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.

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Book Talk – Second Chance Romance by Jill Weatherholt

Image: Pixabay

Welcome to a new and occasional feature on Book Club Mom called Book Talk, home to quick previews of new and not-so-new books that catch my eye.

Sometimes you need a feel-good book, a story in which realistic characters face many challenges, but are able to overcome them through love and faith. That’s what you get in Second Chance Romance by Jill Weatherholt, a wonderful inspirational romance that promises just what the title suggests.

Jackson Daughtry doesn’t know what to think when a young, and very attractive, career-driven divorce lawyer arrives in Sweet Gum, Virginia. Melanie Harper is there to convince her Aunt Phoebe to move to Washington, D.C. because she is sure that Phoebe, her only relative, cannot manage on her own. But it may be that Melanie is the one in need, for despite a successful career and head-turning looks, Melanie lives in a shadow of sadness.

Add to the fact that Jackson, a handsome paramedic and single dad, shares ownership with Phoebe of Sweet Gum’s local café. They need each other. And Phoebe may not be a blood relative, but she’s definitely family to Jackson. This charming small town is where Phoebe belongs, and he’s about lock horns with Melanie on the subject.

As the story unfolds, readers learn more about Melanie’s mysterious past and why she is so entrenched in her career. In addition, Jackson’s back story explains why his little girl, Rebecca, has no mother in the picture. Could Melanie fill that void?

This isn’t just a love story, however. Weatherholt tackles important issues such as how to deal with loss and questions of faith. She presents a serious conflict and shows how her characters cope, using humor and keen insight into human behavior. Readers will need to read till the end to see how Weatherholt resolves the strong attraction and tension between Jackson and Melanie, which is also threatened by outside developments.

I very much enjoyed reading Second Chance Romance, and especially liked the small-town setting in which friends and neighbors look out for each other. I recommend this lovely romance to readers who like to see the good guys win.

I read Second Chance Romance as part of my library’s Summer Reading
Challenge to “read a book in a genre you don’t usually read.”

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Book Review: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
Gabrielle Zevin

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A.J. Fikry is at a crossroads. He’s a prickly young widower and owner of a small island bookstore off the coast of New England. Business is bad and his favorite book rep has been replaced by the unfamiliar and quirky young Amelia Loman. Deep in grief, he spends his nights drinking in the upstairs apartment. He’s lost, but at least he still has his rare edition of poetry by Edgar Allan Poe. Until it’s stolen.

He has little time to focus on the stolen book, however, because of what is waiting for him in the back of the store:  a baby, with a note attached. What to do? There’s only one answer and that is to make a new life for himself.

A.J.’s climb out of darkness is a charming tale about love, friendship and family. Each chapter begins with a clever synopsis of a classic short story, initialed by A.J.  And each story is tied to the events and characters in the book. And while Zevin’s characters are not complex, they combine to form an appealing and amusing group, including one of my favorites, Police Chief Lambiase, leader of the Chief’s Choice Book Club.

Readers will enjoy great dialogue and several laugh-out-loud scenes, including a hilarious author visit and reading. The story isn’t all light, however, and there is a lot more to this book than a simple love story. Zevin includes serious themes of hopelessness and loss and their effects on the characters. Meeting these characters first-hand is a must:  describing them in detail would ruin the experience for future readers.

In the end, the book is overwhelmingly hopeful and uplifting. I especially enjoyed it because the author’s ideas began to sink in after I had finished. Book lovers will appreciate the many references to literature and bookstores and everything in between. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is a fast read, but don’t be fooled and don’t be surprised if you pick it up for a second time!

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Calmer Secrets by Jennifer Kelland Perry

Calmer Secrets
Jennifer Kelland Perry


Samantha and Veronica Cross had to start fresh when they moved with their mother Darlene from Newfoundland’s Calmer Cove to St. John’s.  Attending a new high school and making friends were their first challenges and soon they discovered the charms of Ben Swift, a handsome local boy with his own troubles.  As the sisters rivaled for his attention, jealousy and misunderstandings threw the Cross family off balance into a spiral of disaster.

Calmer Girls is Perry’s first coming-of-age novel about the Cross sisters.  Calmer Secrets picks up in 1998, four years later.  If they thought the teenage years were turbulent, they are now learning that relationships in their twenties can be just as complicated.

