Tag Archives: reviews

‘Always Be My Maybe’ TWSM Movie Review

Always Be My Maybe

Starring:  Randall Park, Ali Wong

Even though it was a cold February day, I was watching this movie with a smile on my face and the warmest heart ever!  It just makes you feel good about life and love, and the fact that even though life takes us through many twists and turns, we always end up right where we belong.

Sasha Chan and Marcus Kim were best friends since childhood.  They were neighbors.  Sasha’s parents weren’t home a lot and she was left to fend for herself, including fixing her own dinner.  (It was amazing what she could do with Spam and rice!) Many nights Marcus’s mom would have her come to their house and help her cook and then eat dinner with them.  In many ways, they were more like family to her than her own parents.

Sasha and Marcus were constant companions even though their teenage years.  Until one unfortunate day an argument ensued, and they parted ways, never to speak to each other again.  Sasha went on to become a famous chef owning fancy restaurants where only the elite dined.  Marcus never left home.  His mother passed away unexpectedly and in his grief of losing her, as well as his best friend, he claimed that he was his father’s “caretaker” even though his dad was not in need of such a thing.  He also continued to play in a band that he had been the leader of since high school.  In essence, his life hadn’t really changed at all while Sasha’s life had become a red-carpet walking life that most people only dream of.

Sasha decided to open a new restaurant in San Francisco where she had grown up.   She rented a house in an upscale neighborhood which is where she became reunited with Marcus – when he and his dad came to service the air conditioner in her rented home.    

The two became friendly again and eventually became romantically involved.  That is until it was time for Sasha to leave for New York to open yet another restaurant.  She wanted Marcus to join her.  He wanted nothing of it.  As she was leaving, she accused Marcus of hiding from life and never living.  He accused her of not living either, because her “living” a life that wasn’t really her.  It was full of glamour and fakeness, everything that the real Sasha was not.   Everyone could see that these two were meant for each other ….. but could they?

Life takes twists and turns and has ups and downs.  We make right decisions as well as wrong ones every day.  It’s through all these challenges that we learn about ourselves and what makes us who we are.  The truth is that we all grow and change, but in the end, true love and friendship will always prevail.  We just have to let it!

~Sherri

‘Second Act’ TWSM Movie Review

Second Act

Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Leah Remini, Mila Ventimiglia

If you’ve ever felt overlooked, underpaid, and possibly that maybe it’s just not in the stars for you, then this movie will touch your soul.

Jennifer Lopez plays Maya, the assistant manager of a big box store trying to work her way up the ladder.  However, with her lack of a high school and college education (she earned a GED) she continuously finds herself overlooked by corporate males who seemingly dominate the market.

Her last big disappointment comes when she is overlooked for a promotion to store manager by an outside applicant.  When she questions her boss about it, he questions her educational background and tells her that the job has “requirements” that her history just does not allow her to meet.  She is ready to give up.

That’s when her best friend’s son, also Maya’s godson, creates an entirely new Maya – on paper that is.  He creates an astounding resume with more accolades than most geniuses and creates a social media presence like none other – all of this without her knowledge.  Through this intervention she lands an interview with one of the top cosmetic companies based in Manhattan. Her brutal yet classy honesty about their product line lands her a job with the company.  She goes on to prove herself as a corporate executive who can hold her own.

This movie teaches us so much about how today’s world operates.  Most hiring managers today look at the letters after a person’s name and the degrees they’ve obtained before looking at what the person has to offer.  I would never discourage someone from acquiring a college degree or any sort of higher learning.  It gives one an education in a dedicated field and exposes them to other areas of learning that we may not seek otherwise.  But remember this, many people either never had the opportunity or chose not to take it.  And that is OK!  They have what the world likes to call “street smarts”.  Their education has been worldly and real-life training.

If you are one who did not have or take the opportunity to go higher with your education, don’t think less of yourself even if others do.  And believe me, there are many who look at the letters after a person’s name and may never look at the person.  A degree does not define a person.  But character always will.  Some of the smartest people I know barely made it through high school.  What if one of those people happened to be you! 

