Category Archives: TWSM Book Review

‘The Thirteenth Tale’ TWSM Book Review

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

 

As the fall air turns crisp and pumpkins abound, why not curl up with a spooky story? The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield will whisk you away into a world of mystery, mansions, and family secrets. 

The story is told by Margaret Lea, a book lover and biographer who is hired to interview one of the most celebrated writers of her time, Vida Winters, an elderly woman with emerald eyes, copper curls, and a past full of secrets. Miss Winters is still full of fire and needs to tell her story before time runs out. As the novel unfolds, we learn about the love and loss that has shaped and strengthened both women. 

Some of my favorite quotes from The Thirteenth Tale include: 

“My story is not only mine; it is the story of Angelfield. Angelfield the village, Angelfield the house. And the Angelfield family itself. George and Mathilde; their children, Charlie and Isabelle; Isabelle’s children, Emmeline and Adeline. Their house, their fortunes, their fears. And their ghost. One should always pay attention to ghosts, shouldn’t one, Miss Lea?” (Chapter entitled And so we Began…) 

“There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic.” (Chapter entitled The Letter) 

“My gripe is not with lovers of the truth but with truth herself. What succor, what consolation is there in truth, compared to a story? What good is truth, at midnight, in the dark, when the wind is roaring like a bear in the chimney? When the lightning strikes shadows on the bedroom wall and the rain taps at the window with its long fingernails?” (Chapter entitled The Letter) 

The Thirteenth Tale is a gripping story that will keep you reading long past the witching hour. Setterfield honors the ashes of the past while providing a glimpse of enduring happiness for the future. Light a few candles, brew a cup of tea, and give it a read!

Rating 4 ½ out of 5 stars

Copyright 2006 by Diane Setterfield 

Liz is a technical writer by day and a humor writer by night. She lives in Minnesota with her two teenage daughters and their cats, Beau and Phoebe. When Liz is not reading, writing, or searching for new books to review, she can be found practicing yoga or enjoying time with friends and family — usually around a fireplace or a lake. She is savoring the time that she still has with her daughters under her roof, yet she secretly dreams of being an empty nester who can travel more and not have to worry about other people borrowing her socks.

TWSM Book Review ‘Project 333’

Book Review of Project 333: The Minimalist Fashion Challenge That Proves Less Really Is So Much More

by Courtney Carver

Why not try a fall fashion challenge? Whether you are out and about (at least somewhat) or entirely house-bound during Covid, ​Project 333​ can refresh how you look and feel. I read Carver’s book and took the fashion challenge. At first, the idea of limiting myself to 33 items of clothing for 3 months seemed silly and not feasible, but I ended up loving the concept. I wear my favorite things more often, and I also mix and match my clothes in ways that make my life simpler, and am still in fashion.

There were several things that made ​Project 333 ​approachable for me. This is not a “throw out most of your wardrobe and give it all to charity challenge”. She suggests carefully choosing the items to include and then simply putting the others away for 3 months. The fact that I could technically back out at any time sounded good! Also, there are basic items that you don’t count in the 33 wardrobe items — lingerie, socks, jewelry that you wear everyday, and clothing that you only wear at home or for working out in aren’t included.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from ​Project 333:

“If there are one or two outfits in your closet that you really enjoy wearing, create a uniform with your 33 items and wear very similar things each day. Use other examples you might find on the internet for inspiration and experimentation, but give yourself room to be you and decide what you want to wear.”​ (Chapter entitled “Messy”)

“I prefer wearing clothes I can live in, clothes that fit my body as it is and not as it ‘shouldbe’ “. ​(Chapter entitled “Crazy”)

“Seeing the outfit you wore to an event that made you sad will make you sad. Holding onto your ex’s sweatshirt or your old work uniform can make you sad. You don’t get to hold on to people, relationships, or any part of the past just because you are holding on to the stuff.” ​(Chapter entitled “Emotion”)

By trying the Project 333 challenge, I found that less really can be more. I wore my favorite colors more often, threw together outfits more easily, and didn’t have to let go of any of the signature jewelry that I love. If you are ready for a change this fall, I highly recommend that you give Carver’s book a try.

