Category Archives: Audio Book

The Sunday Salon: January Reading Wrap-Up

The Sunday Salon

January 31 near Pittsburgh, PA

This week has seemed like a month, and this month has seemed like a freakin’ year. I am no fan of February (hate, hate, hate that damn month), but am glad to drop-kick this January to the dirty snow-crusted curb.
~ my Facebook status on Friday.

Wasn’t January just about the longest month EVER? Ugh. Even I’m getting tired of my complaining about the weather. It’s gotten to the point of being ridiculous. And, as our friendly groundhog just informed us, we’ve got six more weeks of this shit to put up with.

One of the only good things about January was the reading I did. I read 5 books (with 3 of those being audio books). I also read 6 magazines, which included several issues of The New Yorker, Creative Nonfiction, and The Writer. There were also 3 books that I abandoned.

Here’s what I read: (links take you to my full review):

Next to Love

 Next to Love, by Ellen Feldman (audio, read by Abby Craden)

Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted

 Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted: And All the Brilliant Minds Who Made the Mary Tyler Moore Show a Classic, by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong (audio, read by Amy Landon) 

Kayak Morning

 Kayak Morning: Reflections on Love, Grief, and Small Boats, by Roger Rosenblatt

Mating Calls

 Mating Calls: The Problem with Lexie and No. Seven, by Jessica Anya Blau

Pandora's Lunchbox

 Pandora’s Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal, by Melanie Warner (audio, read by Ann Marie Lee)

Definitely a variety, which makes it hard to play favorites for the month. I enjoyed most of these for various reasons (although “enjoyed” probably isn’t the right word for Pandora’s Lunchbox, which was eye-opening.) Kayak Morning was the only one that I found difficult to get through, because of the slightly rambling and disjointed nature of the narrative.

The True Secret of WritingI’m starting February with three books. I’m really enjoying Natalie Goldberg’s The True Secret of Writing, which would seem to be a pretentious title if it was anyone but Natalie Goldberg. (And, to be fair, she does have her critics, as anyone does.) Obviously, there isn’t a magical true secret to writing – but in this book, Goldberg gives her reader the benefit of her wisdom as learned through leading “True Secret” writing retreats with small groups of writers and by showing her reader how to combine one’s writing with walking and meditation. It’s very rooted in the practices of Zen. I’m absolutely loving this. 

Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It

Maile Meloy is an author I’ve been curious about for awhile; I’ve checked her short story collection Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It (love that title!) out of the library several times, only to return it unread. I finally started it yesterday and liked the first story, “Travis, B.” about how, for whatever reasons, sometimes the distance between two people can be more than we’re emotionally or physically able to overcome. Meloy says so much in just a few pages with this one, and I’m looking forward to reading more.

Looking for MeMy audio book this week is Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman, whom I feel I owe an apology to. Because this is a book that, despite being praised by almost every blogger, I had been dismissing as fluff. I greatly underestimated this one. But, I checked it out of the library anyway and when I had a 40 minute wait for the car wash yesterday, I put in the first CD … and I was hooked from the first few lines. I’ll be listening to this during my commute to and from work this week (and I suspect I might be reading some of the print book, as well).

I’m not sure how much reading I’ll get done during the Super Bowl. My boy has been hard at work creating some kind of competitive game for us to rank and score the commercials, so we’ll be participating in that.

Happy Sunday – and happy February!

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The Sunday Salon: Reading Stats for 2013

The Sunday Salon

Having just finished my first book (and audio) of 2014 – along with casting aside my DNF of the year – I’m thinking I’d really better wrap up 2013 before too much more time passes.

I’m not sure if anyone still cares to read yet another such list now that we’re twelve full days into January, but I tend to use this post as reference during the year, so I’m writing it anyway.

Number of Books Read in 2013: 70 
This averages out to be five days per book, which I’m pleased about. My goal was 75 … oh, so close! Although I didn’t meet my goal, that’s a dramatic increase from 2012 when I read 57 books, but more in line with 2011’s total, which was 69.

