Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Boo's Homework Assignment: Teddy Roosevelt and the Treasure of Ursa Major, by Ronald Kidd

Call me biased (and that's OK, because I've certainly been called worse) but my kid (that would be Boo) has been coming up with some amazing literary stuff these days.  (If you're my Facebook friend, you know that I've been featuring snippets of his work for the past week.)

And now here, tonight, comes this piece, which represents his BAM project.  BAM stands for Book-A-Month.  Each student selects a book of his or her choice based on a specified genre, reads it, writes up an "organizer" with questions, and completes some kind of written or artistic project related to the book.

This month's BAM was a historical fiction book, and Boo chose one that we have at home, Teddy Roosevelt and the Treasure of Ursa Major, by Ronald Kidd.  For his project, he had to write an "interview" with the characters.

Boo chose to do his as if it was an interview segment on the local news, featuring all of the characters from the book who appeared on the news to discuss their exploits.

He's allowed me to reprint his work here, and I've left the spelling and grammar alone. So sit back, enjoy, and watch me give this teacher hell if she doesn't give my kid an A on this.  Just kidding.


Live at 106 news about how Theodore Roosevelt and his kids found the Treasure of Ursa Major.

News Man: In 1901-1909, there were four kids that lived with their father, Theodore Roosevelt in the White House. There was James Roosevelt, Ethel Roosevelt, Kermit Roosevelt and the narrator of the book, Archie Roosevelt. From the cluttered study to the spooky attic, these four kids got on an exciting adventure in the White House. But the trouble coming their way was a ghost in the White House. Teddy Roosevelt and the Treasure of Ursa Major was based on a play produced by the Kennedy Center and the White House Historical Association that is touring across the country.

Archie: The Main Idea of the Text is how I (Archie) and my siblings get their hands on a treasure map, leading them to an extraordinary adventure. They also get help with the treasure hunt with a woman named Mrs. Duffit and the word “anagrams”

Kermit: the White House is where ALL of the Adventure takes place. It sometimes took place in Teddy Roosevelt’s office. Or it took place in the White House hallways.

News Man: I think the story is based on this character, Archie Roosevelt. Youngest of 3-4 Roosevelt Kids. He says “Before I found the treasure of Ursa Major, I was just Kermit, Ethel and maybe James’ young, useless brother.

Teddy Roosevelt: The problem of what the treasure hunt was about was that A ghost was in the white house. But Kermit, Ethel and Archie, the three bravest kids were able to find the treasure with help from me.

Kermit: I, Ethel and our younger brother Archie’s favorite part of the adventure/hunt was when we found out that we found a treasure map with rhymes.

News Man: Teddy Roosevelt, nicknamed the Roughrider helped his brave little boys & girls find the treasure that they have looked the entire time for. We now go live with our star of this hunt, Archie Roosevelt.

Archie: I, Archie Roosevelt found the end of this heroic adventure to be stunning. In conclusion, before the end I, Ethel and Kermit Roosevelt were just ordinary young kids of the president. That was until we found out a ghost was in the house?

News Man: What did you think the ghost looked liked Kermit?

Kermit: If you say “You aren’t afraid of ghosts”, your wrong-wrong-wrong. It was so scary that Archie was asking “I gotta change my trousers” it was hilarious and frightening at the same time.

New Man: So you think that the ghost in the White House was funny and scary?

Kermit: No. Archie saying that he needed to change his trousers was funny but the ghost was terrifying.

News Man: What happened before the ghost appeared?

Archie: There was a lady named Mrs. Duffit who was I think Dad’s butler or maid or someone who was really an actress in the White House but she told us that if we kept hunting for treasure there would be consequences.

Kermit: I hope that doesn’t give you the Itsy Bits. Anyway, moving on to the part where we found the Ghost. We found the ghost I think in the bed of Abraham Lincoln where Lincoln wasn’t there.

News Man: How can you prove that it was EXACTLY there? My viewers and audience want to know.

Teddy Roosevelt: If you don’t believe in my son I’ll show you. One of these pages shows one of the kids saying they found the ghost in the bed of Abraham Lincoln.

News Man: Last question but not least, what happened at the very end of the story/hunt/adventure?

Teddy Roosevelt: Mrs. Duffit proved she was an actress, Archie proves he isn’t a useless younger brother and I believe the ghost is gone.

News Man: Well that wraps up my interview with Teddy Roosevelt, Archie Roosevelt & Kermit Roosevelt. Live from 106 news and as the Spanish say, Adios.

Teddy, Archie & Kermit: Merry Christmas!

Updated on 12/22/2011 to add:  Boo got an A+.  

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, November 28, 2011

Book Review (and Completion of the 2011 Essay Challenge): High Tide in Tucson: Essays from Now or Never, by Barbara Kingsolver

High Tide in Tucson: Essays from Now or Never
by Barbara Kingsolver
Harper Collins
270 pages

Earlier this year, while in the midst of the high tide of our family's move, I spent several days sorting through piles of papers in our den.  Work-related papers, school papers, recipes torn from magazines, writing ideas, artwork created when the kids were in preschool.  You get the idea.

One of the papers that I came across was a page torn from an Oprah magazine (probably one circa 1998, as I threw away more than a decade's worth - I wish I was kidding - of such publications).  It contained this quote, from "High Tide in Tucson" by Barbara Kingsolver:
"Every one of us is called upon, probably many times, to start a new life. A frightening diagnosis, a marriage, a move, loss of a job .... And onward full tilt we go, pitched and wrecked and absurdly resolute, driven in spite of everything to make good on a new shore. To be hopeful, to embrace one possibility after another - that is surely the basic instinct.... crying out: High tide! Time to move out into the glorious debris. Time to take this life for what it is." (pg. 15-16, "High Tide in Tucson")
That resonated with me so much in those darker days of just several months ago, and I knew I had to read High Tide in Tucson sooner rather than later. It would make the perfect selection for the 2011 Essay Reading Challenge, hosted by Carrie over at Books and Movies.  (I signed up to read 10 essays for this challenge.)

And so, on this past Thankfully Reading Weekend, I hunkered down with this collection of 25 essays (some of which Kingsolver previously published elsewhere, some of which were revised for the purposes of this collection) and I found myself absolutely entranced.  

Barbara Kingsolver has a lyrical way with words and a style that is so warmly familiar, and oftentimes, dead-on funny. She's an absolute craftsman of the creative nonfiction form, and anyone who writes in that form or wants to hone their skills in that form would be wise to read her work. I think this collection would be invaluable for bloggers, actually. She speaks directly at her reader as she writes of many a varied topic here - the landscape (physical and emotional) of her childhood home of Kentucky; a beloved teacher; the deserts of Tucson that are her adopted home; a pet hermit crab; the myth of private property; a family of paper dolls; Hawaii; the javelinas (wild pigs) that descended each night on the family's desert home, and the life of a writer.

