I can certainly sing a happy song or two. 

And so, I sang.

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Book Review: Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family's Feuds, by Lyndall Gordon

Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family's Feuds
by Lyndall Gordon
405 pages

"My Life has stood - a Loaded Gun"
Emily Dickinson

One of the (very many) things I loved about Jerome Charyn's The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson was the glimpse it gave into the reclusive poet's life.  I didn't know much about Emily Dickinson beforehand, and it whetted my appetite for indulging in some of her poetry and for learning more. 

At 405 pages, more is certainly what one gets with Lyndall Gordon's Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family's Feuds.  (Comparing the two books is perhaps a bit unfair, but since I read them in such close succession - and Charyn's book is getting much buzz, positive and negative, among bloggers - I can't really help it. They do complement one another well, though, despite their differences, and if you're one of those who came away from The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson wanting more in the way of biography and analysis of her poems, then you will likely enjoy Lives Like Loaded Guns.)

Lives Like Loaded Guns is the story about the Dickinson family's feud, which I admit I never heard of until reading this book but which proved to be as entertaining as any novel or TV show.  (Think "Dynasty" in mid-1800s New England.)  Before we delve into the feud, however, it's necessary to learn the biographical facts of who's who and how everyone is related.  That takes up approximately the first half of the book, and is very interesting reading.  It also supports much of what is in the Charyn book. 

There's also discussion of why Emily was such a recluse, and Gordon believes the clues are within Emily's poems, with lines like "I felt a Cleaving in my Mind."  Epilepsy is presented as a strong possibility and it makes perfect sense.  (It did seem, in some parts, that Gordon was perhaps trying a little too hard to convince her reader of such, which was a little puzzling because she presents her case well and the evidence seems to support it.) 

Halfway through Lives Like Loaded Guns, we begin to see the brewings of the Dickinson family feud. The Dickinsons were closely affiliated with Amherst College; Emily's father was a trustee and the College's treasurer.  Upon his death, Emily's brother Austin assumed the same role.  The College hired David Todd as an astronomy professor (luring him with knowingly false promises of a world-class observatory to be built on campus; nice to see some things in higher education remain constant), and he arrived in Amherst from Washington D.C. with his wife Mabel Loomis Todd. Their lives would become even more intertwined with the Dickinsons when Austin, who was also married, and Mabel began a steamy affair in 1882.

(Note that theirs wasn't exactly a secret affair. Austin and Mabel would rendevous in Emily's home that she and her sister Lavinia shared. Their trysts would be in the middle of the afternoon with the poet right upstairs.  Mabel and David even had a young daughter, Millicent, whom Mabel brought along during these "assignments" and left in the care of the Dickinsons servants.)

All this was fine and well and good (as these sorts of things go), but after awhile Mabel got a little irked that Austin's wife, Sue, wasn't going anywhere. She wished Sue dead, and when that didn't occur, she hoped to become pregnant with a little Dickinson.  No luck in that department, either (although not for lack of trying and calculating fertile times of the month!) so the next avenue was to stake a claim in some way to Emily's poetry.  Most of her poems were written on scraps of paper or on the back of envelopes, and after Emily died in 1886, Mabel saw an opportunity to become Emily's editor by transcribing them - not an easy process both due to the volume (by 1878, Emily had written over 1,400 poems) and the laborious nature of the task itself.

"'No publisher will attempt to read poems in Emily's own peculiar handwriting, much less judge them,' Mabel advised Vinnie [Emily's sister Lavinia, the legal heir to her manuscripts].  'I should have to copy them all.'

Her know-how, her commercial approach to publication, was more to Vinnie's mind than Susan's leaning toward private publication.  The latter option would cost a lot, and Austin was unlikely to contribute ....

In 1888 she [Lavinia] retrieved the manuscripts she had placed in The Evergreens and turned them over to Mabel Todd, who proceeded to translate hundreds of poems.  Mabel worked at first on the borrowed Hammond typewriter, then on a more primitive "World" machine that cost her $15. She had to turn a pointer manually to each letter, and then stamp the letter (capitals only) on to paper through an inked rubber sheet. It was laborious, exhausting."  (pg. 253)

Mabel's work on transcribing the poems became a significant component of the feud (disputed land was also involved) and all this eventually went to trial.  It is a fight that continued even after adversaries Mabel Todd and Sue Dickinson died.  (The last hundred pages of Lives Like Loaded Guns discusses the battles that continued among Millicent Todd Bingham, Mabel and David's daughter, and Mattie Dickinson, daughter of Sue and Austin, and other interested parties. I'll confess to skimming a few of these pages, because after nearly 400 pages of keeping track of who was on whose side, etc., it became a bit confusing to have new people introduced into the mix.)

