January 2023 Book Reviews

There’s something about January that makes it feel like the longest month ever. It’s the exact same length as December yet somehow feels like it has 78 more days. Whew! We finally made it through though and that means it’s time for my first monthly book review of 2023!

This month I read three books and they were all over the place genre-wise (I love those kind of months!) and I’m excited to discuss – let’s get into it!

Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman

As the subtitle suggests: Pamela is an American mother living in Paris. She looks around at all the other mothers and children and realizes there are some major differences. French children are sleeping through the night at just a few months old. They are eating balanced meals with adventurous flavors (and very little snacking in between!) They are playing contentedly while their parents chat with one another, not needing constant parental interference. This book sets out to answer the author and reader’s most burning question: how is this possible? What do the French do differently?

I found this book to be really fascinating and discovered that Justin and my parenting philosophies actually align well with many of the French ideas. For example, all of our children have been good sleepers who sleep through the night by 8-12 weeks old (I know, I know). We would never have said we did anything special and thought we just got lucky, but in reading what the French parents do, we realized we actually did that same thing! Whether about food, schedules, or general lifestyle, I found myself frequently reading passages aloud to Justin and discussing them together. At one point he was like “what is this book called again? I want to start recommending it to people.” Ha! Now did we align with every single thing? Not really. But it was insightful, entertaining, and thought-provoking (not to mention, really made me want to pack up and visit France!) and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s kind of like a mini memoir + travel escape + parenting guide all wrapped in one and if you’re in or approaching the stage of parenting little ones, I would definitely recommend this book.

The Bodyguard by Katherine Center

Hannah just wants to work. She was dumped by her boyfriend (and co-worker) right after her mother’s funeral and she wants to cope by leaving the country asap. There’s a tantalizing job offer in London and all she has to do to earn her place there is knock her next assignment out of the park. Her job as a bodyguard has put her in charge of a myriad of characters, some decent, others not-so-savory, but she’s confident that she has what it takes to handle one last job in Texas . . . that is, until she realizes her next assignment is guarding Jack Stapleton. Gorgeous and charismatic movie star Jack Stapleton. And what’s worse: instead of discreetly shadowing as his bodyguard, she has to pretend to be his girlfriend. Hannah does her best to act the part but it isn’t long before it doesn’t feel very much like acting.

This book was a delightful pick for a snowy day. I cozied up with a blanket and dove in and didn’t want to put it down! It’s pretty much just as predictable as you would imagine based on the synopsis, but that’s just what I was in the mood for. Hannah is neurotic but smart, capable, and down-to-earth and Jack is just as swoony and sweet as you would want him to be. I loved their dynamic and found them easy to root for! My one critique would be that it’s not the strongest writing I’ve encountered; some of the side stories (I can’t even really call them side plots) that dealt with Hannah and Jack’s individual histories felt a little underdeveloped and were quickly in and out of the main plot. You also have to just go with some of the more ridiculous aspects of stalking situation that I think are meant to be more comedic but I found to be silly. That aside, I really enjoyed it and found it to be a fun romantic escape. It’s a particularly great choice if you’re looking for something romantic but not steamy (it’s suggestive at most, and there’s maybe 4-5 swear words total but otherwise pretty clean). It’s a sweet and satisfying read that will leave you smiling!

The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare

All Adunni wants is her education. She wants a future that escapes the life of poverty she was born into, and she wants a change to see the world outside of her small, rural Nigerian village. Above all, what she wants is a louding voice – a voice that allows her to speak up for herself and all other women. But her father does not see the value in education; what he sees is the value in selling her as a young bride. Adunni is forced into marriage at 14 years old and that marks the beginning of a journey towards the city of Lagos that is beyond anything she could have imagined.

It was somewhat hard for me to get into this story because the prose was that of a 14-year-old Nigerian girl with broken English; while it was a fantastic way for the author to truly putting the reader inside the mind of Adunni, it was kind of jarring to read and took me a while to adjust to. As a character, Adunni’s naivete was frustrating at times, but her strength, bravery, and unrelenting hope for her future was incredibly inspiring. That being said, this book deserves content warnings for various kinds of abuse and was pretty heartbreaking. There were many times that I found it difficult to read. I don’t know much about Nigerian culture, but through some character reactions and the addition of Nigerian facts before the later chapters I was able to discern more of what is acceptable and what isn’t, and what is supposed to be unacceptable but is allowed to slide. Ultimately I’m glad I read it – it’s inspiring and hopeful, giving voice to woman and providing a testament that women and girls have value – but it’s difficult to say I enjoyed or to wholeheartedly recommend because of the difficult layers of content. It’s well-written, compelling, tragic, hopeful, and will definitely make you think, and it’s a good idea to read with someone else and discuss afterwards.

That’s it for January! Now onto February, where I can already tell I’ll be in the mood for more easy-breezy romance reads. What is on your reading list?

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