Rating 4 stars out of 5

Copyright 2020

Liz​ is a technical writer by day and a humor writer by night. She lives in Minnesota with her two teenage daughters and their cats, Beau and Phoebe. ​When Liz is not reading, writing, or searching for new books to review, she can be found practicing yoga or enjoying time with friends and family — usually around a fireplace or a lake. She is savoring the time that she still has with her daughters under her roof, yet she secretly dreams of being an empty nester who can travel more and not have to worry about other people borrowing her socks.

TWSM Book Review ‘Beloved’

Beloved by Toni Morrison

 

I decided to reread my all time favorite novel, Beloved by Toni Morrison. This is one of those few “great books” that truly lives up to its reputation, having won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1988. In spite of the fact that I have read Beloved several times, it still captivated me. Beloved is a story of love, strength, pain, and redemption that is set shortly after the Civil War.

Beloved was inspired by the life of Margaret Garner, An African American woman who escaped slavery in Kentucky in 1856 by crossing the Ohio River into Ohio, a free state. Captured, she killed her baby daughter rather than have her taken back into slavery.

Sethe and her older daughter, Denver, are main characters in the novel. The “baby ghost” of Sethe’s slain daughter, Beloved, comes to live with them, creating all kinds of opportunities for revisiting what they have been through, the meaning of family, and their hopes for the future.

One of the most appealing qualities of Beloved is how Morrison shares both the incredible strength and the all too human weaknesses of her characters. The day to day reality of an African American woman who was once a slave is described in amazing detail.

“Quickly, lightly she touched the stove. Then she trailed her fingers through the flour, parting, separating small hills and ridges of it, looking for mites. Finding none, she poured soda and salt in the crease of her folded hand and tossed both into the flour. She reached into a can and scooped half a handful of lard. Deftly she squeezed the flour through it, then with her left hand sprinkling water, she formed the dough.” (Chapter 1) 

“Sethe had the amazing luck of six whole years of marriage to that “somebody” son who had fathered every one of her children. A blessing she was reckless enough to take for granted…” (Chapter 1) 

“And no one, nobody on this earth, would list her daughter’s characteristics on the animal side of the paper.” (Chapter 3) 

Although the brutality of slavery is depicted throughout the novel, Beloved is much more a story of enduring and overcoming suffering than a story of the suffering itself. It will make you laugh, cry, and want to hold those close to you even tighter. I highly recommend this book.

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Beloved by Toni Morrison 

Copyright 1987, 2004 by Toni Morrison 

Liz is a technical writer by day and a humor writer by night. She lives in Minnesota with her two teenage daughters and their cats, Beau and Phoebe. When Liz is not reading, writing, or searching for new books to review, she can be found practicing yoga or enjoying time with friends and family — usually around a fireplace or a lake. She is savoring the time that she still has with her daughters under her roof, yet she secretly dreams of being an empty nester who can travel more and not have to worry about other people borrowing her socks.

TWSM Book Review ‘Untamed’

Untamed b​y Glennon Doyle

 

If you are looking for an uplifting book about being your best self​, Untamed​ by Glennon Doyle fits the bill. Throughout the book, Doyle uses the metaphor of walking away from the cages that society teaches us to live in to become the strong, free, “untamed” women we were meant to be. We do this by looking to our true selves and becoming aware of what and who we want to be as opposed to what and who others expect us to be. We then make choices that are right for us as individuals.

Although Doyle is a best selling author, I was unfamiliar with her work until now. She has experienced many challenges and changes in her life including recovering from alcoholism and an eating disorder, and choosing to leave her husband for a woman who is now her wife — all while being a memoir writer in the public eye. Doyle does an incredible job of writing in a style that is real and universal and connecting with her reader, whether or not we can relate to her specific life experiences. Her humor also shines throughout the book.
Some of my favorite quotes from ​Untamed include:

“Ten minutes a day is not too long to spend finding yourself, Glennon. For God’s sake,
you spend eighty minutes a day finding your keys.”​ (Part Two: Know)

“When a woman finally learns that pleasing the world is impossible, she learns to please
herself.”​ (Part Two: Know)

“Selfless women make for an efficient society, but not for a beautiful, true, or just one.”
(Part Three: Aches)

I think we can all relate to the metaphor of being caged vs. being free and untamed in our own ways. Perhaps it was learning that polite girls don’t talk back while we were growing up and taking that to mean that sharing a divergent opinion is unacceptable, when the same behavior would have been encouraged in a boy. Or perhaps there are cages of perfectionism embedded in our definitions of being “good mothers”. It is easy to overlook that all mothers are human, and therefore none of us are perfect.

