January Reviews

Honestly, I'm not really sure how I managed to read as much as I did this month- work has been crazy and my weekends pretty busy. Nonetheless, I was able to plow through seven books this month- maybe because January felt like the longest month since September...

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
503  pages
I actually enjoyed this second book of The Millennium Trilogy a lot more than the first. I liked the focus on Lizbeth's back story and was thankful there was less of the geneology sort of component as there was in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. There was a considerable amount of action and the shifting perspectives made the book fly by. It wasn't high-quality writing by any means, and I'm not in a rush to read the third, but it was entertaining and at least slightly better than your average mystery.

Verdict: If you're a mystery reader I'm sure you'll like it (but have already read it). For the rest of us, this is quintessential airplane/doctor's office/beach reading material.

The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got There by Amanda Ripley
320 pages
I actually wrote a post on this already, but in a nutshell it's about the global education scene and how the US differs from those that are thriving. 

Verdict: As a teacher I thought it was fascinating, although I think others with a vested interest in education will also find it eye-opening.

The Longest Date: Life as a Wife by Cindy Chupack
224 pages
I received this to review, grudgingly agreeing since Chupack wrote for my beloved Sex and the City, and also for Modern Family. I wrote a review post for this as well, but, honestly, I thought this memoir about a woman who marries late and then has fertility issues a little lackluster. There were times where it was witty and funny, but I struggled to think about who in my life would really want to read it.

Verdict: Pass

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
416 pages
I really loved this simple novel about a couple that movies to Alaska in the 1920s to farm in the valleys, hoping to leave their past infertility troubles behind. One night they build a snowgirl and not long after a young woman starts appearing on their property, who they work hard to develop a bond with. She floats in and out of their lives for years, meanwhile the couple must come to terms with their damaged relationship and the struggles of living on a new frontier.

Verdict: I found the pacing, imagery, and subtle magical realism of this book highly enjoyable.

Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin 
368 pages
I'm very flexible in terms of what I want my childbirthing experience to be like- I'm open to an epidural but would be willing to attempt to deliver naturally, depending on the situation (I'd like to avoid a C-section if possible). I tried to go into this book with an open mind but found Gaskin's agenda way too overpowering- I ended the book feeling like the implication behind the text was that if you don't deliver naturally, preferably with a midwife, you were a pansy that wasn't keeping your baby's best interest in mind.

Verdict: More than anything, I think this just cemented the idea in my head that I'll do whatever is right when the time comes. It also fueled my fire that I think it's super lame that so many women make childbirth into a competition- I don't care that you labored for four hours, or thirty, with or without an epidural. Hell, maybe I won't even divulge the details of my experience. 

The Awakening by Kate Chopin
128 pages
Oh, Edna. I actually just spent the day listening to my seniors discuss this novella, debating whether or not Edna is a spoiled brat or on the forefront of feminism. For those that haven't read this classic, it's about a woman who decides that perhaps marriage and motherhood isn't for her (despite her comfy lifestyle) and decides to pursue independence through art and other men. It was pretty scandalous, for the time.

Verdict: I've always enjoyed this book, but have found it to actually be a bit of a slog to get through. Nonetheless, like I told my students, it's a book you have to read through it's entirety and have time to reflect on to really appreciate.

Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw
480 pages
Despite it's length, I actually pushed through this novel about five Shanghai residents battling business, love and identity fairly fast. I'm a huge fan of authors that are able to start their characters off in separate worlds and then slowly bring them together in various degrees as the novel progresses. Aw focuses on a failed pop star, a failed business man, a successful entrepreneur, an up-and-coming businesswoman, and a new implant trying to get her feet wet by any means possible. It was striking to see the differences in culture, but how the underlying desires for security, wealth, attention, and comfort transcend continenents. 

Verdict: Definitely give it a shot- the writing and storytelling are the results of an obviously talented author.

 1959 pages

Ready anything good this month?


  1. I really want to read The Smartest Kids in the World. South Africa has loads of educational issues these days and I have a lot of "opinions". I'd like to read some experts' ideas.

  2. I'm curious, do you get your page count from Goodreads or do you just keep track of that yourself? I've been using GR, but I feel like it isn't accurate. (I've read 6 books and supposedly 2,195 pages. That just seems high to me.) But I'm too lazy to keep track of the total pages any other way. Haha!