Library Lady’s Favorite Books of 2018

I’ve been doing a lot of travel writing lately but feel it’s time to get back to my roots and write  some book reviews!  I’m lucky enough to be a book-lover who works at a library, so have plenty of opportunities to learn about great reads. As many of you ask me for book recommendations, here’s some of my favorites for 2018.

Fiction Books


Dear Mrs. Bird – A.J. Pearce

Set in London during WWII this book is about an adventurous young woman who takes a job as a war correspondent, or so she thinks, but when the dust settles, she finds herself working as an advice columnist for a women’s magazine. Emmaline can’t resist answering letters that her boss has deemed unfit, and so the fun begins.  Warm and funny, an eye opening look at life during the bombing of England.

indigoIndigo Girl – Natasha Boyd

Set in the 1700’s, this is the story of Eliza Lucas Pinckney, a young Southern woman who must run her father’s plantation when he is called away.  To save the family from ruin, Eliza decides to grow Indigo, an unheard-of crop for that area.  With help from the plantation workers she attempts this risky endeavor, but not everyone is on her side. Based on a true story. “Reader’s Choice” winner for Salt Lake County Libraries.


   Sprig Muslin, The Reluctant Widow, and Beauvallet – Georgette Heyer

I love almost anything by Georgette Heyer. Her stories are humorous, full of charming characters and fun plots. Her books, 56 historical fiction and mystery novels, along with several short stories and essays, were written during the early 1900’s. Georgette has a huge fan base which is ever growing and after reading one of her books you’ll understand why. Pictured are three of my favorites. Are you a Regency fan? You’ll love these.

newsNews of the World – Paulette Giles

In the wake of the Civil War, Captain Jefferson Kidd is responsible for returning a young white girl, recently rescued from the Indians, back to her family. Captain Kidd is an elderly widow and while he and his charge are a mismatched duo at first, they soon form a delightful bond which changes the course of their lives.


gentlemanA Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towles

The Author takes us to Russia in 1922, where the aristocratic Count Alexander Rostov, has been condemned to death by a Bolshevik tribunal. Thanks to his popularity and social prominence his life is spared, but the count is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol Hotel for the rest of his life. As he adjusts to his new circumstances, we get to know this witty and elegant gentleman and the profound effect  he has on those around him. (One of my favorites!)

black rabBlack Rabbit Hall

A mystery about two women who, though separated by time are linked by the secrets of black Rabbit Hall. Lorna is determined to be married within the ivy-covered walls of her family’s summer home, but the more she learns about Black Rabbit Hall the stranger it seems.

chilburyThe Chilbury Ladies Choir

This book, set in England during the second World War, is the story of a choir who refuses to disband after all the men are called to battle. While the local vicar tries to shut them down, the choir ladies rally their village around them and stand fast.  Chilbury is about the lives and loves of a population affected by war. A must read – great for book clubs.

Non Fiction Books

call the nurseCall the Nurse – Mary J. Macleod

Looking for a change from the hustle and bustle of London, Mary J. Macleod and her husband relocate to a remote island in the Scottish Hebrides where her nursing skills catapult her into unfamiliar territory. The subtitle – True Stories of a Country Nurse on a Scottish Isle – pretty much sums it up.  Did you like James Herriot?  This is a people version.

fine romanceA Fine Romance – Susan Branch

Now I want to go to England! This delightful book – part diary, part travel guide will tempt even the most stubborn couch potato to see the world.  Susan Branch, a talented artist, illustrates her books with whimsical watercolors. That and the hand-written font make this a captivating read.

grandmaGrandma Gatewood’s Walk, the Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail – Ben Montgomery
Grandma Gatewood is a tough cookie.  After enduring years of abuse at the hands of a cruel husband, she decides to take a walk. – a long walk – and proceeds to hike the entire 2,050 miles of the Appalachian Trail.  This inspiring book tells about her adventures and why at the age of 67 she decided to hit the road.

nestingThe Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have to be Perfect to be Beautiful – Myquillyn Smith

I’m not usually into decorating books, but this author dished out a lot of wisdom along with her excellent décor tips. (Her own home has been featured in several magazines) For years she lived in rental homes and felt she couldn’t embrace her space because it wasn’t really what she wanted. This book tells of her attitude change, and inspires readers to love their homes wherever they may be.

rudyRudy’s Rules for Travel – Mary K. Jensen

Rudy was a traveler extraordinaire.  This is his wife’s hilarious account of their frugal but extensive travels – and how she survived. Humorous and informative.  You can tell they were a match made in heaven, even though their travel styles were miles apart.