Veronica is a single mom to three-year-old Henry and Samantha is an art student at Grenfell, seven hours away.  Their old friend Ben may be far away at the moment, but he’s on the minds of both girls, for different reasons, and it will be a long time before the sisters forget what happened.  Veronica copes by finding, then quickly discarding boyfriends.  And while on break, Samantha takes up with her old friend, Kalen O’Dea.  He’s charming and gorgeous, and fronts a popular cover band in town, but there’s something puzzling about his behavior.  Veronica warns her, but who is she to give advice?

The real elephant in the room, however, is Darlene’s drinking.  She’s met a new man, Cash, who owns the Bambury Tavern and the two work side-by-side.  He’s a great guy, but can he see the problem?  How long can the family look the other way? In addition, painful secrets about the Calmer sisters’ past are coming to the surface. Are these secrets best confronted or pushed back down?

Calmer Secrets is an excellent story about the difficult and unsettled years that are the twenties.  As with all quality writing, Perry’s storytelling flair is enhanced by her descriptive talent.  Reading about St. John’s makes me want to move there and, thanks to Perry’s introductions, I feel like I already have some friends in town.  As with Calmer Girls, Calmer Secrets includes many enjoyable and relatable details about the 1990s, as well as local customs, foods and phrases, giving the Calmer series a unique brand.  In addition, Perry integrates themes of family, friendship, love and second chances, giving the reader a great deal to think about afterwards.  I especially enjoyed seeing her characters transform and step up when they are needed most. And an extra treat are the quotes from classic literature at the beginning of each chapter, a smart detail that ties her story to larger ideas.  I’m looking forward to reading more about the Calmer sisters!

I recommend Calmer Secrets to all readers who like realistic stories about family and community in a friendly and colorful setting.

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Click here for a review of Calmer Girls.


The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman – great movie too!

The Light Between Oceans – a great story on the pages and on the screen!


It’s a win-win when a movie adaptation is just as good as the book and I found this out when I watched The Light Between Oceans starring Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander.

Set on an island off Western Australia just after World War I, it’s the story of a lighthouse keeper and his wife, who live alone on Janus Rock. One day, they discover a boat that has washed ashore, carrying a dead man and a crying baby.  Heartbroken over their own losses, they are faced with a decision that will shape the rest of their lives.

Despite being isolated from the world, it’s no surprise that Tom and Isabel Sherbourne’s choice ultimately affects a great many people and a complicated story emerges. It is a story of love, marriage, family and sacrifice.

Terrific filming and a great moral dilemma make this movie a satisfying tear-jerker and I felt the heartstrings being pulled from many directions.  Read the book first and watch the movie second?  I think it can be done in either order!

the light between oceans pic

Click here for a more detailed review of The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman.

What are your favorite film adaptations?

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What’s That Book? Brooklyn by Colm Toibin


Brooklyn Toibin
: Brooklyn

Author:  Colm Toibin

Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating:  *****

What’s it about?  Set in both Ireland and Brooklyn in the early 1950s, Toibin’s novel tells the endearing and compelling story of Ellis, a young woman who must ultimately choose between her home country and her new life in America.  Smart and capable, Ellis leaves her beloved home to find work in Brooklyn.  After coping with a horrific voyage across the ocean and paralyzing homesickness, Ellis soon begins to excel at her job and in her college classes.  She falls in love and slowly her new country becomes her home.  When family tragedy strikes, Ellis is forced to choose between her old life in Ireland and her new life in Brooklyn.  This is a lovely story with interesting, believable characters and lavish descriptions that contrast Ellis’ small Irish hometown and 1950s New York City.

Brooklyn DVD
After your read the book, be sure to check out the movie adaptation which received many film awards and garnered three Oscar nominations including Best Motion Picture of the Year.  The settings are stunning, the acting is superb (Saoirse Ronan was nominated for Best Actress) and the screenplay is wonderfully true to the book.

How did you hear about it?  A friend over the holidays watched the movie and recommended it to me.  I decided to read the book first, then watch the DVD.

Closing comment:  This is the rare but wonderful instance when a movie is as enjoyable as the book on which it is based.