This wasn't a breezy read, but it was one that I enjoyed.  As I mentioned earlier, I didn't know anything about this whole Dickinson family feud and that was interesting (and entertaining) to me.  Lyndall Gordon's writing made me feel as if I was transported back to that time while at the same time providing some analysis of and thoughts on  Emily Dickinson's poetry. 

"I want to propose that her poems work when a theorem is applied to a reader's life. It's a mistake to spot Dickinson in all her poems; the real challenge is to find our selves. She demands a reciprocal response, a complementary act of introspection.  For the poem to work fully we have to complete it with our own thoughts and feelings. Her dash is not casual; its a prompt, bringing the reader to the brink of words: there is the need to speak, if only to ourselves.  This can be especially effective when we are in touch with feelings as intense as the poet's own: it might be abandonment or grief or fear of losing control.  A Dickinson poem can open out into any number of dramas to fill its compelling spaces."  (pg. 111)

Any number of dramas to fill compelling spaces, indeed.  Who could have guessed how many there really were!

What Other Bloggers Thought:

Amused, Bemused and Confused (Teadevotee)

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Letting Go

Sometimes as much as we want to keep holding on ...

... the best thing we can do is to let go.

(The pinecone fell off our dead tree during last night's snowstorm.)

For more Wordless Wednesday photos, go here.

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Caribbean Blue

"... and so the world goes round and round
with all you ever knew -
They say the sky high above
is Caribbean blue ..."

"Caribbean Blue" ~ Enya

Kids are home from school today.  (They've been off for six days now, thanks to parent-teacher conferences, inservices, and President's Day.  Don't even get me started on being off for parent-teacher conferences.)

They are driving me - and each other - a bit bonkers. 

I'm getting no work done.

I don't know which is louder: the Wii , the whining for something to eat ten minutes after consuming their lunch, the cries of boredom.

With 3-6" of snow in the forecast, we could be looking at the same thing for tomorrow. 

The phone just rang.  I look at the Caller ID to determine if I'm picking it up.


Caribbean Island?  Caribbean ISLAND???!!  On a day with bickering and whining kids, and more gawdforsaken snow in the forecast, after a tease of 70 degree temperatures that we had on Friday?

That's just downright fucking cruel.  

Alas, not the Caribbean. 
A little closer to home.
Rehoboth Beach, DE ~  July 2008

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

A President's Day Book Review: Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime

Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime  (audiobook)
by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin
14.75 hours 
Narrated by Dennis Boutsikaris

"This shit would be really interesting if we weren't in the middle of it." 
 Barack Obama, September 2008 

I'm a bit of a political junkie. I find the personalities and the inner workings of politics fascinating, even though the closest I've ever come to being on the inside of any political campaign was a) when The Husband was running for Township Commissioner and b) when we helped out Bill Clinton's '92 campaign one evening by stuffing envelopes. 

(While doing so, our group gathered 'round the television - yes, back in the day people actually did such a thing as gather 'round the television for must-see-TV - to watch the '92-'93 season premiere of "Murphy Brown." Political junkies like myself will recall that this episode was historic: titled "You Say Potatoe, I Say Potato," it was in response to Dan Quayle's remarks on the fictitious Murphy choosing to have a baby as a single mother.  Ah, yes, the early '90s.  Those were the days.)

Nearly 20 years later, both Clintons are still around and featured prominently (along with Obama, Edwards, McCain, and Palin) in Game Change, John Heilemann and Mark Halperin's book that gives an eye-opening and detailed look at the 2008 presidential election campaign.

If any presidential campaign was made for political junkies, this one was it. 

But here's the thing:  if you are into this stuff, regardless of who you supported or what party you affiliate with, chances are you've probably read other such chronicles about the 2008 campaign or heard tidbits from the book in various news clips.

Among the books I read in 2010 (and very much liked) were David Plouffe's The Audacity to Win  and Anne Kornblut's Notes from a Cracked Ceiling  (Links take you to my reviews.) That meant that, while I really liked Game Change, I had already read or heard of many of the more notable instances. 

