Also loved by editors of New York Times Book Review – I’ve picked a few from this list!

When I listed the 10 Best Books from The New York Times, I meant to include the extra list of other books the editors loved. These books didn’t make the editors’ top ten, but they highly recommended them. I’d actually heard of some of these! All links and descriptions are from Amazon, unless otherwise noted.

The Magician by Colm Toibin
From one of today’s most brilliant and beloved novelists, a dazzling, epic family saga set across a half-century spanning World War I, the rise of Hitler, World War II, and the Cold War. Note from me: this one’s about Thomas Mann, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1929 and is the author of The Magic Mountain, a book I read in college and would like to read again.

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
Once in a great while, a book comes along that changes our view of the world. This magnificent novel from the Nobel laureate and author of Never Let Me Go is “an intriguing take on how artificial intelligence might play a role in our futures … a poignant meditation on love and loneliness” (The Associated Press).

Razorblade Tears by S. A. Cosby
“A visceral full-body experience, a sharp jolt to the heart, and a treat for the senses…Cosby’s moody southern thriller marries the skillful action and plotting of Lee Child with the atmosphere and insight of Attica Locke.” —NPR

Wayward by Dana Spioda
A “furious and addictive new novel” (The New York Times) about mothers and daughters, and one woman’s midlife reckoning as she flees her suburban life.

Dirty Work by Eyal Press
A groundbreaking, urgent report from the front lines of “dirty work”―the work that society considers essential but morally compromised.

Beautiful World Where Are You by Sally Rooney
A new novel by Sally Rooney, the bestselling author of Normal People and Conversations with Friends.

The Life of the Mind by Christine Smallwood
A witty, intelligent novel of an American woman on the edge, by a brilliant new voice in fiction—“the glorious love child of Ottessa Moshfegh and Sally Rooney” (Publishers Weekly, starred review).

Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen
Jonathan Franzen’s gift for wedding depth and vividness of character with breadth of social vision has never been more dazzlingly evident than in Crossroads. Note from me: I remember reading The Corrections a long time ago for my book club, but I haven’t read anything else by Franzen.

The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr.
A singular and stunning debut novel about the forbidden union between two enslaved young men on a Deep South plantation, the refuge they find in each other, and a betrayal that threatens their existence.

Our Country Friends by Gary Shteyngart
Eight friends, one country house, and six months in isolation—a novel about love, friendship, family, and betrayal hailed as a “virtuoso performance” (USA Today) and “an homage to Chekhov with four romances and a finale that will break your heart” (The Washington Post).

It’s interesting to me that there’s only one nonfiction on this list, Dirty Work. I might want to read that, but also on my list of potential reads would be The Magician, Razorblade Tears, and Crossroads. What would you like to read? Leave a comment!

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Book Review: For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway – buddy read with Roberta Writes

Hi Everyone, I’m reblogging this because I published it too early! I hope you enjoy this review and that you’ll stop by Robbie’s blog, too, to read her thoughts on For Whom the Bell Tolls. All links are live now 🙂

Book Club Mom

For Whom the Bell Tolls
Ernest Hemingway

Lately I’ve been in the mood to return to the classics. I’ve always loved Hemingway, but had never read For Whom the Bell Tolls, published in 1940. I’m sure you’ve all either read it or heard of it. Maybe you’ve seen the 1943 movie starring Gary Cooper, Ingrid Bergman and Akim Tamiroff.

You may not know that the title refers a line of prose by the poet John Donne which begins with, “No man is an island, entire of himself.” Donne wrote those lines in 1624 as part of a larger work entitled Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions. The last lines read, “Therefore, send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” The gist of Donne’s words is that we are all part of a greater whole. And Donne’s bell metaphor reminds…

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Book Review: For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway – buddy read with Roberta Writes

For Whom the Bell Tolls
Ernest Hemingway

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Lately I’ve been in the mood to return to the classics. I’ve always loved Hemingway, but had never read For Whom the Bell Tolls, published in 1940. I’m sure you’ve all either read it or heard of it. Maybe you’ve seen the 1943 movie starring Gary Cooper, Ingrid Bergman and Akim Tamiroff.

You may not know that the title refers a line of prose by the poet John Donne which begins with, “No man is an island, entire of himself.” Donne wrote those lines in 1624 as part of a larger work entitled Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions. The last lines read, “Therefore, send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” The gist of Donne’s words is that we are all part of a greater whole. And Donne’s bell metaphor reminds us of the short time we have on earth.