great halifax goodThe Great Halifax Explosion – John U. Bacon

A shocking yet riveting true story, this was one I couldn’t put down.  The collision of two ships in the Halifax harbor in 1917, caused the biggest man-made explosion prior to the atomic bomb.  Unfortunately, the harbor was surrounded on three sides by bustling communities, all rocked both physically and emotionally by this unimaginable catastrophe. Inspiring      heroes and an epic recovery.

reasonsReason’s My Kid is Crying – Greg Pembroke

Sure to make you laugh out loud.  Anyone who’s spent time around toddlers will relate. The author started out posting a few pics of his child having major meltdowns over minor things and his blog went viral.  Other parents joined in the fun and the result is a book that will crack you up.

life changThe Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up Marie Kondo

Well, it changed my life.  This author inspires readers to get rid of their junk.  Can’t part with something because you paid too much for it? Read this book for Marie’s solution. Her breezy style and to the point tips on decluttering are the result of a lifetime of simple living. It’ll make you want to clean your closet!

Junior Fiction Books


The Penderwicks – Jeanne Birdsall

This delightful story of four sisters and their well-meaning but distracted father, will make you smile.  Children of all ages should read this book to learn how to have fun with their siblings. An uplifting and heartfelt tale. I loved this and will read more of the Penderwicks in the future.

I Will Always Write Back  – Martin Ganda and Caitlin Alifirenka

Thanks to a class assignment, Martin from Zimbabwe, and Caitlin from Pennsylvania become pen pals.  Their letters link two lives, each saving the other in their own way. Teen and Young adult fiction. A true story and a New York times best seller.

Listen Slowly – Thanhha Lai

Mai, a California girl of Vietnamese descent is looking forward to spending the summer on the beach with her friends. Plans change when her grandmother requires a travelling companion to return to the land of their heritage. This book tells a great story about family, life in a foreign country and how people who may seem very different are all basically the same. Recommended for fifth grade and up.

For more Library Lady book recommends click here!


Human Library, Living Books

human library 2Have you ever been to a Human Library?  Here you can check out Living Books, and on Saturday I did just that.

The Salt Lake County Library System gathered a variety of people, i.e., books who were willing to share  their life experiences, and brought them together with readers who wanted to hear their stories.

I chatted with a retired soldier who had been involved in every American conflict since Viet Nam.  One man, a Muslim, told of being raised in apartheid South Africa, and another who was known as the Tom Brokaw of Iraq, recalled fleeing for his life after speaking up one too many times. I talked with a woman about the terror and the joy of escaping a life of polygamy, then discussed educational theory with a non-tiger Mom. There was an urban farmer, a polio survivor who climbed mountains, as well a an author, a songwriter an artist,  a member of the LGBTQ community and many more.

The Living Books festival originated in Denmark in 1993. The city had experienced a strong societal shift due to a large number of immigrants,  and the new and old members of the population were not getting along. The first Human Library was aimed at giving people a chance to sit down together as neighbors. It was an opportunity to break down barriers and  prejudice, and it serves the same purpose today.

“This event gave people  a chance  to talk with someone they wouldn’t ordinarily meet,” said the Imam of the Salt Lake Islamic society. “When you bring people from opposite ends of the social and political spectrum together in a  non-judgmental setting, a lot good can come of it.”

“We’ll do this again next year,” said Liesl Seborg,  coordinator of the event.  “Hopefully everyone will come back and bring their friends.”

And that’s what it’s all about – friends.  The people who attended today have some new friends to show for it, and judging by all the animated conversations and smiling faces, the event was a great success.

don't judge 2

Poster for the Original Human Library







Books I Loved in 2013!

beautiful booksI’ve discovered I have very eclectic taste in reading material. In other words, I work at the library and read anything and everything that catches my eye.   My favorites for last year range from comedy – Dad is Fat!, to tragedy – Nothing to Envy, Ordinary Lives in North Korea.  Animal stories – Dog On It a Chet and Bernie Mystery, and people stories – Coming Clean, a hoarders’ story. Someday I will be a lady of leisure and have time to read all the books in the library, but in the meantime  . . . here’s the lowdown on some of the standouts.

(Do you have a favorite?  I’d love to hear about it.)

Growing Up Amish, By Ira Wagler

growing up amishThis is the true story of a young man growing up in the Amish community.  Ira Wagler tells a fascinating  story of life among the Amish –  and it’s nothing like the embarrassing reality shows  that litter the cable channels.  The author grew up in a loving family with lots of brothers and sisters.  His parents though kind and supportive were also very devout and expected their children to follow suit. Ira, a rambunctious teenager had a hard time falling in line, and the result is both heartbreaking, and heartwarming.  I was entranced by this book, and found myself googling the author to find out what happened in the next chapter of his life.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? By Mindy Kaling

is everyone hanging outYou may remember Mindy Kaling from her stint in the excruciatingly funny T.V. series, The Office. But even if that show wasn’t your cup of tea, this book might be.  Kaling is hilarious as she recalls embarrassing moments from her childhood and adolescence.  She also dishes the – not exactly dirt on her co-workers  from The Office, and shares behind the scenes tidbits from other shows she’s worked on.  Kaling is self-effacing, and funny, and reading the book felt like swapping stories with a college roomie.