That doesn't mean Game Change wasn't without its juicy moments. There are certainly enough of those. It's just different than the Plouffe or Kornblut books because Game Change encompasses all the major players, rather than focusing in on just one or a few. (Although it did seem like Obama and Hillary got a bit more ink than McCain and Palin ... not like I'm complaining about that.)

With all of them (with the exception of Palin), the first thing I noticed about each one of the candidates was their language. Now, I'm not a prude and I've certainly been known to drop a well-placed f-bomb on several an occasion. But for all the brou-ha-ha that was made about Joe Biden's "big fucking deal" comment, that practically pales in comparison to what Obama, Hillary, Edwards, and McCain (especially McCain) seem to utter on an hourly basis. Yeah, I know the man should have been more ... I don't know, less Joe? given a live mike, but he who lives in glass houses shouldn't throw stones and all that.

So, suffice it to say that he word fuck is used quite often in this book and if that's offensive to you, you'll probably want to refrain from reading this one. And if you're listening on audio, as I was, it's probably not the best audio to have playing in the car as a quick political science lesson for the younger set.

It is, however, a lesson in a look into the world of political campaigning on the presidential scale.
Having read the Plouffe book, there wasn't much about Obama that was revealed in Game Change that I didn't know or that was surprising.  But there were some intriguing revelations (spoilers ahead!) about the other characters, such as:
  • Hillary Clinton forming a covert Presidential transition team even before the Iowa primaries were over.
  • Chelsea Clinton was involved in more strategy and decision making with her mother's campaign than I realized.
  • Elizabeth Edwards berating John's campaign staff, even telling them at one point that until they (John and Elizabeth) had their new health insurance, then nobody was getting health insurance.
  • Elizabeth Edwards regularly calling John a monster, and a fight between the couple in an airport that had her ripping off her blouse.
  • John Edwards's crowing, "They loooovvvvvvvvvvvvve  me!"  (I guess this isn't much of a surprise.)
  • McCain and staffers gleefully watching and laughing at a YouTube video of John Edwards preening over his hair, and playing the video over and over again
  • Sarah Palin's catatonic-like breakdown during debate preparations, sitting in a hotel with half-eaten meals strewn about and hundreds of index cards with facts written on them (like flash cards), and her handlers having to educate her on everything from the Spanish Civil War to the situation in Iraq, to who the various news personalities were and how to pronounce nuclear. 
Now, I know Game Change's critics say that the interviews and unnamed sources are disgruntled campaign employees and aides, and maybe they are and maybe they aren't.  Whatever.  The point is, most of these instances do sound somewhat plausible, don't they? 

As I mentioned, I listened to this on audio and loved the narration by Dennis Boutsikaris.  He has the perfect voice for this one - a wonderful combination of egomania, smugness, suspense, and drama that was so very much a part of the 2008 presidential campaign.  I really liked Boutsikaris's narration in Anita Shreve's All I Ever Wanted so I was glad to have the opportunity to listen to him again.  My only quibble with the narration was the mispronunciation of Malia Obama's name.  Bousikaris kept saying "MAHL-yuh" instead of "mah-LEE-uh" (of which I believe the latter is the correct version), and that kind of irked me.  But, that's only on a few occasions in the book so it is forgivable.  The audiobook definitely held my attention and was actually a great listen for me since the material was familiar. 

If you're a political junkie like me, Game Change offers a very good glimpse of the wild and crazy ride that was the 2008 presidential campaign and the various Mr. (and Mrs.) Toads that were driving the cars.  Just know that if you've read other similar books (like the ones by Plouffe or Kornblut), that you'll probably be in for some repetition here.  But if you haven't, then Game Change would be a good one to start with. 

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Sunday Salon: February Funk

I just remarked to The Husband that my writing mojo seems a little off this week.  Not sure why.  Recovering from the flu?  Check.  Too many other distractions on my mind, such as needing to get our house ready for the market? Check. A car with a dead battery? Check. The insanity going on in our political world, with House representatives trying to turn us into a developing nation? Check. This crazy winter weather that had us basking in 70 degree temperatures on Friday and while looking at forecasts with more snow for this week? Check. Some combination of all of the above?  Check, check, and check.

It's not just the writing - my reading mojo is a little off, too. You know how it is when you're reading, and the books aren't terrible, they're actually quite fine, but yet they're not knocking your socks off either?  That's the kind of reading phase I'm in. I want an escape, I want to be wowed,  but I guess that isn't all that realistic of an expectation, is it now?