These lines are especially meaningful in Hemingway’s story about Robert Jordan, a young American member of the International Brigade who has volunteered to fight against fascism in the Spanish Civil War. The story begins in 1937 and takes place over three days as Jordan contemplates his role in the war and his job to blow up an enemy bridge in the Guadarrama mountains. To blow up the bridge, he must join forces with guerrilla fighters who have camped behind enemy lines. There he meets the group’s leader, Pablo, whose notorious brutality has won them many battles. Although respected for his earlier leadership, Pablo has become disillusioned and jaded. He drinks all day and his unpredictable behavior may prove dangerous to them all.

When Jordan arrives at the camp, he also meets Maria, a beautiful young Spanish woman rescued from enemy capture where she was raped and tortured. Jordan is taken by Maria’s vulnerability and the two form an immediate, intense connection. Pablo’s wife, Pilar, senses the shortness of time and tells them they must take advantage of the time they have together. She knows that the future holds no guarantees.

Jordan also knows this. In his thoughts, he says, “So, if your life trades its seventy years for seventy hours I have that value now and I am lucky enough to know it.” He later tells Augustín, one of the fighters, “What we do not have is time. Tomorrow we must fight. To me that is nothing. But for the Maria and me it means that we must live all of our life in this time.”

Throughout the story, I felt a building sense of urgency, punctuated by waiting, for the bridge must be blown at a precise time, no earlier and no later. Pablo opposes the bridge-blowing, thinking it not enough. He argues that his own success in blowing up trains achieved better results. During the tense discussions, a new and dangerous dynamic emerges between Pablo and Pilar. Pilar, now a leader, would sacrifice her husband to guarantee the success of Robert’s mission.

On the last day, Jordan and the band carry out the plan to destroy the bridge. With success comes casualty, however, and soon Jordan, who is badly wounded, must contemplate his own mortality. “I hate to leave it, is all,” he thinks. “I hate to leave it very much and I hope I have done some good in it.”

I can’t tell you how engrossed I was in Hemingway’s portrayal of a time and place I knew little about. It’s a love story, of course, but it’s also one of war, politics, ideology and culture in which many of its characters think deeply about the value of human life, their purpose in the world and their connections to others.

I had a wonderful time reading this book with my buddy reader, Robbie Cheadle. She has posted her thoughts today, too, with an interesting perspective on leadership. Robbie is a terrific blogging friend and author and posts on two blogs, Roberta Writes and Robbie’s Inspriation. You can find out more about her here. And of course, be sure to check out her review of For Whom the Bell Tolls here!

Have you read For Whom the Bell Tolls? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

The 10 Best Books of 2021 from The New York Times

Yesterday I watched a live stream of The 10 Best Books of 2021 from The New York Times. It was so fun! Presented by the editors of The New York Times Book Review, each chose their favorites and talked about how these five fiction and five nonfiction books made the list. I enjoyed seeing the faces of the reviewers and hearing them talk. Not surprisingly, there were a lot of loaded book cases in the backgrounds! There was a Zoom afterparty and I checked in for a minute, but I didn’t have time to stay long. I wished I had because the editors were holding an open discussion of the books, plus they invited viewers to talk about their own favorites.

Although I haven’t read any of these, I’ve already reserved copies of many from the library, so look out for future reviews!

All links, blurbs and quotes are from Amazon.


How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue

A fearless young woman from a small African village starts a revolution against an American oil company in this sweeping, inspiring novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Behold the Dreamers.

Intimacies by Katie Kitamura

A novel from the author of A Separation, an electrifying story about a woman caught between many truths.

When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamin Labatut

A fictional examination of the lives of real-life scientists and thinkers whose discoveries resulted in moral consequences beyond their imagining.

The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeferrs

“A vibrant and tender coming-of-age novel. Ailey Pearl Garfield is a young girl reckoning with what it means to be a Black woman in America.” – Time

No One Is Talking about This by Patricia Lockwood

From “a formidably gifted writer” (The New York Times Book Review), a book that asks: Is there life after the internet?


Red Comet by Heather Clark

The highly anticipated biography of Sylvia Plath that focuses on her remarkable literary and intellectual achievements, while restoring the woman behind the long-held myths about her life and art.