(If you are a writer, this collection is a must read, if only for "In Case You Ever Want to Go Home Again," "Jabberwocky," "The Forest in the Seeds," and the downright hilarious sampling of letters Kingsolver has received as an author, "Careful What You Let in the Door.") 

The best thing I can do - the only thing I can do - in this review is to give you a sampling of Kingsolver's prose  from High Tide in Tucson and let you judge for yourself just how good she is.  And, this too: keep in mind that these words were written for a 1995 publication date.  I think they ring true - even moreso, really - today, and that is the true mark of a writer for our time.  
"I played with a set of paper dolls called 'The Family of Dolls,' four in number, who came with the factory-assigned names of Dad, Mom, Sis, and Junior. I think you know what they looked like, at least before I loved them to death and their heads fell off.  
Now I've replaced the dolls with a life. I knit my days around my daughter's survival and happiness, and am proud to say her head is still on. But we aren't The Family of Dolls.  Maybe you aren't either. And if not, even though you are statistically no oddity, it's probably been suggested to you in a hundred ways that yours isn't exactly a real family, but an imposter family, a harbinger of cultural ruin, a slapdash substitute - something like counterfeit money. Here at the tail end of our century, most of us are up to our ears in the noisy business of trying to support and love a thing called family. But there's a current in the air with ferocious moral force that finds its way even into political campaigns, claiming there is only one right way to do it, the Way It Has Always Been.  
In the face of a thriving, particolored world, this narrow view is so pickled and absurd I'm astonished that it gets airplay."   
(This is in 1995, people.  Sixteen years ago.  The times, they definitely ain't a changin'.)  
"You can fool history sometimes, but you can't fool the memory of your intimates. And thank heavens, because in the broad valley between real life and propriety whole herds of important truths can steal away into the underbrush. I hold that valley to be my home territory as a writer."  ("In Case you Ever Want to Go Home Again," pg. 36)
"To find oneself suddenly published is thrilling - that is a given. But how appalling it also felt I find hard to describe. Imagine singing at the top of your lungs in the shower as you always do, then one day turning off the water and throwing back the curtain to see there in your bathroom a crowd of people with videotape. I wanted to throw a towel over my head."    ("In Case You Ever Want to Go Home Again," pg. 37) 
(That's kind of how I feel sometimes when someone who I know in real life admits they've been reading my blog - when I hadn't known they've actually been doing so.)

For each of these quotes, I could have included ten more.  But you get the idea.  This is a fabulous, fabulous collection of essays.  I can't imagine any better way to spend Thanksgiving weekend.

Except, perhaps, with Ms. Kingsolver herself at the table.
"Any family is a big empty pot, save for what gets thrown in. Each stew turns out different. Generosity, a resolve to turn bad back into good, and respect for variety - these things will nourish a nation of children. Name-calling and suspicion will not. My soup contains a rock or two of hard times, and maybe yours does too. I expect it's a heck of a bouillabaise." ("Stone Soup," pg. 145 of High Tide in Tucson)

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, November 27, 2011

The Sunday Salon: A Thankfully Reading Update, and the Return of the Memorable Memoir Challenge

It's been a very low-key, relaxing Thanksgiving weekend here, which is just the way I like it.  In recent years (except for last year), we've been home for the holiday, watching parades and football to our hearts content. We also took the kids to see "The Muppets" yesterday, which was an absolutely wonderful, feel-good, must-see-this-no-matter-what-your-age movie.  They simply don't make them like this anymore (which was kind of one of the themes of the movie itself).

As I have for the past three years, I've been participating in the annual Thankfully Reading Weekend. This is becoming a new tradition for me, and I love it. Quite frankly, this is probably my favorite read-a-thon of the year.

I had hoped I'd have more to report in the way of a Thankfully Reading Weekend Update, but I'm still in the midst of my first book, High Tide in Tucson by Barbara Kingsolver. I feel like I should have been able to read more than 195 pages this weekend, but I've also been using some of my reading time to catch up on your blogs. (I'm more woefully behind than ever.) Pretty sure I'll be finishing this one sometime today - and I'll have my review up in time to complete the 2011 Essay Reading Challenge (hosted over at Books and Movies) that ends this Wednesday.

Earlier this week I finally finished Gold Boy, Emerald Girl by Yiyun Li, which satisfied the "book with a jewelry or gem" requirement for Beth Fish Reads's What's In a Name 4 Reading Challenge. (For me, this was the hardest category for this one.) I really loved this collection of short stories and one novella, and honestly, I only have one criticism:  the novella "Kindness" should have been the last offering in this collection, not the first. The first half (maybe even 3/4) of  "Kindness" was not holding my interest, to be honest, and I nearly gave up on the entire book. However, I decided not to judge the entire collection on just one selection and I wound up LOVING all of the stories.

I'm very much in Reading Challenge mode this week as I'm trying to finish several that I haven't given up on yet, signing up for several new ones for 2012, and ....announcing that, yes indeed, my Memorable Memoirs Reading Challenge will be returning for the 3rd year!

I promise to have all the details announced shortly, but as you're perusing the many, many challenges out there in the book blogosphere, I hope you'll consider joining the Memorable Memoir Reading Challenge either for the first time or for another year. If you've participated previously, the rules will be generally the same (with maybe more structure this time around ... and maybe even a prize or two!).

I've been a lax hostess with this one, I know, and I'm hoping you'll give me another chance this year to get my act together. I have some thoughts on ways to make this more fun and interactive for all of us who love memoirs and sharing them with others, and I'd love to have you be among us.

In the meantime, enjoy your Sunday and (for those of us in the United States) enjoy the remainder of this Thanksgiving weekend!

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, November 26, 2011

My One Sentence Review of "The Muppets"

Original Kermit doll, on display and under glass at the
Please Touch Museum, Philadelphia, PA
Photo taken by me, May 2009

We just came back from seeing "The Muppets" in the theater.

(Which was a big, big deal for us as it was our first outing ever to the movies as a family - mind you, my kids just turned 10 - and The Husband's first movie in a theater since seeing "Titanic" in 1997.)

We are, it must be said, Muppet devotees.  In our minds, Jim Henson is akin to God. (As proof, kindly see The Husband's brilliant - if I do say so myself - guest post on this here blog, "Remembering Sammy and Kermit: When Entertainment Was the True Reality Television" from May 16, 2010, commemorating the 20th anniversary of the passing of two of show biz's greats.)

We have Seasons 1-3 of "The Muppet Show" on DVD. They're watched frequently in this house. One of the hallmarks of Boo's autism is that he recites episodes of "The Muppet Show" verbatim.

For hours.

So, that being said, "The Muppets" had a lot to live up to with us - and much potential to disappoint.

After seeing this, my review is all of one sentence:

Muppets, you done Jim Henson (and us) most proud.  

Go see this.  If you don't love this, you don't have a heart.  

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.

