Book Review of Adrift: Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea by Steven Callahan

Adrift: Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea
Steven Callahan

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I’ve always liked survival stories and became totally engrossed in Steven Callahan’s first-hand account of how he survived for more than two months, alone in the North Atlantic after his boat sank. In 1980, Callahan entered the Mini-Transat Race from France to Antigua, but less than a week out, his boat was hit and destroyed by what he thinks was a whale. With only minutes to escape, he grabbed what he could and jumped in the inflatable life raft. His supplies consisted of a few items of food, minimal water, some tools and twine, desalination equipment, emergency flares, a signaling device with limited battery and a survival book he’d picked up at a used book sale.

Callahan endured blazing sun, huge waves, storms, shark attacks and a never-ending assortment of life-or-death situations, including the constant pressure to find food. His salt distillers malfunctioned, his raft leaked and he was hundreds of miles out of range for anyone to hear his signal. When he finally made it to the shipping lanes, ships didn’t catch the signal or see him, despite the flares.

Equally challenging were feelings of worry and hopelessness, but Callahan had a mental resiliency like no one else. He writes:

“Mountain climbing, camping, Boy Scouts, boat building, sailing, and design, and my family’s continued encouragement to confront life head on have all given me enough skill to ‘seastead’ on this tiny, floating island. I am getting there.”

Callahan speared dorados and trigger fish, journaled, drew, and calculated where he was with a sextant he made out of pencils, but over time, especially after the raft was punctured while he wrestled a dorado, he questioned if he had the strength to keep fighting. By then he was emaciated and dehydrated and was covered with cuts and sores.

One of his only comforts was the relationship he developed with the schools of dorados that followed him and nipped and bumped his raft, feeding off the barnacles on the bottom.

“The dorados have become much more than food to me…I look upon them as equals—in many ways as my superiors. Their flesh keeps me alive. Their spirits keep me company. Their attacks and their resistance to the hunt make them worthy opponents, as well as friends.”

Later, he wrote: “I needed a miracle and my fish gave it to me.”

On land, Callahan’s family notified the Coast Guard and conducted their own campaign to find him. But on the seventy-sixth day, a fishing boat from the tiny island of Marie Galante spotted his raft. He’d floated all the way from France to just south of Guadeloupe!

Callahan survived because of his unique skills and mindset and I wonder if anyone else could have made it. I marveled at how he used his mind to find solutions to a continuous run of seemingly hopeless situations. This is an example of perseverance like no other.

Adrift was first published in 1986 and despite being an older book, I think this excellent account has stood the test of time.

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Who’s That Indie Author? Bill Moseley

Author Name: Bill Moseley

Genre: Young Adult Fiction / Adventure

Book: La Cuesta Encantada

Are you a full-time author? If not, what’s your side gig? I’m not a full-time author. My side gig is working in higher education. I’m the Dean of Academic Technology at Bakersfield College, a community college in California. I’m just getting more serious about writing, and it’s an important creative outlet for me.

Favorite author/books: I really love books, and my taste in reading is really varied. As a child, I loved The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. Lately, I lean a little more toward Neil Gaiman and I really love the sort of whimsical adventure that he creates in The Graveyard Book. Toni Morrison’s work, especially the Song of Solomon, is really powerful. I admire how she gives readers a glimpse into another culture in such a visceral way.

What experiences or people have influenced your writing the most? I think my writing is a combination of a wild imagination, the places I’ve been, and a childhood obsession with Indiana Jones movies and the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland, with a side interest in romantic comedies. This book, in particular, takes place in some of my favorite locations – places where I played and visited as a child. I think of it as a story that’s been woven together in my imagination for much of my life.

Do you keep a writing journal and if so, how do you use it? I don’t. First, I’m not formally trained as a writer, so I’m guessing my approach is somewhat unconventional. Second, my work has been sort of project-oriented so far, and I spend a lot of time thinking about ideas and developing scenes in my head.

Do you belong to a writers’ group? If so, describe your experience: I don’t, but I’d love to. I think community is one of the best ways to develop any skill.

Are you up with the sun or do you burn the midnight oil? I used to burn the midnight oil.  With age, I’ve shifted the other direction. I’m up early these days, to walk with my wife before we start the day. If I’m honest, I feel like my best time for writing is in the afternoon – I think some days I get tired of the grind, and my brain is looking for a way to get creative by that time.

How do you get over a writing slump? I don’t think I’ve had a real slump. I often write when I have enough pent up creative energy that I am anxious to sit down and get some words on the page. I think in the few times when I just haven’t been feeling it (writing my dissertation comes to mind), the trick is to just write something. Even if it isn’t your best, there are times when the forward movement of just doing it is what matters. Anne Lamott’s notion of a shitty first draft applies here, I think.

