Sunnyvale Public Library

Last month Jerry took me someplace I never thought he would: the Sunnyvale Public Library. OK…it wasn’t completely out of the ordinary. While I’d like to believe he was indulging me in my love of libraries the real reason we were there was to attend an Atari event.

Welcome to Sunnyvale Library

I’ll admit a peripheral interest in video games. They are the source of my livelihood after all. Not only that but Atari was one of the first “high tech” companies in area, before it was even called the Silicon Valley. That’s history! Give me some history and a library and I’m happy.

Atari Party

We arrived at the event just in time to hear Dan “Father of the Trak-Ball” Kramer. Jerry and Dan knew each other when they both worked at Atari and have been friends ever since. Dan’s talk about his days at Atari and how he developed the Trak-Ball was well received by the crowd.

Trak Ball Dan

We had a few hours before the second and main speaker, Al Alcorn, so after a trip to Fry’s Electronics (surprise, surprise) we returned to the library so Jerry could catch up with his old work friends and I could finally explore the library

The Sunnyvale Public Library is in a large, expansive building with plenty of space. This is important since book collections are always expanding and they have a lot of collections. In addition to a big DVD section they also have a lot of foreign language collections including Chinese, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Russian, Spanish and Vietnamese. They even have a special section devoted to trademarks and patents. (A nod to high tech industry no doubt and near and dear to my IP heart.)

Patent Bulletin board

The Sunnyvale library also has plenty of room to settle down to read or work which is what I like to do at libraries. There are comfortable chairs placed about and plenty of tables to sit at. There’s even a fireplace to sit by. I finally settled in the quiet area for some precious reading time.

Chair  Fireplace  Quiet Area

I’ve heard that the Silicon Valley has a lot of very nice public libraries due to contributions from the local high tech companies. The Sunnyvale Public Library is one of them. I’m looking forward to visiting more libraries in the area.

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Too Big to Miss by Sue Ann Jaffarian

A few years ago when I stumbled upon a paralegal podcast featuring Sue Ann Jaffarian I stopped in my tracks. At last, I thought, I’ve met my virtual mentor. Sue Ann is not only a full-time paralegal; she also writes mystery novels on the side. I’m not a big mystery fan but when I learned that Odelia Grey, the heroine in Sue Ann’s popular series, was a paralegal I knew I had to give the books a try. I started with book one of the series, Too Big To Miss, and it hooked me right away.

The book opens in the grocery story with plus sized Odelia Grey comfort food shopping. I loved Odelia right away because her voice was funny and real. I could identify with her on so many levels. I could even understand how Odelia gets involved with the murder of her friend, Sophie London.

In addition to the exciting elements you’d expect from a murder mystery, Too Big To Miss has underlying themes about body image and self- esteem. Sophie was a plus sized model and also ran a support group for large people called Reality Check. Even after her death, I saw Sophie as a beacon of strength for Odelia who was determined to find the murderer.

I’ll be honest. It’s been a few years since I read the book and I forgot who the culprit is. What I do remember, however, is the development of Odelia’s character. Throughout the book Odelia comes in contact with people who are outright rude to her about her size. Yet despite this she is able to go on and develops new found confidence. This makes her a hero in my mind. I doubt my ego could ever survive the mental abuse Odelia suffers.

If you are interested in exploring the mystery genre or you like chick lit I recommend you give Too Big To Miss a try. I enjoyed this and subsequent books in the series and look forward to reading more. I give this one 3 and ½ Mrs. Bs.

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Underworld by Meg Cabot

This is book 2 of what I have decided is my least favorite Meg Cabot series. Luckily, I did Underworldenjoy this one more than the first. 

Like the title says, Underworld starts in the underworld where John has whisked Pierce away to protect her from her fury possessed grandmother. Pretty early in the book Pierce learns of her destiny, something that took me by surprise (in a good way). In fact, I may never eat waffles again. She then learns of some disturbing news of what is happening on Isla Huesos and convinces John to take her back.