Untamed i​s an empowering book that encourages its readers to gently examine their own lives and be brave in making their own choices — all while laughing (and perhaps crying) along the way. I highly recommend it.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Copyright 2020 by Glennon Doyle

Liz​ is a technical writer by day and a humor writer by night. She lives in Minnesota with her two teenage daughters and their cats, Beau and Phoebe. ​When Liz is not reading, writing, or searching for new books to review, she can be found practicing yoga or enjoying time with friends and family — usually around a fireplace or a lake. She is savoring the time that she still has with her daughters under her roof, yet she secretly dreams of being an empty nester who can travel more and not have to worry about other people borrowing her socks.

TWSM Book Review ‘Hello Summer’

Hello Summer by Mary Kay Andrews

Hello Summer is a hot-off-the-press summer read complete with mystery, romance, a beautiful beach, and a strong female protagonist who loves her family, her career, and perhaps a certain old flame. It would make a great beach read, but it is an equally satisfying virtual vacation for those of us who are land-locked or “Covid-locked” this summer.

Andrews main character, Conley Hawkins, is a journalist whose career is upended when she
receives the news that the cool, new job she has accepted will not happen because the
company went under — during the going away party from her old job! She packs up her bags
and her pride and decides to visit family by the beach for the summer while looking for new
employment. Along the way, Conley stumbles upon an old love and a dangerous local news
story worthy of a soap opera.

One of the most entertaining parts of Hello Summer is the treatment of family relationships —
including the emotional ghosts and hopes for the future that come with them. Conley has to deal with her rascal of a grandmother, the long shadow of her missing mother, grief she hasn’t
worked through from her father’s death, and her overbearing, know-it-all sister.

The theme of strong women can be seen throughout the book. Here are a couple of my favorite
quotes:

“I have to admire her. Symmes Robinette walked off and left her with two teenagers to
raise, for a woman twenty years younger. Typical of that time, he had all the money, so
he had all the power when it came time for the settlement. And yet, she managed to take
care of business despite all that.”

Toddie Robinette was no shrinking Southern belle, Skelly agreed. “She could be tough
as nails when she had to be.” (Chapter 44).

The ups and downs of Conley Hawkins’s relationships, her floundering (or burgeoning?) career,
and the twists and turns in the mystery to be solved will keep you turning the pages of Hello
Summer.

By the end of the novel, Andrews wraps up all of the plot twists and relationship issues in
satisfying ways for the reader. If I have one criticism of this book, it is that Hello Summer is
decidedly light reading, but sometimes that is exactly what we need. I recommend that you kick
off your shoes, dig your toes into some sand (or maybe just put on some fuzzy socks) and enjoy
Hello Summer.

Rating 4 out of 5 stars

Copyright Mary Kay Andrews 2020

Liz is a technical writer by day and a humor writer by night. She lives in Minnesota with her two
teenage daughters and their cats, Beau and Phoebe. When Liz is not reading, writing, or
searching for new books to review, she can be found practicing yoga or enjoying time with
friends and family — usually around a fireplace or a lake. She is savoring the time that she still
has with her daughters under her roof, yet she secretly dreams of being an empty nester who
can travel more and not have to worry about other people borrowing her socks.

TWSM Book Review ‘I Know How She Does It’

I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time

by Laura Vanderkam

I don’t know about you, but I am always on the lookout for helpful time management tips. I Know How She Does It by Laura Vanderkam delivers. Vanderkam takes the unique approach of reviewing actual data — time logs from the women in her Mosaic Project. Each woman recorded how she spent her time 24 hours a day for one week. Her participants each “have it all”, something she defines as earning over $100k per year and having at least one child under the age of 18 years old.