Do you prefer writing dialogue or descriptive passages? Descriptive, I think. I’m a visual person, and I often “see” the things that I write long before they hit the page. They play out in my mind like a movie. I hope one day to be able to describe them the way I see them in my mind, but I’m not there yet.

What are you working on now? I’ve started outlining the sequel to La Cuesta Encantada, because there is some more story there that I want to tell. I have another story in my mind that I’ve been thinking about for a while, as well, but I’ve decided to hold on to that for now. As an academic, I usually have another non-fiction project or two in the works as well. I’m also working on a non-fiction book on the topic of failure, and how failure can be used as a tool for growth and development. Reclaiming Failure is something I hope to have published in early to mid-2021.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about writing and publishing a book? The world always needs more books. Stories are important to us as a society. Writing a book is hard, and the competition for the attention of agents and publishers is insane. However, if you want to write, and you enjoy writing, then you should do it. Honestly, I think that’s the best reason to do anything. Publishing – even self-publishing – is a nice way to celebrate the completion of your work, and to share your work with others. I think it’s probably natural to fantasize about dropping the next bestseller, but make sure you have the intrinsic motivation above all else.

Do you listen to podcasts? If so, which podcasts do you find the most interesting? I do listen to podcasts. The one writing-related podcast I listen to is called “Story Grid.” It’s an application of the book by the same title. This book and podcast were very helpful in guiding my thinking around how to put together an effective novel. I’m also a pretty regular listener of “Armchair Expert,” “The Tim Ferriss Show,” and “Up First.”

Favorite escape: Almost anything creative, from drawing and painting, to cooking, and even writing computer code (this is very creative, despite the reputation it has for being sort of stiff and mechanical). I also love to travel (pre-COVID) and get active with my family (we have seven kids, so there is always someone to do something with).

Have you ever tried Kombucha tea? Nope. Can’t get past the smell for some reason.

Do you prefer a couch with pillows or no pillows? I’ll say no pillows, mostly because my ideal couch is long and wide enough for me, a fairly large human, to easily take a nap on without limbs hanging off onto the floor. Pillows just take up space that I would rather use for myself.

Would you rather rake leaves, shovel snow or weed? Hard stop on weeding. I will avoid that at all costs. Being a California native, I’ve never shoveled snow, and I’m not sad about that.  There is a certain satisfaction in raking leaves on a nice fall afternoon. When I was young, my grandparents had a house with three very large mulberry trees in the front yard. I remember raking those leaves, and how satisfying it was to make them into neat piles that I could jump into. The earthy smell of leaves in the fall still takes me right back to that place.

Favorite mask – disposable paper, plain fabric, colorful print or something else? Plain black, but with straps that go around the back of my head. I must have an abnormally large head, because when I wear the kind with ear loops, my ears get pulled straight out to the sides.

Biggest writing challenge since COVID-19: In my day job, I’m in charge of distance education for a college of almost 40,000 students. As you can imagine, this has been a busy time. Fortunately for me, writing is something that I really want to be doing, so I find the time in between other things.

Website and social media links: – This is my personal site, and everything else links from there.  Thanks so much for this opportunity.  I’ve really enjoyed reading the other “Who’s that Indie Author?” entries.

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What’s That Book? The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick

TitleThe Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper

Author:  Phaedra Patrick

Genre: Fiction. Tough to classify, part slice-of-life, part humor, part adventure, and part mystery


What’s it about?  A reclusive widower has finally decided to go through his wife’s belongings when he finds a charm bracelet he never knew she had. Curiosity gets the better of him and he slowly unravels the story behind each charm. This discovery not only reveals things he never knew about his wife, but also forces him out of his comfort zone and helps him realize a side of himself he never knew he had.

How did you hear about it? Just a random bit of browsing through the library catalog

Closing comments: This is a charming (sorry for the pun) slice of life story that readers of a Man Called Ove and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry will enjoy.

Contributor: Tammie PainterI turn wickedly strong tea into imaginative fiction – You can read about my adventures over at

Many thanks to Tammie Painter who was generous enough to submit two book reviews for What’s That Book. Click here to read her review of A Prisoner of Birth by Jeffrey Archer.

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Consider being a contributor to What’s That Book.

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Who’s That Indie Author? Anne Marie Andrus

Author name:  Anne Marie Andrus

Genre:  Paranormal Romance/Adventure

Books:  Raimond, Monsters & Angels


When did you begin your writing career?  In the bleak winter of 2013, following Superstorm Sandy, I starting writing a “story” as a personal escape. I had no idea that little story would become a novel and spark an entire series.