One of the things I liked about this book is the development of Pierce’s character. While I still found her a tad annoying, I began to see hits on the strong spunky heroine we expect from Meg Cabot. We also meet some fun new characters and begin to see the development of the support network I missed in the last book.

It did occur to me while reading this book that this series would translate well to film. So while I’m not too excited about the book, I would love to see the movie or TV versions.

The improvement of this book from the first in the series gave me a bit of hope. While I would recommend it to fellow Meg Cabot fans I still reserve my editorial comment that “it’s not one of my favorites.” I give this one

3 Mrs. Bs. 

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Changes to the Blog

Notice something? It seems like all I write about lately are books. And now the place even looks different! That’s because I’ve decided to make some changes to the blog.

As you may know, I started this blog years ago when Jerry bought me the domain. I envisioned using it as a tool to get me to write on a more regular basis. The problem, I quickly discovered, was coming up with content. Because the blog has no specific focus anything goes. For my already unfocused mind, “anything goes” can be a struggle.

One day as I was reading the blog of one of my Twitter friends. Petra Grayson loves to read and writes book reviews on her blog, The Theory of Lieto Fine. Suddenly it hit me. I love to read too! Why don’t I write about that? It seemed so simple, I don’t know why I hadn’t thought about it before.

The idea seemed kind of boring and impersonal at first, but the more I write about books the more in touch with myself I seem to get and that’s why I wanted to write in the first place. Therefore, going forward this blog will focus on book reviews and other bookish-like topics. It’s what I love. It’s what I do. It’s me.

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The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

The 19th WifeThe 19th Wife by David Ebershoff has two of my favorite things: historical fiction (yay!) and polygamy (wheee!)

I love me some Sister Wives on TLC and was also a fan of Big Love. But even before these shows I was interested in polygamy when Jerry told me one of his relatives is believed to have left his family to help found a polygamous community on the boarder of Utah and Arizona, Colorado City.

Jerry and I have driven through Colorado City. Just like on TV, the women wear long cotton skirts and I Colorado City 4swear a pickup truck followed us. It was a creepy place. When Jerry stopped at outside the general store and suggested we look around I refused to get out of the car. I was brave enough to visit the graveyard though. Sure enough, there are a lot of Jessops who live and lived in the town.

Parts of The 19th Wife is in fact based on Colorado City. The book is actually two stories that alternate. One is the story of a modern polygamous family and the other is the fictitious story of Ann Eliza Webb, Brigham Young’s 19th wife.

In fact, Brigham Young, second president of the Latter Day Saints, did have several wives including Ann Eliza Webb who divorced him and later became a critic of polygamy. Ann Eliza’s story as told by Ebershoff is an interesting one as she was part of the first generation born into the Mormon church. The story, told through fictitious memoirs and college papers, focuses on the incredible faith Ann Eliza and her contemporaries had in their church and its leader. I like to think that the portrayal of Brigham Young as a charismatic leader with a gift for logistics and organization is accurate. Once he begins to promote plural marriage, of course, the reader’s perception of his character begins to sour, as does Ann Eliza’s. I have no idea how accurate the story of how Ann Eliza becomes Brigham Young’s wife is. It borders on the level of an HBO TV series which of course makes the story interesting.

Colorado City 1The modern day portion of the story is a murder mystery. Jordan Scott, a young gay man who was banished from the town when he was a adolescent, returns when he finds out his mother, BeckyLynn, is accused of killing his father. Like Ann Eliza, BeckyLynn is also the 19th wife. As Jordan helps investigate his mother’s case he comes to terms with his relationship to the church and with the people he has in his life. As readers, we get the added bonus of learning what it’s like to grow up in a modern day polygamous/FLDS community.

The ending of both stories are satisfying with Ebershoff cleverly tying them together. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in a solid, compelling read. If you are interested in the history of polygamy or the Mormon church, even better!

