Tag Archives: novel

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 ‘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 ‘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 ‘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.