Category Archives: TWSM Book Review

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.

TWSM Book Review ‘The Successful Single Mom’


The Successful Single Mom: Get Your Life Back and Your Game On by Honoree Corder is an
uplifting and practical book. Corder is a business coach and former single mom who has “been
there and done that”. This book (one of six in her Successful Single Mom Series) focuses on
self care, prosperity principles, and setting practical goals for success within a 100-Day Plan
framework. Corder is an authentic, caring, and upbeat coach as she guides her readers through
the process of setting up and implementing their own 100-Day Plan.

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

“If your ambitions are longer term, such as going back to school, losing weight, starting a
new relationship, or moving to a better neighborhood, it is crucial to have more
immediate, sanity-saving goals that involve such things as finding some much-needed
personal time, going out one night a month, listening to music, writing in a journal,
getting fresh air and exercise, or spending a few minutes a day in quiet reflection.”
(Chapter One)

“The truth is that you are wonderful, brilliant, beautiful, and fantastic … even if it’s been a
(long) while since that’s what you’ve heard about yourself. The truth is you are capable,
because you demonstrate it every single day by giving love to your children, keeping the
lights on and the fridge full, and basically getting it all done (or most of it anyway).”
(Chapter Two)

“Her positive attitude became apparent when she said, ‘You say to yourself, I can’t
change it. I’m going to roll up my sleeves and move on. This is about making the
decision that what has happened, what is happening, isn’t going to break you. You’re
going to survive, thrive, and flourish. Period.’ ” (Chapter Three)

If I have one negative comment about The Successful Single Mom, it is that Corder focuses
largely on women who are entrepreneurial instead of engaged in traditional nine to five jobs.
With that said, the book is a breath of fresh air if you are feeling stuck and can use a big dose of
positivity and some concrete action steps, regardless of your current employment status or
hopes for the future.

The other books in her series delve further into specific topics including
going back to school, getting physically fit, managing your finances and building wealth, finding
new love, and cooking.

I highly recommend The Successful Single Mom. It will energize you, empower you, and make
you smile about the future.

Rating 4 ½ stars out of 5

The Successful Single Mom by Honoree Corder
Copyright 2009

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 ‘Heartburn’

Heartburn by Nora Ephron is a novel that I have wanted to read for ages and finally did. I have always thought of Ephron as the cool, funny aunt that I never had (no offense to my actual aunts who are lovely women). Heartburn is a great read, and the story behind the story is astounding. 

Heartburn’s main character, Rachel, a successful cookbook writer, discovers seven months into her second pregnancy that her husband Mark is having an affair, just as Ephron discovered during her own second pregnancy while married to Carl Bernstein, the journalist who broke the Watergate scandal. In spite of the striking similarities of the novel to Ephron’s real life, the book is full of laugh out loud humor and personal empowerment. Rumor has it that she also bought a house with the proceeds from this best selling book, demonstrating that success is the best revenge. 

Some of my favorite quotes from Heartburn include: 

“I don’t like blaming family members for what goes wrong with children, because someday when my kids are arrested for grand larceny I don’t want anyone looking accusingly at me, but Mark’s behavior was so obviously Florence’s fault that even Florence knew it.” (Chapter two) 

“This reminded me of those feminists who are always claiming that male domination is not the natural state because there’s one tribe in New Guinea where the men lie around weaving and the women hunt bears.” (Chapter four) 

“I kept expecting him to reach out for my hand, or touch my face. He didn’t. Rachel, I said to myself, this will not do. You cannot go anywhere, much less home, with a man whose idea of an apology does not include even a hypocritical show of affection. Say no. Tell him to drop dead. Crack one of your father’s atrocious lamps over his head. Go into the kitchen and invent the instant waffle. Anything.” (Chapter seven) 

Heartburn is an authentic, painful, and humorous ride. Ephron herself was also a true inspiration. When she died at the age of 71, she had been married for over twenty years and was an award winning writer of books, plays, and screenplays. 

If you would like a good laugh (and perhaps a good cry), I highly recommend Heartburn

Rating 4 stars out of 5 

Heartburn by Nora Ephron Copyright 1983 

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 ‘The Five Love Languages for Singles’

The Five Love Languages for Singles by Gary Chapman

Reviewed by Liz Fendley

The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman started with his original work designed for married couples over 20 years ago. Many of us have heard of the five love languages to help us understand how we prefer to give and receive affection: words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, quality time, and physical touch. This book is dedicated to single adults and addresses our specific needs, including a chapter dedicated to the needs of single parents. It is a great read.

I should probably share the disclaimer that I originally took the five love languages quiz when I was a married parent. As such, I was a bit skeptical of how “real” this book would be for single parents dealing with issues like parenting, work, and dating. My skepticism was dispelled, and I found the book to be refreshing and respectful.