Contributor:  Susan

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

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A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

A Farewell to Arms
Ernest Hemingway

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Each time I re-read a favorite classic, I finish with a new appreciation for the story and the author. It was no different this week when I picked up A Farewell to Arms. It’s such a well-known book, it’s tempting to think, “Oh, I already know that story. Why re-read it?” Why? Because each time you are guaranteed to get something different out of it. It had been at least twenty years since I had read A Farewell to Arms and I can’t remember if I’d read it only once or twice before. I have always liked Hemingway’s writing style and find his stories easy to read, but full of deeper ideas and feelings. And who doesn’t like a wartime love story?

This is a love story about Frederic Henry, an American ambulance driver serving in the Italian army during World War I, who falls in love with a young English nurse, Catherine Barkley. Their relationship is just getting underway when Henry is badly wounded and sent to a Red Cross hospital in Milan. Catherine soon follows and the two begin a romance that is wholly defined by the circumstances that surround them.

Hemingway on crutches. Photo:

This is a commentary on war as much as it is a romance, however and Hemingway used his own experiences as an ambulance driver during the war to tell it. He was badly wounded, just as Frederic Henry was, and recuperated for six months in Milan, where he fell in love with an American nurse named Agnes von Kurowski. They had planned to marry, but the relationship ended when Hemingway was sent home and she became engaged to an Italian officer.

In his book, he talks about the Italian countryside in typical Hemingway style, describing the color of the sky, the sparkling water and the mountains above. And then he adds the Italian troops trying to fight against the Austrians, in impossible mountain terrain. Many of his characters question the purpose of the war. One of the drivers puts it plainly, “If everybody would not attack the war would be over.”

Agnes von Korowsky Photo:
Agnes von Korowsky Photo:

Henry sees the war clearest when he returns to duty:

Abstract words such as glory, honor, courage, or hallow were obscene beside the concrete names of villages, the numbers of roads, the names of rivers, the numbers of regiments and the dates.

It’s this new understanding of the war that drives Henry’s decisions for the rest of the story, and when it ends in a hospital in Switzerland, Hemingway leaves the reader to think about how things might have been different, without the backdrop of war.

I enjoyed all of A Farewell to Arms, but the most exciting scene occurs late in the book and involves a rough trip in a rowboat on Lake Maggiore, which borders both Italy and Switzerland. This picture helped me imagine what would seem an impossible voyage.

Lake Maggiore Photo: Wikipedia
Lake Maggiore Photo: Wikipedia

If you’re a movie lover, you may be interested to know that there are two film versions of A Farewell to Arms:

  • In 1932, starring Helen Hayes, Gary Cooper and Adolphe Menjou. Directed by Frank Borzage. Screenplay by Benjamin Glazer and Oliver H.P. Garrett. It won two Academy Awards, one for Best Cinematography and Best Sound. The film was also nominated for Best Picture and Best Art Direction. Click here to visit IMDb for a full description of this film.
  • In 1957, starring Rock Hudson, Jennifer Jones and Vittorio De Sica. Directed by Charles Vidor and John Huston. Screenplay by Ben Hecht. Vittorio was nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. Visit IMDb for more information on this later film.

If you’re a Hemingway fan, you may enjoy the following:

“A Clean, Well-Lighted Place”
“Hills Like White Elephants”
A Moveable Feast
The Old Man and the Sea

The Sun Also Rises
“The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”

A Farewell to Arms, like other Hemingway stories and novels, is deceptively simple, with complex ideas, definitely worthy of a re-read or two! I may soon be returning to other Hemingway favorites. Who are your favorite authors? Do you have a favorite re-read? Has your experience been different each time?

Thank you to the following sources: and

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Who’s That Indie Author? Linda K. Sienkiewicz

Who's That Indie Author pic

Linda K Sienkiewicz

Author name: Linda K. Sienkiewicz

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Book: In the Context of Love. Honorable Mention in the Great Midwest Book Festival. Published 2015 by Buddhapuss Ink LLC

In the Context of Love

Bio: As a girl, I was fond of folding and stapling craft paper into miniature books that I filled with drawings and happily-ever-after stories. I was a scholarship art student and worked in graphics, but eventually returned to my other love, writing. I’m well-published in poetry and fiction. In the Context of Love, a story about love, lust and family secrets, is my debut novel.         