Anyway. I'll eventually snap out of this February funk, I promise.  (And yes, the month does have a great deal to do with it. I really don't care much for this month to begin with.)

This week I finally finished Lyndall Gordon's Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family's Feuds. At 405 pages, this is not a breezy read (maybe that's what I need to pull me out of my February funk, because this one took me half the month to read).  Overall, I liked this one. The Dickinson family dynamics were fascinating, and even though it is a little more academic in places than I expected, it was a very good and intriguing book.  It was just ... long, and patience ain't my strong suit these days. 

Next up on my library pile was The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey by Walter Mosley.  Now, there is not a single person (I swear) who has not loved this book.  Bloggers whose opinions I respect greatly and whose tastes mirror mine have been singing the praises of this one.  Me, with my sagging reading mojo?  I am truly an island, because I just couldn't connect with the characters or the storyline.  I wanted to, I really, really did, but at 90 pages I returned this one to the library as a DNF, which disappointed me. 

Honestly, I am the only person I know of (and I read a lot of blogs) who didn't like this one.  I hate when that happens, so I may give it another try another time. 

So then I was thinking, okay, maybe I need to read a few shorter books right now, especially after the 405 page Lives Like Loaded Guns. Fortunately, I have several shorter works out from the library.  One of them is Tinkers, the Pulitzer Prize winning first novel by Paul Harding.  Again, as with Ptolemy, bloggers I adore (Nomadreader, Caribousmom) praise this one too. There are some definite similarities with the two - they both involve elderly men who are dying and reflecting back on their lives - but Tinkers is resonating more with me than Ptolemy, mainly because of the gorgeous, poetic writing.  I'm really liking Harding's writing in this one and will likely finish this one today. 

How about you ... are you in a February funk, with your reading or anything else for that matter?  It can't be just me, can it?

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Brave OrcaGirl (A Post from My Daughter's Blog)

Blogging runs in the family.  My 9 year old Betty (also known as OrcaGirl on her blog, Orcas and Stuff) wrote this post last night. Proud mama here?  You betcha.  And grateful to Katie's mom, too.

OK. I know it's been a long time since I last wrote and everything. That was because I had some things that I wanted or needed to do. Today I was at my day care center and we were watching a movie that I didn't like.I was sitting in a corner (I was not in trouble) playing my DS. Then during the movie I heard someone say a word. A VERY bad word, I don't want to write the word but I feel like I have to. Ok, here's the bad word: The word was retarded! I could not believe my ears. I went over to him and I said ``Did you just say retarded?!" But he didn't answer. He just kept on saying it. That's when I had enough. I went over to a teacher and I told her what he said. I felt very brave when I did that. It also made me think of one of the most awsomest and coolest pen pal ever, Katie. She had the same thing with someone too. When I told the teacher I knew how Katie must have felt. She must have felt brave, but a little bit mad at the person who did that. Katie, I'm proud of you. You are so awsome (your sister is too!).

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Still Living

Two headlines in at least two different newspapers that I read daily have me a bit riled up this morning.  Hence, this post will likely turn into a stepping-up-on-one's-soapbox kind of rant that I generally try to avoid, but in this case, annoys the hell out of me too much that I just can't. 

As many people in Philadelphia and throughout the nation know, former Philadelphia Phillies manager and current senior advisor to the team Dallas Green is the grandfather of Christina Taylor Green, the bright and inquisitive 9 year old girl who was killed during the Tucson, AZ shooting rampage that claimed the life of six people and injured others, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

The lives of the victims and their loved ones will never be the same, and we shouldn't expect them to be. 

Which is why the two headlines today really infuriate me. 

I speak first of this, the headline to a story about Dallas Green speaking to the media about his family's unspeakable loss.

Phillies' Green still grieving over loss of a granddaughter.

And in my local newspaper, the front page masthead sports a photo of a grieving Green with the words "Dallas Green Still Living Tucson Tragedy."  (The headline on the actual article itself is a bit better, "Green's Sorrow Too Hard to Mask.") 

Still grieving over loss.  Still living Tucson tragedy.

The shooting happened on January 8. 

Today is February 17. 

It hasn't even been six weeks.



What makes us think that they wouldn't? 

We live in such a supercharged, instant-everything, gimme the quick fix yesterday kind of society.  Something that happened a month ago is practically fodder for the history books, given the pace of the modern day news cycle.  The implication of headlines like "still grieving the loss of a granddaughter" is that our grief and the processing of such should be as recyclable as everything else we consume in this society.  OK, done with that, move on, next! 