The Kitchen House, By Kathleen Grissom

the kitchen houseFrom the opening paragraph, Grissom’s book grabs you and doesn’t let go.  The reader is hurtled into the inner sanctum – the kitchen house – of a colonial plantation, and the stories of the inhabitants keep you riveted. The events in this novel are narrated by many voices, from the slaves in the kitchen, to the plantation owner and his family. The message is clear – man is meant to be free. One man should not own another, and even the wealthy can be slaves if they worship the wrong gods.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, By Helen Simonson

major pettigrewI wasn’t sure about the Major at first.  His gruff and ethnocentric character was hard to like, but something kept me going and I soon caught on. Major Pettigrew’s bluster was all bluff, an attempt to conceal his own feelings of inadequacy, but underneath the rough exterior lay the heart of a marshmallow. When the Major has an unexpected breakdown over a death in the family, his widowed neighbor Mrs. Ali comes to his aid.  Embarrassed by his display of weakness, not to mention the unexpected feelings for one he considers beneath him, Major Pettigrew resolves to avoid further contact. This is not to be however, and the result is delightful story of two lonely people who find love when they least expect it.  I’ll read this book again someday.

Nothing to Envy, Ordinary Lives in North Korea, By Barbara Demick.

nothing to envyThis is a haunting chronicle of day-to-day life in North Korea.  While not my usual fare, this affected me profoundly, and changed the way I see the world.  For a detailed review of Ordinary lives click here:

Cutting for Stone, By Abraham Verghese

cutting for stoneHave you ever read a book where you so love the characters that you wished they lived next door? Cutting for Stone is one of those.  An epic story of twin boys, one given up for dead at birth, who go on to live amazing lives.  Set in a charity hospital in Ethiopia, the Doctors work miracles in this understaffed and overwhelmed facility. Though the medical details can be a bit graphic at times, they serve to heighten the stakes in this heart wrenching tale of  love and survival.

Dad is Fat, By Jim Gaffigan

dad is fatA perfect beach read.  Gaffigan is a stand up comedian who lives with his wife and five children in a small apartment in New York City.  This collection of essays on parenting is great fun, and will strike a chord with anyone who has ever tried to retain their dignity while raising small children.

Coming Clean, a Hoarder’s Story,  By Kimberly Rae Miller

coming cleanKimberly Rae Miller grew up in a house of horrors.Her parents were hoarders, and though they acknowledged their problems and regretted what they were doing to their beloved daughter, they were powerless to stop. Despite spoiled food in the refrigerator, rats skittering through piles of garbage, and unusable plumbing Kimberly survives and manages to keep their family’s secret. The author tries to underplay the frightening aspects of her childhood, and goes on to focus on how she coped with the after effects. This book is a success story on many levels.  Coming clean is so well written that you care about the author and find yourself rooting for her to make it.

Dog On It, A Chet and Bernie Story, By Spencer Quinn

dog on itChet and Bernie are partners in crime, crime solving that is. Bernie is a somewhat bumbling, but well-intentioned human, who owns a detective agency.  Chet is his partner and dog. The story is told through the eyes of Chet who though very bright, still does dog things like wolfing old abandoned hot dogs he digs up from under the Bar-B-Cue grill. This story is a light-hearted mystery that holds your interest and will definitely make you laugh

Fall of Giants, By Ken Follett

fall of giantsWhile not a huge fan of war stories, I started this because I loved Ken Follet’s Pillars of the Earth, and World Without End.  This turned out to be just as good, and I inadvertently learned a lot about the lead up to, and start of World War I.  The author makes these characters come alive and I really cared about what happened to everyone.  Though a long book at 985 pages, I didn’t want it to end, and I look forward to reading the next installment.

I’m already hard at work on next years list.  Happy reading everyone!

