THE RIVER by Peter Heller

March 13, 2019

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Rafting or canoeing on a swift flowing river is a passion for many people, with the actuality of such a trip a dream come true. Wynn and Jack, two friends meeting in college, find that they share this love and have taken several such trips during their academic careers.

Heller follows them on an adventure in northern Canada canoeing on the Maskwa river. The background and descriptions supplied by the author are sufficient enough to allow any reader to vicariously experience the trip with the boys. But the events depicted also make for a rousing adventure story that will make the novel an excellent read.

At the onset of the trip, Wynn and Jack are flown by plane with the idea that after the trip ends the pilot can be telephoned to come and pick them up. But, after several days of voyaging they detect a huge forest fire starting behind them and realize that they cannot turn back but must continue on to a point from which a pickup can be arranged.

Continuing on, they meet two men halted and getting drunk. The boys tell them about the fire and continue on. Further along they hear a heated argument between a man and a woman coming from the fogbound shore area and decide that they should be left alone. The next day they spot a man, alone, paddling along and decide to investigate the whereabouts of the woman.

The interactions between the fire, the boys the two drunks, and the man and woman provide the ingredients for the story. A well told adventure tale and one that will engage the reader and keep him or her riveted to the book.

3/19 Paul Lane

THE RIVER by Peter Heller. Knopf (March 5, 2019). ISBN 978-0525521877. 272p.



THE STOWAWAY by Laurie Gwen Shapiro

January 18, 2018

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A Young Man’s Extraordinary Adventure to Antarctica

A rousing non fiction book written by an author who has successfully done fiction,and is also a well known filmmaker. In it she tells an almost forgotten story of a boy fresh out of high school in New York City that successfully stowed away on a ship leaving for Antarctica.

The book reads almost like those written by Jack London, revolving around the men that go down to the sea in ships. The events depicted took place at the end of the roaring twenties beginning in 1928. Richard Byrd had organized an expedition to visit the mysterious seventh continent and planned to use “aeroplanes” to more fully map out the Antarctic area. What they might also discover remained a most intriguing question. animal life?  Areas of more temperate climate? Strange creatures? It was an adventure that might be likened to the furor about the first landing on the moon a few generations later.

Billy Gawronski was the son of Polish immigrants that had settled in a section of Queens county a borough of New York City.  The father successfully started an upholstery business and had visions of taking Billy into it to help build it up.  But Billy developed a mind similar to many other people at that time.  He was in love with the idea of making the trip to Antarctica with Byrd.  When he was not selected as part of the crew going he decided to sneak aboard the ship as a stowaway and try and convince the captain to take him along in any capacity.

Billy was successful in sneaking aboard and began an adventure without parallel.  The adventure took him to Panama, going through the canal, to Tahiti and than to New Zealand as the jumping off place for the trip to Antarctica.  Ms Shapiro uses a style of simply relating the facts she has garnered through research.  The amazing adventures of this young man are described without trying to put conversations into his mouth.  This approach makes the story even more realistic.  Billy had passed away when Shapiro made the decision to write about him, but his widow was still alive and contributed letters and photographs to the  telling of the story.

A final section is dedicated to Billy’s further career which continued to involve great adventure.  A well told story about a heretofore little known event.

1/18 Paul Lane

THE STOWAWAY by Laurie Gwen Shapiro. Simon & Schuster (January 16, 2018).  ISBN 978-1476753867. 256p.

THE COMMODORE by P.T. Deutermann

August 7, 2016
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Ex-Naval Captain Peter Deutermann spent his career as an officer with the United States Navy. Upon retirement he commenced an equally successful career as an author of adventure novels, including several based on events during wartime.

The Commodore is his latest book and is based upon the sea battles surrounding the invasion of Guadalcanal by the Marines. Harmon Wolf is a naval officer born on a Minnesota Indian reservation. He has never been thought of as an acceptable career officer since he does not fit into the traditional image of a by the book sailor.

