Maybe Matilda: January 2015 Books

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

January 2015 Books

I can hardly believe I read so much this month! I usually average about 4 or 5 books per month, and was surprised to find the tally at 10 for January. *pats self on back*

Part of that unusually high number is due to my new audiobook habit (two of these were listened to while folding laundry and mopping floors), and a few other books were quite short (Gifts of Imperfection and Bird by Bird, I’m looking at you).

Sadly, I struggled through a few books this month that really did nothing for me at all, but my selections got better as the month went on—I ended with a string of books that I loved. Listed in the order I read them, here are my first 10 reads of 2015:

Shoemaker's Wife book review

The Shoemaker’s Wife (Adriana Trigiani)

This coming-of-age/romance about 2 young Italians and their dreams to make their way in America wanted to be sweeping and lyrical and lovely, but for me, it was just slow and dull and forgettable. In fact, I’ve already forgotten most of the story and details.

I know many people who love this book, but it definitely wasn’t for me. By the end, I was kicking myself for plowing through instead of abandoning it early.


Ruby Red review

Ruby Red (Kerstin Gier)

This series about a young girl who possesses a gene that allows her to travel through time certainly has plenty of fans . . . but I won’t be joining them for their fan club meetings. I listened to the audio version of the first in the series, and it was juuuust entertaining enough for me to finish it, but I won’t be continuing the series.

(It’s been translated into English, which might explain a lot of the awkward, unimpressive writing.)


Summers at Castle Auburn reviewSummers at Castle Auburn (Sharon Shinn)

I stumbled into this book on Goodreads where it had great reviews from two of my cousins, both of whom have excellent taste in books. I thought it was fun and breezy and lovable—and with a little magic, a little romance, and a little castle intrigue, it’s got something for everyone.

Maybe not my new all-time favorite, but very sweet and fun and cute, especially if you were the sort of teenager who gobbled up magical books like there was no tomorrow (ahem), and occasionally still miss the magic.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds review

In the Shadow of Blackbirds (Cat Winters)

This YA novel is set during such an interesting period in American history: WWI rages abroad, and the Spanish Flu rages at home. 16-year old Mary Shelley loses her first love to the war, but is visited by his ghost after his death.

It took me a good 80 or so pages to get into this one, but once I did, I loved the interesting historical setting as well as the creepy and unique storyline. I’ve now started another of Winters’ books and I’m not sure that it has the pull I felt from this one (but maybe her books always start with 80 or so slow pages?).

Prayers for Sale review

Prayers for Sale (Sandra Dallas)

86-year old Hennie Comfort recounts stories of her friends, her life, and her mining town to a young newlywed during the depression. I listened to it on audio, and similarly to Ruby Red, it was just enough to keep me going but not enough to ever really hook me.

The stories were often enjoyable to listen to, but I can’t say I loved this. It reminded me of These Is My Words (another I didn’t ever really fall deeply for), so if you liked that, this could be one to look into.

Crow Lake review

Crow Lake (Mary Lawson)

A quiet Ontario town, a young family left parentless by an accident, and their struggle to stay together—this is strongly reminiscent of Peace Like a River, so of course I thought it was great (I’m sure you know how hard it is to name one favorite book, but when pressed, I generally go with Peace).

If you’re only going to read one of the two, make it Peace, but if you’ve already read Peace and loved it, check this one out.

(And if you haven’t read Peace, will you do it? For me?)

The Gifts of Imperfection review

The Gifts of Imperfection (Brene Brown)

This book has gotten a lot of buzz, and I’ve waited months on my library hold list to get a copy. It gave me a lot to think about, and I recognized a lot of myself here . . . not in a good way.

I felt a little lost at the end, like I ended up with a huge list of my own flaws without a ton of concrete, practical ideas on how to change them (when it comes to self-improvement, I need step-by-step, spelled-out solutions, not just loose suggestions), but it was a great jumping off point for identifying the way I think and act, and topics I need to study more and work on (like self-compassion, perfectionism, people-pleasing).