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Five Literary Characters I would want to have lunch with

Lunch mate: The Dowager Princess Clarisse Renaldo, aka Grandmere

Book: The Princess Diaries Series by Meg Cabot

Menu: Sidecars at The Plaza

Up for discussion: Ettiquette and fashion. Unlike Mia I’d drink in everything Grandmere has to say.

 

Lunch mate: Laurie Laurence

Book: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Menu: Beer and burgers. I know he’s been dying to partake after he promised Meg on her wedding day he would swear off booze. Why would you make such a vow Laurie? That was just dumb.

Up for discussion: Amy? Seriously? We all know, despite her feeble attempts to convince you otherwise, that she clearly married you for your money. If you had simply come home from Europe after Beth died Jo would have ran straight into your arms and we would all be better off and happy.

 

Lunch mate: Melanie Wilkes

Book: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Menu: Buttered yams, buckwheat pancakes and ham in gravy; This is what Mammy urges Scarlett to eat before attending the Wilkes barbeque so she will be too stuffed to eat in public and therefore appear more ladylike. I’ve been lusting after this menu since 1982 when I first read the book.

Up for discussion: No need to break the news about Scarlett and Ashley considering she knew all along. I’ll take her thoughts on what makes a true great lady.

 

Lunch mate: Jane Purdy

Book: Fifteen by Beverly Cleary

Menu: Chocolate coke floats at Nibleys

Up for discussion: Hunky boyfriend Stan. I want to know if they stayed together after high school.

 

Lunch mate: Geraldine Porter

Book: Miniature Mystery series by Margaret Grace

Menu: Bagels by Willie

Up for discussion: Tips on how to decorate my dollhouse.

 

When thinking about this list I also considered these characters but decided against them.

The Weasley twins – Who doesn’t love Fred and George Weasley from the Harry Potter books? Unfortunately I don’t think they’d make very good lunch companions. My guess is they are probably kind of annoying to be around in person. Also I’d be afraid they’d try to sneak me something from one of their Skiving Snackboxes.

Kinsey Millhone – I’m several books into the alphabet mystery series by Sue Grafton and certainly growing attached to Kinsey. She’s a recluse who likes her wine so we have that in common. However, she’s also dangerous to be around. There are plenty of innocent people who come into contact with Kinsey who end up getting killed by the latest wacko murderer she’s trying track down. Therefore I think I’ll keep my distance.

Laura Ingalls Wilder – As a young fan of the Little House books one of my favorite fantasies was sending Laura to the future so I could show her what it was like to live in 1970s suburbia. The thought of meeting her now doesn’t interest me so much. I have a feeling she might be kind of boring in real life and also from what I’ve read she was pretty conservative on the political side.

The Dursleys – Also from the Harry Potter books, I’ve always wondered what happened to Vernon, Petunia and Dudley when they are sent into hiding at the beginning of Deathly Hallows. A part of me would like to find out how they are doing and then I quickly remind myself that I really don’t care.

Scarlett O’Hara – I’ve always been fascinated by Margaret Mitchell’s heroine in Gone With The Wind and while I’d love to see what she’d wear to lunch, let’s face it, she’s a racist bitch.

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Tiger Tiger by Margaux Fragoso

This book came highly recommended to me by a family member. “You must read this,” she said, “it’s so good. I couldn’t put it tiger tigerdown.” That said, I still resisted the book for several months because of the subject matter.

Tiger Tiger is Margaux Fragoso’s memoir documenting her childhood years when she fell prey to a pedophile. While disturbing, I too found the book very compelling and read it in a single weekend. However it wasn’t the subject matter that held me. The book was so well done I just had to finish it.

I think we can all agree that child molesters are the worst brand of evil and Peter Curran was one of the most insidious of his kind. He first met Fragoso at the neighborhood community pool when she was aged seven. Because she already had an unhappy home life and was starved for affection, Fragoso was immediately drawn to Curran’s attention as he carefully manipulated his way into her family dynamic, slowly sneaking the abuse in under the very nose of Fragoso’s mentally ill mother and alcoholic father.