The navy has been taking a pounding by the Japanese fleet and admiral “Bull” Halsey, a maverick in his own right, is looking for non-traditional answers to that problem.

Wolf is appointed commander of a destroyer and immediately demonstrates an ability to bring aggressive solutions to problems. He quickly earns promotion by Halsey as Commodore of an entire destroyer squadron. Applying original answers to questions about naval tactics gains a much sought after victory over a Japanese fleet bringing reinforcements to Guadalcanal.

As always, Deutermann’s descriptions of naval engagements, military tactics, weapons and armament are couched in easy to understand language for the reader. His gift for language keeps his audience glued to the book, and easily picturing the situations populating the novel. When Wolf is injured during the battles and cannot be safely sent to sea, a unique solution to continuing making use of him is set up.

Very well done indeed.

8/16 Paul Lane

THE COMMODORE by P.T. Deutermann. St. Martin’s Press (August 2, 2016).  ISBN 978-1250078070.  304p.



Audio CD


SUMMIT by Harry Farthing

July 15, 2016
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The first time author trying to write a novel is normally advised to utilize the known parameters of his or her own experience. Harry Farthing has done just that in coming out with a book revolving around attempts to climb Mount Everest, the highest peak currently known to man.

Farthing’s background includes a try at Everest as well as climbs up many of the famous peaks of the world. His intimate knowledge of the skills, tools and equipment needed for what appears to be the most exacting task possible come out in what is an excellent novel centered on reaching Everest’s peak.

The book revolves around two separate attempts on Mount Everest about 70 years apart. The first try centers on Josef Becker, who was a soldier in the German army at the beginning of World War II. He committed an infraction and awaited a punishment of death.

Coincidentally, Heinrich Himmler came up with the idea that scaling Everest and planting the Nazi flag on the summit would be a blow to the British. Becker had grown up in an area of Germany in which mountain climbing was widely practiced and was considered an expert. Himmler assigned Becker to make a climb on Everest with punishment for his family probable if the attempt was not successful, but pardon for him if successful and the Nazi flag planted.

Seventy years later Neil Quinn, a professional guide with eight successfully led expeditions to Everest’s peak, loses a customer, the young son of a wealthy American business man. In that unfortunate climb, Quinn finds an old ice axe embellished with a Nazi swastika and due to a decline in his reputation, has time to begin attempting to find out what happened 70 years ago to Becker.

Equipment and events revolving around a climb are explained quite well by Farthing, and the stresses and strains are described obviously by a person involved with these. The writing goes back and forth between Becker and Quinn, with no loss of continuity. The ending is not at all telegraphed, but so appropriate for the book that it becomes a capstone of what the reader has in all probability stayed up at night to read.

Extremely well done and surely the first of many books by Harry Farthing.

7/16 Paul Lane

SUMMIT by Harry Farthing. Blackstone Publishing; Unabridged edition (June 14, 2016).  ISBN 978-1504710213.  496p.


April 30, 2016

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An Outlander Novella

This is the second Outlander Novella I’m reviewing. The first was Virgins, so please see that review for some background: VIRGINS

If you are not familiar with the series, I’m not sure how much you would get out of reading this novella. For reviewing purposes, I have to assume you are an Outlander fan and hopefully you will be as excited about this as I was.

Roger lost his parents when he was a young child, believing his father, a pilot for the RAF, was shot down during WWII and his mother died in the London Blitz. I don’t want to give too much away…


Go away and come back and read this after you read WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD!

Roger starts to learn what really happened to his father in that book, and the story he and his mother were told turns out to be much more complicated than they knew. This novella delves into his parent’s relationship, the London bombings, how his father knew Frank Randall, and how he really died.

It was really wonderful getting to know Roger’s parents a bit. I loved this novella.

If you’re an Outlander fan, this is a fun, albeit super short read. Then again, Kindle Singles only cost $1.99! And do check your library’s ebook collection, that’s where I got my copy.