How To Be Happier 7 Days A Week

Laughing Man 6Having a bad day? Feeling sad or discouraged?  Read on:

“Don’t compare yourself, celebrate yourself!”
“Run your own race, you have something great to offer.”
“Live without excuses.”
“Guilt will steal your joy.”
(Excerpts from guilt Will Steal Your Joy, by Joel Osteen)

I’m not usually a fan of Television evangelists. However sound their their message, there’s always the danger of one of those excruciating public apologies when caught in the midst of some scandal or the other. Who can forget Tammy Faye Baker‘s   (  tear-induced runaway mascara, when hubby Jim confessed his infidelity on a worldwide broadcast. Thanks to this and many other public implosions, the image of the T.V preacher has suffered over the years, but Joel Osteen seems bent on changing  that.

joel osteen

While Osteen is the acknowledged Mega King of the Mega T.V. churches, he seems to be a horse of a different color. With his rock solid marriage, and  practical, positive message, there’s a lot to like about the man.

I’ve been listening to his audio book, and his stories are homey and down to earth; real life situations that anyone can relate to. And though I’m not personally a member of his  flock, I like to pick up nuggets of truth wherever I  find them. Osteen’s book is a virtual gold mine.

Here’s a few more sample’s:

“We have what we need to be happy, we just don’t have the right perspective.”
“You cannot give Thanks to God and stay down and discouraged.”
“We can’t control our circumstances, but we can control our reactions.”
“When you allow what someone says or does to upset you, you’re allowing them to control you.”
“Every day tell your children, your spouse, those who mean the most to you, how much you love them.”
“Today you are living in tomorrows good old days.”

I picked this book up because I needed something to listen to while I waited for my real book to come in from another library.  By the time my hold showed up I couldn’t put this one down.  Osteen’s book is funny, entertaining and inspiring.  I recommend it to anyone who find themselves grappling with the complexities of everyday life.

Laughing Man 2

Weekly Writing challenge: Living History – Disenchanted

jeffersonI’ve always been puzzled by Thomas Jefferson. He was an American Founding Father, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, and the third President of the United States. He was a worldwide spokesman for democracy and the rights of man, yet he was a slave owner, who seemed impervious to the hypocrisy of his lifestyle. Continue reading

The Library Lady Book Review: Exile of Sara Stevenson

sara amazon

The Exile of Sara Stevenson, by Darci Hannah

“Trust me, Sara,” said Thomas, and then he added with all sincerity, “I will move heaven and earth if I have to so that we can be together, ye do know that?”

And so begins an epic romance. Unfortunately, due to matters completely beyond his control, Thomas is unable to keep his promise – not in the way he expected at least. I love a good ghost story, and this one has it all, The Scottish sea and a storm-tossed lighthouse, with a brooding lighthouse keeper.  One reviewer calls it a haunting tale of timeless love. Continue reading

Library Lady Book Review: Nothing to Envy, Ordinary Lives in North Korea

Nothing To Envy by barbara Demick                                             Nothing to Envy, by Barbara Demick

Are you sick of the debate over Obama care, of Anthony Weiner, and Congressmen who can’t agree on the time of day?  I have the cure for what ails you.  Read Nothing to Envy Ordinary lives in North Korea, and you’ll appreciate the country you’re in, unless of course,  it’s North Korea. Continue reading

Library Lady Book Review: Walking Salt Lake City

I love to see new places.  My motto – have money will travel.  The only problem with that is the have money part.  As we are experiencing a slight shortage of the green right now , my husband and I, along with the Lambs – our travel friends – have decided to explore our own corner of the world. Continue reading

Library Lady Book Review, The Fever Tree

fever tree                                                          By Jennifer McVeigh

The tale of The Fever Tree begins in mid-century England, but soon transports the reader to the diamond mines of South Africa.   Frances, our heroine, is a naive young woman, a hothouse flower living a life of privilege.  After her father’s reversal of fortune and untimely death, she is left with few options – work as a virtual slave to a harridin aunt, or marry a man she does not love. Continue reading

Library Lady Book Review: Jane Eyre

51FDdgyx9WL._AA200_Jane Eyre, By Charlotte Bronte

 “Now for the hitch in Jane’s character,” he said at last.  “The reel of silk has run smoothly enough so far; but I always knew there would come a knot and a puzzle: here it is. Now for vexation, and exasperation, and endless trouble!”

So says Mr. Rochester when Jane Eyre refuses to do his despicable bidding.  Despite the fact that she loves him more than life itself, Jane must run from his side, and vow never to darken his door again.

 “Gentle reader, may you never feel what I then felt? May your eyes never shed such stormy, scalding, heart-wrung tears as poured from mine.”

Set in Victorian England, Jane begins her story as a penniless orphan, left to the dubious mercy of her Aunt, Sara Reid.  After a particularly trying day of abuse at the hands of her cousins, Jane tells them what she thinks of them.  The consequences are severe, and Jane falls into the clutches of the the sinister Mr. Brocklehurst, proprietor of Lowood School. Continue reading