Bird By Bird review

Bird By Bird (Anne Lamott)

This book was a reading assignment for a creative writing class I took at BYU (which was, by the way, the best college class I took), and I think it a sign of my great wisdom (*snort*) that I kept this book instead of selling it back to the bookstore at the end of the semester.

I wondered if it could really be as great as I remembered, and it wasn’t—it was better. With hilarious self-deprecating wit and insight into the minds of readers and writers, it is a wonderful look at the writing process. I loved it, and think it would be a great read for anyone who loves reading and/or writing.


Revolution (Jennifer Donnelly)

I’m a sucker for books about people researching the past, especially if they recover lost documents along the way. This YA novel is about a teen girl haunted by her brother’s death (for which she blames herself [don’t they always?]), who finds the diary of a young woman who lived during the French Revolution.

For the unique (and riveting!) historical perspective, 5 big stars. But there were too many strings left dangling and questions unanswered for me to really fall hard for it. Even so, I liked it a lot, and would recommend it to fans of historical fiction.

Stiff review

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (Mary Roach)

Well, this is going to go down as one of my weirdest books of all time, but it was absolutely one of the most interesting books I’ve ever read, too.

Roach explores historical use of cadavers (anatomical study, cannibalism, and medicinal use, oh my!) as well as the many paths a modern-day body can travel after death—from vehicle safety testing to surgical practice to rotting in a car trunk in the name of crime scene research.

Sadly, not a single option is remotely appealing (including plain old cremation or burial). But this book was incredibly interesting, and unexpectedly hilarious. Perhaps not for the very squeamish (although I’m fairly squeamish, and only really had a hard time with one chapter about studying the wounds on plane crash victims to identify the cause of a crash—eek).

I’d love to hear what you read this month!


  1. I love historical fiction so maybe I should try Revolution. I am currently reading The Selection by Kiera Cass.

  2. I just finished The Warmth of Other Suns, which would NOT help your numbers (550 pages, dude) but it was well worth the read. It's about the great migration of black families from the South and the incredible racism they overcame. It's heartbreaking and hard to read but I HIGHLY recommend it. I also read 10% Happier this month, on Michelle's recommendation. It's about meditation, but more like a memoir and I found it so fascinating and inspiring. And the phrase "is this helpful?" from the book is changing my life.

  3. Are you enjoying it? I've heard such mixed reviews!

  4. The Warmth of Other Suns has been on my to-read list FOREVER, but I'm bumping it up after hearing how much you love it!

  5. I like it but I doubt I'll read the rest of the series.

  6. Listening to the audiobook version of George, Nicholas and Wilhelm by Miranda Carter. King George, Czar Nicholas and Kaiser Wilhelm were all cousins and eventually faced off in WWI. I love European history and the narrator is great, reading personal letters with different accents. It's so fascinating to hear how huge events like WWI were influenced by what were essentially family squabbles, petty jealousies and dysfunctional family dynamics as everyone was related through Queen Victoria.

    I also listened to Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth earlier in the month. FASCINATING if you are interested in biblical or religious history.

  7. I loved Still Alice and Left Neglected this month.

  8. I'm assuming you've read "possession" by Byatt if you're a fan of books about people researching the past? I loved it.

  9. I enjoyed that one, too! Sometimes I wish I had a commute, solely for the audiobook time ;-)

  10. Indeed I have! So fantastic. It's been a few years--I ought to re-read it.

  11. Stiff has been on my reading list for a while now, but I'm kind of weirded out by it at the same time. Perhaps this year will be the year I give in and read it.

  12. I'm reading "The goldfinch"writing by Donna Tartt. I love it and read as slowly as I can because I am fond of this author and this story and don't want to let them....

  13. It is definitely a bit weird, but so interesting!


Thanks for commenting!

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