As anyone who has lost anyone knows, grief doesn't have a deadline.  It doesn't come with a timetable.  It has its stages, as anyone who has read or even heard of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross ("On Death and Dying") knows, but we move through them, bouncing from one to another, experiencing some simultaneously.  It's a process, one that doesn't take a matter of mere weeks or months.  For some it takes years.  For some, the cycle continues, in some fashion, forever. 

You don't get over loss, especially that of a child, especially one taken in such a horrific and shocking and unexpected way, in less than six weeks. 

When my infant cousin passed away in 1981, my grandmother grieved the loss of that child until the day of her own death in 2004. In his own way, I know my grandfather did too.  Same with their son. 

This Sunday will mark 26 years since my father died.  My mother, brother, and I are in different places and are different people than we were nearly three decades ago this February.  Yet, are we "still living" with the loss of our father? 

Hell, yeah. 

The story about the Green family's grief isn't the first where I've seen reference made to "still living the tragedy" or "still grieving their loss" within mere weeks or months after the event. The thing is, such a choice of phrase serves only to retraumatize those who are grieving by making them feel as if there's something wrong with them if they aren't back to their usual, pre-tragedy selves within days or even weeks. 

We shouldn't expect them to be, because expecting them to be does them a disservice. It disrespects them and the grieving process.

It tarnishes the memory and importance of those they loved.

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Book Review: Molly Fox's Birthday, by Deirdre Madden

Molly Fox's Birthday
by Deirdre Madden
Picador, 2010
216 pages
Orange Prize Finalist
Challenges: New Authors, Where Are You Reading?

When I was younger, for some unknown reason  I was fascinated with the date June 21.  I loved that it was the beginning of summer and the longest day of the year.  I suppose the month of June and the number 21 signified some degree of youthfulness and freedom to me, I don't know.  I always wanted to get married on June 21 (and as it turned out, I came pretty damn close.)

Anyway.  In this book, June 21 happens to be Molly Fox's birthday.  And it is also the date that Molly Fox's Birthday takes place. (It's like Mrs. Dalloway in that it is set over the course of one day, but without the tension in Woolf's classic.) 

Acclaimed actress Molly Fox is spending her birthday in New York while one of her dearest, long-time friends (an accomplished playwright who has collaborated with Molly) is house-sitting at her home in Dublin, Ireland. Molly Fox's Birthday is written in the first person, from The Playwright's point of view.  (I refer to her as The Playwright because we never learn her name. This didn't bother me as much as I thought it would, but I admit it was a detail I might have wanted to know. And actually, there were times when I thought she might have been a he, but the book jacket says the narrator is a female.)

So, The Playwright is house-sitting, reminiscing about years gone by, and reflecting on her friendship with Molly as well as a college friend named Andrew Forde, an art scholar and critic.  The chronology is a little rocky; I never did get a solid sense of exactly how long ago in  the past all these misty-colored memories took place (at least 20 years, I believe).  The Playwright also reflects on family, particularly the interactions with siblings and the influences of parents.  Molly, The Playwright, and Andrew all have their own issues with their respective upbringings and circumstances of their lives. 

This is not a novel to read for its plot - because there really isn't much of one.  It took me about a third of the novel to become accustomed and comfortable with that.  As I began focusing more on the characters, the novel became more intriguing.  (I did catch myself reading with a writer's eye, looking for the nuances of character development.  Not like there's anything wrong with that, in my readerly view.)

Towards the last third of the novel, Deirdre Madden started to lose me a little bit.  The dialogue started getting a little too high-brow, a bit too philosophical.  (My late father would have categorized such speak as "artsy-fartsy.")  I also felt that The Playwright viewed herself as being closer friends with Molly than Molly did, which kind of made me sad for The Playwright. 

Also, there were a few too many coincidences. For example, just as The Playwright was thinking about someone, that person appeared at the door or happened to be browsing in the same shop. Once is fine.  Two and three times?  A little ridiculous and a flimsy literary device used to excess. 

Molly Fox's Birthday is about identity, about friendship, and about the passage of time.  Rather than being viewed as a novel dependent on plot, it is one that is more of a commentary on how friendships evolve and change over decades, how they shape who we are, and how well we really know those in our closest circle of friends.

