Tag Archives: book review

‘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.

‘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 ‘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 ‘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 ‘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.