Category Archives: TWSM Book Review

TWSM Book Review ‘The Four Winds’

If you are looking for a novel to make you smile, cry, and marvel at just how strong a single mom can be, The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah is a great choice. Set in the dust bowl of the 1930s, The Four Winds follows the story of Elsa, a woman with the odds stacked against her from the start. As she puts one foot in front of the other no matter what, she finds strength that she didn’t know she had and love that she didn’t know she deserved.

The Four Winds is a New York Times bestseller that delves into environmental disaster, economic collapse, workers rights, and fresh starts. The story is profoundly sad, but it is ultimately one of triumph. It will also make you angry about the treatment of women and glad that you live in the twenty-first century (after Elsa becomes a single mom, at one point she is told to continue to wear her wedding ring because it would help her to stay physically safe and be viewed as respectable enough to get a job and housing?!).

Some of my favorite quotes from The Four Winds include:

“She’d learned how to disappear in place long ago. She was like one of those animals whose defense mechanism is to blend into the landscape and become invisible. It was her way of dealing with rejection.” (Chapter three)

“ ‘The things your parents say and the things your husband doesn’t say become a mirror, don’t they? You see yourself as they see you, and no matter how far you come, you bring that mirror with you.’ 

‘Break it,’ Jean said. 

‘How?’ 

‘With a gosh dang rock.’ “ (Chapter thirty)

“A warrior believes in an end she can’t see and fights for it. A warrior never gives up. A warrior fights for those weaker than herself. It sounds like motherhood to me.” (Chapter thirty-five)

The Four Winds is a novel that will draw you in, tug at your heartstrings, and leave you in awe of the grit and triumph that can come from love. I highly recommend that you put it on your reading list. Once you pick it up, you won’t want to put it back down.

Rating 4 stars out of 5 

Copyright 2021 by Visible Ink Corporation

Liz is a technical writer by day and a humor writer by night. She lives in Minnesota with her younger daughter and their two cats. 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. She is savoring the time that she has left before her younger daughter flies from the nest, yet she is also secretly looking forward to a time when she can travel more and not worry about anyone borrowing her socks.

TWSM Book Review ‘The Successful Single Mom Gets Rich’

 

If you would like to read a book about finances written by a single mom who has “been there”, then The Successful Single Mom Gets Rich: Take Control of Your Finances and Your Future by Honorèe Corpron Corder is for you. Corpron Corder’s common sense advice and empathetic tone can help you whether your financial concerns are big or small.

Corpron Corder is one of my favorite authors. She has written a series of Successful Single Mom books which are filled with hope, humor, and down to earth action steps. The Successful Single Mom Gets Rich is no exception. Corpron Corder is not a financial advisor. She is a player-coach, entrepreneur, author, speaker, and mentor to professionals around the world.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from The Successful Single Mom Gets Rich:

“One of the reasons I wrote this book is because I believe that regardless of where you start out, anything is possible for you. I want you to start to believe it, and eventually know it.” (Chapter One)

“If you are saddled with debt or don’t have an emergency fund, those are your first areas of focus. Every single aspect of your financial life must be uncovered and known. Very simply, you can’t get where you want to go (Point B), if you don’t know where you are today (Point A).” (Chapter Two)

“The good news is, and there’s always good news, you get to change your now, your future, and your children’s futures.” (Chapter Nine)

My only problem with The Successful Single Mom Gets Rich is in one of the single mom examples that is shared in the book. In the name of being prepared to move forward, there is an example of a single mom named Tracey who endured “on-going physical and emotional abuse from her husband” while financially getting ready to leave the marriage (Chapter One). Staying in a situation that could be dangerous for her or her children strikes me as dead wrong regardless of finances. Perhaps Tracey’s definition of “abuse” is very different from mine? I hope so. With this exception (which is reflected in my rating of the book), the examples shared and action steps suggested are helpful and uplifting.

If your finances can benefit from a review (or perhaps a complete makeover), The Successful Single Mom Gets Rich is a good place to start. Corpron Corder’s dedication to staring reality straight in the face while embracing prosperity principles and new habits can help you get to the abundant life that you want for yourself and your children.

Rating 3 ½ Stars out of 5 

Liz is a technical writer by day and a humor writer by night. She lives in Minnesota with her younger daughter and their two cats. 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. She is savoring the time that she has left before her younger daughter flies from the nest, yet she is also secretly looking forward to a time when she can travel more and not worry about anyone borrowing her socks.

