January: Book Reviews

This is a new feature I’ve planned for 2018 – a monthly reflection of a handful of books that I read in the past month that I thought would be worth sharing.  If you follow me on Instagram, you already saw a recent photo of a couple of these books in a recent post! it seems like that you and I have a lot in common, and if I read voraciously, I bet a lot of you do too- so why not share some of the books I most enjoyed recently?  If you have read any of these, or have some great recommendations of your own, let me know in the comments!

Currently Re-reading: As It Is in Heaven

As It Is in Heaven is one of the few books I re-read every few years. The prose is sometimes overwritten, and in the author’s quest to grapple with the big issues of life, death, and love it ends up coming across heavy handed in places, but I still love it. I first read it a long time ago when I was still living in Istanbul and English books were expensive to come by, but I fell for the wintery setting, the lush Irish landscape, and the utterly charming cast of characters in the town where most of the book is set. It’s comfort food in book form. It’s not the best thing you will ever read, but it soothes me. And I do think that it’s best enjoyed in the winter – don’t read this book in the summer or it will feel all wrong.

The One I’m Still Recommending to Just About Everyone: Station Eleven

I’m not usually one for post-apocalyptic fiction at all, but a good portion Station Eleven is set in Toronto (where I live!) and focuses on a travelling troupe of actors who perform Shakespearean plays at the various settlements that spring up after a massive virus wipes out 95% of the world’s population in a very short time frame. I binge-read this, it was that hard to put down! Same goes for everyone I’ve lent it to – it’s seriously addictive, fascinating to think about, and you will want everyone else to read it so that you can talk about it with them. I wish I had written it.

Crafty Book I’m Loving: Plum Dandi Knits

This is the combined effort of Alicia Plummer and Melissa Schaschwary, who have combined their knit design efforts in the past. Plum Dandi Knits features 23 patterns for a whole range of gorgeous knits that are what I would consider to be the sort of knits I want in my handmade wardrobe – lots of gorgeous sweaters, mitts, cowls, and accessories that make me want to snuggle up in every single knitted thing in this book. I already have a bunch  of the patterns in my knitting queue!

Cookbook that Actually Makes Me Want to Cook: Smitten Kitchen Every Day

I’m not much of a cook, but I do enjoy recipes that are easy, healthy (most of the time), and don’t involve more than ten ingredients – which means Smitten Kitchen Every Day just might be the only cookbook I need. If someone said I could only bring one cookbook to the (well-stocked with groceries) desert island, this is the one I would pick. I love the recipes and have already committed a few of them to memory, it covers a lot of ground in terms of meals types and has lots of great breakfast, mains, veggie, and dessert dishes.  Everything I’ve made from it has been absolutely delicious, and exactly how I wanted it to turn out. And that doesn’t always happen for me in the kitchen.

I’m Still Mulling Over: Women & Power

Women and Power is a short book (even shorter once you realize how many illustrations/photographs are in it) but it is an excellent exploration of the very timely- yet ancient- practice of how women are silenced and kept from accessing powerful roles in government, business, and work outside the home. It’s the kind of book I recommend everyone read – not only can you easily devour it in a single sitting, but it very clearly illustrates how any time a woman has achieved a certain amount of power, she is frequently vilified for it, or accused of being ‘manly’ or ‘unfeminine’. Touching on ancient Greece, the Trump election, Hilary Clinton; after you read it you will definitely want to talk about it, and likely press it into the hands of other smart, courageous women that you know and love.

Have you read any of these? Do you have a comfort book that you re-read, or a new book that you are dying to tell everyone about? Please share!


*Note: The links are Amazon affiliate links.*


  1. Corinne   •  

    Thank you for your book tipps. I couldn’t resist to see how much they were on amazon and for 99 cents I got the Station Eleven, even though I forbid myself to buy new books (but 99 cents 😉

    For saving reasons I am currently trying to keep from buying new books and am going through older favourites (thank goodness for Goodreads and my 4 to 5 star list) I already refinished The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriartry and am currently rereading The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. Both book are totally worth a second chance (or a first)

  2. Christelle L.   •  

    Thanks for the suggestions. I was able to reserve Women & Power and Station Eleven at my library. Can’t wait to read them!

  3. Laura   •  

    Thanks Julie, I’m definitely going to check out a couple of these. I love Smitten KItchen, and you’re right. Everything always turns out exactly as it should when following her recipes. I look forward to seeing what other books you recommend!

  4. Melissa Littlefield   •  

    Glad you enjoyed Station Eleven, Julie! I taught it in my Speculative Futures class this past semester. I was quite taken with the airport scenes and the Museum there.

    Hope all is well!

  5. Loulou   •  

    Ohhh, I love this new series already!

    I too loved Station Eleven.

  6. Debbie Huett   •  

    I read Station 11 for our staff book club. I wasn’t excited about it until I started reading it! I loved it and it does give you a lot to think about!

  7. LeslieM   •  

    What is it about Station Eleven? I read the book and then listened to the audiobook and have urged it on everyone I know. Since I love all your other choices as well I am hastening to procure a copy of the one I didn’t know about: As It Is In Heaven. Very much looking forward to it, since, clearly, I’ll love it. Thank you, Julie!