To me, the main difference between 2012 and 2013 was my participation (or lack thereof) in reading challenges. I only signed up and completed one this year, and to be honest … I didn’t really miss them. I like the shorter challenges and read-alongs that bloggers come up in connection with a theme or an event, and I’ll probably continue to participate in those.

Number of Pages Read: 14,280 
That’s an average of 204 pages per book and 39 pages read each day. This is almost identical to the daily averages from last year, although the total number of pages read is higher.

Number of female authors: 42
Number of male authors: 28
39 of the books I read (4%)  were by new-to-me authors.
This isn’t surprising. I usually tend to read more female authors, and the number of new-to-me authors seems consistent, too. I envision this being the same for 2014.

Number of audiobooks listened to: 8
Total time listened (in days): 2.90 days
The number of audiobooks I listened to is down slightly from 2012, which is understandable. Most of my audiobook listening is done in the car and I wasn’t working full time (and out of the home) until mid-October. I expect this to go up significantly this year.

Books read on Kindle: 10
This is a 100% increase, which I’m happy about.

The average age (publication date) of the books I read was 7.8 years. That’s almost identical to last year. The oldest published book I read was Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

Genre Breakdown:
Fiction: 24
Nonfiction: 12
Memoirs: 12
Poetry: 10
Historical Fiction: 4
Young Adult: 4
Short Story Collections/Anthologies: 3

Fiction remained my most popular choice. Memoirs and nonfiction switched places this year. I read more nonfiction, but only one nonfiction title made my Best Of the Year list. I had a great year with poetry in 2013. I’d imagine this would be similar by the end of 2014.

Only 8 of these were books I owned (and several of them were on my Kindle). Eighteen of them were review books (either from TLC Book Tours, NetGalley, or the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). Two books were ones I edited. One book was borrowed from my mom. Everything else (40 books!) came from the library.

I read much less from my own shelves and more review books this year. I became a freelance book reviewer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in April, so that accounts for the increase in the review books. And there’s no way my library usage will decrease in 2014 because I work in a library now. Checking out books is an occupational hazard.

My median rating was 4.0, same as last year

Author I read the most: Mark Doty (4 books) 
Still Life with Oysters and Lemon
Paragon Park
Dog Years
Sweet Machine

There were 17 books that I abandoned in 2013.

In last week’s Salon, I gave you my choices for the best books I read in 2013. Here’s my complete list (links take you to my reviews):

So far, 2014 is off to a good reading start. More on that soon.

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Book Review: Down the Up Escalator: How the 99% Live in the Great Recession, by Barbara Garson

Down the Up Escalator Down the Up Escalator: How the 99% Live in the Great Recession, by Barbara Garson 
276 pages

“If you’re not a worker, not a consumer, and you don’t earn significant income from investments, then you don’t have much of a place in capitalist society. In the course of this recession millions more of us have slipped into that no place. Most of us will still manage to eat and keep our televisions connected. But it can’t be pleasant to live in a country whose elite have no regular use for us.” (pg. 269)

This quote, coming at the end of Down the Up Escalator: How the 99% Live in the Great Recession, captures the feeling of this book pretty well. And we’ll come back to this in a bit.  In the meantime though, misery loves company, right? That must have been what I think I was thinking when I requested (and received) an advance readers copy of Down the Up Escalator from NetGalley.

(A disclaimer: this review is based on the audiobook narrated by Jeanine Klein as well as the print version from my library, which all the quotes are taken from.)

I’d imagine that the target reader for Down the Up Escalator is someone like me. Someone who has truly, honest-to-God been irreversibly financially impacted by the economy on each one of the three levels that Barbara Garson highlights in Down the Up Escalator – the housing/mortgage crisis (check), long term unemployment (check) and depletion of personal savings (annnnd, check!).

