Book Reviews

The River at Night by Erica Ferencik

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 I hope you never experience a rafting trip like this one. In her new novel, The River at Night, Erica Ferencik sends four ladies on a north Maine woods rafting trip that turns into a disaster – and that’s putting it mildly.

As the ladies raft turned upside down and dumped them into the cold and fast-moving remote river, I remembered a similar experience on the West Branch of the Penobscot River. In the last of a series of major bumps at the Crib Works, our raft overturned, trapping some of us under it while others floated in the foaming river. Fortunately, we were in the slow water very quickly and able to get out from under the raft and to shore, where we righted the raft and continued on.

The ladies continue on as well, but not the way we did. Death, murder, and mayhem lie ahead, in a spine-tingling series of events as they struggle to find their way out of the deep woods.

Demon Spirit Devil Sea by Charlene D’Avanzo

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 Charlene D’Avanzo writes compelling novels that take you to wonderful ocean-side places where terrible things happen. And along the way, you’ll learn some things about climate change.

Charlene is a marine ecologist and award-winning environmental educator who lives in Yarmouth, Maine. Her first novel, Cold Blood, Hot Sea, was an intriguing who-done-it with plenty of tension and a compelling story that kept me glued to the book for two evenings.


And her new novel, Demon Spirit Devil Sea, is another great read. Again, I raced through it in two evenings. And boy, now I want to visit Haida Gwaii, the setting for this story.

Thermoil by Kevin Sheehan

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Kevin Sheehan’s book, Thermoil, published by North Country Press, is billed as “Selected Shorts by a Romantic Engineer.” After reading the book, I had to ask if it was fiction or fact. It was tough to tell.

Kevin said only one story is factual, and I’ll let you try and guess which one. They are all very real, and could easily have been factual. The back of the book tells you that it is a “collection of poems, nostalgic memories and short fiction.”

It is all of that, but be prepared for “turmoil, madness, and tragedy.” Some of the stories may even distress you. But they will all engage you, and you won’t want to stop reading.

First Cousin Once Removed by Delia Drake

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When I heard that Marti Brann had published a new novel, First Cousin Once Removed, I couldn’t wait to read and review it. I really enjoyed Marti’s first mystery novel, Distant Cousin.

Marti writes under the pen name Delia Drake, but these books are all Marti. As the biography at the back of her first book noted, Marti has a “vivid imagination that has entertained her family for years.” This Waldo County grandmother will keep you reading from page one to the final page, where you’ll finally learn “who done it.”

Marti’s new novel was published by North Country Press, and features some of the same characters found in her first novel, and like her first novel, there’s plenty of intrigue. You’ll need to pay close attention to keep all the characters in place, and figure out who might have committed that ugly murder in the town library. Yup, a lady is killed in the library.  But don’t worry, this novel won’t make the library a scary place for you!

Derek Lovitch has published a great new Maine birding guide

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 Derek Lovitch’s new birding guide, Birdwatching in Maine, is a must-have for all who love Maine’s birds.  The book is comprehensive, covering all the state’s best bird watching places.

I can tell you that he includes all the places where Linda and I enjoy birding. Well, he doesn’t tell you about our yard, but he’s got all the rest of our favorites!

Derek and his wife Jeannette moved to Portland in 2003 and it didn’t take long for them to establish their Freeport Wild Bird Supply and a very busy guiding service. “Maine offers a tremendous wealth of birding opportunities for all levels and interest and experience,” he writes in the preface. That’s an important point because you don’t have to be an obsessive nearly-professional birder to find value in this book.

“No small part of the reason Jeannette and I stayed in Maine is the reason you are reading this book,” he notes.” Yup. We are a birding paradise.

Disappear our Dead is Profound

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 Gin Mackey’s new novel, Disappear our Dead, is profound. I know that’s an unusual adjective to apply to a novel, but this is much more than a great story.

The death of the husband of Abby who lives on the coast of Maine plunges her into grief, her life deteriorating into isolation, when she rarely got out of bed. But then her daughter gets her up and out, and she finds new life in performing home funerals and “awakes.”

I loved the idea of “awakes” which gather folks around a dying person to let that person know how much he or she meant to the folks. These were major events with music and lots of story telling, and clearly made a big difference as the end of a life neared. I also learned a lot about home funerals, something that was common in the old days but is rare today.

Great reads about hunting, fishing, and more

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 I probably overwhelmed Kristina Wheelock when she asked for book recommendations. I’ve got bookshelves full of books about hunting, fishing, birding, wildlife, and the great outdoors. Some are very old, some just published, and lots in between.

Kirstina is assistant librarian at Gardiner High School, and emailed me, “I am always on the lookout for hunting/outdoor books about Maine and beyond. Our students love this hunting/outdoor genre.

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