Thursday, September 29, 2011

And You May Ask Yourself, How Did They Get Here?

Once again, kids, it's time to play "Search Terms That Led Someone to This Here Blog."  This never ceases to amuse me.  Hopefully that will be true for you, too.  

"microwave books to get rid of germs"
The main character in Lorrie Moore's A Gate at the Stairs (a book I didn't like by an author I love) does this.  She might have more detailed instructions than I do.

"and you wonder where the other shoe is"
Actually, the hell with where it is.  I'm usually wondering when it is going to fall.

"obamas crap on mccains cra game"
CRA game?  Is that similar to croquet?

"what the husband day"
Got me.  What does he day? 

"spanking Cassandra Campbell"
Um ... she's an excellent audiobook narrator.  No spanking needed.  

"Book stores and outlets carring book It Can Happen by Betty McInnis"
I'm not carring or carrying such a book, sorry.  Never even heard of it.  

"the girl sho chased the moon" 
You sho about that, darlin'?

"floppy kid syndrome goats"
Yeah, this gets me every time.  

"wrong the legendary queen of palmyra was called"
Girlfriend, I've been called much, much worse. 

"oompa loompa speech"

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, September 26, 2011

Book Tour: Irma Voth, by Miriam Toews (DNF)

Irma Voth
by Miriam Toews
Harper Collins 
255 pages 

A note before I get into my thoughts on this one: I participated in the book tour of Irma Voth with host TLC Book Tours and was scheduled to have this one published here on the blog here last Friday, 9/23.  Alas, I wound up just saving the post instead of actually SCHEDULING the post, hence the reason it is appearing today. My apologies to Trish from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for the oversight and for any inconvenience this may have caused. OK, onto my thoughts (not quite a review as I didn't finish this one.)

I really wanted to like this one.  I truly did.  The description of this novel, by new-to-me author Miriam Toews, sounded so different than anything else I'd read and seemed very intriguing.

Irma Voth is 19, married, and living in a Mennonite community in Mexico. With the exception of her younger sister, Irma is pretty much estranged from her family.  A filmmaker arrives in town to make a documentary and hires Irma as a translator.  Irma befriends Marijke, an actress in the film and ...well, that would be as far as I got with this one.

I can't really point to one specific element of this story that made me give up after 54 pages.  My two main issues were that the plot seemed to be all over the place, kind of disjointed and unstructured.  Also, as much as I tried, I didn't feel connected to any of the characters. Both of these were factors in making me lose interest.

Normally I don't have any problem abandoning books that aren't working for me, but I did with this one because I was reading it as part of a TLC Book Tour.  I don't do many book tours - and maybe I shouldn't do any, period, because this is now the second toured book that I didn't quite enjoy.  It left me in a conundrum about what to do about the review, but after talking to the ever-so-gracious-and-understanding Trish, I decided to treat this one like any other DNF and just be honest.

Bottom line? This one just didn't work for me.  However, I'm planning to donate this ARC to my local library in hopes that Irma Voth will find a reader or two who will fall deeply in love with all that she has to offer.

Click here for a list of other bloggers participating in the tour. 

I received a free copy of Irma Voth from the publisher, via TLC Book Tours, in exchange for my honest review.  I was not compensated in any way. Thanks so much to Trish for including me on the tour.  

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, September 25, 2011

The Sunday Salon

My girl and I are getting ready to spend an afternoon at the Carnegie Science Center, so this will be a quick Sunday Salon post. There's a promotional initiative going on in the area with more than 50 local cultural and arts attractions that are offering free admission on designated days over the next few weeks. Today happens to be the Science Center's turn, and since Betty has been asking to go there since before we moved, we're taking advantage of this.

Just as well that this is an abbreviated post because not much has really changed in my reading from last week.

My work travel continued in full force this week, which allowed me to finish listening to Jonathan Franzen's novel Freedom on audio.  This one's a chunkster in every sense of the word. With 562 pages in the print edition, this translates into 19 unabridged CDs spanning 24 hours and 17 minutes.

This was my first Franzen book, and early on in my listening I predicted that this would wind up being a "just OK" type of book for me ... and I was right.  Bottom line?  I think Freedom was incredibly over-hyped. It's not a terrible book, but I don't like investing 24 hours of my time in a book only to come away shrugging my shoulders, which is how I feel about this one.

So why didn't this one become one of my DNFs?  Two words: David LeDoux. He's the narrator of the superb audiobook production of Freedom. As audiobooks and their narrators go, LeDoux's talents are exceptional. There are more than a few characters at play in Freedom, which is a challenge to any audiobook narrator, but LeDoux does a great job of differentiating the various voices.  I wound up reading the last 75 or so pages, and even though that may not seem to be enough of a scientific sample to judge whether the audio or print version is better, it was enough for me.

I'm also still reading Ransom Riggs's debut novel, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children which I am absolutely loving.  It's creepy, but in a great way. This is going to be one of my favorites of this year. I'm hoping to finish this up either tonight (that might be optimistic) or tomorrow, since it is now overdue back to the library.

And now, I am overdue for a much-anticipated afternoon at the Science Center. Later, kids!

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, September 22, 2011

Please Enter Your Four Digit Pin Number, Which Begins With the Letter "F" and Ends With the Letter "U"

Change at the bottom of a fountain in a mall
Photo taken by me, July 2011 

Most days, I try and refrain from using my blog as a bitching station.  However, there are some days and some situations where that can't be avoided.

This just so happens to be one such day and one such situation.  And this just so happens to be my blog, so I feel entitled to use it as a bitching pulpit, should I feel so inclined.  Which I do.

So, there's this bank/credit card company you may have heard of.  We call it Shittibank in our house, which rhymes with its proper name.

(I'll give you a second to figure it out.  Got it?  Good.)

I rarely use this credit card, which I have had since 1989 when the fine folks at Shittibank set up a table outside the cafeteria at my college, where I was dining (and living and studying and other things) back in that era.  Knowing of the evils of credit cards, this card is one that is in my name, that I keep to maintain my stellar (heh) credit rating and which is used in emergency situations.

The settlement of the Delaware house, which coincided with my not being paid for the past month (because of the new job) has left us with the equivalent of a couple of coins jangling around in our bank account. If I had money to bet with, I'd wager that the loose change on the floor of my car was more than what was in our checking account.  Food and gas happen to be necessities of late, so I broke out the Shittibank card for the first time in maybe a year or so.

I wanted a cash advance from the fine folks at Shittibank.  No, scratch that:  what I wanted was to link up my checking account with my Shittibank account because the website seemed to indicate that such a thing was possible. My thinking was that  said cash advance could perhaps just be dumped into my checking account.

No can do.

This, you see, required a pin number.  Which, since it had been an eternity since I'd needed a cash advance, I did not have.  I went online to try and set up a pin number, only to be instructed to call customer service.

Which I did.

And was told that I could, absolutely, get a new pin number.