The personal stories of my peers are, indeed, at the heart of this book. As they should be. Those who Ms. Garson interviews span various demographic groups and have been impacted by the Great Recession. She traveled extensively across the country using her business and journalistic connections to find people affected by the housing crisis, who were unemployed or underemployed, who lost all their savings, who were seemingly in a state of shock that this had happened to hardworking, educated, middle class people like them.  Without their stories, there wouldn’t be a book.

So, I certainly didn’t mind any of the profiles which are supported by statistics. I deeply understand the situations of almost every person in this book (except for the last few mentioned toward the end, who had pre-Recession wealth in the millions).


The reasons I related so well to this book are the same reasons why I had a really hard time with it. 

Allow me to explain.

Down the Up Escalator has a very detached feeling in the personal stories. I struggled with this, because it wasn’t the stories themselves that were the problem. As I said, I could relate to them and the people behind them all too well. Instead, I think it’s this:

As a reader and as someone walking in the well-worn shoes of the people profiled in the book, the conversational, hey-let’s-have-lunch-and-chat-about-how-you’re-coping-with-the-recession interview format simply doesn’t work for me in Down the Up Escalator. I didn’t feel a single connection between the author and any of the people she interviewed, not even a GI that she met in a coffeehouse during the Vietnam War and reconnected with sporadically during the decades thereafter.

What Down the Up Escalator needed was a different structure, one with the focus more on the INDIVIDUALS and less on the verbal exchange between the author and subject. Because as it is, the result is way too much dialogue and interactions like these: (the “I” in the passages below is the author recounting her conversation with her interviewee):

“I wrecked Elaine’s mood by asking her to describe what happened on the day she was fired. 

‘The word is not ‘fired!’

‘I’m sorry, I just meant …’

‘Someone is fired when they do something bad. I was laid off because they found a computer program to do the invoicing.’

I apologized, stammering that to me a layoff meant something temporary, like a seasonal layoff at a factory. If they weren’t going to call you back, then ‘layoff’ was a euphemism. 

Feldman explained the term’s functional significance for him. ‘Laid off’ means you can still collect your severance and unemployment. You didn’t get fired for cause.’ (pg. 19)

and this:

“But bright, educated, unemployed people will surely drift into some kind of work eventually – won’t they?….At the rate at which full-time staff jobs are being phased out, the older long-term unemployed of this recession probably have less than a fifty-fifty chance of finding permanent, full-time jobs. But that’s statistics. All any individual needs is one job. (pg. 46) 

…for all my intellectual grasp of the downward trends for American workers, I just can’t believe that these four generous/selfish, mellow/excitable, unique/ordinary, and highly employable individuals will simply remain the long-term unemployed. Even though they might.” (pg. 47)

and this, in a conversation with a guy unemployed for five months:

“‘Maybe something more interesting than banking might turn up in one of those businesses,’ I suggested. ‘Down the line, I mean, as the economy recovers. Why not put feelers out?’

That got no response. 

‘Or what about teaching?’ I asked. ‘You seem to be good with children.’ 

Then I thought about all the teachers being laid off. What a stupid suggestion.” (pg. 103)

and this conversation, which comes across as somewhat patronizing, with a woman describing the frustration of trying to get through to her mortgage company on the phone:

“I was taking an Access-a-Ride back and forth to Manhattan, sometimes traveling four hours a day. Then you get home and call Ocwen, and it says, ‘The waiting time will be an hour and a half.’ 

‘They actually said an hour and a half?’ I asked dubiously. 

‘Do you remember that, Samuel? They would say, ‘Waiting time two hours,’ ‘Waiting time two hours forty minutes.’ So you take your food upstairs and you sit on the phone after work; you sit on the weekends. I called for months and they would put me in a queue.’

‘You must have gotten through to somebody, sometime?’ I said.” (pg.132)

and finally, this, to talk-Internet radio show celebrity Richard Bey (my Philadelphia friends will remember him from “People Are Talking” back in the mid-80s) who lost all of his savings in a Madoff-type investment fund.

“Richard,” I couldn’t help asking, “didn’t you ever think of the risk of having all your money in one fund?”

