Sunday, November 1, 2015

Ernest Hemingway - For Whom the Bell Tolls, A Review

Don't ask For Whom the Bell Tolls - you might not like the answer.

Waiting is the hardest part of any venture, especially during war time, and this story shows the mental stress and psychological strain that results. For Whom the Bell Tolls starts out slow and builds towards the bridge and its demolition, which is the goal of the main character.  He's a hired explosive expert working in a country that isn't his own. Attached to the bridge project in various ways are the people who live and fight in the mountains, the enigmatic girl saved from the train, the foreign sentries guarding the bridge, and the enemy troops coming closer every day.

The characters: Roberto (Robert Jordan), explosions expert; Maria, the female interest; Anselmo, the old guide; Pilar, the matriarch who controls much of the actions of the local group; and Pablo, the tired old leader who stirs the trouble pot to see what Roberto will do. Each has his own doubts, his wants, his fears and his past. Into this maelstrom of testosterone comes a love story, a relationship which might not have happened in any other time. Two people who have no personal connections to hold onto are thrown together in wartime, when no one knows what the future will bring. Roberto's cold heart and Maria's painful past find solace in the other's company. 

Hemingway's male perspective on the intimacy between Roberto and Maria is somewhat subtle considering today's standards, but anything more would intrude. Duty, honour, and dedication to one's cause is the thread that runs through the story. The setting is the Spanish Civil War, the story is about trying to protect one's home from outside forces and the resulting cost in human terms. One particular scene details how Pablo deals with the Fascists and anyone he deems to be sympathizers. 

This is also a story about how war affects those who must fight and those who must watch. It's a clear look at the good (comradeship, duty, honorable acts), the bad (excessive killing and torture) and the ugly (destruction of bridges, homes, etc) aspects of any war. I like Hemingway's style of writing and although it's not my favourite Hemingway novel, it is an important one, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. I recommend this book if you want to understand more about the Spanish Civil War and the painting that Picasso painted in 1937, Guernicaafter the bombing of the town of the same name. 


E. Hemingway, by Lloyd Arnold cover photo, late 1939 *PD

Are you a Hemingway fan? Have you read this novel? In general, do you read to learn more about a certain point in history, or do you prefer only to be entertained?

Please leave a comment to let me know you were here and I'll respond.  Thanks for stopping by! More reviews are on the horizon. . .

Public Domain Image of Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway posing for a dust jacket photo by Lloyd Arnold for the first edition of "For Whom the Bell Tolls", at the Sun Valley Lodge, Idaho, late 1939.

This image was only used on the 1940 edition. It was common (and allowed by the copyright office) to change things such as the preface, foreword, and dust jacket when renewing a book. If the old book cover was not renewed along with the book, it fell into the public domain. This work is in the public domain because it was published in the United States between 1923 and 1963 and although there may or may not have been a copyright notice, the copyright was not renewed. This also applies to Canada.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Alone with the Unknown - A WEP Flash

Youthful Frights vs Adult Fears - Halloween Nights when the veil thins between this world and that other one. . .

Don't listen, don't look, don't turn around. . .

Paris - An Old Cemetery, by DG Hudson

A child sleepwalks, unbeknownst to the rest of the family. Out the door, and into a nearby cemetery, stepping gingerly, not feeling the cold night air.  She halts amid the dark stone tombs of yesteryear, eye closed and hands sensing her path and her active mind guiding her tiny feet.

A cat growls and hisses in the shadows of a nearby tomb and the child awakens. There is fear in her eyes yet she knows not what caused her to awaken. She looks around, feeling an aura of restlessness in the spirits biding in the place. All the things around her are dark and foreboding. . .she screams, breaking the stillness of the night. . .

Back in her own home, a few houses away, a mother hears the scream through her sleep and awakens panicked.  She knows her child walks at night. What calls her? She is up in a minute knowing where to find the little one. The child is always drawn to the cemetery, as if for a purpose. A shiver runs down the mother's spine.


