What I Read Last Month: January

what i read last month

I definitely didn’t read as much as usual last month. I meant to read a lot more, but I actually went almost two weeks without finishing a book. I think I volunteered for way too many books to review, so the pressure got to me, so I just didn’t read anything. And I discovered The Good Wife.


Dept. of Speculation

book recommendations dept of speculation
Rating: ****

I don’t want to give anything about the plot away, so I’ll just say that it is beautifully written. The third person narrative that is sprinkled with poetry, scientific facts, and all other sorts of prose is unique and makes for a great story. The story tugged at my heart. It’s amazing that I could be emotionally invested in the emotions of a character only called “the wife.”

The Grief Recovery Handbook, 20th Anniversary Expanded Edition

book recommendations grief recovery


I read a review of this book on The Modern Mrs. Darcy blog. I have been dealing with the loss of my health for a long time, but I never thought of it in terms of grieving. I’m not a counselor or psychologist, so I don’t know if this book is completely accurate or for everyone, but the first 5 chapters were extremely helpful for me. The workbook portion seemed more appropriate for death, divorce, or even grieving for cumulative losses caused by childhood and other circumstances–basically things that have to do with relationships. While the addendum at the end of the book says that the exercises can be done about your relationship with your health, it’s almost too complicated for me (they want a timeline, discussions, etc.)

The first 5 chapters or so, though, are applicable to anyone going through a hard emotional time because everything from depression to anxiety seems to be related to unmet expectations (for whatever reason) and it is important to grieve and process the lost dreams that come from losing your health, job, friends, or anything. Not the perfect book for Chronic Illness, but helpful and I will probably reread the beginning from time to time.

Dark Places

dark places


Rating: ***

I really enjoyed this novel. It was a fascinating read, plus it was nice to see how Gillian Flynn evolved as a writer between Dark Places and Gone Girl. You can read all of my thoughts from a book club link up here!

This novel fulfills one of my 2015 TBR Reading Challenge requirements.

Lizzy & Jane

lizzy and jane

Rating: ****

I loved this novel. You can read my full review here!

The Girl on the Train

books like gone girl

Rating: 2.5

I was really looking forward to this novel because it was promoted as a multi-view narrated novel in the vein of Gone Girl. The ending was not what I expected, which saved this book from being a zero. It was interesting enough to keep reading it to find out what happened, but it was by no means a book that I would rush to recommend.

Girl, Interrupted

girl interrupted

Rating: ****

I ended up loving this novel. At first, the anecdotes at the beginning were amusing, funny, or sad, but not quite good enough to make me read it quickly; however, I got to the second half of the novel and stayed up late reading! That’s when it all comes together and Kaysen really pulls no punches when talking about her views on her diagnosis.

P.S. This is currently on sale for $3 on Kindle! I paid more for a used copy awhile back!

This novel fulfills one of my 2015 TBR Reading Challenge requirements.

This Is Where I Leave You

this is where i leave you


Rating: ****

I loved this novel. The first half felt like it was filled with a little fluff–sex/pseudo-sex scenes that were kind of unnecessary. However, I couldn’t put the last half down. The novel is more character driven than plot driven, which made it a fascinating look at the inner mind of the main character and his family’s dynamics. I watched the movie the day after I finished the novel. While the movie was still good, I definitely preferred the novel, where I got a much better look into the main character’s mind. I will say that the all-star cast of the movie, though, made it a great watch, just to see the actors working together!



book recommendations cranford

Rating: ****

This short(er) novel from Gaskell was much more fun and lighthearted than North and South, the only other novel that she wrote that I have read. I enjoyed the fist person narrative about the “quiet” country town that was anything but quiet. It was full of quirky characters who had a touching dedication to helping their neighbors–no matter how silly the circumstance might be.