In 7-10 days.


Now, let me get this straight. You're a fucking major corporation, handling gazillions of dollars every second, and the procedure for getting a new pin number is to wait 7-10 days so a piece of paper can arrive in the mail?

THAT is the best we can do in this technological day and age?

I mean, did I just step back in time to where I was signing up for my Shittibank card in my college's cafeteria, in the glory days of 1989?

Apparently so.

Until the pin number shows up in my mailbox, however, I could use said credit card to continue charging whatever my heart (and refrigerator, and gas tank) required.

Gee, thanks for that.

Earlier this week, like on Monday or something, a letter arrives from Shittibank bearing the golden four-digit pin number.  It's dated September 8, so it has apparently taken like a week for said correspondance to arrive at my door.

On Tuesday, I go to my bank's ATM, plunk in my brand-spankin' new pin number and ... get denied.


I call Shittibank, ask what the hell is up with this shit, and am told that what I have is a Thank You Card. This doesn't make me feel any more loved or appreciated by Shittibank. The pin number should work, but since it's not, why don't I just go into the teller and they can give me the money.

I do that.  Shittibank denies the teller's request for the money. Teller advises me to call Shittibank, and would I be interested in talking to a loan representative? Or a mortgage officer?
I've had enough for one day.

On Wednesday morning, The Husband - whom I have added to my account, just to make things easier in case of my demise via spontaneous combustion - goes online in the morning and unbeknownst to me, tries to change his pin number to something more memorable.

This attracts the attention of Shittibank's Fraud Department.

Who takes immediate action.  NOT, mind you, in the form of a phone call to me, the primary cardholder.

In the form of CHANGING THE PIN NUMBER. The same one which I have JUST RECEIVED after waiting not very patiently to arrive in the MAIL - for 10 DAYS.

But see, I don't know that Shittibank did me the favor of protecting me from my fraudulent husband because I am driving all over the boondocks of western Pennsylvania for my new (and absolutely wonderful, I should add) job.

I go to an ATM and try once again to get the cash advance I kind of, sort of, really need.

The pin number gets declined.


I check my Pennsylvania map to see how close I am to Punxatawney, because now I'm starting to feel like I'm in freakin' "Groundhog Day."

I call Shittibank from the parking lot of the ATM.  Jerry from Montana or someplace beginning with an M introduces himself and asks how he can assist me.

"Let me just start off by saying, Jerry, that I know that this situation is not your personal fault. " I begin.  (Just how every customer service rep wants to start a conversation.)  "You sound like a nice guy and I am truly sorry you have to deal with me, because  I'm a little upset here."

I explain the situation to Jerry, who is "so very sorry" but unfortunately, he is powerless to do anything about the PIN number.  It falls to poor Jerry to inform me about the "fraud."

"What fucking fraud?!"

The fraud apparently perpetrated by The Husband.  When he went online this morning as the co-holder of the account.

Following a few more f-blasts on my end and hearing my opinions on how this is insane, Jerry offers up an Account Manager.  I wait on hold.  And wait.

Now I'm on the verge of being late to my next presentation, an hour away.  I hang up.

During dinner, my cell phone announces two messages, one of which is from my friends at Shittibank's Fraud Department.  They would like me to call at my earliest convenience.

I dial the phone.

"The fraud seems to be because of the online transaction this morning," says the Shittibank representative.

I answer that I am aware of such.  Do we have any other fraud? I inquire.


Then why was my husband - who I have personally designated as someone who has access to my account - flagged as being a fraud?

"Because, you see, it is because he talked to someone offseas."


"He spoke with an offseas representative."

I ask The Husband if he spoke to anyone offseas.  He assures me he was not hearing voices from his computer.

"He spoke with someone in a country that ... well, let me see here ... has the initials C.I."

"Would that be the CAYMAN FUCKING ISLANDS?" I screech, creating a new province of the Caymans with my expletive.

"Oh, my ... yes, it very well might be.  The Cayman Islands!  Absolutely! That's what it is!" she says, in the same tone of voice as one would use if I had won an all-expense trip to the Cayman Fucking Islands.

I go off on my diatribe about how all this is because of a fucking pin number that nobody in the Cayman Islands or Montana or anywhere in creation has the power to give to me.  That in this day and age with COMPUTERS and whatnot, I have to wait for the equivalent of the fucking Pony Express to show up and deliver unto me a four digit pin number.  Like Jerry in Montana, this woman is also "very sorry" but there is nothing that anybody can do.

"Is there anything else I can do for you today?" she says, probably hoping I will say "hell, no" so she can get me off the phone.

"Yes," I answer.  "There really has NOT been any fraud, correct?"


"So we're good?" I press on.

"Yep, we're all good."

Sounds like fraud to me.

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, September 20, 2011

What Has Been Lost

I wasn't going to blog any more about my friends' adoption case.  After my most recent post about it, I figured I had said all I needed to say. And then a gag order was issued in the case.

But that's been lifted now.  Because the case ended this afternoon.

Tonight, little 10-month old Baby G. is in foster care.

Tonight, little 10-month old Baby G. is 764 miles away from the house that she has known since her birth.

And tonight, little 10-month old Baby G. has been taken away from the only two people she knows as her parents.

Baby G.'s in foster care tonight because a judge decided that is a better life for her while her biological father finishes his jail sentence and regains custody.

Sleep well, judge.

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.

What Has Been Lost

I wasn't going to blog any more about my friends' adoption case.  After my most recent post about it, I figured I had said all I needed to say. And then a gag order was issued in the case.

But that's been lifted now.  Because the case ended this afternoon.

Tonight, little 10-month old Baby G. is in foster care.

Tonight, little 10-month old Baby 764 miles away from the house that she has known since her birth.

And tonight, little 10-month old Baby G. has been taken away from the only two people she knows as her parents.

Baby G.'s in foster care tonight because a judge decided that is a better life for her while her biological father finishes his jail sentence and regains custody.

Sleep well, judge.

"The hurt doesn't go away, the tears never cease to fall,

You cover them over with people and places,
Hoping you'll want to break away.
Oh my darling, the pain doesn't go away ...

...All the nonsense of it and oh, the pain doesn't go away.

The tears never cease to fall, the hurt doesn't go away.
The pain doesn't go away." 

"The Hurt Doesn't Go Away" ~ sung by Frank Sinatra, written by Joe Raposo

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.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Books That Everyone Has Read But Me

This week, the fine folks over at The Broke and the Bookish are wanting to know (for their Top Ten Tuesday bookish meme) about the top 10 books everyone has read ... except for me.

And with the exception of #5 and maybe #6, I could probably add that these are books that I am guessing I will NEVER read.  I'm OK with that ... although when you see some of them, I might get kicked out of the book blogging community indefinitely.

In no particular order, my Top 10 Books That Everyone Has Read But Me include:

1. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling.  Never read a single one, never saw the movies, never really had much of a desire to do so.  Yeah, I know. Something is wrong with me.