What’s your approach to writing? Are you a “pantser” or a planner?  I wrote Monsters & Angels as a complete pantser. It was a creative adventure every time I sat down to write. I met characters who stepped out of the smoke and took center stage, exactly when I needed them.

As I began Raimond (the prequel to Monsters) I started outlining out of necessity. The series is currently planned to be four books—and a bit too complicated to be a pantser…but I miss that rush.

What’s your working style – morning or late-night writer?  I’m a night shift worker, so my most creative hours are during the dead of night. My editing is much better during the day.

Do you work at a computer or write long-hand?  I usually write on a computer but I wrote an alligator-wrestling scene by hand while sitting on a New Orleans roof deck. That scene is nearly word-for-word Chapter 35 in Monsters & Angels.

What gets those words flowing, coffee or tea?  Coffee to start. Bourbon to finish.

Favorite book:  The Casquette Girls by Alys Arden. The third book in that series will be released in January 2019.

Favorite movie:  Either Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves or Top Gun…depending on my mood.

Favorite musician:  Tough question…either Meat Loaf or Lady Gaga…depending on my mood.

Social media links:
Anne Marie Andrus Facebook
Monsters & Angels Blog

Awards/special recognition:

  • 2nd Place Winner of Word Weaver Writing Contest May 2017
    for The Crescent
  • 2nd Place Winner of Word Weaver Writing Contest September 2017
    for Cobalt Point
  • 4th Place Winner of Word Weaver Writing Contest 2018
    for Where The Power Hides

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2016 Pulitzer Prize Winner for Biography – William Finnegan for Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life

The Pulitzer Prizes

The winners have been announced and Barbarian Days:  A Surfing Life by William Finnegan has won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Biography.

William Finnegan

What’s the book about?  Here is a summary from Amazon:

Barbarian Days A Surfing Life

A deeply rendered self-portrait of a lifelong surfer by the acclaimed New Yorker writer

Barbarian Days is William Finnegan’s memoir of an obsession, a complex enchantment. Surfing only looks like a sport. To initiates, it is something else entirely: a beautiful addiction, a demanding course of study, a morally dangerous pastime, a way of life. Raised in California and Hawaii, Finnegan started surfing as a child. He has chased waves all over the world, wandering for years through the South Pacific, Australia, Asia, Africa. A bookish boy, and then an excessively adventurous young man, he went on to become a distinguished writer and war reporter. Barbarian Days takes us deep into unfamiliar worlds, some of them right under our noses—off the coasts of New York and San Francisco. It immerses the reader in the edgy camaraderie of close male friendships annealed in challenging waves.

Finnegan shares stories of life in a whites only gang in a tough school in Honolulu even while his closest friend was a Hawaiian surfer. He shows us a world turned upside down for kids and adults alike by the social upheavals of the 1960s. He details the intricacies of famous waves and his own apprenticeships to them. Youthful folly—he drops LSD while riding huge Honolua Bay, on Maui—is served up with rueful humor. He and a buddy, their knapsacks crammed with reef charts, bushwhack through Polynesia. They discover, while camping on an uninhabited island in Fiji, one of the world’s greatest waves. As Finnegan’s travels take him ever farther afield, he becomes an improbable anthropologist: unpicking the picturesque simplicity of a Samoan fishing village, dissecting the sexual politics of Tongan interactions with Americans and Japanese, navigating the Indonesian black market while nearly succumbing to malaria. Throughout, he surfs, carrying readers with him on rides of harrowing, unprecedented lucidity.

Barbarian Days is an old-school adventure story, an intellectual autobiography, a social history, a literary road movie, and an extraordinary exploration of the gradual mastering of an exacting, little understood art. Today, Finnegan’s surfing life is undiminished. Frantically juggling work and family, he chases his enchantment through Long Island ice storms and obscure corners of Madagascar.

Want to know more?  Check out this information from The New Yorker:

William Finnegan has been a contributor to The New Yorker since 1984 and a staff writer since 1987. Reporting from Africa, Central America, South America, Europe, the Balkans, and Australia, as well as from the United States, he has twice received the John Bartlow Martin Award for Public Interest Magazine Journalism and twice been a National Magazine Award finalist. His article “Deep East Texas” won the 1994 Edward M. Brecher Award for Achievement in the Field of Media; his article “The Unwanted” the Sidney Hillman Prize for Magazine Reporting. His report from Sudan, “The Invisible War,” won a Citation for Excellence from the Overseas Press Club, and he received the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism for “Leasing the Rain.” His article “The Countertraffickers” won the Overseas Press Club’s Madeline Dane Ross Award for International Reporting, and his report from Mexico, “Silver or Lead,” won the Overseas Press Club’s Robert Spiers Benjamin Award. Finnegan is the author of five books: “Crossing the Line,” which was selected by the New York Times Book Review as one of the ten best nonfiction books of the year;  “Dateline Soweto”;  “A  Complicated War”; “Cold New World: Growing Up in a Harder Country,” which was a finalist for the Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism; “Barbarian Days,” his latest.

