Book Reviews

Cooking Wild – Maine Game At It’s Best!

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My favorite wild game cookbook is Cooking Wild by outdoor writer and editor Ken Allen of Belgrade. Guy Gannett Publishing Company, owner of the Portland Press Herald and other newspapers, published Ken’s cookbook in 1986.

When Gannett sold its newspapers, the publishing company was dissolved and the unsold copies of Ken’s book were donated to the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, which sold them for $10 a copy until the supply was gone.

Ken began cooking at eight years old, in a family that depended on wild and seasonal foods. When he was 10, a visitor from Massachusetts asked him what his favorite food was, and was shocked when Ken answered, “Fried squirrel.” His cookbook contains six squirrel recipes.

I use Ken’s book often, and will in fact be using it this week when I prepare a couple of North Dakota pheasants for dinner.

Strangers on the (0ld Orchard) Beach

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Checking out the stacks of books in the basement at Islandport Press in Yarmouth, the stark black and white cover photo on one book grabbed my attention. Turns out it was taken by Dean Lunt, Islandport Press’s publisher.

Dean was giving me a tour of his offices after a meeting to discuss the publication of my own book – a collection of favorite newspaper columns that I’ve written over the past 23 years for central Maine’s daily newspapers.

Picking the book that grabbed my attention off the shelf, I was surprised to find out it was a novel. I didn’t know Islandport Press published novels. Immediately, I pitched my own novel to Dean!

Of course, my novel, a work-in-progress over the last 20 years, isn’t anywhere near finished!

The Ghost Trap - A Powerful Novel

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The Ghost Trap is a compelling novel, propelling you along through the deep water, on board Jamie Eugley’s lobster boat of a life, anchored to a brain-damaged girlfriend who nearly died after being swept off the boat and ever-after becomes his burden, with a lobstering father who hates him, a daily life full of beer, boasts, bragging and battles, and friends who seem – well, not so friendly.

Then there is the enemy, family name of Fogerty, better known as the “Drunk Fogertys.” And a newby from away who tries to buy his way into the closed close-knit lobstering culture, by hook and by crook.

I ate up every bit of it, and wished K. Stephens had written a lot more than 326 pages. The author, Kay Stephens, uses her initial on this book to distinguish it from her next nonfiction book. I don’t know what that book is all about, but I can tell you right now I will read it. Kay is a powerful writer with a lot to say.

Moonbird Flies to Stave Off Extinction

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If he’d been in the Olympics, no one would have touched him in the marathon. In his twenty years of life, Moonbird, a rufa red knot, has flown more than 325,000 miles  – a distance that would have taken him to the moon and half way back.

In his astonishing 9,000 mile annual migration between the southern tip of South America and the Arctic, Moonbird sometimes flies 5,000 miles in six days without stopping. I get exhausted flying from Maine to Texas, a distance of 2000 miles - and I’m just sitting in the plane!

Phillip Hoose, a Maine resident who has worked for The Nature Conservancy since 1977, says Moonbird, labeled B95 for his leg band identification, “has to be among the toughest four ounces of lie in the world.”

Monica Wood’s Mexico Memoir is a Must-Read

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Two years ago I met Monica Wood in Portland’s Longfellow’s Cemetery. We were both bird watching. I was thrilled to meet one of my favorite novelists and tell her how much I enjoyed all four of her novels.

Of course, I inquired as to when I could expect novel number five, and was disappointed to hear that instead of a novel, she was working on a memoir of growing up in Mexico, Maine. I couldn’t imagine a memoir about this Maine mill town that would be as compelling as one of Monica’s novels. Or even interesting.

Wow, was I ever wrong! A few weeks ago I received When We Were the Kennedys, Monica Wood’s extraordinary, powerful, and moving memoir of her close Irish Catholic immigrant family of father, mother, son, and four daughters. The book is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and goes on sale this week.

A Maine Game Warden's Stories - From the Serious to the Sublime

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“From the serious – tracking a murderer – to the sublime – raising a baby owl – retired Maine Game Warden John Ford shares 35 years of his best stories that will entertain all indoor and outdoor adventurers.”

Those are the words I used on the back cover to describe John Ford’s wonderful book, Suddenly the Cider Didn’t Taste So Good, published recently by Islandport Press.

The publisher sent me the stories to read in advance, so I could write the flyleaf promo. But I still got the book after it was published and reread every story. They are so good.

After 20 years as a game warden and a stint as Waldo County’s sheriff, Ford took up writing and he’s good at it. Some will remember John’s artistry, from the many years he produced beautiful drawings for yearly calendars. I miss those.

Everything You Wanted to Know About Lobsters

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Given that Maine is known for its lobster – and sometimes only for its lobster – isn’t it time you knew more about this tasty crustacean?

Ginny Wright, a very talented writer for Down East magazine, has stepped up to this task, writing The Maine Lobster Book, published this year by Down East. It’s a comprehensive guide to everything lobster from the creature’s fascinating sex life to lobster lingo.

The next time a tourist stops you on the road to ask directions to the nearest lobster roll, you’ll be able to start your answer with a couple of revelations about the lobster’s sex life. The female lobster woos the “guy with a reputation for toughness and strength,” by leaving him gifts – urchins, mussels, sea starts, at his front door.

Then they move in together and the story gets a lot racier! Ginny leaves nothing out!

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