Fragoso’s childhood coping mechanisms of storytelling and withdrawing into her own made up fantasy world shed light on how she was able to write so beautifully later on. I can best describe her style as…healthy. The level of acceptantance with which she tells her real life story actually made it easy for me to take. She began the book in her early twenties, shortly after Curran died, but did not finish it until several years later. My guess is she went through many years of healing and while I would certainly read anything else from her in the future I would be most interested in her story of recovery.

While I did enjoy this book I feel funny about recommending it to anyone. The few people I discussed it with immediately dismissed the book due to its subject matter which is perfectly understandable. However, if you are willing to give it a try you may be surprised as I was to find that Tiger Tiger is not a story evil but rather hope.

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Abandon by Meg Cabot

I suppose it had to happen sooner or later. I finally came across a book, a whole series actually, by Meg Cabot that I really don’tAbandon Meg Cabot like. Abandon, which is based on the myth of Persephone the Greek Goddess of the Underworld, just didn’t do it for me.

The story centers around Pierce Oliviera, a teenage girl who has a near death experience. The book loosely covers the following two years through flashbacks, which was my first problem: too much jumping around. Normally I don’t mind flashbacks in a book. They are an important tool to add structure and interest to a story. Unfortunately the flashbacks in Abandon seemed oddly placed to me. Add this to the fact that I took two whole weeks to read the book (my problem) and I had a difficult time keeping track.

My second problem had to do with the tone of the book. I was interested to see how Cabot treated the dark subject matter of death and the Underworld. She has done dark before in Jinx and The Mediator series which I enjoyed very much. However what made these previous books work were the heroines who faced the dark subject matters of danger and death head on with feisty determination. Unfortunately Pierce Oliviera did not embody the typical “Meg Caboty” spunk and her attempts at perky humor just fell flat.

Given Pierce’s situation I guess I can’t blame her. The poor girl did die, visit the Underworld and then came back to life which sounds pretty traumatizing. Not only that but the next two years are fraught with creepy and dangerous experiences that she narrowly escapes thanks to John, the mysterious guy she met in The Underworld, who may or may not be into her. That said, I still had a hard time feeling sympathetic for Pierce. She came off as too victimized for me.

In loyalty to Meg Cabot I am planning to finish the series. In fact I have already read book 2, Underworld, which I did find a little better. Full review is pending.

If you are interested in Greek mythology, particularly the myth of Persephone, I highly recommend these books. Also a bit of practical advice: read the books in large chunks of time so you don’t get lost in all the flashbacks.

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Stitch Fix Review

I hate shopping for clothes. I wistfully remember the days when I was young and thin and shopping was fun and inspiring, hampered only by a lack of funds. Now, a couple of decades and a few sizes later, entering the mall and picking out clothes is a frustrating and self-depreciating experience. However thanks to the little miracle I just discovered I may never visit the mall again. That miracle is Stitch Fix.

Stitch Fix is an online clothing store that does the shopping for you. Seriously! Here’s how it works:

You go to the website and fill out a profile with information about your age, size, lifestyle and fashion. The profile is pretty thorough with all sorts of questions about your color and style preferences. You can even give them a link to your Pinterest board with photos of the types of styles you like.

Armed with this crucial information, Stitch Fix then assigns you a stylist who specially chooses five articles of clothing and mails them to you to try on. The clothes you like you keep and pay for and the ones you don’t like you send back. Cost of this service is $20, which gets applied to the price of the clothes.

I signed up for the service back in February when I heard about it and due to Stitch Fix’s increasing popularity, had to wait an agonizing five weeks for my order to arrive which it finally did last Friday.

When I got home I was surprised to see how small the box was. Earlier in the day I peeked at my account so I knew they sent me a pair of pants, a top, a cardigan, a scarf and a whole dress. How could it all fit in there?

Stitch Fix Meg Cabot book

Here it is next to a standard sized Meg Cabot paperback.

 

Note: I tried to get a photo next to Mrs. B for perspective (the box was smaller than a 13 pound cat) but she wasn’t having any of that.