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The Inquisitor’s Mark by Dianne K. Salerni

InquisitorsMark_revised_finalThe Inquisitor’s Mark
Dianne K. Salerni


After a wild finish in The Eighth Day, Jax, Riley, and Evangeline have gone into hiding, but their refuge in Pennsylvania is only temporary, because the precarious balance between the Transitioners, Kin, and Normals is tipping. In addition to helping Riley and the Crandalls search for Evangeline’s missing sister, Jax knows he must act when his best friend, Billy is kidnapped by Finn Ambrose, part of the powerful Dulac family. And feelings of conflict surface right away when Jax discovers that Finn Ambrose is his uncle and that he has family in New York. Jax is alone in this world and family is just what he wants, but this group is the enemy!

The Inquisitor’s Mark, by Dianne Salerni, is the second book in this exciting Young Adult series, which revolves around a secret eighth day called Grunsday, in which Kin, dating back to King Arthur, are trapped. The dangerous ones are imprisoned, but others move about in this secret day full of allies and adversaries. Everyone wants to know where the young Evangeline is. She’s a direct descendant of the powerful Merlin Emrys and has her own powerful talents which are key to keeping the world in a peaceful balance. Transitioners like Jax and Riley have their own special talents and can move between the normal days and Grunsday, and they do their best to hold the world together. This is a great story with a classic theme: the good guys want to keep the peace and the bad guys want the power to dominate. Many gray characters make things murky. Just like the real world, it’s complicated!

The Inquisitor’s Mark, a reference to Jax’s unique identifying tattoo and talent, is great quality writing. It’s exciting, fun, full of middler and teen points of view and just edgy enough to engage a Young Adult reader. The characters move in a dangerous world and experience the very real effects of good versus evil. I like how the author doesn’t sugar coat things – it gives her story an authentic feel, something kids want when they read.

Just like in The Eighth Day, this story moves at a great pace, with all kinds of side stories that tie into a wild finish. A lot of it takes place in a Manhattan apartment building, the Dulac headquarters with secret tunnels and holding cells, an awesome place to imagine. Good guys work with bad guys to fight against a terrifying destructive force and certain characters will surprise and step up to add to the story’s excitement. The Inquisitor’s Mark ends with lots of teasers about future power struggles, alliances and possible romances and makes me hope I won’t have to wait too long for the next book!

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The Eighth Day by Dianne K. Salerni

the eighth day
The Eighth Day
Dianne K. Salerni


Imagine a day between Wednesday and Thursday, in which people are trapped, put there centuries earlier by King Arthur and his allies. These are the Kin, King Arthur’s adversaries and they are imprisoned in the Eighth Day to keep the rest of the world safe. Imagine, too, people called Transitioners, who can move between the Normal world and this Eighth Day and who have enhanced talents to protect and help them. And last, imagine a group of people who are plotting to break the Eighth Day spell, to exact revenge on King Arthur’s descendants, obliterate the people of the Normal world and release the Kin in their place.

This is the central conflict in The Eighth Day, an exciting fantasy adventure by Dianne K. Salerni. It’s a story with a simple beginning that explodes into global proportions. Jax Aubrey has just turned thirteen and his parents are dead. His guardian, Riley is eighteen and does not seem up to the job. Jax doesn’t know what to think when he wakes up in the Eighth Day, but he soon learns there is a lot going on that he doesn’t understand. All this starts with Evangeline, the mysterious girl next door, who is trapped in the Eighth Day. All heck breaks loose when they become friends and Jax unknowingly puts many in danger.

The Eighth Day has many characters with blurred alliances and motives that cross between good and bad. Despite the complexities, you don’t need to be an expert on King Arthur and the players during that legendary time to enjoy this book. Salerni does a great job explaining the plots and subplots and recaps the complicated developments in a way that does not seem repetitive, but is definitely appreciated.

The characters are propelled to the story’s ultimate conflict in a huge battle for control of the Eighth Day. Many plot twists drive the story’s sometimes misunderstood characters to an exciting and shocking finish.

Although The Eighth Day is a Young Adult fantasy adventure, its themes carry adult messages. Salerni poses questions of honor, loyalty and sacrifice throughout the book. In addition to understanding how opposing sides work together for their own benefit, the reader must consider the question of whether it is right to sacrifice some for the survival of the masses.

I enjoyed this book very much. I was glad to have it on my Kindle because it made it easy to search names and places. But that’s more because I’m many years beyond being a Young Adult!

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