Initially, I finished Molly Fox's Birthday thinking that it was just okay - not the best book I've ever read, but certainly not the worst.  But then I found myself thinking of my own friendships, particularly with the people I knew in college.  I read something (a quote? a blog post?) recently that stated that our college friends are unique, because they see us at a very pivotal time in our lives, as our foundations are forming for who we will be. (I guess this assumes we're all traditional aged college students, living in dorms and whatnot, whereas I realize that's not always the case.)

In addition, Molly Fox's Birthday made me think about friendships in the age of Facebook, and who is really considered a close friend. (It's a modern day novel, but I'm guessing its set in the pre-Facebook era.)  The random coincidences - people stopping by Molly's house and not realizing she is in New York - would perhaps be avoided, because most likely these "friends" would already know Molly was overseas. Maybe all this is a stretch and not what Deirdre Madden intended. Regardless, it's what lingers for me after finishing Molly Fox's Birthday. 

Overall, I found this to be a slightly flawed but contemplative, reflective novel.  I didn't dislike it, yet it wasn't one that I was captivated by. It's not going to appeal to everyone, which is fine.  It had its good and bad points, its ebbs and flows.

Just like most of our friendships in real life do, right?

What Others Thought:

A Book Sanctuary
A Guy's Moleskine Notebook
Farm Lane Books

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Sunday Salon: From My Sickbed

This Sunday finds me in bed with what feels like the flu - sore throat, on-and-off fever, dizziness, overall weakness - guzzling Gatorade and sleeping for the majority of the day and night.  I was hoping we would have made it through this winter without any of us getting dreadfully sick (we've been pretty lucky thus far). 

Anyway, when I am able to keep my eyes open for more than five minutes, I'm reading Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family's Feuds by Lyndall Gordon.   It was due back to the library yesterday and I've only just reached the midpoint.  (It's 405 pages.)  The first half is very biographical, along with analysis of her poetry and theories as to why Emily was such a recluse.  It's only now, at the 200 page mark, that we're getting into the family drama.  (Emily's brother Austin was having an affair, but it is apparently more complicated than just that.)

This week, I also listened to Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine. Absolutely wonderful. 
My current audiobook is a short story collection called American Salvage, by Bonnie Jo Campbell, which was a finalist for the National Book Award.

OK, that's all that I have the energy for right now. Back to bed.  Hope you're having a great Sunday! 

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Original Lyrics to Country Dreamer, With Apologies to Sir Paul

McCartney fans, listen up. The original lyrics to Country Dreamer have just been found, deep in a protected vault.*  

I like to stand in a tree
with you.  Shake my head and
sit with you.  I like to walk
in a tree with you, would you
like to do it to "yeah would you
like to do it to." You and i coutry dreamer.  walking on
thin ice. with you.

(by Boo, 7 years old)

*also known as two huge piles of papers that have been accumulating in our den for ages.

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Book Review: Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine (audiobook)

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine
Penguin Young Readers
Recorded Books
Audiobook narrated by Angela Jayne Rogers
4 hours, 22 minutes

With her latest book, Mockingbird, author Kathryn Erskine gives an incredibly heartfelt and wonderful gift to people with Asperger's Syndrome, their parents and teachers, and their peers. 

It is, quite simply, the gift of knowing that there is someone (Erskine herself) who "gets it."  And that knowledge, that understanding, is truly something "good and strong and beautiful," to quote one of the many themes that resonate through this book.

When we meet fifth grader Caitlin Smith, her world seems to be anything but good and strong and beautiful.  It is a world where her mother died when she was 3, and her beloved brother Devon was recently killed (along with several others) during a school shooting.  Left to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives are Caitlin and her grieving father.

While such a tragedy would be difficult for anyone to comprehend, it is compounded even moreso by the fact that Caitlin has Asperger's Syndrome.  Her world is very much like the charcoal drawings she creates: black and white.  No color, no gray area, no ambiguity.  All that is confusing to Caitlin, and she struggles - oh, how she struggles! - to make sense of the senseless, to cope with feelings, to try and reach the elusive closure. 

Although he is deceased when we meet him in the story, Devon is very much present as Caitlin's protective big brother.  As Erskine brilliantly shows us his character and personality, the reader begins to understand just how monumental this loss is to Caitlin - for it was Devon who helped her navigate her way through a world that isn't always kind to, or easy for, people who have autism.