Don’t worry! You do not have to fit this definition to find the book helpful, and relationship status is not part of her definition of “having it all”. Yes, Vanderkam includes a few examples of women who have incredibly helpful husbands (and some of them have nannies, too), but many of them don’t. And real life examples like needing to work and having a sick child at the same time are universal parental experiences regardless of important tools like having a supportive partner, paid leave time, or the ability to work from home.

The math itself is empowering. As Vanderkam points out,

“There are 168 hours in a week. If you work 50, and sleep 8 per night (56 hours per week in total), that leaves 62 hours for other things. If you work 60 hours and sleep 8 hours per night, that leaves 52 hours for other things.” (Introduction) 

Yes, the other things may include activities like eating lunch while checking your work email, doing laundry, or waiting in line at the pharmacy to pick up a prescription for that sick child after getting up in the middle of the night with her, but there are still other things, too. Things like having a meal (not necessarily dinner!) with family members, exercise, and hobbies.

I tried the time log for a week, and I was surprised at how grateful and empowered it helped me to feel. I was also shocked at how much time I spent driving my daughters around (although some of our best conversations happen in the car which balanced this out). That week I also spent time visiting with friends and family (while social distancing), reading, and practicing yoga.

Vanderkam encourages her readers to recognize that they have leisure time and to take charge of this and enjoy it.

“Think through your leisure time. People are generally good about setting work goals, but we’re not as good about personal ones. In five minutes, you could decide that next week 

you’ll make dinner plans with friends, watch a favorite movie with your family, and make your famous apple pie over the weekend.” (Chapter 9) 

Regardless of the obligations you have in your own 168 hours each week, I recommend taking the time to read I Know How She Does It. It will help you to create a beautiful mosaic of your own.

Rating 5 stars out of 5

I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time Copyright 2015, 2017 by Laura Vanderkam

Liz is a technical writer by day and a humor writer by night. She lives in Minnesota with her two teenage daughters and their cats, Beau and Phoebe. When Liz is not reading, writing, or searching for new books to review, she can be found practicing yoga or enjoying time with friends and family — usually around a fireplace or a lake. She is savoring the time that she still has with her daughters under her roof, yet she secretly dreams of being an empty nester who can travel more and not have to worry about other people borrowing her socks.

 

 

TWSM Book Review ‘Camino Winds’

Camino Winds by John Grisham

Camino Winds by John Grisham is a hot off the press summer thriller that is sure to entertain you. It is a sequel to Grisham’s book, Camino Island, but it can stand alone if you haven’t read the first book. In Camino Winds, Grisham takes the reader on a thrill ride that includes both a hurricane and murder.

Camino Winds picks up three years after Camino Island. For those of you who are Grisham fans, you’ll be happy to know that his characters have continued to grow in interesting ways. Grisham honors the first book while setting up satisfying new plot twists for the second.

Grisham’s Hurricane Leo also makes for an interesting parallel to our current global pandemic. As the characters navigate the murder mystery which will keep you guessing until the end, they also have to deal with reality with a capital “R” in the form of Leo’s aftermath and how it changes their daily lives.

A few of my favorite quotes from Camino Winds include:

“Under your theory, Nelson was likely murdered because of this novel I’m holding in my pocket, right?”    “… So someone has to read the novel to begin unraveling the crime. You? Me? The police?” (Chapter Four)

“Summer was over and the gang was scattering. The gang was also burdened by the aftermath and fearful that life might never be the same. Bay Books was practically deserted these days, and that was enough to worry all its writers.” (Chapter Five)

“The search for what?” “A contract killer. We know of several, but it’s a fairly nebulous group. They don’t convene annually for parties and they don’t have a registry.” (Chapter Six)

If I have one negative to share about Camino Winds, it is that this book is light reading. However, that is a little like saying, “This John Grisham book is a John Grisham book”. He is famous for his ability to create entertaining legal thrillers that keep the reader engrossed from start to finish, not novels that make you ask life’s deep questions.