“Yes, Barbara, I did think about it,” he said in answer to my annoying question.(pg. 239)

There’s obviously a disconnect here. The author simply appears to be trying too hard to empathize with those she’s interviewing. And it backfires, which erodes the book’s credibility.

Because if you haven’t tried (or desperately needed) to sell your underwater house as your personal housing bubble was being popped by anonymous fat-cat bankers, and if you haven’t sat across from an interviewer and had to answer why you left your last position that you were laid off from and then answer the follow up question of what you’ve been doing in the six or nine or twelve months since, I think you can’t really empathize and understand what that is like for someone who has.

I listened to most of Down the Up Escalator on audio. While Jeanine Klein seems to be a fine narrator, there was just … a tone to this that rubbed me the wrong way. I then went back and read many of the interview portions (including those above) that I had difficulty with. I had the same reaction each time. I’m not sure whether it was the nuances in the audio narration or the actual words in print, or my coming at this from a personal place, but I had the same bristling reaction every single time.

Let’s go back to the quote that opened this review: “In the course of this recession millions more of us have slipped into that no place. Most of us will still manage to eat and keep our televisions connected. But it can’t be pleasant to live in a country whose elite have no regular use for us.”

This is contradictory. We never get a sense in Down the Up Escalator of how the recession has personally impacted the author – which is fine because this isn’t a memoir. But because that’s missing, the empathy is lost. One runs the risk of appearing elitist when making statements like “It can’t be pleasant to live in a country whose elite have no regular use for us.” 

No, it isn’t. It isn’t pleasant. IT FREAKING SUCKS.

We all have that friend, the one who means well but somehow always says the wrong damn thing. And that’s the impression I was left with from Down the Up Escalator. In no way, shape, or form, is this a feel-good book about our country’s economic future. It’s depressing as hell.

Perhaps there’s no better symbolism of that then the To Be Continued … portion of the book.

“I can’t quite bring myself to leave people I got to know personally – not to mention millions of others – in such distress. So I’ve created a Web site that we might call the ongoing book about the ongoing recession. 

A book eventually gets printed. But no deadline stops me from getting back to individuals to find out how they’re getting along. Their updates, taken together, may also give us some idea how the country is getting along. 

You can catch up with the folks you met in these pages at”

Except … well, you kind of CAN’T.

Because there ISN’T a website.

The link is broken. But, supposedly it’s coming soon. We’re to stay tuned.

Just like, I suppose, we’re still waiting for the end of the Great Recession that supposedly was over a few years ago.

2 stars out of 5


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The Sunday Salon: A Rollercoaster Reading Week

The Sunday Salon

Oh, I was on such a roll there with my reading, friends. We’re talking three 5-star reads in a row, which is unusual to begin with, but is somehow even more delicious when it happens during these months, isn’t it? 

I mean, when you fall into this kind of literary luck, you’re unstoppable. You feel like you can take on every book in your house, on your Kindle, in the largest library in western Pennsylvania. Everything’s a potential 5 star hit so bring it all; you can handle it; you’re reading into the night, nonstop, a book a day almost, becoming a literary junkie in search of just one more 5 star fix to support your habit.

Or … maybe that’s just me?

I do tend to overdo things sometimes.

Anyway, that certainly described me recently with these:

In Persuasion Nation The Virgin Cure The Grievers

My 5-star reads were In Persuasion Nation, by George Saunders; The Virgin Cure, by Ami McKay (reviewed here), and The Grievers, by Philadelphia-based author Marc Schuster. Amazing, all of them.

Like I said, I was on a roll.

Until I wasn’t.

Suddenly, like a rollercoaster ride, came the plummet this week with two DNFs in a row.


Like the temperatures outside, Dirt  by David Vann was a little too hot to handle. I mean, I’m no prude and I don’t offend easily in the least, but there was something about this one that was … too much. I can’t quite categorize it, but day-umn, THIS is one dysfunctional, screwed up family. Get thee into some therapy, stat.