We only get one shot at life so go after what you want.  Go after your dreams and desires!  And whatever you do – NEVER GIVE UP!  Don’t let a piece of paper and other’s opinions define your future.  Be the creator of your own future!  Write your own story!  Live your own life!  Nothing is impossible with hard work and true and total belief in yourself!  And above all, never stop loving who you are!

SIDENOTE:  Maya’s best friend is played by Leah Remini who, according to media reports, is best friends with Jennifer Lopez in the real world.  The two of them play off each other like two best friends really would. So hilarious and natural with each other.  It makes me wonder how much of their interaction was acting.  Oh, and by the way, guess who went to college for only one semester and dropped out to pursue her dreams and is now one of the most successful people in the world! Successful because she’s living her dreams.  I’ll let you figure that out.  

Peace everyone!

Sherri

‘The Heat’ TWSM Movie Review

‘The Heat’ TWSM Movie Review

What do you get when you cross Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy in a movie together? Two strong comedic actresses who gel so well together that you can’t get enough of the two them! And the end of the movie?  Well, it only leaves you wanting more!

Sandra Bullock plays, Ashburn, an uptight FBI agent assigned to work with a Boston Police Detective who grew up on the wrong side of the streets.  Whereas Ashburn is poised, refined, and uptight, Melissa McCarthy plays Mullins, the exact opposite of Ashburn with her foul mouth, sloppy dress and overall messy demeanor. 

The two are assigned to bring down a local drug lord.  Mullins isn’t happy about this arrangement from the beginning.  She doesn’t need any help from the FBI.  Ashburn, on the other hand, is eagerly looking forward to bringing down this felon and receiving a desperately wanted promotion within the FBI.  

The relationship between the two starts out rocky, to say the least.  They are opposite in every sense of the word.  Ashburn wears dressy pant suits, which at one point while working undercover in a bar, Mullins tells her she needs to change her look because she stands out by “looking like she’s there to do their taxes”.  Mullins dresses, well, “casually” to say the least.  Let’s just say that she didn’t have to change her look to go undercover at the bar.

After going through many tough and comical situations together, the two women slowly come together as co-workers……and friends.  They end up forming a comradery that not everyone is fortunate enough to achieve in this lifetime. 

As I always say, I love to laugh and forget about the outside world.  There are many outlets in which to do this:  time with family, watching funny shows, playing games, vacationing, spending time with friends, among many others.  Throughout “The Heat” we learn that women actually CAN form sister-like bonds.  Not all relationships between women are “catty” or “jealous” in nature.  Friendships are formed when barriers are broken, walls are torn down, and no matter what avenue it comes from – a trust is formed.   

People say first impressions are everything and to some degree I believe this is true.  However, many times first impressions are based upon a fear of being less than what one thinks the other expects from them.  Don’t let something like that ruin a potential good relationship.  After all, the only thing certain in life is change.  Don’t let fear of someone’s potential opinion of you ruin the possibility of a new bestie!  Enjoy watching!

~Sherri

‘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.

‘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.

‘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 ‘Beloved’

Beloved by Toni Morrison

 

I decided to reread my all time favorite novel, Beloved by Toni Morrison. This is one of those few “great books” that truly lives up to its reputation, having won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1988. In spite of the fact that I have read Beloved several times, it still captivated me. Beloved is a story of love, strength, pain, and redemption that is set shortly after the Civil War.

Beloved was inspired by the life of Margaret Garner, An African American woman who escaped slavery in Kentucky in 1856 by crossing the Ohio River into Ohio, a free state. Captured, she killed her baby daughter rather than have her taken back into slavery.

Sethe and her older daughter, Denver, are main characters in the novel. The “baby ghost” of Sethe’s slain daughter, Beloved, comes to live with them, creating all kinds of opportunities for revisiting what they have been through, the meaning of family, and their hopes for the future.

One of the most appealing qualities of Beloved is how Morrison shares both the incredible strength and the all too human weaknesses of her characters. The day to day reality of an African American woman who was once a slave is described in amazing detail.

