Book Reviews

Nic and Nellie delight my grandson

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 My six year old grandson Vishal loved Nic and Nellie, Astrid Sheckel beautifully written and illustrated story about a girl’s summer adventure with her grandparents on a Maine island.

But Nic’s idyllic summer brings loneliness and tears, until she discovers some unfamiliar things that turn the summer into a joy-filled adventure. Vishal got the adventure part right off.

“If I was on the island, I would like catching fish,” he said. That’s my grandson!

He also reported, “I would do the eating ice cream and roasting marshmallows.” Of course he would. Boy, this kid is a chip of old Grampy’s block.

Islandport Press is also anchored in Maine and publishes many of my favorite books. Ten percent of the initial sales of Nic and Nellie went to the Island Institute, a nonprofit organization supporting our state’s 15 year-round island communities and working to conserve island and marine biodiversity. A good cause, for sure.

Woodbury's The Mists of Adriana is a compelling read

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Maine inspires good writing. Some writers are natives, some adopted, some write sitting in a local bar, some in a remote cabin, some write just one novel or work on nonfiction, some crank them out year after year.

While I’m a lifelong reader of all things Maine, devoted to books I can hold in my hand and to local bookstores (for both new and used books), and a trustee of my local library for 34 years, I am discovering that the new world of self-publishing is populated by some good writers.

Roger Woodbury is one of those writers. Now a full-time author of short stories and novels, Roger has an interesting background. He taught socially and economically disadvantaged children in an inner city school, sold insurance, purchased and restored antique buildings, and even acted in theater productions. Great fodder for his novels!

George's Outdoor Picks - This fly fishing novel will hook you

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 The Contest by James Hurley is like fishing: consider the first 50 pages as preparation for the first cast. I’ve never liked all the preparation that goes into a fishing experience, I just like to fish, and Hurley’s novel began a bit slowly for me.

But I hooked my first fish on page 50, and after that, I couldn’t leave the water.

This seems like an appropriate analogy because the novel, published by Islandport Press in Yarmouth, is about a group of anglers in the Samuel Tippett Fly Fishers Club in a small Maine town. It’s about trout, fishing, river ecology and conservation, and friendships, with some important and insightful lessons of life rising to the surface.

I read the entire novel while in the cardiac unit at the local hospital, suffering an erratic heartbeat. I don’t think that had anything to do with the novel. But it does get exciting once you’re in the water.

Your last gift from Paul Fournier is ready to pick up.

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Paul Fournier’s last gift to us, completed just before he died last August, is ready for you. Paul’s cover photo for Birds of a Feather is just one of the astonishing things this wonderful man accomplished in his life – a life lived outdoors.

I am very grateful that he had time to finish this book, published by Islandport Press in Yarmouth, because it’s a testament to all he learned, loved, and lived. Paul’s previous book, Tales from Misery Ridge, was entertaining as well as award winning.

There are more tales in Birds of a Feather, but most importantly, he has also left us with a lot of wisdom – wisdom he gained as a guide, bush pilot, sporting camp owner, TV program producer, photographer, outdoor writer, and information officer for Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Always, everywhere, he was outdoors, leading the life, capturing it in photos, videos, and words.

Backtracking on our hunting and fishing memories

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Who among us doesn’t spend a lot of time backtracking on our trail of hunting and fishing memories? I certainly do, and so does V. Paul Reynolds.

It was a real pleasure recently to backtrack through Paul’s memories, in his new book Backtrack, published this year by Islandport Press. Paul’s tracks can be found all across Maine, in his jobs as general manager of the Bangor Daily News, spokesman for Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and editor and publisher of Northwoods Sporting Journal.

Despite all of that, his has been a life lived outdoors. More than 50 great memories and moments, presented in these stories of his outdoor adventures, will entertain, inform, and inspire you – perhaps to write your own book of memories, perhaps to just get outside that day to hunt or fish. Or just maybe you will head to the kitchen to make Diane’s beerburger soup. Yummy!

Approaching my 65th birthday, I paid close attention to Tree Stands for Seniors. Good advice, Paul!

Grandson helps with book reviews

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When two kids’ books arrived for reviewing, I knew just where to turn. Nine-year-old grandson Addison Mellor loves to read. And although his favorite books involve galactic battles, I knew I could count on him to help Grampy with this review.


Wild Fox, by Cherie Mason, illustrated by Ellen McAllister Stammen, published by Down East Books, 2013.

“It was good because it was a true story,” says Adi. “I liked that it was in Maine.”

Me too. Mason’s small book, beautifully illustrated by Stammen, tells the story of an injured fox that Mason befriended. It’s actually a very good read even for adults, and it’s perfect for those who like to read to their kids and grandkids (and I hope that is all of you).

Dinner with the Smileys brings laughter and tears

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You might think that a book titled Dinner with the Smileys, written by Sarah Smiley, would be all smiles. And there are lots of smiles in this book. But you’ll cry lots of tears too, just as Sarah did during the year her soldier-husband Dustin was deployed in Africa.

Stuck in Bangor with three very active boys, teaching and getting her Masters Degree at the University of Maine, and missing her husband on all fronts, Sarah began her now-famous weekly dinners with the Smileys, inviting someone to fill Dustin’s place at the table. It began as a diversion for the boys. It became a learning experience for many, far beyond the Smiley’s dinner table.

It all began innocently enough, when oldest son Ford invited Senator Susan Collins to dinner. She brought brownies with nuts. None of the boys liked nuts, and they carefully picked every nut out of the brownies before eating them, leaving piles of nuts on the table. Susan and her staff member Carol Woodcock were good sports and great guests.

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