As regular readers of this blog know, my son has Asperger's.  Some of the dialogue that Caitlin has with her classmates could have been conversations that Boo has with his peers, and some of the conversations (and yes, frustrations) that we have with Boo are incredibly accurate.  Erskine gets this, and she gets the perspective of a parent of a child on the autism spectrum. The emotions are so accurate, so true-to-life, and so heartbreakingly real.  Mockingbird is a book that shows Asperger's as it is: not sugar-coated, not in a light where everyone's a genius (I love that she celebrates Caitlin's artistic ability without making her out to be the next Michaelangelo), and most importantly, not as a condition to be pitied.  Because while your heart certainly goes out to Caitlin, pity doesn't enter into it. 

Winner of the 2010 National Book Award for Young People's Literature, Mockingbird is that rare type of novel that transcends the ages.  It is categorized as for ages 10-12, making it a middle grade book, but it is really a book that everyone can identify with and relate to. In that regard, it's almost unfortunate that Mockingbird has an age range because it's an ageless story in a modern day context. We've all been part of a community that has suffered tragedy and needs to come together for healing, we've all had our moments of struggle as parents, we've all been that 10 year old who is just trying to fit in and make sense of the world. 

It is also beautifully and exquisitely written, layered with rich symbolism and meaning.  The imagery of a bird with a broken wing and then flying free.  An unfinished chest that was Devon's Eagle Scout project, and the bullets that pierced his chest.  The connections and similarities with many aspects of the classic To Kill a Mockingbird. 

Finally, I need to  say something about the audio version of this, which I listened to and which is magnificently narrated by Angela Jayne Rogers.  She captures the nuances and cadences of Caitlin's speech and brings her to life in a very real way.  I'm not sure how old Ms. Rogers is, but she has the perfect voice for Caitlin - as well as all the other characters.  This is a talent, and I will definitely be looking for her work in the future. 

Teachers,  if you have To Kill a Mockingbird on your syllabus, you would be doing your students a true service by following it up with Kathryn Erskine's Mockingbird.  Forget the 10-12 age range, and tell your students it won't matter by the time they finish the last page.  This has the capacity to be just as much a classic - and dare I say, just as important a book for these times of unprecedented increase in school-related violence as well as autism spectrum disorders. 

Mockingbird is a true gift to the autism community, to the educators who help our kids, and to the parents.  And for a group of people for whom friendships are often a struggle, they have found a true friend in Kathryn Erskine. 

What Other Bloggers Thought:

A Patchwork of Books
Beth Kephart Books
Biblio's Bloggins
Book Nut
Carrie's YA Bookshelf
Frenetic Reader
Laughing Stars
Librarian's Book Reviews
Reading Junky's Reading Roost
Six Boxes of Books
Small World Reads

Tina Says ...

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

(Not So) Wordless Wednesday: Cameras

I know this picture isn't all that exciting, but it is to me. I bought myself a new camera this week!  It's the one on the right.  (This was taken with my BlackBerry, which doesn't take the best quality photos either, obviously.) 

My old camera, a whopping 6 megapixel Samsung that is just shy of 5 years old, has been slowing dying a painful death since November.  Actually, it started giving me problems before that - during BlogHer, of all times.  Tweaking some settings helped for awhile and I was able to edit the photos to a respectable quality, but I'll admit, it was painful to go through the holidays with this. 

I was coveting a DSLR, but the reality is that the pricetag for such is nowhere near my budget.  And my photographic know-how isn't up to snuff for such a device either, and the learning curve would likely make me frustrated. So I headed over to Walmart, and of course the Canon I was eyeing was only in blue (I prefer my cameras to be either silver or black.  No colors.)  And then another one wasn't in stock.  Other than the problems of the last couple months, my little Samsung has been a workhorse (I've taken over 67,000 photos with this thing - and that's just what I've saved in my files) so this pretty little thing looked like it might fit the bill. 

I'm pretty happy with it thus far. The kids are loving the video capabilities of this.  (My old camera had this too, but I didn't use it much.)  They want to make a new movie every night, which is fun - but exhausting. 

I'm looking forward to getting back into the swing of taking more photos!  

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I'm Still Giving Away ... 2 Books (GIVEAWAY UPDATE)

I need to seriously step up my efforts to get our house ready for the market.  Hence, I've decided to give away some books from my personal shelves to my wonderful blog readers.

(Plus, it's the month of love and what better way to share the love of reading than with a giveaway, right?) 