Mrs B Stitch Fixc

Come near me with that box and I will annihilate you with my laser eyes.

With Mrs. B and her hair safely hidden behind the sofa I proceeded to open my box and try on my new clothes. In addition to 5 pieces of clothing you also get an envelope to send back the items you don’t want to keep, cards with suggestions on to style your new clothes and a note from the stylist who put your order together. Stitch fix styling card

Here’s what my stylist Christina picked out for me:

41 Hawthorn Stacey Lightweight Leopard Print Infinity Scarf

Stitch fix scarf

Christina clearly looked at my Pinterest page because it is full of leopard accessories. Nobody loves a leopard scarf more than me and I have plenty in my closet to prove it. So while I don’t really need this scarf I’m still going to keep it since it will be a good replacement for the one I got at Target last week that turned out to be too itchy. It was $32 which is the absolute most I would ever spend on a scarf.

 

Stitch Fix Karen scarf

Margaret M Emer Brocade Print High Waisted Cropped Pants

Sitch Fix pants

One of the things I was hoping StitchFix could help me with was picking out items to get me out of my comfort zone. These pants are a perfect example of that. I thought for sure when I tried them on they would be a “no way” and was pleasantly surprised when they weren’t. The fit is a little snug but the result is pretty flattering. I think the secret is this:

Stitch Fix pants tag

At $98 these pants are not cheap but they go with a lot of things I already own and are comfortable as all get out. Here’s hoping my decision to keep them is a good one!

 

Pomelo Downing Striped Knit Shirt

Stitch Fix shirt

Here’s another example of something I would never pick out for myself. I’m horrible at finding cute tops. I tend to stick with collared button ups and turtle necks. It’s boring. When I saw this my first thought was “Huh? This is way too casual for work.” But Christina assured me in her note that it was “super chic and comfy.” She advised me to pair it with my new infinity scarf and slacks so I did and guess what? It looks great!

The fabric is a little thin, making me cringe a bit at the price of $44 but like the pants I think this will get a lot of wear so I’m going to keep it.

 

Mak Jaclynn 3/4sleeve Button-Up Cardigan

Stitch Fix cardigan

I love cardigans and have about 10 in my closet already. The catch? They’re all black. Thank god Christina sent me this one. The color is spot on and so is the price at $32. I can see myself wearing this at least once a week. In fact I think I’ll wear it tomorrow when I stop off at the Good Will donation bin with a bag full of black cardigans. Sold!

 

41Hawthorn Farah Fit and Flare Striped Dress

Stitch Fix dress

I had high hopes for this dress when I pulled it out of the box. I loved the color, I loved the fabric and $68 seemed like a good price. In fact I figured it would be a no-brainer and saved trying it on for last. Unfortunately it was too small. Even in a bigger size I suspect the fit of this dress would not work for me though. The pleats were too poofy and the waist was too high. Therefore, this dress is going back.

Overall I am very pleased with my StitchFix experience and am looking forward to ordering from them again. If you are interested in doing the same check out their website.

I get a $25 credit if you place an order using my link:   StitchFix

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Sweeping Together

One of the best things about being married is the opportunity to sweep together. I dare say that for me and Jerry it is probably photoone of the most intimate things we do.

Last month we were clearing out construction debris in the in-law unit of our Nevada house and naturally we ended the activity by sweeping. It was great. Jerry grabbed a broom, I had a dustpan and together we worked to get the floor swept clean. Jerry would brush sawdust into a big pile and I would scoop it up with the dustpan. While I was depositing it into the trash bag Jerry would brush the remaining debris into another pile for round two.

As we progressed to other sections of the room where the debris was heavier we naturally switched places and I took the broom while Jerry held the dustpan. Little words were said while we focused on the moment and the work.

At one point we both had brooms, each sweeping our different end of the room, but eventually we came back together, combining our piles in to a single one, Jerry holding the dustpan, repositioning it at the end of the line of dirt made by the edge while I filled it.

We really should sweep together more often.

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