Weekend Cooking: A Tofurky. In the Crockpot. It's What's For (Thanksgiving) Dinner.

I've never had much of an issue with being a vegetarian on Thanksgiving. Truthfully, I've always been much more into the side dishes, even as a child. (Really. My Pop-Pop's mashed potatoes were so damn good that I even mentioned them in his eulogy.)

I think that's kind of true of most vegetarians. I think other people experience more agita and stress over what the hell to feed us strange birds than we do.

The Husband and I have been vegetarians for something like 15 or so Thanksgiving dinners now.  In recent years, we've discovered the delicacy of the Tofurky, which makes The Husband very happy and nostalgic.

And this year, I discovered that the Tofurky can be cooked IN THE CROCKPOT - which, since I am All About the Crockpot and since I was dealing with a doozy of a migraine/sinus headache on Thanksgiving Day, made ME very happy.

It was only the four of us for Thanksgiving, so we opted to go the very low-key and simple route.  Which it was. Between this and the microwaved side dishes I proffered (Stove Top stuffing, Birds Eye steamed corn, mashed potatoes), this was one of the easiest dinners I've ever made.

Well, until I realized that to make the "brine" for the Tofurky, I needed a packet of  "dry vegetarian onion soup mix."

I debated whether I wanted to go to out to the grocery store for this.  I decided that I most certainly did NOT and that I would take my chances by whipping up something (anything!) that resembled a substitute mix.

I found this Substitute for 1 Envelope Onion Soup Mix recipe on Food.com, and even then I had to improvise further because I only had the beef boullion granules, the onion powder, and the pepper. No matter. Toss in some frozen onions to stand in for the onion flakes and nobody is the wiser.  Put the Tofurky in the crockpot (I used a 3 quart), baste it a little bit and continue every half hour or so, and 3 hours on high later, you've got Thanksgiving dinner.

Carbohydrate heaven on a plate. Tell me this looks pretty close to what your Thanksgiving plate looked like, no? 

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

(And just so we're all kosher with the folks at the FTC, Tofurky, Stove Top, and Birds Eye did NOT compensate me for any part of this post.  But, y'know, if they want to toss some cash my way in the spirit of gratitude, I'm not above saying no.)

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. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

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.

Sh*t My Kids Do to Give Me a Heart Attack

(Or, How to Give Your Mother a Heart Attack in Three Easy Steps.)

1. Wear your Ninja costume from Halloween to bed, in lieu of pajamas.

2. At precisely 4:56 a.m. on a Saturday morning, stand grinning patiently by your mother's bedside in your Ninja costume.

3. Watch your mother's reaction when she opens her eyes (after a terribly restless night's sleep) at 4:57 a.m.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  (All of whom I thought I was going to be having breakfast with this morning, given the way my heart was racing.)  I mean, really, I need this shit at 4:57 a.m. on a Saturday?  Really? When we have absolutely nothing to do and nowhere to be?  After a crappy night's sleep?  When I'm coming off of a three-day migraine/sinus headache?

At least I can be thankful that My Boy had the good sense not to be holding the Ninja toy sword.  That's something anyway.

In the meantime, make my morning coffee a decaf, please.

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, November 25, 2011

Thankfully Reading Weekend - Kick Off Post

For those of you who aren't participating in the OccupyBestBuyToysRUsWalmartTarget movement (also known as Black Friday) or whose idea of fun doesn't involve pepper-spraying 20 other humans and clawing people for a $1.28 towel at your favorite corporate behemoth/Made in China emporium, there is an alternative activity underway today.

(The towel incident was reportedly, according to my Facebook news feed, at the New Castle, PA Walmart.)

Anyway.  As I was saying. It's the 3rd Annual Thankfully Reading Weekend, a most fabulous crowd-free Thanksgiving tradition hosted by Jenn's Bookshelves, Beth Fish Reads, and Devourer of Books. As Jenn says on her intro post regarding the event, "it's an excuse to do an obscene amount of reading over the long Thanksgiving weekend."

Now THAT'S something worth waking up at 2 a.m. for.

So, what will I be reading during the Thankfully Reading Weekend? Good question ... and one that leads to a confession.

I started my Thankfully Reading Weekend a little early.  (Like, on Wednesday night, when I resumed my reading of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson.

I'm on page 165 (of 571, good heavens!) on the fence about whether I'm going to continue or not.  It's keeping my interest and there's something oddly compelling about this, but it comes at a bad time for me. I have a bunch of other library books I really, really want to get to, as well as several challenge-related books (this will qualify for one challenge, the Chunkster). I also don't want to spend the entire Thankfully Reading Weekend reading just this one.

So, I've decided to put this one aside for the Thankfully Reading Weekend and delve into some of those other tomes that are calling my name.  (Although I may return to Steve Jobs during the weekend.  I dunno.)

I made a clean start for the official start of this event, and began this morning with Barbara Kingsolver's High Tide in Tucson: Essays from Now or Never.  This one is for the 2011 Essay Reading Challenge hosted by Carrie over at Books and Movies and it ends NEXT WEEK (as in, on November 30.)  This deadline sneaks up on me every year. I signed up to read 10 essays.

High Tide in Tucson has been on my radar screen for awhile, ever since I discovered one of my favorite passages:  "Every one of us is called upon, probably many times, to start a new life. A frightening diagnosis, a marriage, a move, loss of a job or a limb or a loved one, a graduation, bringing a new baby home: it's impossible to think at first how this all will be possible. Eventually, what moves it all forward is the subterranean ebb and flow of being alive among the living. ....

It's not such a wide gulf to cross, then, from survival to poetry. We hold fast to the old passions of endurance that buckle and creak beneath us, dovetailed, tight as a good wooden boat to carry us onward.  And onward full tilt we go, pitched and wrecked and absurdly resolute, driven in spite of everything to make good on a new shore. To be hopeful, to embrace one possibility after another - that is surely the basic instinct....

We love and we lose, go back to the start and do it right over again. For every heavy forebrain solemnly cataloging the facts of a harsh landscape, there's a rush of intuition behind it, crying out:  High tide! Time to move out into the glorious debris.  Time to take this life for what it is."  (pg. 15-16, "High Tide in Tucson")

Isn't that gorgeous? I'm in love with Kingsolver's writing style, and I wish this wasn't a library book.  Because I want to highlight the hell out of this one and I want to keep it for myself. (Hint to my Book Blogger Secret Santa or anyone else who will be shopping - except, hopefully, not today - for a gift for me.)   Barbara Kingsolver just may be my New Favorite Author.  (I was introduced to her last spring, when I borrowed Animal, Vegetable, Miracle from the library and then bought it for my Kindle.)

I wasn't planning to read this one straight through, like a novel, but I think I will do just that.

Happy Thankfully Reading to all who are participating!

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, November 24, 2011

The Obligatory Thanksgiving Post on What I Am Grateful For

Happy Thanksgiving to all who are celebrating such today!  (Sometimes I forget that I have an international audience here.)  Hopefully the day finds you relaxing and enjoying some good food, family and/or friends.