In the chapter on single parenting, Chapman addresses the fact that your children may not have the same primary love language that you do. This one struck home for me. My primary love language is physical touch, closely followed by quality time. When my teenage daughters took the quiz, they both scored with “gifts” as their primary love language. My first response was, “Uh oh. There is no way I can afford this.” Since then, I have learned that something as simple as adding a $1 “gift” to a grocery store or errand run and saying, “I was thinking of you today” can make my daughters’ days brighter. If a loved one tried to do the same thing for me, I would be polite, but I would probably be thinking, “How many calories are in that?” “Seriously, just give me a hug” or perhaps “This house has way too much clutter anyway”.

For most of us, The Five Love Languages for Singles is a great read and Chapman’s background as a pastor and references to scripture will be reassuring. If I have one criticism of this book, it is that Chapman assumes a heteronormative stance due to his specific religious beliefs. If you are an LGBTQI single parent, this book may be less likely to speak to you. Perhaps there are additional resources online that are more inclusive.

As many of us are spending more time at home with Covid-19, I am also happy to say that I found “my” free copy of this book via the Libby app from my local library. The Five Love Languages for Singles is an easy read, and might even keep our homes calmer and happier as we are spending so much time together!

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

~Liz

The Five Love Languages for Singles

Copyright 2014 by Gary Chapman

TWSM Book Review ‘Tara Road’

Tara Road is a great read. It is one of those novels that has you rooting for your favorite characters from start to finish. Although I am new to Binchy’s work, I am sure Tara Road will not be her last book that I read.

Binchy’s novel has a unique premise. Two women, Marilyn from America and Ria from Ireland, switch houses for a summer. A chance phone call leads them to consider this possibility. Both characters are primed for adventure by wanting to escape from personal pain and find peace and distraction.

As the story unfolds, the reader comes to know Ria from Dublin, along with her entire cast of family and friends, and Marilyn from California, a much more reserved woman. No spoiler alerts here, but there are secrets, twists, and turns that keep the reader turning the pages. Both women grow through the new experiences which they are thrust into by exchanging houses (and thereby cultures, and even family and friends) for the summer. By the end of the novel, they have become true friends.

Binchy nails the relationships of her characters in ways that can make you laugh out loud, gasp, or reach for the kleenex. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Tara Road:

When Ria and her teenage daughter went shopping for clothes in Chapter 3…

“I mean, it’s not even as if you were really old,” Annie said. “Lots of people your age haven’t given up.”

With great difficulty Ria forced herself not to take her daughter by the hair and drag her from the shop.

 

When Ria receives shocking news over dinner in Chapter 3…

“The noise in the restaurant changed. People’s cutlery started to clatter more and bang loudly off people’s plates. Glasses tinkled and seemed about to smash. Voices came and went in a roar. The sound of laughter from the tables was very raucous. She could hear his voice from far away.”

 

 

When Marilyn realizes how she has changed in Chapter 9…

“But Marilyn had been down that road before; she wasn’t going to travel it again. What had happened to Gertie’s husband was not her fault.”

 

Tara Road was part of Oprah’s Book Club in 1999. The fact that the characters use answering machines on their land line phones might make you smile, but with that exception it stands the test of time. The age of this novel also makes it easy to find at your local library or to buy used to save a few dollars. If you are looking for a novel that is full of warmth, empowerment, and hope, I highly recommend Tara Road.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Tara Road Copyright 1998 by Maeve Binchy

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 ‘Almost Everything-Notes On Hope’

Almost Everything:  Notes on Hope is a nurturing read. In this collection of essays, 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 thirteen 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. The essays are also short enough that they can be read with that coffee that gets you started in the morning, during nap time for your little one, at the end of a long day, or while you are waiting up for your teenager to get home safely.

Lamott addresses big issues about life, death, love, faith, science, and hope through her essays, balancing big questions with a delightful mix of awe and laugh out loud humor. She meets herself and her readers where they are with complete honesty.

 

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Almost Everything:

 

“Scientists say we are made of stars, and I believe them, although my upper

arms look like hell.” (From Chapter One: Puzzles)

 

“Almost every facet of my meager maturation and spiritual understanding

has sprung from hurt, loss, and disaster.” (From Chapter One: Puzzles)

 

“Don’t let others make you feel unsophisticated if you reach middle age

preferring Hershey’s Kisses. So many of your better people do. Also,

always carry a handful of Kisses in your backpack or purse to give away.

People will like you more.”  (From Chapter Seven: Bitter Truth)

If there is one negative that I would share regarding this book, it is that as an avid Anne Lamott fan, I sometimes tire of her re-sharing stories across her books. In chapter six, she included the story about her brother’s homework project that inspired the title of her book, Bird by Bird. Although I find this story inspiring, I believe she has referred to it in two other books. This was a small distraction for me, and other readers might find it endearing.

I recommend brewing a cup of tea, putting your feet up, and reading “Almost Everything:  Notes on Hope”.  You will be glad that you did.

 

Rating:  4 ½ stars out of 5

 Almost Everything: Notes on Hope

Copyright 2018 by Anne Lamott

ISBN 9780525537441 (hardcover)

ISBN9780525537571 (ebook)

 

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.