2. Twilight, by Stephanie Meyer.  As with Harry Potter, I've never read any of this series and don't plan to.

3. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (#2 in The Hunger Games series).  I read The Hunger Games.  I even liked The Hunger Games.  But one book was enough for me.

4. Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins (#3 in The Hunger Games series). Please see above.

5. The Help, by Kathryn Stockett.  Now this is one I will probably eventually get around to reading.  It has been on my radar since it came out but given the hoopla surrounding the movie, it feels even moreso that I am the last person to read this.

6. Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden.  I own this one. I just haven't read it yet. I almost did when Carmela was reading it in bed during one episode of "The Sopranos." (God, how I miss "The Sopranos.")

7.  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Steig Larsson.  Same goes for all the others that follow this one.  (I'm not much of a series girl, if you haven't figured that out by now.)

8. The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold.  Owned it. Looked at it. Donated it. Decided subject matter was a little too intense for me.

9. Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert.  With all the hype on this one, it feels as if I could recite the book verbatim.  Just no interest in this one.

10. Anything by Stephen King.  There's a very good chance that I might eventually read (or listen to) On Writing. But it's a good bet that I'll continue avoiding everything else of his.  'Cause I don't do horror and scary, and (correct me if I'm wrong) but I've heard Mr. King is kind of good at that sort of thing.

(I know this to be true because I've watched "Salem's Lot" and "Misery," the latter of which I absolutely loved.)

It's funny, but if you peruse the links of those participating in this week's Top Ten Tuesday, many of these books show up on others' lists too.

How about you? Have you read (or not read) any of these?

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, September 18, 2011

The Sunday Salon: BBAWhere Did That Week Go?

What's that saying about the best-laid plans? ("The best-laid plans of mice and men always go astray.") Add "and Melissa" to the mice and men part, and that's how I feel about the past week. I had all good intentions of participating in BBAW (Book Blogger Appreciation Week), which I usually enjoy for so many reasons.

(For those not in the know, BBAW is a week to celebrate books and the bloggers who love and promote them. It's a week to congratulate those who have won awards and to become acquainted with new blogs. Indeed, three years ago, BBAW was my own introduction to this book blogging community that I have come to love. It's always a fun week - and it always goes by in a nanosecond.)

That was definitely the case for me this week. My plans to write pre-scheduled posts didn't happen. And my new job revved into full force this week, and coincided with traveling more than 300 miles (each way) back to Delaware to finally complete the sale of our former house - which meant that keeping up with BBAW (or life in general) was impossible over the last few days.

Even though I was an absentee member of the BBAW community this week, it occurred to me that weeks like the ones I had are very much part of what makes the book blogging community such a wonderful one.  We all have lives away from the computer and our books, and when we don't have the chance to post as often as we'd like, everyone understands. We support each other online and off - and believe you me, I absolutely saw (and appreciated) that so much over the past 8 months with the craziness of our move. That, right there, is what makes the blogging community so awesome.

And speaking of awesome, can I tell you about the awesome book I just started on Friday evening? I was at my mom's house and the cool weather seemed to be the perfect evening for a R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VI Challenge book. In my purse was Ransom Riggs's debut novel, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. I was immediately captivated by this deliciously creepy story about 16 year old Jacob, who travels to a remote island off the coast of Wales to discover the truth behind a family mystery involving a orphanage and the peculiar children who lived (or, maybe, still live) there.

See, this is an example of a book that would not be on my radar AT ALL if it wasn't for bloggers.  It's considered a Young Adult book (what, because the main character is 16?) but I don't necessarily agree.  I can see this appealing to all ages, really.  And it is absolutely worth all the accolades that it has been getting from the bloggers. It's so different and original, and I cannot put this down.

In other bookish news this week, my new job has me spending a lot more time in my car than I've been accustomed to lately ... hence, my return to audiobooks.  This week I started listening to Freedom by Jonathan Franzen.  This one has received mixed reviews on the blogs, and now that I'm almost halfway finished, I can understand why it's not appealing to everyone. With 19 CDs, it's a little on the long-winded side. I wasn't sure whether I was going to continue with this, but something about this one is keeping me interested. I do like books where you really get to know the characters, and this certainly fits that bill. I'm just not convinced Freedom is worth all the hype and accolades, though. We'll see. Given this week's travel schedule, I will probably finish this up this week.

For now, I'm going to try and finish up reading some BBAW posts ... although I know I'll never get to all of them. Hope everyone had a great week ... and congratulations to all who were nominated for and won awards!

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, September 14, 2011

BBAW: Arriving Late to the Party ...But, Hey! I've Got Cheeky Reads!

For me, it seems that this year's BBAW (Book Blogger Appreciation Week) is akin to that great event that you really, honestly and truly, had planned to be a part of but that, in reality, you're the one just pulling into the parking lot when everyone else has left the building.

Or maybe this is just me?

I have fallen way behind on my BBAW plans this year and with a even busier and stressful weekend ahead, I'm not sure if I will fully catch up. As regular readers know, I just started a new job which I am very much enjoying ... and which, this week especially, is keeping me very, very busy as I begin what is shaping up to be an intense daily regional travel schedule and learning the new systems and procedures and the who's who and what's what (in a new-to-me city/metropolitan area, no less).  Betty and Boo started school last week, and we're getting into our new groove with that. So far, so good. And, on top of which, we will finally end the chapter of selling our Delaware house this week when we close on that on Friday - and that's been kind of emotional and stressful, to say the least.

It's enough to make one want to escape into a good book ... and fortunately, my BBAW interview partner has just the ticket.
BWS tips button

Allow me to introduce you to my new friend Sabrina, the romance book blogger of the site Cheeky Reads.  We both got late starts with our interviews (a kindred spirit! does that count for the community themed post?) and I'm planning to have mine up ... well ... at some point. It might even be after BBAW, with the rate I'm going this week.  My apologies to all.

In the meantime, I hope you'll take a moment to stop over to say hi to Sabrina and check out some cheeky reads, even if you think (especially if you think) that romance novel reading is not your thing.  As someone who hasn't read any romance novels since high school, Sabrina has managed in short order to dispel my (admittedly) preconceived notions about romance novels and Those Who Read Them. She's made me yearn for my lazy summer days of my youth, spent at the pool reading Harlequin romances, which are still out there.

OK.  I gotta run, but I hope you're all having a great BBAW week and I'll catch up with you as soon as I can.

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.

Book Review: The Winters in Bloom, by Lisa Tucker

The Winters in Bloom
by Lisa Tucker
Atria Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster  
288 pages 

We all know parents like David and Kyra Winters, people whose overprotective nature causes them to obsess about every possible slight or harm that could befall their child. We might roll our eyes at such people, scoff at them behind their back, think that they've come unhinged.