I was inspired to do my annual gratitude post in the style of Care, she of Care's Online Book Club who did her post in alphabetical order.

So, here goes.

I know I should probably say Autism or Asperger's for this one, but truth is that I'm not one of those people who is grateful for this.  I'm just ... not. What I am grateful for are the people who are in my life because of the autism, people who I wouldn't know if Boo didn't have this diagnosis, and the experiences I've had this year (lemon cake, anyone?) if it wasn't for autism.  If you're reading this and recognize yourself in this description, chances are it is you and the inspiration you provide as we journey down this road together that I am referring to.

Betty and Boo, for reasons that I mentioned here and then some.
Books, because where would we be (and what would I write about) without them?
Blogging, and for those of you who take time to read what I have to say.
Bloggers, because many of you have become treasured friends.

Coffee. And caffeine (but that's sort of redundant).
College (the one I was fortunate enough to attend), because as we far-flung alums have come together to support two of our own this year, that place has shown me how important and strong the bonds are among those of us who went there and what an important place it is to so many.

my Dad, because even though he left us way too soon, I'm grateful that I had him for the 15 years I did and that I'm able to remember him.

Electricity, because life is so much more convenient and easier with it.
Excedrin Migraine, when it works.  (That's a clue for it to start doin' its thing and start kickin' in ... annnnnytime now this morning.)

Facebook, because it allows me to keep in touch with the Family and Friends, and everyone else I ever said hello to.
Having enough Food to eat.

Baby G., whom I've never met (but hope to someday!) but who has taught me so many things and made me a more appreciative parent in the process.

(The) Husband, for all the reasons I listed here and then some.

Independent bookstores (like this one, Paper Kite Books in Kingston, PA) because I've met some of the nicest people in the ones that I've been fortunate to visit in my travels.

Insurance. Having it (medical, life, dental) when so many people do not.

Jobs.  The fact that both The Husband and I have one.  And because I know what it's like not to have one.
Jobs, Steve.  Because that gizmo of his called the iPod has made traveling in the car for 6 hours with two kids much, much more pleasant.

My Kindle. And whomever invented the Keurig.  (Yeah, these two both sound materialistic of me. But, what can I say? I am grateful for both of them.)

Having someone to Love.

(my) Mother. And my mother-in-law. And all the other mothers and mentors in my life.
(our) Military, their military families, and our veterans.

Nature. Because even though some of my travels for work are long (and early) ones, I've gotten to see some gorgeous parts of this state (and others) that I probably never would have otherwise.
(the) Navy SEALS, for their fine work of this past May ridding this earth of a hateful scourge.  (Yeah, I know some might say that I shouldn't be grateful that Osama is dead, but you know what? No apologies here.  I AM rather thankful for that and for those who made that happen.)

OnStar.  Because I would not have made it to half of my presentations and meetings in the most remote corners of this state (and others) without you, and because you are always there (especially at the hours of 5 a.m. as I'm leaving for said presentations).

Pittsburgh.  Everything about it, but especially the People who have welcomed us here and allowed us to start over, who made this transition a smooth one, and who took a chance on us professionally. (This photo was taken last weekend at the Carnegie Science Center.)

Photography, because even though I am an amateur (if that), it allows me to see this world from a different perspective.

Parenthood. I'm thinking of the show here (yeah, OK, and the real deal too) and how grateful I am that there is a show that "gets it," that portrays Asperger's as it really is.  I'm grateful for the Bravermans (and the Braverman I know in real life).

Quiet times, when our whole family is together, just hanging out.

Reading.  The ability to do so.  The freedom to select what we want to read.

Strathmere, specifically, my aunt and uncle who give us a week at their house there every year for our summer vacation and in so doing, have given my kids some awesome childhood memories.

My brother.

Unemployment benefits. Prior to June 1, 2011, I only needed unemployment one other time in my life (in 1998) and that was only for a grand total of a week before I got a new job. Obviously, that was many moons ago - personally, professionally, and economically speaking. Our world (personally and economically) has changed dramatically since then, and this time, the unemployment benefits were what helped to put food on our table every week, among other things. I'm grateful for that ... and for the blog fodder that I got from spending a whole afternoon in the unemployment office.

The fine folks at Valley Chevrolet in Wilkes Barre, PA for helping out someone (yours truly) who was six hours from home on a business trip and got a little panicked when her Check Engine light came on and wouldn't go off.  And who didn't charge me a single cent for checking out my HHR and putting it through "every test known to man."

West Virginia and having to go there for Work, because even though that was a hellacious trip driving-wise, it led to one of the highlights of my year (meeting my longtime pen-pal S.)

Um ... I don't really know.

You, for reading this blog.

For sleep and all of its restorative powers.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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, November 23, 2011

Book Review: The CHICK-tionary: From A-Line to Z-Snap, the Words Every Woman Should Know, by Anna Lefler

The CHICK-tionary: From A-Line to Z-Snap, the Words Every Woman Should Know
by Anna Lefler 
Adams Media 
227 pages

There are two things that I never miss an opportunity to tell my husband.

1. He's damn lucky.
2. He's damn lucky that I am not a high-maintenance girl.

Now, high-maintenance isn't among the "450+ words no woman can live without" that are included in Anna Lefler's The CHICK-tionary (although it probably should be), but that's not the point.  The point is that before reading this, I never realized how lacking I am in the girly-girl department.  (Girly-girl is included in The CHICK-tionary. Although I think I just used it in the wrong context.)

Because I will never be mistaken for being an -ista anything or a Goddess or a Diva, I am apparently missing out on, like, HALF THE WORLD.

That would be the half of the world that runs on all things female.  The half of the world that knows about such crucial matters like "fill" and "acrylic nails" and "mani-pedi's." (My first and last mani-pedi was for my sister-in-law's wedding in 1999, before the mani-pedi was actually called such).

Quite possibly, you own an "it bag," maybe one made of something called "shagreen" (which connotates for me a bad 70s rug that resembles a forest) whereas I'm a little perturbed that my one and only purse might need to be replaced after only a year. A Bag Hag I am most certainly not.

And I know I am woefully lacking in the Black Shoe department.  I might have ... um, three pairs? OK, maybe four, but no more than that.

You see? You see what I mean about not being high-maintenance?  I am a dream wife, I tell you. I don't do ANY of this fashion or shopping or upkeep shit, and I don't know why I don't. (Well, yeah, I have a theory, but that's a whole 'nother story, one that's generally told after a few cocktails or ... six.)  You will not see me getting Botox for the purpose of eradicating my future Marionette Lines or Parentheses.