Favorite thing about being a writer: I can triumph over adversity, explore a world different from mine, reconfigure time, and challenge myself. I can fail and then get back up. I can make the impossible possible, turn the ugly into something beautiful, and name the unthinkable. Through story, I can help readers make sense of the chaos we call life.

Biggest challenge as an indie author: Being published by a small press means not getting the big advance that another author might get from a big New York publisher. But that’s okay. I didn’t write In the Context of Love to get rich. I wrote it because the story begged to be written.

Favorite book: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. It can still make me cry.

Contact Information:
In the Context of Love website
Linda’s website –
Twitter – @LindaKSienkwicz
Facebook –

Are you an indie author?  Do you want to build your indie author network? Why not get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author?

Email for a bio template and other details, and follow along on Book Club Mom to join the indie author community!

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Reserved by Tracy Ewens Preview

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and I’m looking forward to settling in with Reserved, a new romance by Tracy Ewens. Reserved is the fourth book in Tracy’s Love Story series. I’ve read the other three and have thoroughly enjoyed the author’s modern, sassy and a little bit steamy writing style.

Here’s a preview of Reserved, as it appears on Amazon:

Makenna Rye Conroy was living the dream—with an amazing husband and a beautiful new baby daughter—when one night changed everything.

Almost six years after Adam’s death, Makenna and her daughter Paige have built a solid, happy life together. Makenna manages her brother’s trendy restaurant, The Yard, and helps out at Ryeland Farms, the family business, all while navigating the world of private school parenting. Sure, being a single mom has its challenges, but she hardly has time to pack her daughter’s lunch in the morning, let alone think about dating.

Travis McNulty, the middle child and biggest disappointment of the McNulty clan, is a chef at his best friend’s new restaurant. He gave up apologizing for not being the football hero his family wanted a long time ago. In fact, Travis apologizes for very little these days. He loves creating great food—it’s more of a passion than a job—and he lives life on his own terms with few complications.

For the past couple years, Makenna and Travis have worked side by side at The Yard, bickering, teasing, and never taking each other very seriously. That is until Makenna has her usual reoccurring dream; but this time, instead of her late husband as the featured man, Travis stands in his place. Travis may be attracted to his best friend’s sister, but she’s a widow and a mother, which tops the charts for complicated in his book.

As the game changes, Makenna and Travis, with a little help from Paige, have to figure out what they are willing to risk to reserve a table for three.

Looking forward to reading Reserved soon!

Check out these terrific book covers and click on the titles below to read my reviews of Tracy’s earlier romances:


Premiere Goodreads       Candidate_cover5       Taste-by-Tracy-Ewens-360x570
Candidate            Taste

For more information about Tracy, check out her Who’s That Indie Author profile and these earlier interviews.

Who’s That Indie Author? Tracy Ewens
Author Interview 10/27/14
Author Interview 4/8/14

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Who’s That Indie Author? Evan Asher

Who's That Indie Author pic

evan asher in suit
Evan Asher

Author name: Evan Asher

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Books: The Profiteer by Evan Asher, Sweeter for the Pain by Evan Asher, A Dangerous Tune by Evan Asher & Rosemary Carr, Untrusting Hearts by Evan Asher & Madison Hartt

Bio: Evan was born and raised in the Midwest and crunches numbers for a living. In his free time, he wrangles words. He has written two novels: The Profiteer and Sweeter for the Pain. He has co-written two others: A Dangerous Tune with Rosemary Carr and Untrusting Hearts with Madison Hartt. Since adolescence, Evan has been in love with love, from that first loaded gaze, through the dance of courtship, to the culmination of hearts’ tender passions.

Favorite thing about being a writer: Creating fictional worlds and characters.

Biggest challenge as an indie author: Making time to write. On weekends, I can easily get distracted by other activities and my sofa often holds me hostage in front of the television.

Favorite book: The Mothers by Vardis Fisher, a rather horrifying true account of the Donner Party crossing. It always makes me grateful for the warmth of my home and abundance of food that I usually take for granted. Though it’s a sad tale, it’s also the story of great courage and endurance.

Contact Information:  Connect with Evan on the following sites:
Twitter: @EvanAsher555

Are you an indie author looking for some positive publicity? Do you want to build your indie author network? Why not get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author?

Email for a bio template and other details, and follow along on Book Club Mom to join the indie author community!

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