How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America by Clint Smith

Beginning in his hometown of New Orleans, Clint Smith leads the reader on an unforgettable tour of monuments and landmarks—those that are honest about the past and those that are not—that offer an intergenerational story of how slavery has been central in shaping our nation’s collective history, and ourselves.

On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed

The essential, sweeping story of Juneteenth’s integral importance to American history, as told by a Pulitzer Prize–winning historian and Texas native.

Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival & Hope in an American City by Andrea Elliott

“Destined to become one of the classics of the genre” (Newsweek), the riveting, unforgettable story of a girl whose indomitable spirit is tested by homelessness, poverty, and racism in an unequal America—from Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Andrea Elliott of The New York Times

The Copenhagen Trilogy: Childhood; Youth; Dependency by Tove Ditlevsen

Called “a masterpiece” by The New York Times, the acclaimed trilogy from Tove Ditlevsen, a pioneer in the field of genre-bending confessional writing.

Have you read any of these books? Which ones would you like to read? To start, I’d like to read How Beautiful We Were, Intimacies, No One Is Talking about This, Red Comet, Invisible Child and The Copenhagen Trilogy.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Back from NaNoWriMo!

You may know that I committed to NaNoWriMo this year and I’m happy to say that I reached my goal and wrote 50,000 words in thirty days. During November, I only read two books. There was no time! Now that I’m finished, I’m looking forward to reading, a lot!

Here are just a few thoughts about the NaNoWriMo challenge.

  • On the first day of NaNoWriMo, I also started reading For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway. That was a little intimidating and discouraging. There’s no way to measure up to that.
  • It was hard! Maybe it’s age, maybe it’s something else, but I had planned to get up at 5 o’clock every morning and write for an hour and a half. That happened some days, but I was simply too sleepy to do that every morning. Most mornings I didn’t get started until at least six-thirty and by then by other obligations were fast approaching. So not so good.
  • I had to skip a couple days then double up. It was doable but I don’t think what I wrote the following days was as good.
  • This year, I went in with a loosely defined plot. That worked well, but if I had been better organized, I would have known more what to write each day and I wouldn’t have struggled so much in the early morning hours.
  • I had a writing buddy. That was the best part. You may know her too, Jennifer Kelland Perry, author of Calmer Girls and Calmer Secrets. She also blogs on Jennifer’s Journal.
  • Throughout the month I often asked myself: What am I doing, and why did I commit to do this in November? November is the worst month for novel writing! Yet, having finished, I feel like I’m part of a community. Those who’ve done it can relate to the craziness of November.
  • I had fun. That was the best part. I revealed the plot to my family and we talked about some of the plot options. They were very supportive.

Did you participate in NaNoWriMo this year? Have you done it in the past? Leave a comment and thanks for reading!

Who’s That Indie Author? Jacqueline Friedland

Author Name: Jacqueline Friedland

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Books: He Gets That from Me (new release), Trouble the Water and That’s Not a Thing

Brief bio: Jacqueline Friedland is the multi-award-winning author of That’s Not a Thing and Trouble the Water.  A former attorney, she now writes full time. She lives in Westchester, New York, with her husband, four children, and two very bossy dogs.

What got you started as a writer? I always wanted to be a writer, and I really hated being a lawyer. I didn’t feel like I could leave my paying job until I knew I was really serious about the writing, so I wrote in my spare time until I finished a draft of my first book. The rest is history!

What difficult experience has helped you as a writer? Having to deal with disappointments in life has definitely helped me as a writer. It’s useful to be able to tap into those memories of hard moments when you’re trying to capture complex emotions on the page.

Have you ever participated in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)? If so, how many times and what was your experience? I have not ever done NaNoWriMo. With four kids at home, it feels overly ambitious to expect to meet those goals. But! I can’t wait to get involved when my kids are a little older.

What advice would you give a new indie author hoping to publish a book? I would say not to be dissuaded just because people say it’s hard. Nothing worthwhile is easy!

What has been the biggest challenge for you during Covid?  It’s been very hard to be separated from people I care about. My father lives across the country, and I didn’t see him for nearly two years.

What are you reading right now? I just finished The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer and loved it. Such a fun book.

Would you rather laugh or cry over a book? Definitely laugh!

Have you ever climbed a tree to read a book? No. I’ve never climbed a tree, period. I don’t do heights.

Have you ever dropped a book in the tub, in a pool or in the ocean? Yes, I’ve dropped books in pools and baths for sure. And then that poor paper!