The Silver StarSo what do I do? Go onto another dysfunctional family, of course. This time, it was the Holloways, in The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls.

Now, I have the utmost respect for Ms. Walls and her courage in sharing her personal family story through her memoir, The Glass Castle and novel-based-on-a-true-story, Half Broke Horses. I loved both books. (See my review of Half Broke Horses here.) The problem with The Silver Star (at least for me) is that the characters felt like I already knew them, right down to the names. The main character’s name is even JEAN, but is called Bean because she’s tall and thin. The plot felt predictable, too.

I’m happy to report that the rollercoaster is headed back up – at least as far as my reading goes.

The Illusion of Separateness Love Is the Cure The Dangers of Proximal Alphabets

The Illusion of Separateness has been getting a lot of buzz on the blogs, and with good reason. I was lucky to get a copy of this one for a potential freelance review with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, so I spent some time this weekend reading this and working on the review. (A preview: I really liked this one a lot!) The idea that we’re all interconnected isn’t a new one, but I love how Simon Van Booy brings this theme to life in this novel.

I’m currently reading Elton John’s memoir, Love Is the Cure: On Life, Loss, and the End of AIDS. This isn’t so much a memoir of Elton’s life, but rather more of a reflection and a statement of what it’s going to take to end the AIDS epidemic worldwide. He talks in detail about his life-changing friendship with Ryan White and how his ordeal helped inspire the Elton John AIDS Foundation as well as help Elton himself beat his drug and food addictions. It’s also a sobering look at how much work there is still to do.

And The Dangers of Proximal Alphabets is a new addition to the lineup, as the audiobook that replaces The Silver Star. I have a little more driving than usual in my future this week – my boy JUST got into a hard-to-get into special needs bicycle-riding camp at the very last minute! so excited for this! – so between that and the school camp he and Betty are in during the mornings, I’ll be driving up and down Pittsburgh’s famed rollercoaster-like hills quite a bit this week.

So, final tally of books for this past week: 4 winners (and soon to be a 5th, with the Elton book) and two DNFs. 

Not a bad ride at all.

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Book Review: Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, A Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson, by Mitch Albom

Tuesdays with Morrie
by Mitch Albom 

Random House Audio
3 hours, 41 minutes

Yeah, I know.

Everyone in the world knows what Tuesdays with Morrie is about, so this hardly needs an introduction – much less a review.

A guy’s favorite teacher is dying; guy decides to spend every Tuesday with favorite teacher; guy learns about himself and life in the process. Guy writes book about the experience and the rest becomes bestselling history.

Schmaltzy? Sure. But you know what?

Sometimes we need a little schmaltz.

Sometimes we need to be reminded of life’s truths and lessons.

Such was the case when I picked this audio book up at the library. I’ve had this on my bookshelves forever – I think I bought it at a book sale or maybe I inherited it from my grandparents’ belongings after one of them died. At the time I listened to this, The Husband was going through his cancer treatments and I wanted a short audio that would both preoccupy and inspire me in the car.

It certainly did that – and I have to say, this was a lot better than I expected. Mitch Albom narrates this audio and the version I listened to was a 10th anniversary edition with a prologue of Mitch’s reflections on the memoir’s overwhelming success and how his life changed as a result. He also addresses criticisms that he  “cashed in” on Morrie’s illness and points out that proceeds from the book greatly helped Morrie and his family with the medical bills brought on by his fight with ALS.

I thought Mitch’s narration of this was wonderful. Truthfully, I don’t think anyone else could have narrated it because it is such a meaningful and personal story to him. It felt like he was having a conversation. The production quality was also very good, with no distracting music.

Maybe this resonated with me moreso because of the circumstances going on while I was listening to Morrie’s words of wisdom. During a difficult time, Tuesdays with Morrie was a nice reminder to appreciate the lessons that life, no matter what trials it gives us, has to offer.

I am an Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you! 

copyright 2013, 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.