But underneath the hyper-vigilant exterior there is usually a buried trove of emotions pointing to the reasons for such concerns.  In the case of David and Kyra, significant losses from years past are the reason  for their overbearing protectiveness with their only son, Michael.  One day, when Kyra turns her head for a brief few moments, all the precautions in the world aren't enough to prevent someone from snatching Michael from the safety of his own fenced-in backyard.

This incident comes very early on in the book. While keeping her reader in suspense and second-guessing about who kidnapped Michael and why (and providing a "whoa, I didn't see that coming at ALL!" type of plot twist), Lisa Tucker does a masterful job of unraveling the secrets in both Kyra and David's pasts.  In doing so, she illuminates how the unspoken and unresolved lifelong sorrows, losses, doubts, and fears that we bring to our relationships as adults can and do impact our lives, individually and as a couple. (I know we're not supposed to quote from e-galleys, which this was, but one of the lines I highlighted on my Kindle is about how every marriage has three stories: the wife's, the husband's, and the story that is created when these two stories try to live side by side. So very true. Love that.)

The Winters in Bloom is a well-written, rich, and complex book where the reader is truly able to get to the heart of the main characters.  Whereas you start the book thinking that Kyra and David are nuts for being so overbearing, their reasons for protecting their son become understandable as you learn their history.  And as you do, you become drawn into the novel so deeply that it becomes hard to put the book down.

Although this is her sixth novel, Lisa Tucker is a new author to me. As a Philadelphia native, I love books that are set in my hometown, which is what initially attracted me (along with the plot) to The Winters in Bloom.  (And when the author lives in the Philadelphia area, as Lisa Tucker does, then that's even more of a bonus.)  The downside of this is, I admit, that I tend to read such Philly-based books a bit more critically than others.  While the region isn't showcased in this one as much as I would have preferred, I found most of the details offered to be authentic and true.  Lisa Tucker knows that downtown Philadelphia is known as Center City (as opposed to my current audiobook, Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, who refers to the same location as "the center of Philadelphia." No, no, and no). Tucker also knows that West Mount Airy is akin to a small suburb within the city's borders and knows the distinctive architecture of the homes there.

However, one of my pet peeves did surface: the spelling of Bucks County as Buck's County. Grrr. Still, just a very minor quibble there, especially since there were two Philly in-jokes that gave me a smile. The first: Kyra muses briefly on why every guy she meets seems to like "The Three Stooges." In my experience, that's particularly true in Philadelphia - which I attribute to Larry Fine (who played Larry) being from Philadelphia.  The second in-joke that I caught is David's mother wishing she was an Olympic swimmer (as a girl), but never being able to catch the star of the local swim team, Debbie Rendell.  That has got to be a nod to former Mayor of Philadelphia (and former Governor of Pennsylvania) Ed Rendell, often referred to as "Fast Eddie."  

Lisa Tucker is definitely a talented writer, and much of the strength of The Winters in Bloom comes from her personal story. While in the midst of writing this novel, Lisa was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm  and she actually postponed surgery in order to complete what could have been her last novel.  The result is a much more brighter and optimistic novel (and, thankfully, a positive recovery for Lisa). Initially, the title was The House of Doubt (which Kyra and David's home certainly is) but The Winters in Bloom captures the growth of this couple, both as individuals and as parents.

Yesterday (9/13/2011) was the publication date for The Winters in Bloom. I was sent an advance e-galley of this novel by the publisher, via NetGalley, for the purpose of providing an honest review.  I was not compensated in any way and I extend my thanks and appreciation to NetGalley and Atria Books for this opportunity to share my thoughts and impressions of this book.  

Lisa Tucker's website is here, along with information on ordering or downloading The Winters in Bloom. 

What Other Bloggers Thought:

Momma's Gone Over the Wall

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, September 12, 2011

Book Review: The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale
by Margaret Atwood 
Anchor Books, a division of Random House
311 pages 

There is so much to tell you about The Handmaid's Tale - so much that I don't quite know where to begin.

I finished this more than two weeks ago, an eternity (in my book) between the time I complete a book and compose my thoughts about it.  Normally, I write my reviews - or at least, my initial thoughts and impressions - immediately after closing the book.  Sometimes sooner.

But this one is different, because it is almost impossible to process everything that is The Handmaid's Tale, set in the not-too-far-off-in-the-foreseeable-future society that is the Republic of Gilead (formerly, the United States). Two weeks later, it is still haunting me.

Which is the whole intention in the first place.

If anything else, The Handmaid's Tale is a thought-provoking book, about so many things:  women's rights, the influence of religion in society, relationships, politics, identity, betrayal, forgiveness, power and control. There are so many themes running through these pages. I know that's been a criticism of this novel, that Atwood is trying too hard to have the book serve as commentary on too many issues.  But that's part of what makes a novel a classic, in my view, and I truly believe that The Handmaid's Tale is definitely a classic.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I first read this in college, shortly after it was published and probably sometime around 1989. There was so much I'd forgotten in those decades since.  I remembered Offred, that she had once been married and had a child. I remembered her relationship to and purpose for the Commander and that Offred wasn't her name. (“My name isn't Offred, I have another name, which nobody uses now because it's forbidden. I tell myself it doesn't matter, your name is like your telephone number, useful only to others; but what I tell myself is wrong, it does matter. I keep the knowledge of this name like something hidden, some treasure I'll come back to dig up, one day. I think of this name as buried. This name has an aura around it, like an amulet, some charm that's survived from an unimaginably distant past. I lie in my single bed at night, with my eyes closed, and the name floats there behind my eyes, not quite within reach, shining in the dark.” )

What I hadn't remembered was the culture of life before the Republic of Gilead ("We were a society dying of too much choice.") as well as some of the specific events leading up to the formation of the Republic of Gilead. ("That was when they suspended the Constitution. They said it would be temporary. There wasn't even any rioting in the streets. People stayed home at night, watching television, looking for some direction. There wasn't even an enemy you could put your finger on.")  

You can really see such an occurance happening, can't you?mention of the president being assassinated was particularly chilling, given the political climate today, as well as the mention of a specific tragedy (9/11?) that befell the country.  The pollution of the rivers and dying off of the fish was poignant, too, given the oil spill in the Gulf Coast.

Another thing that caught me off guard was how much Offred, before, was like so many women today.  She was a wife and a mother.  She worked full time.  She went grocery shopping.  She wore a bathing suit. And just like us, these everyday simple things that made up her life were taking place amidst a culture of sensationalism and a media realm that thrived on constant diet of the outlandish.

"The newspaper stories were like dreams to us, bad dreams dreamt by others. How awful, we would say, and they were, but they were awful without being believable. They were too melodramatic, they had a dimension that was not the dimension of our lives. We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories." 

Sound familiar?  Probably, because most of us can relate. I'm guessing most of us aren't living lives where our actions don't normally make the news.