TWSM Book Review ‘Breathing Lessons’

TWSM Book Review ‘Breathing Lessons’ by Anne Tyler

For this review, I chose a Pulitzer Prize-winning contemporary classic, Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler. This novel is chock-full of lovable and quirky characters that Tyler brings to life with her incredible sense of detail, descriptions of family relationships, and perfect comedic timing. 

Breathing Lessons was originally published in 1988, giving it the feel of stepping back into the retelling of a family story from that era. Maggie, the main character, is like a warm, crazy aunt who wants to meddle in everyone’s life, but of course doesn’t see her actions that way at all. She is intent upon reuniting her adult son, Jesse, with his ex-wife Fiona and daughter Leroy. Maggie’s husband, Ira, is supportive, but more level headed than Maggie and along for the ride. 

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Breathing Lessons

“Just once in your life, Maggie, I wish you would manage not to stick your nose in what doesn’t concern you.” “And if I didn’t, who would?” she asked him. (Part 2, Chapter 1) 

“It was amazing, Ira often said, how people fooled themselves into believing what they wanted to. (How Maggie fooled herself, he meant.) He said it when Maggie threatened to sue the Police Department that time they charged Jesse with Drunk and Disorderly. He said it when she swore that Spin the Cat sounded better than the Beatles. And he said it again when she refused to accept that Fiona was gone for good.” (Part 2, Chapter 2) 

“They were one of those happily childless young couples with eyes for only each other, and no doubt they were returning from dinner in a restaurant and now would…do what? Put on some romantic music, maybe something with violins, and sit conversing graciously on their spotless white loveseat, each raising a wine glass made of that thin, extra-breakable crystal that doesn’t even have a lip around the rim. Or maybe they would dance.” (Part 3, Chapter 4) 

Breathing Lessons is a great read that is fun, poignant, and manages to respect each of the characters in the book and his or her individual strengths and foibles. As a novel from the 1980s, it also has the advantage of being available for free from your local library app (or can be found for next to nothing used — bonus!). 

I highly recommend that you add it to your “to read” list of fiction. Enjoy! 

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Liz is a technical writer by day and a humor writer by night. She lives in Minnesota with her younger daughter and their two cats. 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. She is savoring the time that she has left before her younger daughter flies from the nest, yet she is also secretly looking forward to a time when she can travel more and not worry about anyone borrowing her socks.

TWSM Book Review “Dusk Night Dawn: On Revival and Courage”

 

‘Dusk Night Dawn: On Revival and Courage’ by Anne Lamott

Dusk Night Dawn: On Revival and Courage is Anne Lamott’s latest book and a nourishing read. In this collection of essays (some of which were written during the pandemic) Lamott continues her tradition of speaking to her readers in her optimistic voice which says “I’ve been there, I’ve survived that, and I am still here loving and laughing.” 

If you are new to Lamott’s writing, her background includes having raised her son as a single mom, leaning on her faith in God and her church home, having been a recovering alcoholic for many years, being an opinionated woman who is politically liberal, and now being a best-selling author, a wife, and a grandmother. 

The essays in this book are bite-sized bits of wisdom and humor which will make you laugh, cry, and want to read more of her work whether or not your own views resonate with hers. She addresses big issues about life, death, love, and hope, balancing big questions with a delightful mix of awe and laugh out loud humor. Both her humor and her honesty seem to be growing more raw as she ages. It’s as though she “knows” her readers better with each book and opens up to us a bit more with each one. 

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Dusk Night Dawn: 

“On bad days, I text my friend Janine and say, ‘I hate everyone and all of life. These are end days, children.’ She says she is glad I reached out, and then I am better. We cruise for hearth cakes, and if we can’t find any, T-shirts at Target, M&M’s, or chai help.” (Lunch – Money Faith) 

“Even now we aren’t in charge of much, and it is exhausting to believe or pretend we are. The best we can do is to help the poor, get some rest, help the pets at mealtime, observe the rules of health and safety during the virus. Watching the ways we try to be in charge can help us get our sense of humor back, and laughter is a holy and subversive battery charge.” (Lunch – Money Faith) 

“Here is what I know of love: Love is the gas station and the fuel, the air and the water. You might as well give up on keeping the gas cap screwed on tight, keeping love at bay, staying armored or buttressed, because love will get in.” (One Winged Love) 

As an Anne Lamott fan, I have been waiting for her latest book, and it did not disappoint. The fact that she wrote it during the backdrop of the pandemic makes the topics of revival and courage especially well timed. I recommend brewing a cup of tea, putting your feet up, and reading “Dusk Night Dawn”.