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The Sunday Salon: Book Binges of the Buying and Reading Kind

I’ve been on a reading frenzy during the last two weeks. So far I’ve finished 5 books during these 17 days of February alone. Granted, two of them were rather short (not even 100 pages each), but this is a rather unprecedented pace for me. If this keeps up, the shortest month of the year could wind up being the one in which I read the most books.

I’m blaming it on this winter, which, despite seeing some evidence this week to the contrary, seems like it is never-ending. Just when the snow disappears, we get some more. It’s maddening and it makes me want to hibernate. (Although, truth be told, I’m kinda tired of hibernating. I just want some SUN already!)

I missed last week’s Salon – but with good reason. Boo and I spent the afternoon at Red Barn Books in Greensburg, about an hour away. He’s very into making his own movies, so when I saw that Red Barn was offering a video workshop called “Stop Motion Animation” for kids, I signed him up.

(I don’t know who was more excited: him, at the idea of learning some new video techniques or me, at the prospect of spending two blissful hours in one of my favorite bookstores that I rarely get to visit.)

Of course, there is a slight problem with leaving me in a cute used bookstore for two hours.

I may have gotten a little carried away. But really, could you have resisted bringing these home? Most of these were between $2.99-$4.99 each. I’m considering it my Valentine’s Day present. And I traded in a couple of books so I got a few bucks off my loot. (Winning!) That offsets the purchase of Selected Stories by Andre Dubus that I didn’t realize I already had on my Kindle.

Clearly, I really need to sign up for the TBR Challenge again. The sooner the better. With these purchases from Red Barn, I’m pretty much at capacity on my bookshelves and my Kindle has reached 1,002 items.

The good news is, as I said, that my reading pace continues unabated. This week I read two novels and one poetry collection. (All from – where else? – the library. But of course.)

Here’s what I’ve been reading:

Last Sunday, I woke up at 4:30 a.m. and one of the first things I thought about was this book. Rather than go online, which I normally do when I wake up so early, I finished reading the last hundred or so pages of Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys.

This will likely be among one of my favorite books this year. This is also an example of the sort of young adult book that I really, really wish was not categorized as young adult because everyone needs to read this. It’s the story of 15 year old Lina Vilkas and her family, who were among the hundreds of thousands of people who were deported to Siberia during Stalin’s cleansing of the Baltic regions in 1941. Sentenced to years of hard labor in camps, this is a story from World War II that many people don’t know much about.

Lina is a fictional character, but she is based on Ruta Sepetys’ family members, who experienced the horrors of Stalin’s death camps firsthand. It’s incredibly powerful and gripping and I’m still thinking about it a week later.

Elegy is a collection of themed poems by Mary Jo Bang about the year following the death of her son. I’m pretty sure I’ve read her work before or have at least heard of her name – but this was the first collection of hers that I’ve read. It’s exactly what you would imagine it would be: raw and heartbreaking and grief-stricken on each page. It’s a reminder that none of us grieves in the same way and that there’s no way we can ever know another’s pain. I think this would be a good book for those who have lost an adult child.

This family (the Hardings, of Houston, Texas) are dysfunctional. They need serious counseling. You get the feeling that it has been decades since these people last spoke to each other. They are adrift, lost, disconnected from each other –  yet when it comes to love with their respective partners, they are allowing their emotions to cloud their better judgment.

Elson, Cadence, Chloe and Richard all reminded me of the family in Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom as well as people in any Jay McInerney story. In Between Days is one dark and sad novel. The pacing and the plot is excellent and despite the writing being a little less so, this kept me intrigued until the very last page. (I really didn’t see the ending coming in the way that it did.)

I also read several submissions for my writing group. I missed the last three months of our group because of The Husband’s cancer treatments, and it was really, really good to be back.

As for this week, I’m continuing to listen to Alice Munro’s short story collection Runaway – which actually IS one of the many. many books on my bookshelves. I loved the first story (“Runaway”) but the second (“Chance”) didn’t capture me as much. I listened to it, and then read it to make sure that it wasn’t just something about the audio that wasn’t connecting with me. (Nope.) I’m probably not going to be in the car too much this week, so I may wind up reading these instead.