I woke up sweating, looking about me and trying to determine where I was. In the dark, my sleepy eyes could still make out some things by the light of the moon shining outside, its light beaming in the window. I tried to calm myself, this was familiar, not like the dream from which I had woken. A dream where I was alone in the dark, in the middle of a cemetery hundreds of years old, with no idea why I was there nor how I had gotten there. I drifted back into sleep and the dream continued. . .

I didn't recognize the place at all, and there was a feeling of very old things lurking. Why was I standing still, why did I feel like something was getting closer, something I didn't want to see. Why wasn't I running or at least moving away? 

I turned, hearing something behind me. There was nothing there. I looked for my house, but I couldn't see anything, the fog has rolled in, damp, cloying and thick enough to smell. An earthy smell, like earth freshly turned.  Or, musty like a grave. What am I doing here? How did I get here?


The doorbell rang, and I nearly fell off the couch. I had fallen asleep again, Was that really a bell I heard or did I dream that too?  There was no way I was answering a door after midnight.. .especially on Samhain, All Hallows Eve, when the spirits can cross over.  No way.


Minor feedback acceptable Or MPA

That's my entry for this October Challenge of WEP, Write...Edit...Publish, hosted by Denise and Yolanda at the WEP site. This is Flash Fiction using your creative turn of mind in the form of prose, poetry, non-fiction, art, or photos. 

Check the WEP site for details

The prompt: Tell us about the horror that stalked you in the night. Write about it for this challenge and turn those childhood fears into a scare-fest like no other. . .but then leave your night light on when you go to bed.  It's supposed to prevent the spirits coming in under cover of darkness, or so my friend's Italian grandmother told her.  . .


Do you dislike being in dark dank places, especially cemeteries? Do you feel an affinity to the spirit world, walking dead or otherwise?

Please leave a comment to let me know you stopped by and I'll respond.  Don't forget to check the list for DL (Direct Link) at the WEP site to read more Halloween tales. It's your treat for Samhain.


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Diana Gabaldon's Dragonfly in Amber, A Review

If you could travel through a portal in time 200 years in the past, would you? If you left a beloved spouse behind, would that change your mind?

In the library belonging to a deceased clergyman scholar and his adopted son Roger, Claire Randall delves into historical records of her current time to find out what occurred after the battle at Culloden, fought in 1745 in Scotland. In Dragonfly in Amber, the story of her journey back in time unfolds after Claire has been back in her own time twenty years. She wants to tell her adult daughter about her real father. Roger's connection with that time in the past must also be explained.

Roger and Brianna listen as Claire tells how she arrived in 1745 from 1945 and why and how she came back. What she is burning to know - did Jamie Fraser, a man from that time, survive the battle which decimated Scottish clans? In the past from whence Claire came twenty years before, political turmoil gripped Europe, with the Bourbons, the Stuarts, and other nobles all plotting in Scotland, France, England, Spain, and Italy. From Scotland to France and back again, loyalties shifted and royal favour depended on whom you were backing.

Jamie and Claire establish a business in France, intent on keeping an eye on the Scottish royalty in exile there. They manage to get close to certain royal circles, but the game keeps changing. The intrigues of the French court under Louis XIV, and the pompous and tedious daily rituals of being 'at court' start to weigh on the Scottish visitors. 

A duel ensues after Jamie discovers a secret of the hated English officer from Outlander, Jonathan Randall and challenges his nemesis. Dueling is against the law, landing Jamie in the notorious Bastille prison, where only a royal pardon will release the prisoner. Once Jamie is released, he and Claire are given safe passage back to Scotland where preparations for a battle in support of 'Bonnie Prince Charlie' is gathering momentum.

Following on the heels of Outlander, this novel continues to explore the Jacobite uprisings. I recommend this book if you like historical fiction seasoned with time travel, romance, historical battles, duelling, attempted murder and blackmail. . .I enjoyed Dragonfly in Amber and its story nested within a story approach.


Are you a Diana Gabaldon fan? Have you read Dragonfly in Amber? Would you like to time travel? To what time period?

Please leave a comment to let me know you were here and I'll respond.  Thanks for stopping by! I'm currently working on something for Halloween, via a challenge hosted by Denise and Yolanda at WEP ...Write Edit and Publish. . .. check out the link, you might be interested.