Rating: 4 ½ stars out of 5 

Liz is a technical writer by day and a humor writer by night. She lives in Minnesota with her younger daughter and their two cats. 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. She is savoring the time that she has left before her younger daughter flies from the nest, yet she is also secretly looking forward to a time when she can travel more and not worry about anyone borrowing her socks.

TWSM Book Review ‘All The Devils Are Here’

‘All The Devils Are Here” by Louise Penny

If you enjoy a good murder mystery (or just want to read a well written escapist novel), All The Devils Are Here by Louise Penny is just the ticket. In this latest book by the bestselling author, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache investigates a sinister plot in Paris that involves his family, coded works of art, and corporate greed. 

Gamache and his wife, Reine-Marie, are in Paris to attend the birth of their fourth grandchild. This gives Gamache the chance to visit his godfather, Stephen Horowitz, who unbeknownst to Gamache is up to his eyes in danger. Penny keeps her readers guessing right up to the end as the mystery leads its characters everywhere from the top of the Eiffel Tower down to the bowels of the Paris archives. Gamache doesn’t know whom to trust, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. 

In the midst of this cloak and dagger in the city of light, Penny weaves a tale of family, friends, old wounds, and new life that is heartwarming and thought provoking. Themes of self sacrifice, good vs. evil, and what it means to love someone can be found throughout the book. 

Here are a couple of my favorite quotes: 

“Having lost both his parents, Armand wanted his children to have a mother and father who they could trust to keep them safe and always be there. But it was never enough for Daniel. Something had torn.” (Chapter 3) 

“Hell might be empty, but there was evidence of the divine in their midst, too. The trick, as Stephen had taught him in the garden of the Musée Rodin so many years ago, was to see both. Dreadful deeds were obvious. The divine was often harder to see.” (Chapter 38) 

I’m not sure how I have missed reading a book by Louise Penny before, but this is my first. I’m sure it won’t be my last. If you are looking for an entertaining page turner, I recommend All The Devils Are Here. 

Rating: 4 Stars out of 5 

Copyright 2020 by Three Pines Creations, Inc.

Liz is a technical writer by day and a humor writer by night. She lives in Minnesota with her younger daughter and their two cats. 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. She is savoring the time that she has left before her younger daughter flies from the nest, yet she is also secretly looking forward to a time when she can travel more and not worry about anyone borrowing her socks.

TWSM Book Review ‘EQ Applied: The Real-World Guide To Emotional Intelligence’

EQ Applied: The Real-World Guide to Emotional Intelligence by Justin Bariso

If you’re looking for a practical read that can help you in both your professional and personal life, EQ Applied: The Real-World Guide to Emotional Intelligence by Justin Bariso is a great choice. Bariso takes EQ, the idea that our ability to understand and manage emotions can greatly increase our chances for success, and brings it home with everyday ideas of how EQ can help you with your work, family, and friends. 

Bariso is an author, speaker, and consultant, and one of Inc.com’s most popular columnists. His thoughts on leadership, management, and EQ have been featured by Time, CNBC, and Forbes. I find it interesting that Bariso was raised in a multicultural environment. He credits this with helping him to see others’ perspectives from an early age, and understanding how factors like age, background, and upbringing color how we see the world. 

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from EQ Applied

“Put simply: emotional intelligence is the ability to make emotions work for you instead of against you.” (Chapter 1) 

“Recording is concentrated listening, with the interest to learn more about the other person’s perspective. In other words, don’t listen to help figure out how to reply; instead, listen to understand.” (Chapter 2) 

Some days are harder than others. But that’s just the truth for all of us. So instead of fighting that, or fighting ourselves, we acknowledge and accept ourselves as humans who feel all the feelings. And none of them are permanent, and we’re not weird, broken, or flawed for having them. Just human.” (Chapter 2) 

EQ Applied includes topics like how our thoughts and habits affect our emotions, why we should view all feedback as a gift, and how understanding ourselves can help us to build deeper and healthier relationships. 

Bariso also explains what he calls “the dark side of EQ” or how EQ can be used for harm. His description of Hitler’s use of EQ is chilling. As a skilled orator, Hitler used his ability to tap into fear, anger, and resentment to gain support of the masses. He would practice his speeches meticulously to assure maximum emotional manipulation. Although most of us will never encounter this level of emotional manipulation, Bariso explains how understanding everyday attempts to influence our emotions can help us to protect ourselves. 

I highly recommend EQ Applied. It is a thought provoking book, an easy read, and it may just help you to improve your relationships both at home and work.

