Book Reviews

A Great New Book on Maine's Historic Lighthouses

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If you love lighthouses, and spend time each summer visiting them, please pick up a copy of the book From Guiding Lights to Beacons for Business: The Many Lives of Maine’s Lighthouses.

Edited by Richard Cheek, published by Historic New England, and distributed by Tilbury House in Gardiner, this is a beautifully designed, chock-full-of-amazing photos and drawings, fascinating look at everything that makes lighthouses special, from an exceptional group of writers including Olympia Snowe and Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr, our state’s top historian.

Bet You Don't Know This About Maine!

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There’s a lot you don’t know about Maine. But you are lucky, because Bill Barry’s new tell-all book about the history of our state will fill your knowledge gap while entertaining and enlightening you. Honestly, I could not put it down.

Maine: the Wilder Half of New England was published in 2012 by Tilbury House in Gardiner, and will be supplying me with background information and topics for my newspaper columns for many years to come.

Maine’s State Historian Earle Shettleworth, Jr., said it better than I can, calling the book, “an accurate, articulate, informative, insightful, and visually attractive account of Maine for the twenty-first century.” Well said Earle!

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.

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