But regardless of whether one plays in this particular playground, it is helpful to know the lexicon of the game.  In fact, it's downright necessary. And that's where my new wingwoman Anna Lefler comes in, with her new book The CHICK-tionary.  ("Wingwoman: the female version of the wingman, your wingwoman has got your back and all of your other sides as well. Mutual and deeply committed, the wingwoman relationship is most observable in large-scale social situations such as clubbing that require complex reconnaissance and secure transmission of sensitive information." pg. 219)

As my wingwoman, Anna's given me (and admit it, maybe you?) a primer on all matters pertaining to hair and nails and fashion.  It's all here in The CHICK-tionary, right at my unmanicured fingertips.  There are also quite a few terms related to the machinations of relationships and the goings-on in and near the Hoo-Ha - everything from waxing techniques to the instruments used at the Gynie.

Lest you all think I'm some sort of a Hot Mess when it comes to these things, I did recognize quite a considerable number of terms included in The CHICK-tionary. For example, Anna has the whole male-relationship/Flirtationship spectrum covered, defining everything from Friends with Benefits to the Himbo to the George Glass (who is not to be confused with the Kryptonite Guy), while clarifying the all-important difference between the Office Spouse and the Internet Spouse.

I had fun reading this book (and, truth be told, writing this review).  I've been a fan of Anna's for almost 3 years now, having been introduced to her blog ("Life Just Keeps Getting Weirder") from the mentions on Beth Kephart's blog. In fact, it was the book deal for The CHICK-tionary that Beth emailed me and Florinda about as we were en route to the Book Blogger Convention this year, and which we spent some time talking up. (Anna is akin to the bloggers' version of a disneyified Pop Tart, "livin' the dream" of many a blogger in that the publishing powers-that-be came to HER, book deal contract in hand.)

The CHICK-tionary, as one might expect, is a light and fun and humorous read.  It's "fresh," in a good way.  (In the way that Anna defines it on pg. 74). This is a book to give your BFF or your Biffle for her Bachelorette Party, or for her Unwedding, or just when she is feeling more Wifed than MILFed.

This is probably not the book to have on the nightstand in the guest room when your conservative in-laws come to visit. (Or, if you do, make it an unhighlighted version.)

Anna knows the world of the chicks. (As well as those who are "chic," according to my Betty, who claims that Ms. Lefler's people have the wrong variation of Chick in the title.  "A Chick is a baby chicken," my all-knowing Betty states, adamantly. "A Chic [pronounced chick in her vernacular] is someone who walks around in bikinis all the time. That book, because it is pink and LOOKS like it is for people who walk around in bikinis all the time, should be called The Chic-tionary.")

Good Lord, I think my 10 year old has a better handle on this girl stuff than I do.

Still, regardless of whether you are a Chick or a Chic - or someone who is a hot mess when it comes to understanding Chicks and Chics - don't despair.

Anna Lefler can be your Wingwoman too.

I was delighted to receive a free copy of The CHICK-tionary from the fine ladies at TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated in any way for my honest review.

Click here to see what other bloggers on the Tour are saying. 

In addition, here's what Florinda had to say:

The 3Rs: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness (Florinda tells us about being present for Anna's first book signing) and also gives us a sampling of words from The Chick-tionary.

Did I miss your review?  Let me know in the comments.

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 3Rs Blog: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

And Then, They Turned 10

Carefree and on vacation in Strathmere, NJ ~ June 2011
Walking all the way home from the spot where the blog header photo was taken. 

Dear Betty and Boo,

It's somewhat of a trend here in this blogging world, to write a blog post as letter to one's child on that child's birthday.

I love the idea of this - this putting down in words one's feelings about the child, the things that you're into at this particular age, and the hopes and dreams one has for the coming year (and your life).

I was a lot better at doing this when we counted your age in months.  Back then, these sorts of notes chronicling these every 30 days were easy (although many of those days were actually kind of hard).  Now that you're older, these types of letters are actually one of the hardest things for me to write.

(Maybe because I find myself starting to cry, like I am now.)

But this year I'm going to try and do this, because this year is different.

This year - today! - you are 10.

Today, as I have so often and especially on your birthday, my mind is replaying those very early touch-and-go days of the NICU, of getting to know you. Back then, we just trying to make it through some very tough days. (Perhaps it was a way of preparing us for the many tough days that would await us.)

In those early days (the ones filled with the NICU songs, and then the ones filled with the baby paraphenalia that we toted everywhere, and then the ones filled with the signs of the autism that would soon make its presence very much known) this day seemed so very far, far away. I remember meeting other moms with twins, and if their children were older, I'd say, "Oh, so they really do eventually become [fill in the blank with 5, or 8, or 10]."

Yes.  Yes, they do.

And so, you are.

You're 10 today and I admit it, I love this age.  These last few years (challenging as they often have been) have been among my favorites because both of you still have the wonder of a child while beginning to take your first steps towards finding yourselves in the world. You still haven't put away all childish things (and in some ways, I hope you never do) but you're asking more questions, exploring new ideas, and that is a fascinating thing to watch- even though it means that we know it won't be long before you take even more steps away from us.

You're 10 today, and among the most amazing things to see at this age are the glimmers of the grown ups you will become.  I can absolutely see you, Betty, going to veterinary school and opening your own practice. You have such a gentle rapport and caring nature with all animals that it often astounds me - and the fact that you realize now, at 10 years old, what your passion is and what you need to do in order to follow your dream of being a vet is incredible to watch.

Because you see, many people go their entire lives without discovering something that ignites their soul the way that caring for animals fuels yours. Today, my birthday wish for you, my beautiful and smart baby girl, is that you never lose sight of your dreams and your passion. Perhaps your dreams will change (although, I don't think they will) but no matter what, keep dreaming big.  Keep believing that you have the power to save every orca in the oceans, because you know what? You do.  

And Boo, my beautiful blue-eyed Boo, your creativity with your cartooning and your stories is something that I am so very proud of.  I know I often don't pay attention to your latest drawings or the videos you're constantly making us watch online, but I promise you this, my beautiful boy - I'm going to start paying more attention.  Because as much as you "hate school," your teachers are right about something. You have a gift for storytelling infused by humor, and that is a wonderful thing. In these 10 years, I know our family hasn't laughed as much as we should have - except for you. You love to laugh and you love to make others laugh.

Maybe you can re-teach us how to do that.

Because in the past 10 years, you - both of you - have both taught us so many things.  There is no limit, I believe, to what you still have left to teach us. Especially these days, with all the challenges and changes that this past year has brought to our family.

Just the other day, I realized that you have lived in 5 different houses (in two different states) before turning 10.  I didn't live in five different places until my sophomore year of college.

For two 10 year olds (one who has autism), that's a lot of change. But in adjusting to these changes as well as you have, you've taught us (your old parents) about resiliency, that we really can start over and that it doesn't matter what we have, materially-speaking.  You've taught us that we don't need witches, love spells or riches; as long as we have each other, the other things have a way of working themselves out.

(Well, truth be told, a few more riches wouldn't hurt.)