“Quickly, lightly she touched the stove. Then she trailed her fingers through the flour, parting, separating small hills and ridges of it, looking for mites. Finding none, she poured soda and salt in the crease of her folded hand and tossed both into the flour. She reached into a can and scooped half a handful of lard. Deftly she squeezed the flour through it, then with her left hand sprinkling water, she formed the dough.” (Chapter 1) 

“Sethe had the amazing luck of six whole years of marriage to that “somebody” son who had fathered every one of her children. A blessing she was reckless enough to take for granted…” (Chapter 1) 

“And no one, nobody on this earth, would list her daughter’s characteristics on the animal side of the paper.” (Chapter 3) 

Although the brutality of slavery is depicted throughout the novel, Beloved is much more a story of enduring and overcoming suffering than a story of the suffering itself. It will make you laugh, cry, and want to hold those close to you even tighter. I highly recommend this book.

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Beloved by Toni Morrison 

Copyright 1987, 2004 by Toni Morrison 

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 ‘Untamed’

Untamed b​y Glennon Doyle

 

If you are looking for an uplifting book about being your best self​, Untamed​ by Glennon Doyle fits the bill. Throughout the book, Doyle uses the metaphor of walking away from the cages that society teaches us to live in to become the strong, free, “untamed” women we were meant to be. We do this by looking to our true selves and becoming aware of what and who we want to be as opposed to what and who others expect us to be. We then make choices that are right for us as individuals.

Although Doyle is a best selling author, I was unfamiliar with her work until now. She has experienced many challenges and changes in her life including recovering from alcoholism and an eating disorder, and choosing to leave her husband for a woman who is now her wife — all while being a memoir writer in the public eye. Doyle does an incredible job of writing in a style that is real and universal and connecting with her reader, whether or not we can relate to her specific life experiences. Her humor also shines throughout the book.
Some of my favorite quotes from ​Untamed include:

“Ten minutes a day is not too long to spend finding yourself, Glennon. For God’s sake,
you spend eighty minutes a day finding your keys.”​ (Part Two: Know)

“When a woman finally learns that pleasing the world is impossible, she learns to please
herself.”​ (Part Two: Know)

“Selfless women make for an efficient society, but not for a beautiful, true, or just one.”
(Part Three: Aches)

I think we can all relate to the metaphor of being caged vs. being free and untamed in our own ways. Perhaps it was learning that polite girls don’t talk back while we were growing up and taking that to mean that sharing a divergent opinion is unacceptable, when the same behavior would have been encouraged in a boy. Or perhaps there are cages of perfectionism embedded in our definitions of being “good mothers”. It is easy to overlook that all mothers are human, and therefore none of us are perfect.

Untamed i​s an empowering book that encourages its readers to gently examine their own lives and be brave in making their own choices — all while laughing (and perhaps crying) along the way. I highly recommend it.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Copyright 2020 by Glennon Doyle

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 Cheesy Shrimp & Grits Recipe Review

Cheesy Shrimp & Grits

On our first date, River and I got to know each other over a big plate of shrimp and grits at the local “date place” restaurant. We quickly bonded upon discovering we both enjoyed the dish as a favorite. Since then he and I have sampled shrimp and grits together at multiple restaurants in multiple cities. And no two dishes of shrimp and grits have been the same. I’ve wanted to discover a simple recipe for the dish that could be served as written or could be adjusted to include different flavors all with the same base so River and I could cook it together at home.

After trying several recipes, Self Proclaimed Foodies’ version of Cheesy Shrimp and Grits is the clear winner. It’s simple, but not simplistic, with full flavor from the cheese, shrimp stock, lemon juice, and Worcestershire sauce. I’ve made this recipe both with white wine and cooking sherry in the water to cook the grits and have discovered I like the richness from cooking sherry slightly more. Although choice either is delicious. I also used locally sourced and ground grits. While I know those might be challenging to find, a recipe like this really calls for the highest quality ingredients you can find and afford.

This recipe for shrimp and grits makes four servings. For date night, we only needed two servings, especially with a kale salad on the side. So River and I cut the recipe in half. This worked well, except we both felt it needed slightly more sauce. I’d encourage you to make the full amount of sauce. Any leftovers could be used for another dish later. I bet it’d be great on a lovely piece of sauteed cod! We also used bacon fat to sear the shrimp, opting to impart the smokiness bacon fat provides. The entire dish paired nicely with a dry prosecco. A crisp riesling would also be delicious.

~Laura

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.