For all of the oppression and denial of freedoms that are contained within The Handmaid's Tale, one of the primary messages is a hopeful one: even though there will always be people hell-bent on silencing another, there will always be ways to make yourself heard.

"Well. Then we had the irises, rising beautiful and cool on their tall stalks, like blown glass, like pastel water momentarily frozen in a splash, light blue, light mauve, and the darker ones, velvet and purple, black cat's ears in the sun, indigo shadow, and the bleeding hearts, so female in shape it was a surprise they'd not long since been rooted out. There is something subversive about this garden of Serena's, a sense of buried things bursting upwards, wordlessly, into the light, as if to point, to say: Whatever is silenced will clamor to be heard, though silently." 

I rarely re-read books, but I am very glad that Florinda organized this read-along so that I would have the opportunity to remember why this is such an important book.

And when I think I am starting to forget, I'll re-read it one more time.

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, September 11, 2011

The Sunday Salon: Unbroken

At first, I wasn't going to write a Sunday Salon post (or any post) today. With today being the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks against America, I wasn't sure I had anything left to say or to add to the conversation. Plus, it seems almost trivial and indulgent to be spending the day blogging, reading, and watching football. (Our typical Sunday routine during football season.) Today, this almost feels wrong.

Or is it?  It sounds a bit dramatic, especially for someone who didn't lose anyone in the attacks, but I honestly don't think there has been a day in the past decade that I haven't thought about 9/11. (One of Boo's therapists, aghast at hearing The Husband and I admit this, once took us to task and questioned us a bit too rigorously about why, exactly, we were so affected by 9/11 since, after all, we didn't lose anyone. Hello, maybe we were affected because we're Americans?)

But it's true. I think about 9/11 a lot. It can be as simple as looking at the digital clock here on my laptop or on my night table or in my car, seeing that it's 9:11, and saying a silent prayer of remembrance. (I always seem to look at the clock at 9:11, or at the time that is the numbers representing Betty and Boo's birthday.)

Or passing the exit on the Pennsylvania Turnpike where one would take to visit Shanksville, PA - something that is becoming more common, now that we are living in the Pittsburgh area and since my new job will take me to that area on occasion (as early as this Tuesday perhaps).

Or anytime one gets a glimpse of the New York skyline - as it was Before or as it is After.

Or waking up to a sky of such brilliant blue that it could only have been painted by the hand of God himself.

I remember 9/11 everyday in my heart. I think many Americans do the same.  And so, in some ways, that's why I'm not watching much coverage of the memorials or reading many of the heartwrenching stories. Even my Facebook stream has been a bit overwhelming this morning, truth be told.

It's a day of remembrance, of reflection - but to me, it is also a day where it is OK for our lives to go on. Where the people who lost their lives that day would, I'd imagine, almost want us to do what they no longer can - spend time with family, enjoy a football game (or two, or three), celebrate the freedom we have to read the books of our choosing and to express our opinions.

Which is where The Sunday Salon comes in.  While I was debating internally whether or not to do a Salon post and whether it seemed too self-indulgent to be talking books on such a day, I realized that the book I am currently reading - and which I hope to finish up today, on 9/11/2011 - is absolutely perfect for this occasion. And I cannot NOT tell you about it, because it is a book that I believe every American (no, scratch that, every human being) should read.

It's Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand.  It's the story of one Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who was enslaved as a POW by the Japanese during World War II.  The atrocities that Louis endured are ones that would have broken anyone - physically or emotionally - many, many times over.  But instead, he survived conditions that seemed impossible to live through.

I'm not trying to equate that being a POW for almost three years is the same as "surviving" 9/11 when one wasn't directly involved in the attacks.  It's not the same.  But what is the same about Louis Zamperini's story and 9/11 is that inner spirit, that will to fight back and to not let the enemy win.  It's the same determination that we saw in the heroes of Flight 93, in the skies over Pennsylvania. They weren't going to let the enemy win.  In the face of unimaginable tragedy and terror, they (and the people at Ground Zero and at the Pentagon and throughout the nation) would not allow themselves nor America to become broken.

And we saw this in the days and months after 9/11 as our country truly understood what it meant to be united.   We saw this in the days and decades afterwards, as our military fought bravely, doing what long seemed impossible and often out-of-reach in the quest to find and kill Osama bin Laden.

In many ways, we've lost that united spirit, that pride of patriotism that we shared and remembered in the face of 9/11. It's easy to see how and why. We're a nation divided politically and socially. We're a people facing hardship that many of us have never known before with record numbers of us out of work, unsure where our next meal is going to come from, uncertain of our immediate and long-term financial futures.  We're cynical, skeptical, and untrusting.

We often feel broken, don't we?

One of the many things that I love about authors and books is that their words have the power to meet you at the very time and place and moment that you most need them. It's a gift, and today especially, it's worth remembering that.  Unbroken has become that kind of book for me.  I don't know why I felt compelled to read this book now. Yeah, it's the September 2011 selection for an online book club a friend of mine just invited me to join, but Unbroken has been all over the Internet and the book blogs for a long time before now. Why is this one coming to me now?

The only reason I can think of is that I simply needed to read this now, as a way to be reminded that we do have the ability to survive the unimaginable, whatever that might represent in our particular lives. That, especially when we don't feel it, that there is a spirit of resilience in all of us that can - and will - sustain us through the darkest days and allow us to come shining through.

Maybe that's true for you, 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.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Weekend Cooking (while Discovering Pittsburgh): Kaya

I had occasion to make my first visit to the Strip District this week.

In the middle of the day, no less.

(You're wondering what, exactly, my new job involves ... aren't you?)

Fear not, my dear friends. (And family.)  For you non-Pittsburgh folks, the Strip District ain't what it seems.  As a Philly girl, this one half mile "strip" of land along the Allegheny River reminded me of what you'd get if you combined Philadelphia's Italian Market, the Manayunk section of the city, and a bit of Reading Terminal Market thrown in for good measure.  From what I saw of the Strip, food is a big deal.  There are produce distributors and the Pittsburgh Public Market is also located there, along with a variety of restaurants.

One of those restaurants is Kaya, where I had the pleasure of dining for lunch one day this week. (Photo borrowed from Kaya's website, as I was here for business-related purposes and I didn't want to explain why I was snapping photos of my food and that of my dining companions' meals.)  

As Kaya's site says, the cuisine here is "inspired by the sea and sun ... incorporating the culinary customs of the Caribbean, South America, the Pacific and beyond."

I admit, I don't have much experience or knowledge of Caribbean cooking so I wasn't sure what to expect.  I was relieved to see that Kaya was advertising an upcoming seasonal Vegetarian Prix Fixe Dinner, held every third Wednesday of the month.  That made me think this was a vegetarian-friendly establishment, Indeed, the lunch menu did have some appealing offerings.