 

Rating 4 stars out of 5

Copyright 2018 by Justin Bariso 

Liz is a technical writer by day and a humor writer by night. She lives in Minnesota with her younger daughter and their two cats. 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. She is savoring the time that she has left before her younger daughter flies from the nest, yet she is also secretly looking forward to a time when she can travel more and not worry about anyone borrowing her socks.

TWSM Book Review ‘The Authenticity Project: A Novel’

 The Authenticity Project: A Novel by Clare Pooley 

If you are looking for an entertaining novel about seeking connection, friendship, and love in our modern world, I recommend The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley. It’s a book about the stories we tell ourselves and others, and how these messages can get in the way of true connection or help us to grow. 

Set in London in 2018, Pooley creates a cast of lively characters for The Authenticity Project. They start out as strangers, but their lives begin to intersect and change as they get to know one another by way of an anonymous “traveling journal”. 

Here are some of my favorite quotes: 

“She kept scrolling, despite knowing this would not be a comfort, more of a form of mild self-harm. Hayley had changed her relationship status to “engaged”. Whoop whoop. Pam had posted a status about her life with three kids, a boast thinly and inexpertly disguised as self-deprecation, and Sally had shared her baby scan picture — twelve weeks.” (Chapter 5: Monica) 

“Riley wasn’t sure how much he believed. Julian seemed to have been present at every significant social event in recent history, from dinners with Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies to the party where Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull were arrested for possession of marijuana.” (Chapter 19: Riley) 

“Before she’d had a baby, he’d never seen her less than perfectly made-up, blow-dried, and waxed. It had all gone a little downhill since then… Alice thought back to the days when all she needed were her keys, money, and a mobile phone stuffed into a jeans pocket. It felt like a different life, belonging to a very different person.” (Chapter 25: Alice) 

The only negative that I have to share about The Authenticity Project is the way in which Pooley writes the character of Mrs. Woo. Although Mrs. Woo is a lovely woman who is both warm and tough as nails, her dialogue seemed a bit like a stereotype of someone who learned Chinese as a first language and English as a second language. I don’t know if this is a fair criticism or not, but it struck me that way. 

Overall, The Authenticity Project is a fun and thought provoking novel. I recommend that you brew a cup of tea, put your feet up, and give it a read. 

Rating 4 Stars out of 5 

Copyright 2020 by Clare Pooley 

Liz is a technical writer by day and a humor writer by night. She lives in Minnesota with her younger daughter and their two cats. 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. She is savoring the time that she has left before her younger daughter flies from the nest, yet she is also secretly looking forward to a time when she can travel more and not worry about anyone borrowing her socks.

TWSM Book Review ‘An Invitation To Self Care’

“An Invitation To Self-Care” by Tracey Cleantis

An Invitation to Self-Care by Tracey Cleantis is a deep dive into taking good care of ourselves. Cleantis explores self-care in many areas of life — body, mind and emotions, relationships, finances, work, and play. The book includes exercises for assessing your current level of self-care and making plans to up your game. 

Tracey Cleantis is a licensed marriage and family therapist and the author of the critically acclaimed book The Next Happy: Let Go of the Life You Planned and Find a New Way Forward. She includes examples from her own life in her books, which help to make them accessible and humorous. As she says, “Even french fries and facebook have their place.” 

An Invitation to Self-Care uses 7 key guidelines 

  1. Self care is a daily lifelong practice 
  2. Self-care is self-love 
  3. Self-care means taking personal responsibility 
  4. Self-care means noticing what matters to us 
  5. Self-care requires attention and responsiveness 
  6. Self-care must be realistic to be effective 
  7. Self-care precedes self-fulfillment 

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book: 

“To engage in self-care is to admit that you are a human being with limited energy and resources, and a fragile body that has an expiration date.” (Part One, Chapter Two) 

“You may be responsible for all kinds of jobs, tasks, and people, but ultimately what you are really and truly responsible for is your own well being.” (Part One, Chapter Two) 

“Knowing and responding to your introversion or extroversion will likely mean modifying your self-care based on what feeds you uniquely.” (Part Three, Chapter Five) 

An Invitation to Self-Care is about reflecting on how you learned to take care of yourself, how well you are doing that now, and how you can nurture yourself more deeply going forward to increase your health and happiness. If you are looking for a 15-minute read that will change your life, this isn’t it. By the way, please let me know if you ever find that book, because I don’t think it exists! I recommend that you take An Invitation to Self-Care one chapter at a time and see how you can use it as a valuable self-care tool on your journey.

