Tag Archives: reading

TWSM Book Review ‘The Four Winds’

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

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

Some of my favorite quotes from The Four Winds include:

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

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

‘Break it,’ Jean said. 

‘How?’ 

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

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

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

Rating 4 stars out of 5 

Copyright 2021 by Visible Ink Corporation

Liz is a technical writer by day and a humor writer by night. She lives in Minnesota with her younger daughter and their two cats. When Liz is not reading, writing, or searching for new books to review, she can be found practicing yoga or enjoying time with friends and family. She is savoring the time that she has left before her younger daughter flies from the nest, yet she is also secretly looking forward to a time when she can travel more and not worry about anyone borrowing her socks.

TWSM Book Review ‘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 ‘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.

‘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.

‘Where The Crawdads Sing’ TWSM Book Review

 

Where the Crawdads Sing

by Delia Owens 

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens has been on my “to read list” for months now. When I finally started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. Owens draws her readers in with a tale of love and loss so strong that it leaps off of the page, while including a murder mystery and stunning descriptions of the North Carolina marshland where the story takes place. 

Owens is an American author and zoologist. Where the Crawdads Sing is her first novel, and it has been on New York Times Best Sellers lists for over a year. Since it came out in 2018, you may be able to access it for free via your local library app without a waitlist (bonus!). 

Kya, the main character, is abandoned as a child. She manages to survive on her own in a shack in the marsh which is her home. While scraping through each day and trying to heal, she stubbornly stays alone in the wilderness which gives her comfort, yet she yearns for love and connection. She is taught to read by Tate, her first love, and is wronged by Chase, a local boy of privilege. Where the Crawdads Sing is her story — one of pain and ultimately one of triumph. 

Here are some of my favorite quotes from Where the Crawdads Sing: 

“Marsh is not swamp. Marsh is a space of light, where grass grows in water, and water flows into the sky. Slow-moving creeks wander, carrying the orb of the sun with them to the sea, and long-legged birds lift with unexpected grace — as though not built to fly—against the roar of a thousand snow geese.” (Prologue) 

“It seemed that now, Kya being more vulnerable than ever, was reason to trust others even less. Standing in the most fragile place of her life, she turned to the only net she knew — herself.” (Chapter 44) 

“Tate remembered his dad’s definition of a man: one who can cry freely, feel poetry and opera in his heart, and do whatever it takes to defend a woman. Scupper would have understood tracking love through mud.” (Chapter 56) 

Although Where the Crawdad’s Sing is a wonderful book, if you are in the mood for light reading or a hearty laugh, pick something else — for now. Just don’t let Owen’s novel fall off of your “to read list”. You’ll be mesmerized when you eventually get to it. 

Rating 4 ½ out of 5 Stars 

Copyright 2018 Delia Owens 

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.

TWSM Book Review ‘Hello Summer’

Hello Summer by Mary Kay Andrews

Hello Summer is a hot-off-the-press summer read complete with mystery, romance, a beautiful beach, and a strong female protagonist who loves her family, her career, and perhaps a certain old flame. It would make a great beach read, but it is an equally satisfying virtual vacation for those of us who are land-locked or “Covid-locked” this summer.

Andrews main character, Conley Hawkins, is a journalist whose career is upended when she
receives the news that the cool, new job she has accepted will not happen because the
company went under — during the going away party from her old job! She packs up her bags
and her pride and decides to visit family by the beach for the summer while looking for new
employment. Along the way, Conley stumbles upon an old love and a dangerous local news
story worthy of a soap opera.

One of the most entertaining parts of Hello Summer is the treatment of family relationships —
including the emotional ghosts and hopes for the future that come with them. Conley has to deal with her rascal of a grandmother, the long shadow of her missing mother, grief she hasn’t
worked through from her father’s death, and her overbearing, know-it-all sister.

The theme of strong women can be seen throughout the book. Here are a couple of my favorite
quotes:

“I have to admire her. Symmes Robinette walked off and left her with two teenagers to
raise, for a woman twenty years younger. Typical of that time, he had all the money, so
he had all the power when it came time for the settlement. And yet, she managed to take
care of business despite all that.”

Toddie Robinette was no shrinking Southern belle, Skelly agreed. “She could be tough
as nails when she had to be.” (Chapter 44).

The ups and downs of Conley Hawkins’s relationships, her floundering (or burgeoning?) career,
and the twists and turns in the mystery to be solved will keep you turning the pages of Hello
Summer.

By the end of the novel, Andrews wraps up all of the plot twists and relationship issues in
satisfying ways for the reader. If I have one criticism of this book, it is that Hello Summer is
decidedly light reading, but sometimes that is exactly what we need. I recommend that you kick
off your shoes, dig your toes into some sand (or maybe just put on some fuzzy socks) and enjoy
Hello Summer.

Rating 4 out of 5 stars

Copyright Mary Kay Andrews 2020

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.

Read A Good Book

Time to read a good book..working from home, or just staying home has presented us with new challenges. All of us have had more extra time then we can remember.

 Some are using the time to take online courses, learn, or brush up on, a new language, or read a good book again. Reading books was often put on the back burner until we went on vacation. But, this could be a part of our new normal.

 I’ve been reading a lot more myself, and being more of a geek, I read all of my Books on my iPad. I love being able to carry 20 or 30 Books with me at all times. My favorite apps for reading books are Apple‘s books (free), Kindle (free), and Audible (2 free books@$15/mo.). Apple’s Books and Kindle are use for reading hardcopy books and Audible for listening to a book being read to me.

 Both Apple’s Books and Kindle are free apps to use once you purchase a book and downloaded it. Audible is a subscription service that costs around $15 a month and you get two free books to download per month.

 If you’re on an iPhone or an iPad, Apple Books is the easiest and most integrated app to use. What I have found is sometimes I can’t find a book I’m looking for and Kindle has it. That’s the main reason I use both apps for reading books.

 Audible, has upped the number of books I have read because I don’t have to physically read them, I listen to them. Therefore, I can “read” while doing other things. I will often be listening to an audiobook when I’m doing dishes or cooking. I almost always listen while I’m driving. So, I am able to read more often.

 Apple Books and Kindle offer some very nice options. You can very easily highlight text, bookmark pages, and even take notes while reading. You can simply tap on the word and look it up in the dictionary to make sure you fully understand context. All three apps will remember where you left off and can be used on a desktop, iPad, or iPhone.

 With all the options, there is no excuse to not start your summer reading now.

~Steve

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 ‘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.