Before that, though, I’ll also be continuing to read a new friend’s unpublished novel set in my hometown of Philadelphia. I probably can’t say much else about it. (Am I allowed to say that it’s really good, not to mention that it is putting me in a nostalgic mood for my city?) This new friend is someone I have only known through her bylines; we only just met in person a few weeks ago. The very fact that she is trusting ME to read her work is a gift, and I’m hoping I’ll be able to do this justice. That’s what I’ll be finishing up tonight and maybe tomorrow.

Hope you’re having a good weekend – and, if you’re here in the U.S., that you’re enjoying an extra-long weekend too!

I am an Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you! copyright 2012, 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.

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The Sunday Salon: Into the New Year, a DNF Must Fall

Just 13 days into 2013 and I already have my first DNF (did not finish) book of the year. Yay, me.

I’m nothing if not ruthless about abandoning books that aren’t holding my interest. Still, it seems a little soon in the year for this, right?  Looking back in my Salon posts, though, I realized that the same thing happened last January (although not until a bit later in the month).

What makes this DNF sad is that Tiffany Baker’s The Gilly Salt Sisters was a book that I was really looking forward to reading. I absolutely LOVED The Little Giant of Aberdeen County (see my review here) – so much so that I selected it as among my favorite books of 2009.  

The Gilly Salt Sisters is a magical realism novel set in the fictional (and rather depressing-sounding) Cape Cod town of Prospect in 1980. It’s the story of two sisters (Claire and Jo) and their family’s salt marsh. Depending on which sister you believe, the salt has magical powers – although not enough to heal the wounds and hurts from the past.

It starts off engaging enough, but by page 100 (of 372), something more needed to start happening. There’s a lot of backstory in this one. A lot. Which is fine … but I also wasn’t connecting with the characters as much as I’d hoped. So, back to the library it went.

Other than that, this was a fairly productive week in reading. I accompanied The Husband to several doctors’ appointments this week – some of which had several hours of downtime between them – so I needed a quick read on my Kindle that would occupy me. Last month, Jane Freund’s memoir about having thyroid cancer was a freebie on Amazon and since that is exactly what we’re dealing with – and what all the appointments this week were for – I thought Eggshells and Elephants: My Cancer Journey Thus Far would be more than apropos.

That it certainly was – and I’ll have a longer review up at some point – but although I finished this, it left me wanting more. Perhaps this was intentional (the author makes mention of a sequel) but I felt there were aspects of the thyroid cancer journey itself that would have benefited from more explanation or reflection. Instead, there are nearly entire chapters devoted to Freund’s pets and other seemingly extraneous information that, at times, seemed to weigh the writing and the story down.

If you’re my Friend on Facebook, you know that The Husband is in isolation right now for HIS thyroid cancer treatment. In order to kill any possible remaining traces of cancer (he had surgery back in November), he was given radioactive iodine on Thursday and since he’s, well … radioactive, he needs to be quarantined away from us and the cat for an entire week. (I’m envisioning this pill like a haz-mat version of Pac-Man, chomping up all the little cancer cells in its midst.) We have him sequestered in our bedroom (I’m sleeping in the guest room). This all started last Thursday and continues until the 17th. There’s a rather restricted diet involved too. It’s been … interesting, to say the least.

He’s also the kind of spouse who does a LOT around the house (dishes, laundry,  breakfast for the kids, etc.) so I’m definitely feeling the lingering effects of flying solo on that front. To make the housework drudgery easier, I’m listening to The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Sparks on audio.This is the first Muriel Sparks I’ve read/listened to … and I’m really enjoying this classic. Miss Jean Brodie is quite the unconventional schoolteacher at the Marcia Blaine School in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1930, and the story revolves around six girls – her “set” – and their relationship to Miss Brodie. This is a novella, so I anticipate being finished with this sometime this week.

Hope you’re having a great Sunday!

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Thanks for sharing this post!