Rating 4 out of 5 stars 

Copyright 2017 by Tracey Cleantis 

Liz is a technical writer by day and a humor writer by night. She lives in Minnesota with her younger daughter 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. She is savoring the time that she has left before her younger daughter flies from the nest, yet she is also secretly looking forward to a time when she can travel more and not worry about anyone borrowing her socks.

‘Frankenstein’ TWSM Book Review

‘Frankenstein’ by Mary Shelley

For this book review, I chose a science fiction novel with themes of ambition, revenge, family, and dangerous knowledge — that was written over 200 years ago, Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Even if you don’t like “old” books I recommend that you give it a try. It is amazing how relatable Frankenstein is, and there are even free versions of the e-book that you can download — bonus!

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (who was the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft the feminist philosopher and writer) is probably best known for writing Frankenstein. It is one of the earliest examples of science fiction and is a fascinating tale of human nature written by a woman whose own life was no stranger to both tragedy and scandal. The novel bears little resemblance to the many Frankenstein movies that came after it, yet it foreshadows many themes in science fiction works to come.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from Frankenstein:

“None but those who have experienced them can conceive of the enticements of science.” (Chapter 4)

“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.” (Chapter 23) “Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful.” (Chapter 20)

One of the most fascinating pieces of this novel is how the monster represents “the other” in society. Whether it be differences due to physical or mental disability, culture, or social class, Frankenstein’s monster is a perfect example of someone who is ostracized because he does not fit in. How he is treated by his contemporaries is a timeless story, and there are moments when the monster seems even more human than his creator, Dr. Frankenstein.

If I have one complaint to share about Frankenstein, it is that some of the prose is a bit formal, and therefore it can be difficult to read if you are used to twenty-first century English. However, that can also be part of the charm of reading a book with so much history to it. All things considered, it is an amazingly fresh read for a two hundred year old book about bringing a lifeless body back to life!

Rating 4 stars out of 5

Originally published anonymously in 1818 

Now part of the public domain 

Liz is a technical writer by day and a humor writer by night. She lives in Minnesota with her younger daughter 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. She is savoring the time that she has left before her younger daughter flies from the nest, yet she is also secretly looking forward to a time when she can travel more and not worry about anyone borrowing her socks.

‘Wild Comfort: The Solace of Nature’ TWSM Book Review

‘Wild Comfort:The Solace of Nature’ by Kathleen Dean Moore

If you are looking for a nurturing read to start the new year, Wild Comfort: The Solace of Nature by Kathleen Dean Moore is a great choice. The personal essays in this book explore the natural rhythms of nature from sorrow to gladness using imagery that is both soothing and thought provoking. 

Kathleen Dean Moore is an essayist, activist, and professor who brings together natural history, philosophical ideas, and creative expression in her books. She lives in a college town at the confluence of two Oregon rivers and writes about living in the lively places where water meets land. 

Here are some of my favorite quotes from Wild Comfort: 

“There is meaning in the natural rhythms of dying and living, winter and spring, bones and leaves. Even in times of bewilderment or despair, there is the steadfast ground underfoot — pine duff, baked clay, stone turned red in the rain.” (Introduction) 

“I was happy then, standing in the surge with lines of moonlight catching on my rubber boots. This is something that needs explaining, how light emerges from darkness, how comfort wells up from sorrow. The Earth holds every possibility inside it, and the mystery of transformation, one thing into another. This is the wildest comfort.” (Introduction) 

“But how do you keep the bad stuff from lodging in every corner of your mind, I asked Hank. Pay attention to the present moment, he said. Every moment we are wondering at the path of wind across the water or smiling to see a dog rest in the sun, we are not rehearsing our misfortunes. Every moment we are glad for the twilight of morning, we are not vexed. It is impossible to be at the same time grateful and spiteful.” (Gladness) 

Wild Comfort was recommended to me by a friend. To be honest, as an “indoor girl” who loves the great outdoors when the weather is ideal, I was a bit skeptical of a collection of essays about nature. I am so glad that I read it! In this crazy 2020 year of ours, it hit the spot. I recommend that you brew a cup of your favorite tea, grab a soft blanket, and soak up the beauty and solace of Wild Comfort. 

Rating 4 ½ out of 5 Stars

Copyright 2010 by Kathleen Dean Moore 

Liz is a technical writer by day and a humor writer by night. She lives in Minnesota with her younger daughter 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. She is savoring the time that she has left before her younger daughter flies from the nest, yet she is also secretly looking forward to a time when she can travel more and not worry about anyone borrowing her socks.