This little "book gifting" event is modeled on that of one of my favorite book bloggers, the lovely Frances of the lovely Nonsuch Book.  (She knows I'm borrowing this idea.)

Here's how it works:

Below (and pictured above) are several books from my shelves that I've either read or am likely not going to read.  If it is a book you would like to have, simply tell me in the comment section which one you'd like. The first person to do so (for each book) will receive it.  Unfortunately, my budget doesn't permit mailing outside of the U.S.  All are either brand new or gently used and in good condition.

I'll keep the book gifting open until Tuesday, February 15, 2011.  After that, they'll be donated to either Goodwill or the library.  Have fun and good luck!  Here's what's available for the taking  (UPDATED, 10:22 P.M. 2/8/2011)

Secrets of Husbands and Wives, by Josie Brown

Paperback, excellent condition, never read, giveaway from the Book Blogger Convention 2010)

Synopsis: Suburbia is a jungle, filled with lots of vicious creatures. Take the Paradise Heights Women’s League board. Lyssa Harper should have warned golden-haired DILF du jour Harry Wilder what he was getting into when she invited him to meet the mommies who run their suburban, gated community. At least he brought cupcakes. Since meeting the former Master-of-the-Universe turned stay-at-home single dad, Lyssa has been his domestic Sherpa, teaching him the ins and outs of suburban life. She just didn’t realize her friends would show up at his house unannounced with casseroles, leopard-print bikini briefs, and plans to rearrange his kitchen cabinets.

The truth is, if Harry and his wife, the neighborhood’s "perfect couple," can call it quits, what does that mean for everyone else? Lyssa’s husband, Ted, is a great father, but he pays her Pilates-pumped momtourage more attention than he does his own wife. Her friends gossip about the neighbors while ignoring their own problems: infertility, infidelity, and eating disorders. When Harry sets boundaries with his new fan club, he is exiled from the neighborhood’s in-clique. But Lyssa refuses to snub him. What she never expects is the explosive impact her ongoing friendship with Harry will have on her close-knit pals—and on her marriage.

The Monkey Bible, by Mark Laxer
Paperback, never read, excellent condition
This is an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) and a giveaway from the Book Blogger Convention 2010. Also includes a companion music CD called "The Line" with music by Eric Maring.

Synopsis: The Monkey Bible is the story of Emmanuel, a young college bound Christian man who suddenly has reason to suspect that his genetic make-up, and indeed the story of his creation, is not what he had thought it had been. Dismayed and seemingly alienated from his Church, Emmanuel journeys around the world in search of his genetic and spiritual origins, identity, and community.

The science behind the story is accurate, up-to-date, and accessible, and the reader comes to understand the biological creation story as the adventure unfolds. While The Monkey Bible can be seen as the latest chapter in the larger-than-life debate between Darwinists and creationists, the novel is respectful of both sides, and strives to provide a gentle supportive bridge across which people who disagree can communicate. Ultimately, The Monkey Bible is a timely and necessary plea to alter the stories by which we define ourselves as a way to protect the countless creatures on the great tree of life, upon which all human life depends.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Paperback edition, read only once, very good condition.  - claimed and en route to a new home!

A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini
Hardcover, very good condition, read once - claimed and en route to a new home!

Nickled and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, by Barbara Ehrenreich 
claimed and en route to a new home!

Bait and Switch  - claimed and en route to a new home!

Suite Scarlett, by Maureen Johnson 
read by Jeannie Stith   claimed and en route to a new home!

This One is Mine, by Maria Semple
paperback, very good condition  - claimed and en route to a new home!
The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold
Hardback, very good condition, has partially torn off bookstore price tag on back jacket cover - claimed and en route to a new home!

The Sweet By and By, by Todd Johnson  -

The Perfect 10 Diet: 10 Key Hormones That Hold the Secret to Losing Weight and Feeling Great - Fast! by Michael Aziz  claimed and en route to a new home!

Think of a Number, by John Verdon
This is also an ARC (with a slightly different cover than the published edition) and was a giveaway at the Book Blogger Convention 2010.  claimed and en route to a new home!

The Killing of Mindi Quintana, by Jeffrey A. Cohen
Paperback, received from publicist, read once, very good condition

If you're interested in any of these books, pick your favorite (just one, please) and "claim" it by leaving me a comment. The first person to do so will receive it. 

(And don't worry if you miss out on these ... there will very likely be more giveaways like this, including some children's books, as our move progresses.)

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.