The Beautiful and Damned

book recommendations the beautiful and damned

Rating: ***

I really wish that I had read this before I read a biography of the Fitzgeralds’ since it is semi-autobiographical. It was a little predictable because of that. I also wish that I had read This Side of Paradise first, since it was Fitzgerald’s breakout novel.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

book recommendations lady chatterley's lover
This novel was very interesting because I read it immediately following The Beautiful and Damned. The novel takes place during the Jazz Age, also, but it takes place in the UK. It dealt a lot with social classes, like The Beautiful and Damned, but it referred to World War I and the class changes a lot more than Fitzgerald. Money was discussed at length in both novels. Lady Chatterley’s Lover is much more explicit with sex than The Beautiful and Damned, which danced around the topic much more. Honestly, I was completely shocked that this novel was published in the 1920’s, due to the explicit nature of some of the scenes and language. Lady Chatterley’s Lover does mention jazz, dancing, and bobbed hair in passing, but it more about what love, sex, and intimacy means to men and to women. Lawrence wrestles with the three (love, sex, and intimacy) to see where and if they overlap with each other, plus how men and women might view them differently! Women and aristocratic women, specifically, are held to a different standard in Lady Chatterley’s Lover, as opposed to The Beautiful and Damned, where the men seem to be falling over themselves to make the American women happy.

This novel fulfills one of my 2015 TBR Reading Challenge requirements.

Madame Bovary

Madam Bovary

Rating: ***

I didn’t love this, but I didn’t hate it. It’s not on my list of books to recommend to anyone, anytime soon. Honestly, I didn’t find Madame Bovary very sympathetic. I know the point that the author was trying to make, but it got lost among the tedious whining and immorality of Emma (Madame Bovary). I know that social conventions were different when the novel was written and where it was written, but that doesn’t change the fact that the main character was written in such a way that I really wanted her to be unhappy.

The Talented Mr. Ripley

the talented mr ripley

While I enjoyed the novel, I hated the fact that the novel ended on a cliff hanger! You have to read the entire series to get the whole story! I couldn’t bear 3 more novels of reading the tedious thoughts of the main character. He’s actually kind of boring for a murderer.

This novel fulfills one of my 2015 TBR Reading Challenge requirements.

This Side of Paradise

this side of paradise

Rating: ***

I wanted to read this novel because it was the novel that gave Fitzgerald his start. Again, not my favorite book, but I can appreciate it for what it was, a portrait of the “lost generation.”

The Sound and the Fury

the sound and fury

Rating: **

Ok, I love Faulkner. Sanctuary and Absolom, Absolom are two of my favorite novels ever. This one, however, I just couldn’t get into it. Maybe I’ll try it again some day!

This novel fulfills one of my 2015 TBR Reading Challenge requirements.

Adam Bede

adam bede

Rating: ***

I did enjoy this novel, however it was not Middlemarch. It wasn’t close. It felt like an early Thomas Hardy novel. The rural setting, unrequited love, odd/far-fetched situations, and may an attempt to make commentary on social mores and hypocrisy left me feeling like I really did just read something along the lines of The Mayor of Casterbridge (minus the the whole wife selling thing…).

I definitely enjoyed it, but I guess I was looking for something either along the lines of Middlemarch or something more original than an early Hardy novel with a slightly happier (only slightly) ending. So, if you DO want more Hardy novels, read this.

I Capture the Castle

IMG_5694 (1)

This novel was a reread for me! You can read all of my thoughts from a book club link up here! (Josie enjoyed it, too!)

Couldn’t Finish

This is a new category for me. I had to quit a book about half-way through this month.

Call Me Zelda

call me zelda

This novel was marketed as a fictionalized account of Zelda Fitzgerald’s life after she was institutionalized.  The story is told from the point of view of a nurse who is taking care of her. The nurse’s story was distracting, but what was worse was the fact that there was no new information. Because I had read other novels about Zelda Fitzgerald, I knew the general gist of her life. Most of those books, though, end once she is sent to the psychiatric hospital. Instead of this novel telling me about what it was like for her there, the emphasis was on Zelda rehashing her past, as she worked on her autobiographically based novel, Save Me a Waltz. At the half-way point, I decided that it wasn’t worth my time.