Could you live in a tiny house? I’d rather live in a tiny house than no house at all, but I do like my space.

What are the small things that make you happy? I love the smell of laundry drying in the machine as it wafts out of the laundry room. I love the lines a vacuum makes in carpet that has just been cleaned. I love the sound of a dishwasher running in quiet kitchen in the evening. And I love anything that sparkles.

Website and social media links:
Twitter: @jbfriedland
Instagram: jackiefriedland
Facebook: @JacquelineFriedlandAuthor

Are you an indie or self-published author?  Do you want to build your author network? Get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author!

Email for a bio template and other details.

What’s That Book? The Little Cafe by the Lake by Joanne Tracey

Title: The Little Cafe by the Lake

Author: Joanne Tracey

Genre: Contemporary Romance Plus

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What’s It About? I am a huge fan of Jo Tracey’s books. This has been my favourite one so far. If you are looking for a break filled with fun, friendship, food…and some sultry, fiercely independent characters, this book is for you. As a bonus, numerous mouth-watering recipes are included.

How Did You Hear About It? I was fortunate to receive an advanced copy of this book (which was just released on November 4, 2021).

Closing Comments: As many of the main characters in this novel also appeared in ‘Happy Ever After’ and ‘Wish You Were Here,’ this reading felt like catching up with old friends. If you haven’t yet read any of Jo Tracey’s books, I highly recommend them. Although this book is part of a series, it can also easily be read as a stand-alone.

Contributor: Donna Connolly is a retired Middle School Principal/Deputy Director who spent fourteen years working in Beijing, China. Six years ago, Donna began to blog in order to document her retirement journey. Her site, Retirement Reflections, now includes two monthly collaborative features, ‘What’s On Your Plate?’ and ‘What’s On Your Bookshelf?’. You can connect with Donna via the following:

Blog  • Twitter • Linked In • Pinterest • Instagram

She’d love to hear from you.

Have you read something good?  Want to talk about it? Consider being a contributor to What’s That Book.

Email Book Club Mom at for information.

On YouTube: Talking about turkey, my new hat, NaNoWriMo and some other stuff

Hi Everyone,

I hope you’re all doing well. Thanksgiving is over, I’m wrapping up NaNoWriMo and getting ready to return to the blog. In the meantime, here’s a quick video to talk about my turkey, my new hat and some other stuff.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Married life for the pilgrims – guest post by Noelle Granger

If you’re wondering what married life was like for the pilgrims once they got off the Mayflower, take a look at this terrific November 2015 guest post by mystery writer and historical fiction author Noelle Granger!

I’ve updated this post to include more about Granger’s books and the result of her historical research, The Last Pilgrim:

I recently caught up with Noelle Granger, author of the The Last Pilgrim and Rhe Brewster Mystery Series. Noelle has some great ideas for her first historical novel, based on the early Plimoth Colony. In the following guest post, Noelle talks about her idea and about the history of Pilgrim marriages.

As an author, I think you are always looking forward to the book you’re going to write next. A plan of mine for the next few years is to write my first historical novel. The subject of the book will be Mary Allerton, who came to the New World on the Mayflower when she was a child of four. She lived a long life, eighty years, and saw the many changes in the Plimoth Colony from the time of its establishment by the Pilgrims in 1620. This will be something new for me – not the research, because I do that for my mystery books – but writing about someone who lived nearly 400 years ago. There is no extant writing about the individual members of the original Plimoth Colony. We don’t know what they looked like or anything about their personalities; in most cases all we have is when and where they were born, when they died and the names of their children. We don’t even know exactly where they are buried, except somewhere on Burial Hill in Plymouth. This gives me great deal freedom and responsibility in terms of what I write, at the same time ensuring that the background is accurate and includes recorded historical events.

I want to make these freedom-seeking people real to my readers, with all their foibles and faults and strengths. They were so much more than just the cardboard cutout figures standing with Native Americans around tables laden with a harvest feast. To give you a taste of this, let me tell you something of what is known of the relationship between a Pilgrim husband and wife.

Male dominance was an accepted principle at the time. Public affairs were not open to women and only males were eligible to become “freemen.” Furthermore, women could be regarded with a kind of suspicion, solely because of their sex. Recall that both Old and New World witches were mainly women, and there were two allegations of witchcraft in records of the colony. Nevertheless, Plimoth’s first pastor, John Robinson, preached that women should not be regarded as necessary evils, but a wife should have the proper attitude toward her husband of “reverend subjugation.” It is interesting there is no evidence of habitual deference of one spouse to another, and I suspect that Pilgrim marriages were much more egalitarian than you might think.