I enjoyed the Crispy Fish Tacos (and yes, I fully realize I am not supposed to be calling myself vegetarian if I'm eating fish; technically, I am a flexitarian, if truth be told).  This consisted of cabbage slaw, avocado, spicy creme fraiche, cilantro, Reyna's tortillas, and Kaya salad. Since I was unsure about the spicy creme fraiche, our waiter assured me that I could have that on the side - and in fact, it arrived as such.

Everything tasted incredibly fresh, the tortillas were soft, and the portion size was generous. Sprinkled with pepitas, the salad had what seemed to be a light lime and cilantro dressing, but just subtle enough as to not be overpowering.

I also sampled some delicious sweet potato fries from one of my dining companions, who had had them previously and said they were among the very best sweet potato fries ever.  They were the perfect blend of seasoning and crispness, with the full flavor of the sweet potato in abundance.  The dining companion's lunch was the Slow Pulled Pork and Banana Sandwich, which was proclaimed to be very good.

Our waiter was attentive without being overbearing, and near the conclusion of our meal, the manager came over to inquire about our food and experience.

Kaya is one of six distinctive restaurants that comprise Pittsburgh's big Burrito Restaurant Group. If the quality of the food and the experience is just as good at the other restaurants as it was at Kaya, I hope to have the chance to try them soon.

Kaya is located at 2000 Smallman Street in Pittsburgh's Strip District, serving lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch.  

What Other Bloggers Had to Say About Kaya:

A Hamburger Today tells us about the Kaya Burger, which apparently comes with a steak knife in the center to hold the concoction together.  

iheartpgh is a blog that's proving to be a wealth of information on this new city of mine.  The fact that Kaya hosts an event called KayaFest  is very good to know, indeed.

Iron City Eats liked the fish tacos, too.

Pittsburgh By a Geek had what one of my dining companions had (the slow-pulled pork and banana sandwich)

Snickie , another one of my favorite Pittsburgh blogs.

and if you're interested in taking a peek at Kaya's restrooms, The Toilets of the World blog allows you to do just that.  (This is proof that there is, in fact, a blog for every topic and niche imaginable.)

I don't have any affiliation with Kaya other than being a happy customer.  I was not compensated in any way for this review.

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.  

Discovering Pittsburgh is my occasional blog series on the new places and experiences we're enjoying in our newly adopted city.  

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, September 9, 2011

The End of the Innocence (My Kids Don't Know About 9/11)

There's a picture in our family album that was taken on the first anniversary, on September 11, 2002.  My kids are seated in their double-stroller, stationed on the sidewalk leading up to the home we lived in back then. I'd positioned my 9-month old twins strategically, by the flowers and the American flags that lined the path.

Just as I snapped the picture, they both turned their little heads - and the result is both kids gazing, almost reverently, at the flags.

Someday Daddy and I will tell you about That Day, I thought, looking at the photo after it came back from the lab. (My first digital camera was still several years away.)  We'll tell you what happened with the planes, and the people who flew them into those buildings and into the ground in Pennsylvania, and the thousands of people who died.  We'll tell you where this happened, and where we were, and how devastated we were, and how the country came together as our world was forever changed.  We'll tell you about the who, the what, the where and the how.  

But we will never, ever be able to tell you why.  

 * * * *
In all of the last 10 years, we have never had that conversation.

And because we haven't had that conversation, my kids don't know about 9/11.

I would know - believe me, I would know - if they knew.  There would be questions.  My kids are forever asking questions.  And one day they will have questions about this, and I will do my best to answer them, even though I don't want to.

I suspect this may be the year. Today is "Wear Red-White-and-Blue Day" at school.  And last night, Boo wondered aloud why there was a flag on September 11 of his lunch menu calendar.

(After my initial great, there goes my pre-scheduled blog post thought, I tried to engage him in conversation about it, but he moved on to something else before I could ask why he thought there was a flag on that day.)

On September 11, 2001, my twins were still in-utero, so we were spared having to tell them anything about the events of that horrible day.  Like other expectant parents, we worried what this meant for their future, for the world we would be raising them in.  We worried about other things too.

I became a little obsessive about saving everything I could from that day - newspaper articles (and the actual newspapers themselves), magazines, photographs, editorials, the program from the church service we attended that evening.  My intention was to make a scrapbook - morbid as that sounds - perhaps as a way of avoiding that conversation I didn't want to have, or perhaps as a way of aiding it.

One of the things I saved, that was intended for the scrapbook, was the newspaper from September 10, 2001.  I wanted to remember what it was like Before.  Before we knew that people could commandeer planes to crash into buildings.  Before we knew that evil lurked among us and was dead-set on killing every single one of us.  Before we knew that no matter how we lived our lives, it could all be ended in a New York minute.

I saved the paper because to me, it was a tangible thing. We would long remember the after.  We would, I knew, soon forget the before.

And I mourned that for my soon-to-be-born twins.  It seemed grossly unfair that they would be part of a generation who would live under the specter of such horror.  Who wouldn't know a world where this was still unimaginable. I mourned this for them, and I deeply mourned for all the children whose parents were taken that day, suddenly, without warning. As someone who lost a parent at a young age, even I couldn't even begin to imagine what losing a parent in such a way could be like.

I was angry about that, and I was angry that these terrorists had the nerve to take away their innocence before they took their first breath.

I'm being dramatic, I know.  Or maybe not, because isn't that is what's at the core of this parenting thing of ours anyway?  We're charged with protecting their innocence and that we've done.

But up until what point? I'm not naive to think that I will be able to shield my kids from 9/11 forever. There's going to come a day when they will learn about this. And, as I said, maybe this will be the year. And if it had come up in the past decade, I would have answered them honestly, and to the best of my abilities. (Except for that inability to explain why.)

As The Husband would tell you, as a mother I am the Queen of The Teachable Moment.  I answer their questions with almost too much honesty, with the bare minimum of sugar-coating (if any). My kids know about our infertility, about my uncle dying of AIDS, about how some girls like girls and how some boys like boys.  We've talked to them about all of these as these issues and topics have come up.

Somehow, even though it is one of the defining things of our lives, 9/11 has never come up.  So, because of that, we haven't sat down with them and told them there was something they needed to know.  What parent wants to sit down with their kid and start explaining 9/11?

My kids still believe in Santa Claus. And the Easter Bunny. And the Tooth Fairy.  They believe in all things magic and in dreams and in a world where good triumphs over evil.

I could have told them about all of this.  I could have given them a history lesson about 9/11 or brought home books from the library.  But I want them to have this - an untarnished belief that the world is essentially a good place, and I want them to be able to hold onto that as long as they possibly can. Because you never ever get that innocence, that child's sense of wonder and belief, back in the same form as you first had it.
I want them to have their Before. Their September 10. Because I know it won't always be this way.  I know my luck and the years of their innocence are quickly running out.  It will be taken away. 

I just don't want to be the one to steal it from them.

Although I probably will.