You've taught us the meaning of home, a concept that has changed a bit for us recently. But when you get right down to the heart of it, our idea of home remains the same as it was 10 years ago when we spent our days singing this Frank Sinatra tune to you, in the NICU, over and over and over again.

Bluebirds, flowers
Sunshine and showers
Sunsets and rainbows
On skies of red and blue

Badges, whistles

Rockets and missiles
Puppies, kittens
And penny candy too
You make me feel so new
Like carnivals and carousels
Popsicles and wishing wells
And I am so in love with you
I can't believe it's true
We're gonna make it all the way home

Magic, potions,
Incense and lotions
Bells, books and candles
Can make a witches' brew
But I don't need witches
Love spells or riches
You are my treasure
My fairy tale come true
With you is where I'll stay
All the time, anywhere
Turn around, and I'll be there
It was I, now it's we
And I know it will be
You and me, all the way home
Me and you, all the way home.

Happy Birthday, my Betty and Boo.  

Love, Mommy 

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, November 17, 2011

Book Review: Made for You and Me: Going West, Going Broke, Finding Home, A Memoir by Caitlin Shetterly

Made for You and Me: Going West, Going Broke, Finding Home
by Caitlin Shetterly
Voice (Hyperion)
247 pages 

Is that not the most gorgeous cover ever?  It's spectacular, and the story that is Made for You and Me is one of the best-written and engrossing memoirs that I've read. It's the story behind the statistics of what has been, for countless people, the disappearance of their American dreams at the hands of the American recession.

It doesn't take a psychologist to figure out that the reason this one resonated so much with me is because I identify with Caitlin and Dan so much. Our story is very different, yet there's some similarities.

I read this back in July but am deliberately posting it today, because it was exactly four years ago today, in November 2007 that we moved to a different state and into a large beautiful house that represented everything we had worked for during the past two decades. Yeah, in hindsight we didn't need to buy The American Dream, but isn't that what we're taught to do, to aspire to, to believe in? We're conditioned to believe in the possibility of new beginnings, to chase our dreams and to take a risk and a chance.  So we started what we believed to be a new chapter - but then one person and then another and then another beat us down. The housing market plummeted, the economy crashed into a recession, the writing was beginning to be written on the wall in a Sharpie marker. We decided that we could either wait for the inevitable or get out of that state - mentally and physically - while we could. The Husband took a new job six hours away, I got fired, we sold the dream house at a huge loss and wiped out everything we'd saved to cover the loss and try to preserve our credit and keep our family intact. (Both of which we did. Thankfully.)  

W're luckier than most and fortunate to have what we have (and had), but like many Americans and in the words of John Lennon, we're starting over. The logistics - finding an apartment and our way around a new city, finding new jobs and schools - have all come together (and kind of nicely, really).  What's been harder is shaking the feeling, as Caitlin Shetterly writes in Made for You and Me (I AM getting to this review, really!) of  "feeling essentially flattened," of feeling that we can no longer afford to dream.

Caitlin and her husband Dan were like many young married couples when "the recession came home" to them in December 2007. Dan's full-time job as a photographer was reduced to part-time, downsizing his salary by more than a third. A second job as a bouncer didn't help cover the rent on their apartment (Caitlin worked as a freelancer and with a theater company she'd founded). Knowing that their lives would be changing dramatically, they decided to move from Maine to Los Angeles in hopes of new opportunities.

Caitlin writes of their journey west in poignant passages like these reflections upon driving through Washington, D.C. at night:   "Even in the dark, the majesty of our white buildings and gray stone structures, shining with a post-rain sheen, belied the pain of a country embroiled in two endless wars, beginning a devastating recession, with many of its values and laws so desperately challenged that the people were morally lost and defeated. The alabaster monuments stood, powerfully silent.  Dan said, 'I hope I never get this close to George Bush again,' and we both halfheartedly chuckled, because the purpose of our journey west and the place we found ourselves in as a nation really were sobering facts." (pg. 49)

"As we got farther and farther away from home, America seemed so big and bruised and foreign that our sense of who we were felt complicated by each mile we traversed. And it was this complication, possibly, that made the journey worth it. As we went, we were becoming citizens of America, really, not just of one place, one state, one town. We were witnessing our selves and our hopes, dreams and goals against the backdrop of places and people we didn't know or even, maybe, relate to. This rootlessness kept us wonderfully open to seeing and experiencing everything around us with the freshness of babies." (pg. 53-54)

Caitlin and Dan's dream turned out to be ... well, the stuff that John Lennon was talking about when he said that life is what happens when you're busy making other plans.

Finding work (and enough of it) to sustain themselves proved to be more of a challenge in California now that the country was in a recession. Safe and affordable housing became an issue.  And then Caitlin became pregnant, with life-threatening complications during the entire nine months. A beloved pet died. The bottom was quickly dropping out of their world, taking with it the hopes and dreams of the new life they had planned for themselves.

"Still, for us, in our young marriage, in our story of of our lives falling apart while we tried to do whatever it took to take care of our son, our dog and ourselves, we felt, essentially, flattened. Actually, it was worse than that: What we felt was that we could no longer dream. That was, possibly, the most dangerous aspect of what had happened to us." (pg. 3)

Made for You and Me has its roots in Caitlin's emails to friends and family as she chronicled her and Dan's journey west.  The emails turned into a blog, which turned into a feature on NPR.  Being so open with her story has made others see themselves in her story (as I certainly did), but it has also brought out the snarks who consider Caitlin to be whiny (I did not find that to be the case at all; you would know it if I did). There are the cynics who espouse a "woulda-shoulda-coulda" attitude.  They shouldn't have moved.  If they would only get out of this dream world of being freelancers and get a real job, things would be fine. They shouldn't have had a baby.

Isn't it funny how everyone becomes an expert on life when it's not their own?

The thing is, we all make choices and decisions based on our circumstances and on what we feel are the best options at that time.  Some work out, some don't - and when it's the latter, it's hard enough beating yourself up without having other people lining up to do it for you.  It doesn't mean you don't appreciate what you have.  It's that sometimes when you've lost so much and are hanging by a thread, you're too scared of losing what little you have because then where will you be?

I really liked Made for You and Me because there are very few of us who have not been affected by this prolonged recession, and stories like Caitlin and Dan's remind us that we're not alone.  I think that is so very important in these times, to know that there are others who are struggling to make our way, to pick up the pieces of what remains. There's some comfort in that, in knowing that there are others who are also very scared about what our personal and collective futures hold and that, just like this land was made for you and me, it's going to take all of us, together, to try and get there.