I highly recommend this brand new summer thriller. Whether you are sheltering at home or life is beginning to get back to normal for you, Camino Winds won’t disappoint.

Rating 4 stars out of 5

Copyright 2020 by Belfry Holdings, Inc.

Liz is a technical writer by day and a humor writer by night. She lives in Minnesota with her two teenage daughters and their cats, Beau and Phoebe. When Liz is not reading, writing, or searching for new books to review, she can be found practicing yoga or enjoying time with friends and family — usually around a fireplace or a lake. She is savoring the time that she still has with her daughters under her roof, yet she secretly dreams of being an empty nester who can travel more and not have to worry about other people borrowing her socks.

TWSM Book Review ‘Self Massage’

Self Massage: The Complete 15-Minute-A-Day Massage Programme’ by Jaqueline Young

If you are looking for an easy way to improve your self-care, then Self-Massage: The complete
15-minute-a-day massage programme by Jacqueline Young is for you.

I love a good professional massage (and a back or foot rub from a significant other is always
nice), but I had never tried self-massage before reading this book. I was surprised by how
simple it is. And unlike other types of massage, self-massage is free and available to you
regardless of your schedule, your relationship status, or business closures due to Covid-19.

Jacqueline Young, the author, is a clinical psychologist and acupuncturist who lived for four and
a half years in Japan studying and practicing oriental medicine. She has also travelled widely in
India and the Far East studying traditional health techniques. She is the author of books and
articles on natural medicine.

Self-Massage is based on a combination of Japanese and Chinese massage therapies,
together with acupressure techniques. It includes information about the meridian system and
acupoint guide for those who are interested in learning more about these. However, if you just
want to make your neck or feet feel better at the end of a long day, you can totally use the book
for that.

Young gives step-by-step, easy-to-follow instructions with over 200 photos illustrating the
techniques. She breaks the self-massage into easy routines in the following areas:

1. Warm-up
2. Head and face
3. Neck, shoulders and arms
4. Chest and abdomen
5. Back
6. Legs and feet

I started with the head and face routine, and was delighted at how refreshing it was. All six
routines together take only 15 minutes (once you have a little practice).
Some of my favorite quotes from Self-Massage include:

“With this massage you will have a self-health system literally at your fingertips! It can be
used anytime, anywhere, and no special equipment or oils are needed.” (Introduction)

“Once you feel confident of the movements they can easily be adapted for use on
others. So, by learning self-massage, friends and family can benefit, too!” (Introduction)

“By being sensitive to exactly what your body needs, at any given time, you can get the
best out of this system and learn to give of your best, too.” (The Self-Massage System)

Young does not mention consulting your doctor before using the techniques in Self-Massage,however she clearly states that “all pressure must be gentle and comfortable” (Introduction).

If you have any concerns about the safety of self-massage for you as an individual, please consult a medical professional.

I hope that you give Self-Massage a try. It is a quick read, the techniques are easy to learn, and
we all deserve the benefits it has to offer.

Rating 4 ½ stars out of 5

Copyright Jacqueline Young 1992

Liz is a technical writer by day and a humor writer by night. She lives in Minnesota with her two
teenage daughters and their cats, Beau and Phoebe. When Liz is not reading, writing, or
searching for new books to review, she can be found practicing yoga or enjoying time with
friends and family — usually around a fireplace or a lake. She is savoring the time that she still
has with her daughters under her roof, yet she secretly dreams of being an empty nester who
can travel more and not have to worry about other people borrowing her socks.

TWSM Book Review ‘Embracing Uncertainty’

Embracing Uncertainty by Susan Jeffers

If there is a book title that encapsulates how I have been feeling lately with all of the changes due to Covid-19, it has to be “Embracing Uncertainty”. Jeffers book was written shortly after the September 11th terrorist attacks in 2001, but it is as fresh now as it was then. She weaves hope, strength, and acceptance throughout her book with easy exercises that the reader can use to face the future with greater peace of mind and empowerment.

Jeffers was a psychologist who is probably best known for her book, “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway”. During her career, she was the Executive Director of the Floating Hospital in New York, taught a course about fear at the New School for Social Research, and wrote several best selling books. She died of cancer in 2012.