"Remember when the days were long 
And rolled beneath a deep blue sky
Didn't have a care in the world 
With mommy and daddy standin' by
But 'happily ever after' fails
And we've been poisoned by these fairy tales 
The lawyers dwell on small details'
Since daddy had to fly ....

O' beautiful for spacious skies
But now those skies are threatening
They're beating plowshares into swords
For this tired old man that we elected king ...

Who knows how long this will last
Now we've come so far, so fast
But, somewhere back there in the dust
That same small town in each of us
I need to remember this 
So baby give me one last kiss 
And let me take a good last look 
Before we say goodbye ...." 
The End of the Innocence - sung by Don Henley, written by Bruce Hornsby

P.S. A great article about talking to your kids about 9/11 is 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.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Book Review: We've Got Issues: Children and Parents in the Age of Medication, by Judith Warner (audio)

We've Got Issues: Children and Parents in the Age of Medication
by Judith Warner
Read by Kirsten Potter

I have to give Judith Warner much credit for her courage to write this book, which is very different than the one she first envisioned. Originally, she intended to write about her theory that parents were willy-nilly medicating their kids in order to achieve some nirvana of perfection from their offspring.  Instead, she found that there are many families raising children with significant mental health issues ... which makes for a changed mindset - and a very different book - indeed.

This book is very well-researched, which is what one expects from a journalist and author of Warner's caliber.  As the book jacket states, she "uses exclusive research and interviews with dozens of doctors, researchers, family experts, and parents to cut through the received wisdom and hysteria to try to bring insight and compassion to the 'drugging kids' debate."  It does this very well. 

What We've Got Issues doesn't do is become the definite answer on whether or not one specific kid should or should not be on medication for anxiety disorders or ADD or whatever else.  And really, it SHOULDN'T be the definitive answer to what is a complex question - because it is ultimately an INDIVIDUAL question.

That's at the heart of Warner's book:  that for millions of individual children and their families, this is a complex issue within many other complex issues (the difficulty of obtaining a diagnosis, the unethical practices of practitioners being in bed with Big Pharma, the lack of services in some communities and the full-time job nature and financial toll that defines the quest to secure them ... just to name a few).

We've Got Issues was simultaneously comforting and sobering. Listening to the personal stories from parents was like having a support group in my car. From an audiobook production standpoint, it kept my attention throughout and Kirsten Potter's narration was absolutely perfect. She might just be my favorite audiobook narrator, now that I am paying more attention to such things. Her tone - and the emotion within it while telling the families' stories - was filled with just the right amount of compassion without sounding patronizing or accusatory, and I for one appreciated that. 

We do, indeed, have issues.  What Judith Warner's book does is to define them to show us that they are issues belonging to all of us ... whether or not we have a child "with issues." 

What Other Bloggers Thought:

Dawn from 5 Minutes for Books

copyright 2011, 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.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: September 5-10

Every week I tell myself that I'm going to start participating in Menu Plan Monday, hosted by Laura at I'm An Organizing Junkie.   (One of my favorite blogs, BTW.)  Truth be told, I've been meal-planning for awhile ... but what usually happens is that I am only inspired up until, say, Tuesdays, and then I'm standing in front of the fridge the other days of the week wondering what, exactly, we're having for dinner.

Or I lose the plan (which is written on my grocery list) and forget what I'd planned.  Or, worse of all, I go to the store without a plan and completely overspend.

So, hopefully writing down my meal plan for the week will help me with all the above, especially since the kids go back to school this week and I will (after being unemployed for four months) be returning to work full-time.

Today is cloudy and chilly, and tomorrow looks like it is going to be the same.  Hence, the soups on the menu.

Monday:  Tortilla Soup and Golden Sweet Cornbread. (with chicken for the kids)

Tuesday:  Broccoli Cheese Soup, Panera Style with Fish and Baked Potatoes (broccoli was on sale for .99 per head at our grocery store this week)

Wednesday:  Stir Fry with Broccoli, Mushrooms, and Peas  (with chicken for the kids)

Thursday: Tortillas (filling will be Spanish Rice and Beans in the Crockpot)

Friday: Baked Rigatoni.

Saturday: Depends on what we're doing this afternoon. (There might be an amusement park outing involved - the husband scored four free tickets to Kennywood that need to be used by 9/18! - but Betty and Boo don't exactly know this yet.)

What's on your menu for this week?

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.

My Life as a Book

Oh, how fun is this?  Pop Culture Nerd has a new installment of the popular My Life as a Book game!  You know this one. It's the Mad Libs-like game where you complete a sentence using only a title of a book you've read this year.

It's a holiday weekend, so why not play along?

Here are my answers.  Books that I read are in CAPS.  (That should be obvious, but just in case it wasn't ....)

One time at band/summer camp, I was: SAFE FROM THE SEA.  (Peter Geye)

Weekends at my house are: MADE FOR YOU AND ME. (Caitlin Shetterly)

My neighbor is: IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD.  (Peter Lovenheim)

My boss is: NOT MY BOY! (Rodney Peete)

My ex is: THE UNNAMED. (Joshua Ferris)

My superhero identity is: CLICK: THE MAGIC OF INSTANT CONNECTIONS.  (Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman)

You wouldn't like me when I'm angry because:  I CURSE THE RIVER OF TIME. (Per Petterson)

I'd win a gold medal in: MARRIAGE CONFIDENTIAL (Pamela Haag).

I'd pay good money for: THE KID. (Dan Savage)

If I were president, I would: LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN  (Colum McCann)

When I don't have good books, I DO MORE THAN GIVE.  (Leslie Crutchfield, John Kania, and Mark Kramer)

Loud talkers at the movies should be: READING JACKIE.  (William Kuhn).

I know you want to play along now, right?  Post your answers on your blog and leave a link/note in the comments.  Or, if you don't have a blog, leave your answers right in the comments.  Have fun!

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, September 4, 2011

The Sunday Salon: Summer Readin', Had Me a Blast ....

And here we are, at the unofficial end of summer here in the States.  Things are definitely a bit quieter on the interwebs today, given that most of us are celebrating Labor Day weekend.  Other than a little back-to-school and grocery shopping, we don't really have any grandiose plans for the holiday.

Yesterday, I wrote nonstop - two scheduled book reviews (The Handmaid's Tale and The Winters in Bloom) plus a 9/11 related post - so this week's Sunday Salon will be a little on the lighter side with a recap of the books I read in July and August.

It feels like I read more than 8 books during the past two months, but then I realized that there were an extraordinary amount of DNFs in that timeframe. We're talking 7 of them!  So for almost every book that I finished, I abandoned one.  Still, given all that was going on with our move this summer, averaging a book a week isn't too bad.