  8. Anne   •  

    I’ve heard others recommend Station Eleven as well so I think I may have to get my own copy even though I have a pile of books by my bedside that I’ve yet to read. I promised myself I would get back to reading more this year. I used to read a lot and haven’t done so in a while. Maybe I’ll start with this one! Thanks for the recommendations.

  9. Estela Blanco   •  

    Fun new series! Station 11 has been on my list to read for a few months. I’ll move it to the top.

  10. Melanie   •  

    I agree with you on Station Eleven–we read it for Book Club, but I had to miss the discussion! Boo! This was a rich book on several levels. I read and listened to it, and the audio version is as compelling as the book. And I own both of the Smitten Kitchen cookbooks. Now that my son is a pescetarian, I’m paying even more attention to her recipes; she is very vegetable heavy, with meat often being just a garnish, as I read one reviewer write. I might try your first suggestion. Thanks for this new feature!

  11. miss agnes   •  

    Thanks a lot for sharing your book interests, coming from a published author it is pretty interesting. The pattern book is lovely, I love Alicia Plummer’s patterns. Never heard of any the books but then I don’t read that much these days, I miss it. Some incentive to try and find some new interesting books to read.

  12. Tien   •  

    Love this new feature! I have not read any of the above but they all sound wonderful. The Smitten Kitchen cookbook looks like a winner. I love simple recipes that are also delicious & easy to make.

  13. Swissrose   •  

    Mary Beard is always excellent and this is probably an easier read than SPQR… ;o

    As it is in Heaven – I will try to get hold of this. When I saw the title, I expected the book to the movie of the same name, set in Sweden (it’s a beautiful film!) but obviously it isn’t!


  14. Andi   •  

    I was just thinking that I would like to read more this year. Now I do tend to read the HP series every year, but I would like to read other things. Station Eleven had been on my To Read list and I think I need to jump in and read it already.
    Smitten Kitchen everyday…sounds right up my alley. The fewer the ingredients the better.
    Great list of reads, Julie

  15. Ady Simmons   •  

    I am a big reader.i love your choices! Plum Dandi’s Book added to my queue as well. And Station Eleven was AMAZING! I do have comfort reading. Charles Dickens and Harry Potter are my go-tos for comfort reading. I suppose I am a sucker for the hero arc in storytelling. I have read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn every few years since I first read it in middle school though. Something draws me back to it over and over again. What is amazing to me, is that I get something different out of it depending on my stage of life. It is probably my all-time favorite book.

  16. Stefanie   •  

    I’ll check out the knitting book. Fantasy is what I mostly read along with cozies and sprinkled with romances in-between.

  17. Barbara   •  

    My comfort books are the old, short ones by Rosamunde Pilcher. I found a bunch of them at second-hand bookstores, and re-read them every couple of years. When I’m feeling blue, and need some comfort, they’re just the sort of easy, fun, happy stories I need.

    I tend to read a lot of YA fiction, and there’s a lot of good books to choose from now! Two of my recent favourites are “The War that Saved my Life” and “A Crack in the Sea”. I will definitely give these to my kids when they’re old enough, because they’re so good.

  18. Alina   •  

    Oh, that is a great feature – I am sure I will pick up lots of great books from your recommendations. Adding Station Eleven to my must-read list, it sounds fascinating! I recently got my kindle and so so happy about it, as it allows me to read Russian literature, as it is not always easy to get where I live. I am reading right now “The Bull’s Hour” and I love everything about it!

  19. Pam   •  

    I loved Station Eleven & recommended it to many (sometimes unlikely) people — because they will (or would have) like(d) it. I’m currently reading Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein with a group of high school girls. We just finished Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk, which is my *new* book to recommend generously. Both of these are young adult, but very much worthwhile for adults. I also just finished Sing, Unburied Sing, which was amazing, but challenging (especially emotionally) so I am retreating to an old Ngaio Marsh that I can’t remember if I’ve read or not. Nothing like aristocratic detectives for a little comfort reading.

  20. Snow   •  

    This is such a great idea!
    I picked up this cookbook at a used book store and probably make something from it or a variation, at least once a week.
    Super Natural Everyday by Heidi Swanson.
    There’s a cauliflower soup with mustard croutons that goes together and cooks up in under a half hour. So good. And I am not a fan of cauliflower.
    Green lentil soup with a curry drizzle. Who knew?! Again not a fan of green soup but a vindaloo curry drizzle,?! What that simple thing does to green soup is amazing.
    Just picked up The Red Hot Empress by Meredith Blevins because the book review quip was “Simultaneously kooky and mysterious”. Really-how do you pass that up? Fun read and I wasn’t ahead of the plot as I read.
    Nice to have an entertaining story for bedtime reading that won’t give nightmares.
    The Family Way by Rhys Bowen was another nightstand read. Female detective set in the early 1900s. Loved that the plot line took me in directions I wouldn’t have imagined and kept continuity and believability. (Yup it’s a word-mine 🙂

  21. Brenda   •  

    Hm, Station Eleven sounds like it might be the exception to my observed rule that books about theatre and theatre people are soooooo boring. I’ve never been able to figure out exactly why, and I always feel, given that I’ve been in theatre basically since I was born and am currently co-running a theatre company, that I *should* enjoy books about theatre people, but I never do. I will try this one, though, and see how it goes. 🙂

    Also, this is a good reminder that I really need to get back into my book blogging groove…

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