Living Well, Spending Less

living well spending less

Literally, not figuratively, the worst book I’ve ever tried to read. Full review on the first half of this drivel here.

What I Read

You can read my past monthly round ups:

December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
And other archived roundups here!

Also, you can find other individual book reviews, tips on saving money on Audible books, book recommendations based on genres and all things related to literature here!

Don’t forget that you can add me as a friend on Goodreads so I can steal ideas on what to read next–or see your ratings, so I know what to stay away from!

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Categories: Reading, What I Read Last Month | Tags: , , , |
  • I love these posts of yours! Every month I’m like whennnnn is Sarah going to put her books up so I can get more ideas for good books to read?! You read the best books!! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Hahaha thanks! I have been trying to write the reviews as I read them (and format them) because otherwise it takes hours to put together!

  • So many good books! I have a few of these on my list to read right now and am definitely going to add a few others. I’m literally almost #700 for Girl on the Train from the library so your review makes me feel a little bit better about having a long time to wait!

    • Yeah, it’s worth a read, but there are a million other better books! I’m sad I wasted an audible credit on it.

  • Phew, girl! You always make me ashamed that I’m not reading more! (Seriously, you JUST discovered The Good Wife thought!?). I’ll probably move The Girl on the Train down on my “want to read” list now…but I’m still intrigued enough that I’ll probably read it at some point. I had never thought about reading Girl, Interrupted before. I liked the moving in a weird kind of way, so I bet I would enjoy the book!

    • I felt bad because I didn’t read enough!!!! I was slower than normal. I mean, I don’t have to work 40 hours a week, though. It’s like be sick, read, be sick, watch tv, let the dogs out, bet sick, work on the blog, be sick, look up books to read, read. Just kind of horrible in it’s own Groundhog Day kind of way.

    • Oh and I am mad at myself for just watching The Good Wife. I guess it started when I was in college, though, so I didn’t ever watch TV back then.

  • Oh my Gosh girl!! You were reading fool last month. I have so many books half read right now. I need to get on reading. I love the Good wife too. It is soo good!!

    • Yeah, I spent two weeks watching The Good Wife non stop. I’m almost done with season 3. I’ve had a chronic daily headache for almost a month now, so everything hurts. I can take some medicine and listen to an audiobook, if it isn’t too complex. I tried to start listening to The Bone Clocks, but it was so complicated that I had to switch books! My headache couldn’t handle it.

  • good for you for stopping those 2 books – i have such a hard time abandoning books because i think they will get better. interesting about madame bovary, i’ve not read it yet but it’s on my list. adding dept. of speculation! sounds interesting 🙂

    • Dept. of Speculation was really cool. I don’t know that I’ve ever read anything like it. It’s very short, so I would recommend reading the hardback or kindle version–I don’t think it would make sense as an audiobook because it is very disjointed and mixes prose with poetry and famous quotations and just all sorts of things. It’s like 50 2-3 sentence paragraphs per chapter.

  • I am in the middle of reading the last of the holy trinity that is Gillian Flynn. I tried hard to read Dark Places before but, didn’t give it a fair shot. So far I am liking it! I had to read Gone Girl twice to actually love it, I hated it the first time. And The Girl On the Train? I was super disappointed. I was so eager to read it but, struggled to even stay awake half the time reading it!

    • Yeah, I found The Girl On the Train boring. I listened to the audiobook, so I got through it and was genuinely surprised at the ending, but it still wasn’t as innovative as I expected it to be.

  • Wowza! That’s a lot of reading, and I’m one impressed woman!! I’ve seen a lot of hype for The Girl on the Train. Interesting that people are expressing disappointment… I enjoyed Tropper’s One Last Thing Before I Go, so This is Where I Leave You is on my list. I picked up his Book of Joe at a secondhand bookstore a couple of weeks ago, so I’ll probably get to that one first.