A wife was largely subsumed under the legal personality of her husband, and by British common law could not own property, make contracts or sue for damages on her own. In Plimoth, however, a man was required to provide for his wife in his will, and in some cases, women could make a contract, such as that between a widow and her new husband with regard to the disposition of their respective properties. In some cases, women were allowed to separate from their husbands and they could also be granted liquor licenses! Both spouses were involved in the transfer of land and in the “putting out” of children into foster care, a fairly common occurrence when to the benefit of the child and both the natural and foster parents.

Colony records show instances of domestic disputes. Husbands and wives were expected to live together on a regular basis and in relative peace and harmony. If that were not the case, public condemnation might occur, up to and including a whipping. Sometimes domestic bliss took a village.

A woman might divorce her husband if he was impotent, since it was necessary that a marriage produce children, but marriage was expected to be an exclusive sexual union. Adultery was considered a serious transgression, severe enough to permit divorce and public whipping. Interestingly, adultery only occurred between a married woman and a married man or a married woman and an unmarried man. When a married man engaged in a sexual relationship with an unmarried woman, it was not considered adultery!

I think trying to write about the early Plimoth Colony is going to be both a challenge and great fun, and I plan to post more vignettes from what I learn in the course of my research.

Since this post, Granger has written and published The Last Pilgrim. Read my review here.

Be sure to also visit Noelle’s blog at SaylingAway to learn more about her books and other projects.

For more information about the Rhe Brewster Mystery Series, check out my reviews of Death in a Red Canvas Chair, Death in a Dacron Sail, and Death in a Mudflat. You can also read more about Death by Pumpkin here.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Who’s That Indie Author? Gail Aldwin

Author Name: Gail Aldwin

Genre: Contemporary fiction

Books: This Much Huxley Knows, The String Games 

Brief bio: I am a British writer who has lived and worked in Australia, Papua New Guinea, Uganda and Spain. As well as novels, short fiction and poetry, I co-write short plays and comedy sketches that are staged in my home county of Dorset. I love to appear at national and international literary festivals, including input at the Mani Lit Fest in Greece 2021.

What got you started as a writer? When I lived overseas, the letters and emails I sent home were the start of my journey to becoming a published author. When I ran out of anecdotes to share, I began making them up and developed the skills to write fiction.

What difficult experience has helped you as a writer? As a writer you need plenty of resilience. It’s a competitive field and to get published involves a lot of rejections. When I lived in Uganda, I volunteered at a refugee settlement for those fleeing conflict in South Sudan. I had such respect for the children and families who owned nothing but still found joy. My living conditions were tough with little piped water and a poor supply of electricity. I learnt how to toughen up from the refugees I worked with and I carry that experience with me today.

What advice would you give a new indie author hoping to publish a book? Seek beta readers to offer feedback on your work. Keep polishing your novel until it feels like you can recite every word.

What has been the biggest challenge for you during Covid? As the weekdays and the weekends merged during lockdown, I found it difficult to focus on writing. That’s when I joined Writers’ Hour with the London Writers’ Salon. Each weekday morning at 8am I joined a Zoom call which provided a kick start to get my writing going.

What are you reading right now? Tangled Lies by Karen E Osborne. It’s such a great book with standout characters.

Would you rather laugh or cry over a book? Laugh. It’s especially important to see the funny side during these Covid days.

Have you ever climbed a tree to read a book? No, but the young narrator in This Much Huxley Knows climbs trees and gets stuck at the top. Passing friends help to talk him down.

Have you ever dropped a book in the tub, in a pool or in the ocean? That is a criminal question. The worse thing I’ve ever done is to drop a book, see it catch the wind and chase it along the road.

Could you live in a tiny house? Oh yes! I love small spaces and used to spend hours sitting in the airing cupboard when I was a girl. To get into the mind of the young narrator in This Much Huxley Knows I recreated that experience to connect with the thoughts, worries, joys and preoccupations of a child and feed these into my novel.

What are the small things that make you happy? Sunlight turning leaves golden in autumn.

Website and social media links:
Twitter: @gailaldwin
Facebook: @gailaldwinwriter
Instagram: gailfaldwin

Are you an indie or self-published author?  Do you want to build your author network? Get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author!

Email for a bio template and other details.