What Other Bloggers Thought:

The Broke and the Bookish
Erin Reads

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, November 16, 2011

Book Review: Conversations and Cosmopolitans: Awkward Moments, Mixed Drinks, and How a Mother and Son Finally Shared Who They Really Are, by Robert Rave and Jane Rave

Conversations and Cosmopolitans: Awkward Moments, Mixed Drinks, and How a Mother and Son Finally Shared Who They Really Are
by Robert Rave and Jane Rave 
copyright by Robert Rave and Jane Rave
St. Martin's Griffin
288 pages 

You know how, on TV, there are were those parents who everyone wanted for their own parents? If you grew up in the 70s or 80s, you know what and who I'm talking about.  Parents like Mr. and Mrs. Cunningham, or Bob and Carol Brady. Parents who were the epitome of cool, who you could tell anything to.

Well, after reading Conversations and Cosmopolitans, I think that Ron and Jane Rave should be designated the adoptive parents for every gay person in America. Everyone should have people like this - who react like this - when they come out. (Especially when they come out.)

"After talking with Robert and letting him know we loved him anyway, I think he felt somewhat relieved that he didn't have to pretend anymore with the people he loved most. His dad and I felt the same: Robert was our son, and being gay didn't really matter. .... At that moment, the most important thing for us was to make sure our son know we loved him and would always be there for him ... no matter what. And I think we did a good job proving that to him that day." (pg. 37)

Conversations and Cosmopolitans is a memoir written by a mother (that would be Jane) and her son (that's Robert). We're introduced to the Rave family shortly after Robert writes a letter to his parents informing them that he's gay. (This is now infamously known in the Rave household as "the gay letter.")  Reading this book is like pulling a chair up to the Rave kitchen table and listening to the old family stories.
While reading this, Robert and Jane become your new best friends, and that's due in large part to the structure of the memoir's narrative, which works incredibly well in this book. We're treated first to Robert's perspective of a particular event or situation, followed by Jane's take on the same happenstance. It's like listening to two people tell you a story, and you find yourself watching ping-pong match style from one to the other.

There's the one about Jane getting drunk on cosmopolitans during that crazy night in New York with Robert's friends - a group that included a new actor named Rupert Everett.  There's the story of Robert's disappointing (and expensive) summer when he rented a Fire Island beach house with several guys. And then, of course, the one about the birthday party dinner for the obnoxious friend who always has to be the center of attention. (There's one in every group, gay or straight or whatever else.)

All of this can be (and is) entertaining ... to a point.

For the most part, I enjoyed this memoir. Maybe because I'm a mom, but her parts of the book resonated more with me than Robert's did. At times, I found myself almost skimming over some of his narrative in order to get to Jane's down-to-earth,  perspective. Maybe that's what I personally need right now.  I dunno.

I'll start sounding a little nit-picky here, but I do have to mention that there were a few rocky editing issues that kind of irked me. One such error occurs IN THE THIRD SENTENCE of the book.  (It's Virginia WOOLF, not Virginia Wolfe.)  Then, we have the story about mom downing cosmos with a budding actor named Rupert Everett in a little movie called "My Best Friend's Wedding" ... but several chapters later when Robert flips on the TV and sees "My Best Friend's Wedding" starring Rupert Everett, there's no mention of the night of debauchery or even that Robert was once acquainted with him.

There are also a few situations that seem almost too rushed. Much of the book is focused on Robert's lack of a boyfriend and his efforts to attract one. We go through chapter after chapter of this - some entertaining, some sympathetic, some a little on the woe-is-me side of life, some a combination of all three - and then bam!  Turn the page to Chapter 19, which begins "My ex-boyfriend and I were physically and culturally complete opposites."

Whoa, huh?  Who?  What?  Where did THAT come from?

Also, one of the themes of the memoir is learning who you (and your loved ones) really are.  In Jane's life, she has had to come to terms with having become pregnant in high school, and the aftermath of being shunned by her community. It's not unlike the discrimination faced by people who are gay, who don't have the same rights as others, who are castigated as being less than everyone else.

I was expecting this parallel to take a more prominent focus in the book than it did. Even though it's mentioned on the back cover as a pivotal connection between mother and son, we don't learn about Jane's  teenage pregnancy until the last 20 pages of the memoir. I think the book's narrative would have been much stronger had we been privy to some of the conversations they had about this connection and discovery about who they are and how we have the ability to overcome what others thought about us - and what we wrongly believed about ourselves.

All in all, this is a light, easy, and humorous read.  It would be good vacation reading. You don't have to think too hard with this one.  It makes you smile in many parts and above all, it makes you appreciate the people who "get" us in this crazy life.  No matter what our circumstances, we all need at least one person - be it a parent or a significant other or a best friend who we can tell anything to and who will  stand up for us and always be by our side no matter what.  Everyone should have someone like this in his or her life.

And if they don't, there's always Conversations and Cosmopolitans. 

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for sending me Conversations and Cosmopolitans and for the opportunity to participate in the book tour. (Click here for the tour schedule and to see what others thought.) FTC disclosure: Although I received a copy of the book from the publisher via TLC Book Tours, I was not compensated in any way for this review.

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, November 14, 2011

Book Review: The Sonderberg Case, by Elie Wiesel

The Sonderberg Case
by Elie Wiesel
192 pages
translated from French

I have the utmost respect and admiration for Elie Wiesel.  I do.  And I'm embarrassed to say that up until now, I've never read any of his books.  Not even Night.

(Although, my embarrassment on not reading Night is probably not as great as the embarrassment of a certain former college president of my alma mater who, upon introducing Mr. Wiesel as a keynote speaker during an event, REFERRED TO WIESEL'S BOOK NIGHT AS A WORK OF FICTION! I kid you not.  Mr. Wiesel himself kindly but firmly set this dingbat straight.)    

I digress. But that is an unbelievable story, is it not?  I mean, can you imagine?  I'm not much of a fan of this woman, truth be told.

Anyway, so I had high expectations going into The Sonderberg Case.  This short novel is the story of Yedidyah Wasserman, a drama critic living in New York City with his actress wife and two sons.  Because of his theatrical background, Yedidyah is assigned by the newspaper for which to cover the trial of one Werner Sonderberg, who is accused of killing his (Werner's) uncle.  Werner pleads "guilty and not guilty," setting in motion a series of courtroom scenarios captured by Yedidyah, to much acclaim. 

(I was picturing Yedidyah as somewhat of a Dominick Dunne, man-about-town type of character.) 

For the first part of the novel, there are passages of writing that were fluid and poetic, almost causing me to slow down and take in the prose.  But then it seemed as if the plot became too heavy for what is a less than 200 page novel.  In that span, Wiesel gives his reader the Sonderberg trial and the effect it has on Yedidyah personally, as well as on his marriage.  He presents some unspoken business of Yedidyah's family history, their experiences and fate during the Holocaust, and the dynamics between Werner and the uncle.  There's also the mention of something medically wrong with Yedidyah, which I'm thinking is cancer but we never quite figure out. 

It's all a little hard to keep straight.  (Oh, and through all of this, the narration changes (often) from first to third person, and back again.)  It makes for a choppy story.  Perhaps this is because the novel was translated from the French.  (If so, this is the second translation from the French I've had difficulty with - the first being The Elegance of the Hedgehog.)