Reviews Coming Up: 
I'm going to be reviewing two totally different books for this blog soon: Hemingway's 'For Whom the Bell Tolls, and Anne Rice's 'Don't Look Back'. 

Currently reading: 
French Quarter Nocturne (R. Yeomans) and Sacré Bleu (Christopher Moore).


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Spectacular Settings - WEP: A Slice of Montmartre, Paris

A quote about Paris, from David McCullough, in The Greater Journey.

". . .Paris was a place where one wanted to walk, where to walk - Flâneur* . . .as the French said - was practically a way of life." ('Ah, to wander over Paris!' wrote Honore de Balzac, 'what an adorable and delectable existence is that.  Flânerie is a form of science, it is the gastronomy of the eye.")

I concur.


A Slice of Montmartre Life

Paris - A Montmartre Street Still Life, by DG Hudson

A man in the left foreground of the image above, stands behind his wife who is framing a photograph.

"Oh honey, just take the photo. . .quick before the tour group leaves us behind."

"But I just noticed that street performer on the other side of the street. . .where did he come from?"

"Who knows? Be sure to get Sacre Coeur's dome in the shot, that's what we want - the church looming over the hill, reminding the people of its past. . .as the Mount of Martyrs."

"Of course, the camera is set for wide angle. I have included the church, the performer, the tourists, even the mother and child."

“Great, let’s catch up with our tour group. The performer is headed that way."


 The young mother watches the performer with his tell-tale long legs and wonders at his purpose.  Her son in the stroller sees him too.

"Maman! Maman! Look!" the child points to the street performer in stilts.

"I see him, ma cherie, do you know what he is?"

"Street play man? I want to see, ple-e-a-s-s-e, Maman!"

"We will see if he stops, little one, he may be headed for that tour group up the hill. . ."


The performer focuses on retaining his balance and stride as he climbs up the hill towards the tour group. His black and white ensemble is de rigeur for his occupation.

These new stilts are slowing me down a bit. . .but no matter, that must be the tour group ahead. What a disjointed collection of travellers. . .but I will charm them. I would much rather entertain that child and its mother, the little ones always love me, but the tour group will pay better. I have to eat too. 

I know what will appeal to this older audience, I will present the French tour guide view as he tries to interpret the Franglais and other mashed languages that most of the visitors speak.  I will be diplomatic as they say, of course! Ah, Paris!


*Flâneur - an aimless idler, dawdler, a dandy with time to stroll; one who observes life and offers his opinion on what he has observed.

From DG:

As I walked the steep hills of Montmartre, I saw the little things that bring a place to life and imprint upon the memory: the blue door to the residence where two brothers Van Gogh lived, an inner city vineyard, Lapin Agile - a café which swapped meals for art, the wall-passer - an author's story brought to life by a sculpture in a small square, and the view from  Sacré CoeurI saw the areas which had declined with time, but they faded behind the historical aura of Impressionist artists painting turn of the century dances in courtyards tucked in the shadow of the windmills. I could almost smell the fresh bread made from the milled flour.

WC = 501

Feedback = MPA


August WEP Prompt: Spectacular Settings

A setting can infuse our imagination. The visual prompts the sensory and the memory follows along. What is spectacular will vary with each writer. 

WEP = Write, Edit, Publish - this worthy challenge is back!

WEP has been revised to allow more time between prompts and more opportunity to read the work by the writers who join in the challenge, WEP offers the writer an opportunity to test their short writing skills. The word limit is 1000 or less.

The hosting job is now shared between two writer/bloggers, Denise and Yolanda, who have tweaked this challenge to make it more interesting. Read more about the changes, the prompt and how to participate at the WEP blog site. Also check out their blog sites to find out a bit more about our two hosts.

Join us! Hope you enjoy reading all the entries via the web site and giving feedback where indicated. 


Have you heard of WEP? Are you interested in joining? Do you like reading short fiction?

Please leave a comment just to say you were here, so I know you dropped by!  Constructive feedback is welcome. Hope you enjoy the reading!

Thanks for reading my entry, and don't forget to visit the other writers on the list at WEP - Write, Edit, Publish! 


Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Fiery Cross by D. Gabaldon, A Book Review

In the distance it glows, the red and orange flames licking the shape, defining the burning cross. . .

Cover 'The Fiery Cross', by Diana Gabaldon

It's the symbol to gather for war or a visual notice that your laird (or lord of the manor) has something to say that he deems important enough for such a traditionally called clan gathering. A large fiery cross burns for all to see for miles around. The tradition was brought to America by the Scottish settlers and adopted in the mid-coastal colonies of the southeast for civil matters in the 1700s. Over time this symbol became transmuted into something more fearful. The laird James Fraser calls his loyal henchmen to serve as militia in this way, unknowing of the future symbol's dark image. But Claire knows. . .


By the acclaimed author of Outlander, Fiery Cross takes place in a different time period and a different setting, in the Carolinas of the 1700s, in a young America. Called the Colonies prior to the American War for Independence, it was a place to start over in many ways. Scottish settlers bought land and tried to adapt to life in the New World, while the long arm of British Law and Governance tried to control those who had flown the coop.

Generals and militia men and ghosts from the past whom we met in Outlander show up here in the States in that historical period before the War for Independence. This is a story of a time when tension and distrust ran high, medicine knowledge was poor, and men were passionate in their beliefs. Land and loyalty were treasured, men were put to the scaffold for treason without a fair trial.

In this book, we see more of the daily occurrences of Jamie and Claire, and daughter Brianna and her husband. We learn of the harshness of life and the ghosts which haunt them. We see the young America before it has spurned the control of the mighty British Empire, we see a young nation flexing its muscles. Claire continues to practice her duties as a doctor, even attempting to formulate a type of medicine to battle the bacteria which takes so many lives.  She follows the early skirmishes with Jamie to give medical aid and to be with her man.

D. Gabaldon's 'The Fiery Cross', DGH collection

I can't find any fault with this tome (it's one of her BIG books) which I attained on sale by our local library. There is one section near the end which I found the story started to lag, but an unexpected attack on the main character, Jamie Fraser brought me right back. I found myself once again turning page after page with heightened interest as Claire tried to save her man.

Highly recommended. For the record, I'm not reading the Outlander series books in order, but that doesn't ever bother me. I can handle story jumps as well as time travel jumps in my reading.

If you like history, entwined with romance, intrigue, time travel references, and strong characters, you'll like Gabaldon's writing, and if you're American, it may give you a totally different outlook on this era. The Fiery Cross doesn't read like the dry history books from which we were taught.

Are you a Diana Gabaldon fan? Have you read many or any of the books she has written? How do you like the tv series based on the Outlander book? 

Please leave a comment to let me know you were here, and I'll reply. Thanks for dropping by! BTW - I like the tv series and I watch very few.  It's the Scottish version of history done on a micro scale with time travel and romance. Gabaldon does both well!


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Review - THE STARS BLEED AT MIDNIGHT, by Roland Yeomans

Don't look too close or you might see that which hides in the darkness. . .or an evil that's been slumbering for milleniums. . .

Egyptian lore lures with its unknowns, its mysteries and the characters and stories that Roland Yeomans places in the setting of bygone times. Samuel McCord, Nikola Tesla, Mark Twain/Samuel Clements, Meilori/Sekhmet, Bastet, a young Winston Churchill, Oscar Wilde and other names come and go in this riveting tale which begins in the United States, jumps to India and then to Egypt. Gathering at the exotic Shepheard's Hotel in Cairo, the friends prepare to unearth an ancient curse, while dodging or dispatching those who would stop them.

This is a story of intrigue, betrayal, love, friendship, and adventure. It is a magnificent waltz of power and control which fluctuates as various enemies make their attempts to foil the expedition. By the way, don't miss the lavish ball, it's the event of the season in this tale.

Samuel McCord remains the beacon to which the others gather, He protects. Tesla provides the means of transport, and Meilori orchestrates the restraint and/or demise of several enemies who would harm them.


The Stars Bleed at Midnight follows Death in the House of Life, the first book about the Egyptian expedition, the story that introduced the characters and one which I enjoyed very much. What inspired the massive monuments in Egypt? Were they of this world or another? Who is Bastet? And how did Oscar Wilde and Winston Churchill end up being in this place and time? These are all questions that will be answered, at least some of them. . .

