Category Archives: TWSM Book Review

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.

‘The Immortal Life’ TWSM Book Review

“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot is an amazing nonfiction book. It details how the cells taken from from one woman in the 1950s helped with some of the most important advances in medicine: the polio vaccine, chemotherapy, and gene mapping to name a few — all without her knowledge or consent. 

Skloot honors the experiences of Henrietta and her family as she describes the events surrounding what became known as the “HeLa cells”. She tells this meticulously researched story of medical ethics, race, class, and sexism from the standpoint of those who lived it. Although Henrietta’s cells spurred great achievements and created a lucrative business, her family didn’t know this for years and did not benefit financially. Many of them had difficulty paying for their own health care. 

Rebecca Skloot is an award winning science writer. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was the 2011 winner of the National Academies Communication Award for best creative work that helps the public understanding of topics in science, engineering, or medicine. 

Here are some of the most compelling quotes from the book: 

“There’s no indication that Henrietta questioned him; like most patients in the 1950s, she deferred to anything her doctors said. This was a time when “benevolent deception” was a common practice — doctors often withheld even the most fundamental information from their patients, sometimes not giving them any diagnosis at all. They believed it was best not to confuse or upset patients with frightening terms they might not understand, like cancer. Doctors knew best, and most patients didn’t question that.” (Chapter 8) 

“Berg didn’t explain how releasing Henrietta’s name to the public would have protected the privacy or rights of her family. In fact, doing so would have forever connected Henrietta and her family with the cells and any medical information eventually derived from their DNA. That wouldn’t have protected the Lackses’ privacy, but it certainly would have changed the course of their lives. They would have learned that Henrietta’s cells were still alive, that they’d been taken, bought, sold, and used in research without her knowledge or theirs. (Chapter 14) 

“This child will someday know that her great-grandmother Henrietta helped the world!” Pullum yelled. He raised his arms above his head and yelled hallelujah. Baby JaBrea waved her hands and let out a loud happy screech, and the congregation yelled amen.” (Chapter 37)

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a timely read about the history of medical ethics and how they can impact average people. As we navigate through Covid-19 with new vaccines on the horizon, it is encouraging to know that many things have in fact improved over the years. I highly recommend this book. 

Rating 4 ½ Stars out of 5

Copyright 2011 

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.

‘The Glass Hotel’ TWSM Book Review

 The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel 

The Glass Hotel is a novel that takes the reader on a thrill ride that includes unusual characters and a ponzi scheme like the one for which Bernie Madoff was convicted in 2009. The main character, a woman named Vincent, is a bartender with a complicated past. When she meets Jonathan Alkaitis while working at a hotel that he owns, she believes he is a legitimate businessman. She also agrees to be swept into “the kingdom of money” by living with him as his fake wife. In The Glass Hotel, themes of guilt, wealth, and unintended consequences create drama and tragedy. This novel is a page-turner.

Some of my favorite quotes include:

“The thing about Alkaitis, a woman from Philadelphia wrote some years later, in a victim impact statement that she read aloud at Alkaitis’s sentencing hearing, is he made you feel like you were joining a secret club.” (Chapter 3)

“In a ghost version of his life, a version of himself that he’d been thinking about more and more lately, Oskar closed the door to his office and called the FBI. But in real life, he called no one. He left the office in a daze, but by the time he reached the corner he realized that he couldn’t pretend to be shocked, and he knew he was going to deposit the check, because he was already complicit, he was already on the inside and had been for some time.” (Chapter 10)

The Glass Hotel is a New York Times bestseller, and St John Mandel’s fifth book. Her previous novels include Station Eleven, which was a finalist for a National Book Award. I admire the fact that she thanked her nanny in her acknowledgements section of The Glass Hotel. We often envision women who are famous or high achieving as “doing it all” as opposed to going out and getting the support they need to make it happen, which more often than not includes child care.

The Glass Hotel is a great read. I highly recommend it.

Rating 4 Stars out of 5 

Copyright 2020 by Emily St. John Mandel

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.

‘The Minimalist Home’ TWSM Book Review

 

The Minimalist Home: A Room by Room Guide to a Decluttered, Refocused Life by Joshua Becker 

 

The Minimalist Home: A Room by Room Guide to a Decluttered, Refocused Life by Joshua Becker is a breath of fresh air. It will help you to lighten up your home in a way that fits your style.

The chapters are organized so that you can pick and choose what will be most helpful to you, whether that is cleaning out a couple of closets or a more complete minimalism makeover. It also deals with real life stages and phases of family life — from little kids with toys to teens who want their own space to a partner who may not be fully on board with your new minimalist ideas (spoiler alert: change your habits, not your partner’s — lol).

Here are some of my favorite quotes from The Minimalist Home:

“Minimizing is actually optimizing — reducing the number of your possessions until you get to the best possible level for you and your family. It’s individual, freeing, and life promoting.” (Chapter 1)

“Over the coming days and months, I noticed how easy it was becoming to clean the house… how the process was freeing me from past mistakes… how my home and life were becoming more peaceful and less stressful…” (Chapter 2)

“Your goal should be to keep only the best. For example, you don’t have to hold on to everything you inherited from your beloved aunt who has passed. Just keep a few pieces that remind you of her most, and then, instead of keeping them in a dusty box in your storage area, put them out where you can see them and remember her everyday.” (Chapter 9)

Becker stresses that minimalism should be about what is important to you and your family — not some prescribed list of dos and don’ts. For example, he describes his dining room as having a table surrounded by eight chairs, one piece of wall art (a gift from his sister) and two small decorative shelves. My guess is that guests in this dining room spend their time enjoying good food and conversation, not worrying about navigating tight spaces or whether they will spill something on an antique tablecloth.

The Minimalist Home is upbeat and helpful. Whether you just want fewer toys on the floor, closets where you can actually find stuff, or you are up for a full minimalist makeover, I recommend that you give it a read.

Rating: Four Stars out of Five 

Copyright 2018 by Becoming Minimalist LLC 

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.