(Cringes and shudders at the memory of that particular book.)

I wanted to like this one more than I did, but The Sonderberg Case failed to win my favor. However, it won't deter me from giving Wiesel another chance by reading more of his work - fiction AND nonfiction - in the future.

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.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Sunday Salon: No Judy Moody for You

What today's plans were SUPPOSED to include: 

A mommy-daughter one-on-one time trip downtown to the Carnegie Library, where Megan McDonald is appearing. (Some of you might know Ms. McDonald better as the author of the Judy Moody books, as well as those featuring Stink, and many more.)

What today's plans will ACTUALLY include: 

A mommy-daughter one-on-one time trip to the next town to the Children's Express Clinic, which is an affiliate site of our local Children's Hospital.

Betty's ears have been problematic for ... awhile now.  As in, I really should have gotten this taken care of sooner. For the benefit of those still eating breakfast, let's just say that they need to be cleaned out often. So, last night, there was a lot of gunk (as per usual) but the new twist on this was that it was accompanied by a fever and headache, which concerned us.

She's feeling much better this morning, and even though the ear issues are still there, we probably COULD still go to the Megan McDonald event. But I need to exercise some parental responsibility and get this looked at by someone. (If all goes well, on the way back we might also have a chance to look at a house nearby.)  I'm also hopeful that there might be another Megan McDonald event like this sometime in the future, as she is a Pittsburgh native.  Who knew?

Anyway, bookwise, this week I listened to the audiobook version of Henrik Ibsen's play Hedda Gabler. Seriously, how the hell have I missed this classic all these years? I really liked this and it definitely had enough suspense to keep my attention, even though you could see where the plot was going. Audiobook is the way to go with this one, folks, particularly this version with Juliet Stevenson's brilliant performance as Hedda.

My fall travel schedule is winding down (thank God) so my audiobooks will need to be ones that I can listen to sporadically. Studs Terkel's Voices of Our Time is perfect for that. This is a chronological collection, spanning five decades, of 48 of Terkel's radio interviews with a wide-range of people. Some of these folks are household names; others definitely aren't (but deserve to be).

After our foray to the Express Clinic today, I'm hoping to spend some time with Conversations and Cosmopolitans, by Robert Rave and Jane Rave. I'm on the TLC Book Tour schedule for this one and my review date of ... um, this Wednesday (!!!) has crept up on me.  Fortunately, this seems to be a fairly quick read.

Because I'm scrambling to finish Conversations and Cosmopolitans, that means that Steve Jobs needs to be put on the back burner. (From what I've read of Walter Isaacson's biography in the last 70 pages, I don't think he'd be too pleased with that.) This one is interesting, but slow going for me because I only have time to read in the evenings ... and by then, my eyes are glazing over with talk of microchips and processors and whathaveyou. As expected, though, the personal details contained within this one are the most compelling parts of this book to me.

Finally, I'm still plugging away on my Kindle with Yiyun Li's short story collection Gold Boy, Emerald Girl. I'm really liking these stories - and may I say how kind of bizarre it was reading "A Man Like Him" this week as the whole Penn State saga played out everywhere I went? It's about the accusations of abuse and the repercussions on those involved. I first read this one in The Best American Short Stories 2009. I also loved "Prison," which I also read this week.

So, despite kind of a Judy Moody bummer start to our week, there's a full week of reading ahead.

I'm sure even Judy would agree with that.

P.S. I don't know about you, but I kinda need a read-a-thon of sorts. (OK. More than "kinda need."  More like "kinda desperately need.") Thankfully, Jenn's Bookshelves is once again hosting the annual Thankfully Reading Weekend during ... what else? Thanksgiving weekend.  (Which is in TWO WEEKS, PEOPLE. Holy hell.)  We're staying put for the holiday, which allows me to participate in this, as I've done in the past.

This is probably my favorite Read-a-Thon of the year (yes, even moreso than the 24 Hour Read-a-Thon) and I am thrilled that this is happening again. I'm planning to use this weekend as a final push to finish some challenges that I'm oh-so-close to completing.  Cannot possibly wait.  

Will you be joining us?

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, November 11, 2011

2011 Challenge Completed: 2nds Challenge

It's getting to be that time of year again ... when news of challenges completed, abandoned, and planned for 2012 will start filling up our readers - if they haven't already, that is.  I am woefully behind in my blog reading.)

I really enjoyed participating in the 2nds Challenge, which involved reading a second book by an author or the second in a series. I tend to read new (to me) authors as I see their new books on the library's shelves, but I rarely go back and seek out their previous work.  That's changing, though, and this challenge made me more conscious of continuing to read those.

I went for the "A Few More Bites" level, which required me to read 6 books that met the terms of the challenge:

1. Innocence, by Jane Mendelsohn
Last year, I read (and loved) Mendelsohn's American Music so she was already an author who I wanted to read more of.  Unfortunately, Innocence was a bit disappointing to me ... however, later in the year I read I Was Amelia Earhart and THAT one was wonderful.  That has earned a spot on my "Best of the Year" list. 

2. The Unnamed, by Joshua Ferris
Ferris's Then We Came to the End made it onto my "best of" lists last year. I'm still on the fence about The Unnamed as one that will make it on there even though I really liked it.  It might make for a very high honorable mention.  In my book, Joshua Ferris is 2 for 2.  

3. The Monsters of Templeton, by Lauren Groff
Loved this one!  Another one that is likely to show up on my "best of" list.  I liked Lauren Groff's short story collection, Delicate Edible Birds, which made me seek out this one - the first novel I read on my Kindle.  (Which qualifies it for the E-Reader Challenge, too.) 

4.  By Nightfall, by Michael Cunningham
Ah, Michael Cunningham ... a name that has earned a spot onto my "favorite authors of all time" list.  I know that his bestseller, The Hours, is one that many readers either love or hate.  I fall into the former camp.  It's one of my favorites.  So is By Nightfall. (This is, for purposes of clarification, not quite the second Cunningham book I've read.  I did read some of Specimen Days - and disliked it.  For this challenge, I was only counting books that I finished.) 

5. The House of the Seven Gables, by Nathaniel Hawthorne
It has been years (decades, really) since I read Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, so when a group read was announced as part of the R.I.P. Challenge, I was game.  I liked this one.  At first, I was listening to it on audio but that wasn't working out so well. The print edition is definitely the way to go.   

6.  Once Upon a Day, by Lisa Tucker 
I was fortunate to receive a copy of Tucker's latest novel (The Winters in Bloom) from NetGalley, and I enjoyed that one.  My library had Once Upon a Day on audio ... and this one just struck me as OK.  There were a few things I liked about it and many things that I didn't.  

This was a fun (but somewhat challenging) challenge, one that I'm glad I participated in.  If it is offered again in 2012, I'll be signing up!  

 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.