Book Reviews: What I Read in January 2018

This list may look a little different than previous months, since there are more nonfiction books than fiction.  One of my goals this year is to read more nonfiction, and I have really been enjoying it so far!  If you have any great nonfiction recommendations, please share them with me!

My thoughts on each of this month’s reads are below, listed in order of when I finished each book (no spoilers, I promise).

Salvation on Sand Mountain – Dennis Covington

I have been meaning to read this book for years, so when Chatham got me a copy for Christmas, I finally got around to it.  Salvation on Sand Mountain is a deep-dive into the culture of the religious snake handling community in the Southern Appalachia region, specifically in the area of Northeast Alabama right around where I grew up.  This book was absolutely fascinating.  The author fully immerses himself in the snake handling community and shares his experiences in a totally nonjudgmental way.  Many of the locations mentioned in the book were familiar to me, leading me to the interesting revelation that all of this was likely going on right under my nose.

The Power – Naomi Alderman

If you follow book news at all, you’ve probably already heard of The Power, a book that made it onto more “Best of 2017” lists than you could shake a stick at.  This was my Book of the Month Club selection from October, and I finally got around to picking it up.  The Power is a dystopian fiction told through multiple perspectives.  The book follows the ten-year period after teenage girls worldwide develop the power to send electrical shocks through their bodies.  As you might expect, this development turns the gender power structure on its head, a change that is met by most with fear and resistance.  Alderman is a skillful writer who manages to propose big ideas without overwhelming the development of the characters and the plot. This story is violent, dramatic, scary, and sometimes disturbing.  It explores corruption and power structures in a similar way as the classic novel Animal Farm, while evoking feelings of other feminist dystopian literature like Louise Erdrich’s Future Home of the Living God(reviewed here) and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (reviewed here).  I finished this book with chills in my body and thoughts racing through my head.

Fire and Fury – Michael Wolff

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House was heavily-hyped in the media, so when I finally got off the wait list at the bookstore, I bought it and started reading immediately.  I felt conflicted with this book.  Very few sources are willing to speak on record and the author’s note basically says that much of what is included in this book is hearsay.  So, I wasn’t sure on a statement by statement basis what was fact and what was exaggerated.   The publishers understandably rushed to print, but the result is sloppy.  I wish they had taken a few more months to correct typos and cite sources.  However, the book paints a believable portrait of an administration in turmoil and a leader who wasn’t fully prepared for (and probably did not even want) the role he assumed.  Based on the buzz surrounding this book, I expected it to make me angry at our president, but was surprised to find that I felt sorry for him.  Rather than supporting President Trump, the team of people surrounding him seem to be engaged in a Game of Thrones-style strategic battle amongst themselves.

This Must Be the Place – Maggie O’Farrell

This Must Be the Place is Anne Bogel’s Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club selection for February, and what a good selection it was!  This story reminded me so much of Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins (reviewed here), both in structure and tale, and it was also reminiscent of Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go Bernadette? (reviewed here).  The chapters bounce around in time and perspective from a variety of characters providing the reader snippets of the full story.   I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot, as I quite enjoyed going in knowing nothing and piecing the story puzzle together as I went along.  O’Farrell did a fabulous job describing the settings and developing the quirks and personalities of the characters.  More than anything, This Must Be the Place is a love story, and it was simply a joy to read.

Moms on Call: Toddler Book – Laura Hunter & Jennifer Walker

I used the Moms on Call sleep training and scheduling program to successfully transition Carla May from colicky newborn to sleeping through the night.  I forgot that I had ordered their entire set of books back in my sleep-deprived newborn state until I discovered this on the shelf.  I was hoping I might pick up a few tricks on discipline, something I am not very comfortable with yet, and I certainly did.  Some of the advice in here was not well-suited to my parenting style, but I did pick up a few gems.  One of the tricks I’ve already started implementing is responding to toddler “No’s” with “Yes, ma’am’s.”

Have you read any of these books? What was the best book you read this month?

Let me know in the comments below!


What have you been reading lately?  Check out Modern Mrs. Darcy for more book reviews.

FYI: If you decide to purchase any books from this post, I recommend you buy them from a locally owned bookstore if that is an available option for you.  If you decide to purchase from Amazon by clicking on any of the book covers from these book reviews, I get a small commission (at no extra cost to you).  Also, if you sign up for the Book of the Month Club (which I highly recommend) by clicking on any of the links in the book reviews, I get a free book. Thank you!


  1. I have never heard of a snake-handling community in the Appalachian Mountains! That is so intriguing! I grew up in the Pacific NW and now live in Texas so I never lived anywhere near the Appalachians but the culture there is something I would like to read more about since it is so different!

    • marilu

      February 15, 2018 at 10:23 am

      It’s a pretty quiet community. I grew up right around it and didn’t realize it existed until I was older. Pick up the book if you’re interested in the culture of the Appalachians! It was well-written and eye opening. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Salvation on Sand Mountain looks interesting. I lived in western NC for six years so am familiar with that area. I also grew up in south Georgia, so hearing about those types of religious practices is not completely foreign to me. Mom’s on Call looks good. I read about every sleep-training book ever published when my daughter was that age. She didn’t fully sleep through the night until after my son was born (they’re 4 1/2 years apart!). I like to get all the advice I can and apply it to my own parenting style.

    • marilu

      February 16, 2018 at 6:02 am

      The amount on of sleep training books on my shelf is ridiculous! And in my sleep-deprived newborn state, I found it so hard to get through them! I ended up using most of the Moms on Call methods because the books are short and to-the-point (and the methods worked!). I also take all the parenting advice with a grain of salt though 😉

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