Embracing Uncertainty is upbeat, yet looks reality straight in the eyes. The exercises that she suggests in her book can be done a few minutes at a time, and she encourages the reader to choose the ones that “speak” to him or her.

Jeffers expresses a belief in a higher power (Chapter 10 is entitled “Let God Worry about it!”) from an inclusive stance. She shares her own views, including some concerns about how organized religion can be twisted toward hate instead of toward love, while respecting her readers’ beliefs and opinions.

Some of my favorite quotes from her book include:

“Embracing Uncertainty is a book about sleeping better at night … about easing the pain in our brains that comes from trying to control the uncontrollable … about making life more an enriching adventure than a continuous worry.” (Introduction)

“If we can shift our uncertainty, our not knowing, into an adventure, how wonderful that would be. Even if things go wrong, we would always be the seeker rather than the victim.” (Chapter One)

“I believe that when you have a strong intention, you set energy in motion. Energy in motion touches other energy in motion and remarkable things can happen.” (Chapter Four)

The timelessness of Embracing Uncertainty is comforting. When you read it, you realize that people have been strong enough to come out the other side of tough things for generations. We can too, and we can even make an adventure out of it. I highly recommend this book.

Rating 5 stars out of 5

Embracing Uncertainty by Susan Jeffers, PhD. Copyright 2003

Liz is a technical writer by day and a humor writer by night. She lives in Minnesota with her two teenage daughters and their cats, Beau and Phoebe. When Liz is not reading, writing, or searching for new books to review, she can be found practicing yoga or enjoying time with friends and family — usually around a fireplace or a lake. She is savoring the time that she still has with her daughters under her roof, yet she secretly dreams of being an empty nester who can travel more and not have to worry about other people borrowing her socks.

TWSM Book Review ‘Beautiful Ruins’

Could you use a vacation? At least a virtual one? If so, Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter is just the ticket. 

This novel is an escape to the (fictional) village of Porto Vergogna, a centuries-old seaside town, which is located in the (actual) Cinque Terre area of the Italian Riviera. Portions of the novel also take place in the movie industry in Hollywood, California. The book hops between the 1960s and the early 2000s, sharing an engaging “almost romance” that spans decades. An unknown American actress, a famous Hollywood actor, and the owner of a small hotel in Porto Vergogna are all key to the story. Beautiful Ruins is a page-turner with endearing characters that will touch your heart and make you smile. 

The descriptions of the region in Italy are enough to make you want to read the book. 

“Finally, they crested the cliff and stood on the ledge above the village, the drop-off right at their feet — wind ripe, sea pulsing, foam curling on the rocks below.” 

“Dee stood near the edge, so frail that Pasquale had the urge to grab her, to keep her from being blown away by the wind. ‘It’s gorgeous Pasquale,’ she said. The sky was hazy-clear beneath a smear of faint cloud, washed out blue against the darker sea.” (Chapter 6) 

Walter creates characters whose heartaches strike a universal chord. 

“Stories are people. I’m a story, you’re a story … your father is a story. Our stories go in every direction, but sometimes, if we’re lucky, our stories join into one, and for a while, we’re less alone.” (Chapter 3) 

He also pokes fun at the entertainment industry. 

“Great fiction tells unknown truths. Great film goes further. Great film improves Truth. After all, what Truth ever made $40 million in its first weekend of wide release? What Truth sold in forty foreign territories in six hours? Who’s lining up to see a sequel to Truth?” (Chapter 9) 

If you are cooped up at home due to a global pandemic (or even if you aren’t!), I highly recommend Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. Grab a cool drink, put your feet up, and enjoy your well-deserved vacation. 

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Copyright 2012

4 1⁄2 out of 5 Stars 

Liz is a technical writer by day and a humor writer by night. She lives in Minnesota with her two teenage daughters and their cats, Beau and Phoebe. When Liz is not reading, writing, or searching for new books to review, she can be found practicing yoga or enjoying time with friends and family — usually around a fireplace or a lake. She is savoring the time that she still has with her daughters under her roof, yet she secretly dreams of being an empty nester who can travel more and not have to worry about other people borrowing her socks.