Books Read in July (links take you to my reviews):

Children and Fire, by Ursula Hegi 

The Kid: What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to Get Pregnant, by Dan Savage

By Nightfall, by Michael Cunningham

Made for You and Me: Going West, Going Broke, Finding Home, by Caitlin Shetterly 

Books Read in August:

Ford County, Stories by John Grisham

The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood 

Do More Than Give: The 6 Practices of Donors Who Change the World
by Leslie R. Crutchfield, John V. Kania, and Mark R. Kramer

The best part about this list is that I liked all of them.  September's getting off to a good start, too.  This week I finished The Winters in Bloom by Lisa Tucker, which is being published by Atria Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster, on September 13.  I recently signed up for NetGalley (which I absolutely love and am starting to become hooked on) and this is the first e-galley I've reviewed through them.  My review will be up on the 13th.  (I'll give you a preview now:  I really liked this one.)

Today, after our errands are done, I'm planning to finish up Marriage Confidential: The Post-Romantic Age of Workhorse Wives, Royal Children, Undersexed Spouses, and Rebel Couples Who Are Rewriting the Rules, by Pamela Haag. I had been in the middle of this during the move and had to return it to the library unfinished. Fortunately, our new library was able to get it for me from another county. (Gotta love our Access Pennsylvania system!)  Then, maybe, it will be onto Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, which is a book club read for later this month and due back to the library on ... Tuesday.

Hope your Sunday (and your holiday weekend, if you're celebrating) is turning out to be a good one!

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, September 2, 2011

Now This is the Right Way to Kick Off a Weekend

Spotted while sitting in construction traffic this afternoon.  

TGIF, kids!

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.

Newsflash: Your Facebook Status Won't Cure Breast Cancer (Or Anything Else For That Matter.)

Photo taken by me, Philadelphia Flower Show, March 2009
When I saw the status update from my cousin last night, I did a double take.

"I'm 1 week and already craving strawberry Pop-Tarts!"

ZOMG!  I thought.  She's pregnant!  

Before I could grab my phone to call my mother, I had a more rational thought. Wait just a second.  How the hell can she know she's one week pregnant?  

And then, a message from my cousin - to me and 12 other people. Which was highly unusual because my cousin does not email or chat.    

If you've been on Facebook recently, you know where this is going. What appears to be a cryptically bizarre "I'm-with-child!" announcement is really the latest incarnation of the tired (and ineffective, but we'll get to that in a bit) Facebook meme where one changes one's status in the name of  "supporting" or "raising awareness" about some cause.

We've seen this before when we proclaimed the colors of our bras to the world and told all of our hundreds of FB pals where we like to keep our purses, and more recently, when we changed our profile pictures to our favorite cartoon character so that every child in the world would be saved from abuse. (And, as a bonus, to "have fun fooling the guys."  Which in itself is so-freaking-6th-grade already and really, aren't we beyond that, girls?)

These memes (along with the "repost this if you want to _____" statuses) drive me batshit crazy.  And yes, I get the irony here that it's a little ridiculous to get so worked up over an innocuous Facebook game when there are real problems (such as the ones that the meme itself proclaims to solve, and more) in the world.  And I understand that it's just for fun, that it's harmless, that maybe it will "raise awareness" in one more additional person.

But really.  Who the fuck ISN'T ALREADY AWARE of cancer or child abuse or any other such issue?

You know who is painfully aware? The people who are living with this. People like Susan Niebur who blogs over at Toddler Planet and who I (and the entire blogosphere, it seems) consider a friend, even though she probably doesn't remember meeting me on several occasions at BlogHer '10.

I can't say anything about this nonsense that hasn't already been said more articulately by others.  And the person who, I think, says it best is Susan Niebur herself, in this post ("In the Name of Awareness") from January 8, 2010. 

Read it.  Then, instead of changing your Facebook status, change someone's perspective by sharing Susan's post with a friend.

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, September 1, 2011

In Which I Sign Up for R.I.P. (R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril) VI

Oh, you're all killing me here with all the posts about the R.I.P. (R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril) Reading Challenge, currently in its 6th year of being hosted by the wonderful Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings.

I had all good intentions of signing up last year. In fact, with some minor modifications, this very post is the very introductory post I wrote EXACTLY A YEAR AGO on September 1, 2010 and which promptly went to die a quick death in Drafts.

Now, it is being exhumed.

Let it be known that I am not normally a horror, mystery, thriller, gothic, whatever kind of reader. Not in the least.  But, you know, there is something about this time of year here in the United States, where the mornings are crisp and cool and the night creeps in ever so earlier, where you can feel autumn in the air. This season just lends itself to a nice mildly spooky story or two. Am I right?  (I am, which is why this annual event is so popular.)

And for someone like me, who doesn't normally read creepy-crawly books, there's something kind of intriguing, kind of dangerously naughty, about this genre.  For example, I distinctly recall reading Edgar Allan Poe in middle school and falling in love with the man. 

And then, not having anything to do with him for ... well, the next three decades of my life.

(Hey, it happens.)

Yet when I was in Baltimore a year and a half ago for a conference, what did I purchase as my souvenirs? 

Because these have been on my TBR shelves for a year and a half, I thought these would be the perfect choices for Carl's R.I.P. Challenge.  

And then I thought, since the challenge neatly coincides with September being Read Your Own Books Month (separate post to come on that) what other books on the TBR shelf do I have that might qualify?  Turns out, a few. 

The Shape of Mercy by Susan Meissner.  This was the first book I won in a giveaway (maybe from Iliana at bookgirl's nightstand?) three years ago.  I was so excited to read this and here it still sits. 

Similarly, I'm embarrassed that I haven't yet read my blogging friend Karen Harrington's book, Janeology.  She signed it and everything. At least a year or two ago. So, onto the list it goes.

And finally, The Husband and I have a very good, longtime friend named Ken Goldman who is a horror writer. Back in the day, The Husband and I were privileged to read several of his short stories, pre-publication. I loved every single one (and there's one that we still talk about to this day, two decades later.) He wrote a novella, which I purchased and downloaded to my Kindle as one of my birthday presents. In April. Ken, your Desiree makes my list for the R.I.P. Challenge.

I'm not making any promises that I will actually read all five of these, which is why I am signing up as a participant at the Peril the Third level. (Requirement is to read one book.)

Some other possibilities:

The Complete Tales of Washington Irving (from my TBR shelf)
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, by Eric Larson (from my TBR shelf)
Miss Peregrine's Home for Children, by Random Riggs
Just an Ordinary Day: The Uncollected Stories, by Shirley Jackson (from my TBR shelf)
The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson
The Bad Seed, by William March
The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger  (from my TBR shelf)
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, by Katherine Howe
The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern
Wicked, by Gregory Maguire (from my TBR shelf and as a consolation prize for not seeing the musical yet)
A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness

I'm definitely not committing to reading all of these - just one book fulfills the challenge requirements, so this is definitely doable - so we'll just have to see where the spirit takes us over the next two months, shall we?

How about you? Are you coming along on this spooky challenge? (Please do. This 'fraidy cat reader just might need someone to hold her hand.)

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.