I recommend taking your time reading this one, savouring the exotic location and the interactions between characters. Consider this quote by the character Daystar:

"There are none more complicit in one's undoing than one's own heart. . ." 


The adventure and the intrigue continues in the next novel about this expedition: Red Land and Black Death. I'm looking forward to it. . .Be sure to check Roland Yeomans' blog site to see the other offerings by this prolific author.


Have you read any of Roland's novels? How about Death in the House of Life? Have you read that one? I've reviewed that novel here.

Please leave a comment to let me know you were here and I'll reply. Thanks for dropping by! I'll be back with another review soon, on a Diana Gabaldon novel. Stay tuned.


Friday, May 15, 2015

CAPTAIN BARTHOLOMEW QUASAR, Serial Chapters, by Milo James Fowler

Do you like your reading in bite-size chunks? Have you heard about Milo's latest novel, in serial form? 

Author Milo J. Fowler, cover

New Release:

and the 
Space-Time Displacement Conundrum

published by 

16 weeks of serial chapters every weekday
80 exciting episodes of adventure aboard the Effervescent Magnitude 
Only $5 USD (includes an eBook edition following serialization)

Don't delay – Subscribe today! 


Captain Quasar is out of time. . .

Pursued by vengeful Goobalob toll collectors, savage Arachnoid bounty hunters, and formidable Amazonians, Captain Bartholomew Quasar must do whatever he can to keep the crew of the Effervescent Magnitude out of harm's way. All in a day's work—except time is not on his side.

Torn from the present to relive his past, he vows to keep mistakes from occurring the second time around. But is he doomed to repeat history? Or can he erase his regrets?

Villains will be vanquished. Lives will be lost. Bonds will be betrayed. Heroes will be heroic.
Join the crew of the Effervescent Magnitude for a hilarious time-travel space adventure the likes of which you've never seen!


Jaw muscle twitching at untimed intervals, Captain Bartholomew Quasar gripped the armrests of his deluxe-model captain's chair and narrowed his heroic gaze. The main viewscreen on the bridge of the Effervescent Magnitude radiated with white-hot streaks blurring in elongated trajectories as his star cruiser plunged into the depths of space at something near the speed of light.

Quasar could feel the tension in the air. It was palpable and tasted like sweat—mostly his own. The members of his bridge crew remained silent, standing at their stations and staring at the viewscreen. Many forgot to blink as their insides trembled, recoiling with a nameless fear.

They had never moved so fast in their lives.

This was the Magnitude's maiden voyage into deep space utilizing the recently installed cold fusion near-lightspeed reactor—an experimental propulsion system they'd picked up on the planet Carpethria. One thing was readily apparent: it worked. But how long could the ship could maintain this incredible velocity without compromising hull integrity?

Already, the ship was creaking and groaning in protest, and the helmsman—a very hairy, four-armed Carpethrian who resembled something between a sloth and an overweight orangutan—had begun to grumble that the reactor really should have been tested before this full-speed leap into the black.

But there had been no other choice. Their options at the time were either flight (and survival) or fight (and undoubtedly be destroyed). Vicious Arachnoid bounty hunters were on their tail, and Arachnoids tended to be a very hungry lot—often foregoing payment for their illicit services in favor of a fresh kill.

The Magnitude's first officer, Commander Selene Wan, wasn't keen on the idea of allowing a Carpethrian to man the helm of their freshly minted star cruiser. But no one else on board knew how to navigate at near-lightspeed, and it took all four of the alien's hands to do the job—something two humans would have had to coordinate in tandem. And that could have gotten awkward.

"Steady as she goes." Quasar smoothed down his close-cropped blond hair and cringed as the ship released a moan that didn't sound good at all—something akin to a whale giving birth. "How are we doing, Hank?"

"Haven't run into anything yet," grunted the very hairy helmsman, hands flying across the controls.

"Status report?" Quasar half-turned to regard his first officer with a confidently raised eyebrow.

