Book Reviews

Woman Who Speaks Tree by Linda Tatelbaum

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 Yes, Linda Tatelbaum loves trees. But the subtitle of her wonderful book, Woman Who Speaks Tree, “Confessions of a Tree Hugger,” tells you even more about her life.

I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Linda’s life could be described as a contradiction: she’s a college professor and a back-to-the-land hippie who, with her husband Kal, lives in midcoast Maine where they built their home in 1977 with solar heat and great gardens.

“I still answer to the name of hippie,” she writes in the preface, “though I’ve also spent a career in college teaching while living this hard-earned organic life on the homestead we built in Maine.”

The Besieged by Christopher W. Morin

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His dream of finding gold dashed, a huge winter blizzard threatening the collapse of his remote cabin in Alaska, his yard full of wolves which have attacked and wounded him severely, this unnamed man’s desperation to get out of the cabin for the long difficult hike to the nearest town where he hoped to find medical care is very real. Very real indeed.

Christopher Morin’s short story, The Beseiged, doesn’t take more than an evening to read, but it will stay with you for a long long time. In fact, I read it twice. It was that good.

I was particularly delighted to discover that Morin dedicated this book to his 7th grade teacher, Stephen Cowperthwaite, who he wrote: “inspired and fueled my passion for both reading and writing short stories.” Steve was indeed a fantastic teacher in our Maranacook school system, who also taught two of our kids.

My Brother’s Voice is profound and inspiring

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 Vicki Reynolds Schad has written a profound and inspiring story about her severely retarded and disabled brother. It’s a real tribute to both her brother Bobby and her entire family, encircled by friends, all of whom joined in the life-long effort to care for Bobby.

Bobby was hurt at birth, and his parents were told that he was unlikely to live more than a few months. Remarkably, he lived to be 68 years old. Bobby’s parents, Bryce and Rowena of Lubec were amazing people, focused on making Bobby’s life as good as possible.

Bobby often stood beside Ridge Road, where they lived, and watched and waved as people drove by, earning him the title, “Mayor of the Ridge.” Not everything in his life was good, including when Bryce and Rowena were convinced Bobby would be better off in a facility in southern Maine. Unfortunately, he was abused there, and they had to rescue him and return him to their loving home, where despite his disabilities he had a profound impact on his family, church, and community.

Your cuddly cat is a ferocious killer

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 Every cat lover should read Cat Wars by Peter Marra and Chris Santella. Turns out that cuddly cat of yours is a devastating killer of birds and other critters. OK, Linda and I have a cat too, so we’re with you on this.

One well-researched and professionally reviewed study reported that “cats killed between 1.3 and 4 billion birds per year, with unowned (feral) cats causing the majority of the mortality (69 percent).”

“Annual mortality for amphibians and reptiles was in the hundreds of millions,” according to that study.

Our cat seems to be killing less birds as he gets older. This summer he did quite a job on chipmunks, though. In the past he’s brought two birds into the house and released them alive. One morning Linda got up and noticed a chickadee sitting on her computer!

Head of Falls is inspiring and remarkable

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                 I had tears in my eyes at the end of this book, an inspiring, remarkable, and very thoughtful story in the voice of a wonderful young girl, a very timely tale of the way life should be, the way we wish life could be, for all of us.

                That’s the blurb I wrote for the cover of Earl Smith’s new novel, Head of Falls, published by North Country Press. It was an honor to be asked to write the blurb, particularly given the outstanding folks who also wrote blurbs for the book.

                I think former U.S. Senator George Mitchell summed up the book very well in his blurb:

Pass the Pandowdy, Please – Words by Abby Zelz, Art by Eric Zelz

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 Do you like food? How about history? As a lover of both, I found Pass The Pandowdy, Please, to be absolutely fascinating. It’s a book that will entertain both adults and children, and I can’t wait to share it with my grandsons.

The subtitle tells it well: Chewing on History with Famous Folks and Their Fabulous Foods. This book, published by Tilbury House in Thomaston, takes us on a romp through history, looking at what famous people ate, and telling us why. Abby Zelz wrote the stories while her husband Eric Zelz did the art.

Imagine dining with Cleopatra. You’ll have to be prepared to eat with your fingers, as she did. They didn’t have utensils at that time. That’s my kind of eating!

Among the Shadows by Bruce Robert Coffin

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Bruce Robert Coffin’s novel, Among the Shadows, is the only thing that went right on our recent flights to Italy. I’d dipped into the book the night before we left, to make sure it was worthy of carrying all the way to Italy and back. And it was.

So I started reading it on the bus trip from Portland to Boston, read a bit more at Logan and on the plane to Rome, and finished the book during a 7 hour layover in Rome. We’d left Boston late, missed our connection in Rome to Pisa, waited 7 hours for another flight to Pisa, and arrived too late to get to our destination that night. And oh yea, our luggage didn’t arrive in Pisa with us.

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