    • I haven’t read One Last Thing Before I Go! I put it on my TBR list after you mentioned it. I thoroughly enjoyed This is Where I Leave You. I’ll have to look up Book of Joe, too. I thought his humor was great and he made some insightful points about families and human nature in This is Where I Leave You.

  • I recently read This Is Where I Leave You and had zero expectations because for once I had seen the movie first and wasn’t really fond of it. I enjoyed it. I thought it was a really good depiction of family dynamics.

    • Yes! I thought the movie was a let down after reading the book. I thought it would be a hard movie to make because it was more character driven and about the family dynamics. Most of that didn’t translate well onto the screen, even though it looks like Trooper wrote the screenplay. I liked watching the all-star cast, but the book gave insights that just couldn’t make it onto the screen.

  • I love seeing what others are reading! And thanks for the Kindle tip about Girl, Interrupted. I can’t believe I haven’t read that yet.

    • I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t read it, either! I think I was going to watch the movie on Amazon Prime a few months ago, but decided that I should read the book first. I’m really glad that I did (still haven’t seen the movie) because the book is so great. It’s not linear, so the movie would have to be really different. And I doubt the movie could really hit home some of the points she makes about mental health (ones I happened to agree with) at the very end. It’s now on my top 10 favorites, probably. Definitely a book that will have a lasting impact on me!

  • Wow, you read SO MUCH! Do you speed read or read incredibly quickly? I’m pretty excited to try a few of the contemporaries on this list, as I haven’t tried any of them yet.

    • I mix between audiobooks and paperbacks and ebooks. I always have a book with me. I do listen to audiobooks at double speed.
      Dept. of Speculation was a super short novel, but really powerful, which is cool. Girl, Interrupted was also short, but it took me a lot longer than I thought to read because there was a lot to digest. But, other novels are “breezier,” so to speak.

  • I really really loved the writing style of This Is Where I Leave You. And I did the same thing reading Dark Places after Gone Girl and it was interesting to see how she progressed as a writer. I saw that Lizzie and Jane was also on sale recently for .99 and I thought maybe I should pick it up. But I have bought SO MANY kindle books I have to read still. #problem.

    • Hahaha! Yeah, too many books is my problem. I liked to be overstocked, because I go through periods where I can’t physically get to the library and can’t tolerate any more tv!

  • I ADORE Girl, Interrupted! So beautiful and raw! I’m sad to hear the Girl on a Train was disappointing, though.

    • On one hand, I was sad that it took me so long to read Girl, Interrupted, but on the other hand, I think I’m at the exact right place in my life to really appreciate it.

      Like a lot of her points at the end about what is included in the DSM really got me thinking about the bias in it. And, I have Tourette’s Syndrome, which is still in the DSM, despite the fact that all the TS associations want it out. I see a movement disorder specialist (neurologist) to treat it. So, I thought basically the whole thing was wonderful.

      • It’s neat how sometimes books can work out like that. I’m really glad you read it and enjoyed it!

  • Ugh bummer about Girl on a Train, I was excited for it since it was compared to Gone Girl, which I loved. I have yet to read Girl, Interrupted, so I’ll add that to my list!

  • Thanks for the reviews — I really need to read more classics. I tend to ignore books written before 1920, which I’m sure is very lowbrow of me! I also like Erika Robuck’s fan fiction, mostly because it doesn’t take itself too seriously and also because I like to imagine myself living in the 1920s. Haha.

    • That was my first Robuck book. Since I was in the middle of “Jazz Age January,” where I was already tons of Fitzgerald and had recently read some other fictionalized versions of Zelda’s life (I tried Save Me the Waltz, but it was very rough), I may have been burned out. I wouldn’t not recommend it, but I just needed to move on.
      I’m having fun going back and reading classics that I always meant to read. Last summer, I read almost all of the Thomas Hardy books that I hadn’t read. That was interesting–and not very summery!

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