Commander Wan, a tall, slim Eurasian with impeccable posture, kept her attention riveted on her console. "Proximity scanners are offline." She swayed on her feet with the rocking movements of the ship, her sleek black hair swinging across her shoulders. "Artificial gravity is holding. Life support remains functional." A sudden frown creased her usually furrow-free forehead. "But the reactor, sir… We may have a serious problem."


"It's overheating, Captain. If we don't decelerate, it may—" She swallowed. "Explode."

That wouldn't be good at all. The folks back home were depending on Captain Quasar and company to bring back loads of quartz necessary for virtually every form of technology and transportation on Earth, not to mention haute vintage time pieces. The Magnitude could not possibly be allowed to blow up.

"Hank?" Quasar faced the shaggy helmsman. "Could we possibly slow down a bit?"

The Carpethrian grunted something intelligible, followed by, "Commencing deceleration sequence."

"Very good." The captain nodded, glancing over his shoulder at his first officer. Everything was under control. "Status?"

She shook her head without a word. Quasar checked the console on his armrest. The Arachnoid ship was nowhere in sight, and the Magnitude had begun to slow down, but only by an infinitesimal fraction of its near-lightspeed velocity.

"Uh-Hank? About that deceleration sequence…" Quasar cleared his throat.

"It will take thirty minutes, Captain. Any sudden downshift in speed would tear the ship apart."

Quasar maintained a brave façade for the sake of his crew. Such was expected from starship captains, after all. Clenching his jaw, he leaned toward Wan and whispered, "Do we have thirty minutes?"

She met his gaze, and he didn't like what he saw in her eyes—something she hadn't shown before when they'd dealt with the horrible Goobalobs or the savage Arachnoids:



Now Available from Every Day Novels
Add Captain Quasar to your Goodreads bookshelf or add it to your TBR list.
AND. . .
Get to know the author, Milo:

Milo James Fowler, Author

1. When did you start seriously pursuing writing as a career?

I've been writing since I was 12, but I started submitting my work for publication in the summer of 2009. I'd always thought I would pursue publication at some point—probably after I retired from teaching or turned 40. My first story was published in January 2010, and I've had over a hundred others accepted for publication since then. I won't turn 40 for another year, and I'm still teaching full-time. Doesn't look like I'll be retiring anytime soon!

2. How did you create the character Bartholomew Quasar?

When I came up with Captain Bartholomew Quasar back in the spring of 2010, I was going for a mash-up between William Shatner's James T. Kirk and Dudley Do-Right from the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show (but in Quasar's case, things seldom ever go right). He's one of those classic pulp heroes with a heart of gold whose narcissistic tendencies often land him in hot water. I hope readers can laugh at Bartholomew Quasar and root for him at the same time. He's ridiculous, but there's something about his fallible nature that most of us can relate to on some level.

3. Are you working on more Captain Quasar stories?

I've written over 20 Captain Quasar tales so far, many of which are out on the submission circuit, looking for good homes. "Captain Quasar and the Ghosts of Space Command" will be published in the next issue of Perihelion Science Fiction. "Captain Quasar and the Carpethrian Call of the Wild" will be included in the B is for Broken anthology, and "Captain Quasar and the Devious Powers of Persuasion" will be in the Geminid Press space opera anthology. I'm in the middle of edits on a novella-length adventure I plan to submit for publication soon. My collection of 15 Quasar tales Starfaring Adentures…in SPACE is available everywhere eBooks are sold—and free for the taking, last time I checked.  

Author Bio:

Milo James Fowler is a teacher by day, speculative fictioneer by night, and an active SFWA member. When he's not grading papers, he's imagining what the world might be like in a dozen alternate realities. In the past 5 years, his short fiction has appeared in more than 100 publications, including AE SciFi, Cosmos, Daily Science Fiction, Nature, Shimmer, and the Wastelands 2 anthology.

Visit and join The Crew for updates about new releases.


Have you read any of Milo's novels? Do you like his detective noir, weird westerns, or science fiction best?

Please leave a comment to let me know you were here, and I will respond. Thanks for dropping by, and don't forget to wish Milo Good Luck!! I might be able to get Milo to drop by for a few comments as well. My favourite is his detective noir work!