Library Lady’s Favorite Books of 2019

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

bird

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.

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!)

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.

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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:

https://geanieroake.wordpress.com/2013/09/25/book-review-nothing-to-envy-ordinary-lives-in-north-korea/

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   (http://tammyfaye.com/)  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

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