4/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

A LEAF ON THE WIND OF ALL HALLOWS by Diana Gabaldon. Dell (December 3, 2012).  ASIN: B00A5MREAM. Print Length: 58 pages

VIRGINS by Diana Gabaldon

April 29, 2016

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An Outlander Novella

I love the Outlander series. I’ve read all the books and watch the Starz TV series. I’ve also listened to all the books.

I’ve always heard that with a truly great reader, listening to an audio book can bring a great deal more to the story. I enjoy a lot of audio books, but never really felt that something was added until I read the Harry Potter books, read by the great Jim Dale. He makes listening to those books an immersive experience, and the same goes for the Outlander books. Davina Porter is the narrator, and she is simply transcendent. She takes me away on these amazing adventures – plus I learned the correct pronunciations for all the characters’ names, the various places and even the Gaelic.

But now that I’ve read all the Outlander books (and yes, some of them several times!) I was bereft. I know, I have more books on my shelves and my Kindle than I’ll probably ever read, but still, I love Claire & Jamie and I’m watching the Starz show and I want more! And we all know how long it takes for a new book to come out. But Gabaldon has been releasing novellas as ebook only, Kindle singles, and my library has them!

This is the first one I’ve read. If you’ve ever visited Gabaldon’s website or seen an interview with her or seen her speak at an event, you know she writes her books in chunks, then pieces them together to form a cohesive story. Some of the chunks end up in other books than the one she started them for, and I suspect these Kindle singles are chunks that just didn’t make it into her already super long books.

If you haven’t read the Outlander books, I’m not sure I would recommend you start here. It’s not a bad way to get a feel for the author, the way she writes and a few of her characters, but it is so much more meaningful when you already know these characters and their history.

Virgins is a prequel of sorts to Outlander. Jamie’s father has just died, his back is a mess thanks to Black Jack Randall, when he meets up with Ian Murray (who still has all his limbs) and a band of French mercenaries. Ian and Jamie end up taking a job to protect a young Jewish woman and transport her, her dowry, and an extremely valuable Torah to meet her husband-to-be. But things go awry almost immediately, and hints of the canny Lord Broch Tuarach emerge.  I loved the Jewish history, the way the French and the Scots saw the Jews, something that has not come up in any of the books (at least that I can remember!)

If you’re an Outlander fan, this is a fun, albeit super short read. Then again, Kindle Singles only cost $1.99! And do check your library’s ebook collection.

Virgins is also available in an anthology if you prefer print: Dangerous Women, edited by George R.R. Martin.

4/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

VIRGINS: An Outlander Novella by Diana Gabaldon. Dell (April 8, 2016).  ASIN: B01BRFMCWU. Print Length: 86 pages


BLACK ICE by Becca Fitzpatrick

October 23, 2014

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Britt’s plan to spend spring break hiking the Tetons was originally a plan to try and get her ex, Calvin, back. It’s been eight months since they broke up, though, and she’s given that up. No, this trip is all about her and about proving she can do something this big and adventurous on her own. And when she finds out Calvin will be tagging along to chaperone his sister, Korbie, and her boyfriend, Britt’s almost ok with it.

She and Korbie hit the road prepared for anything. Anything but a freak snowstorm, that is. Lost and forced to abandon their vehicle, the two girls set off in search of shelter to ride out the storm. But the cabin they come across is anything but a safe refuge.

Shaun and Mason are most definitely bad news, but the girls have little choice. And when Shaun reveals his plan to have Britt guide them off the mountain, she knows she’s landed herself in hot water.

Black Ice is vastly different from Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush series. There are no angels or any other paranormal aspects in this new title. This time, Fitzpatrick’s heroine is facing challenges and dangers firmly grounded in the real world.

I appreciated the various plot lines working here – in addition to the survival story there’s a serial killer and even a bit of a romance. Fitzpatrick weaves these various elements together in Black Ice to create a truly intense tale sure to keep readers of up all night.

10/14 Becky LeJeune

BLACK ICE by Becca Fitzpatrick. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (October 7, 2014). ISBN 978-1442474260. 400p.