Book Reviews

“The Boston Castrato” by Colin W. Sargent

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The Boston Castrato by Colin W. Sargent is an intriguing novel, original and compelling. It really surprised me.

When I heard that the founding editor of Portland Magazine had written a novel, I expected a Maine story. But the principle character, Raffi, starts out in Italy and ends up in Boston, working at the historic Parker House Hotel.

I’ve got to say that Sargent has a vivid imagination and has filled his book with astonishing priests, shipbuilders, politicians, poets, and really really bad people. There’s plenty of humor too.

As a young boy, Raffi is focused on singing, but his Priest castrates him and he is forbidden from ever singing again. He makes his way to Boston where he mingles with all sorts of mobsters and charlatans. Honestly, this is an amazing story.

“A Girl Called Vincent” by Krystyna Poray Goddu

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You probably know that Edna St. Vincent Millay was a famous Maine poet. Among her many national awards, she won a Pulitzer Prize, a Distinguished Lifetime Achievement award, and was declared one of the ten most famous women in America.

But do you know the rest of the story? Well, even if you do, you will enjoy A Girl Called Vincent by Krystyna Poray Goddu.

And please don’t let the book’s designation “Young Adult” discourage you. This book is for all ages, and I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about this amazing woman.

Millay was raised in poverty by a single Mom, and was responsible for raising her two sisters. Yet she found time to sing, play the piano, act, and write poetry. Her poems began attracting attention at a very young age.

Maine’s Remarkable Women by Kate Kennedy

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 Some of them you know: Margaret Chase Smith, Sarah Orne Jewett, Fly Rod Crosby. But I’ll bet you didn’t know as much about them as you’ll learn in Kate Kennedy’s wonderful book, Maine’s Remarkable Women, published by Down East Books.

And I’ll bet you’ve never heard of most of these other remarkable women, whose stories you will find interesting and inspiring.

As we begin another winter, you’ll enjoy Tante Blanche’s story. She strapped on snowshoes, loaded up her sled with food and supplies, and traipsed out into a huge blizzard in Madawaska to save her starving neighbors. She was an Acadian who was expelled from Nova Scotia by the English. Yes, she was an immigrant, as were fourteen of the other 15 remarkable women profiled in Kennedy’s book.

Maine’s Favorite Birds by Jeffrey and Allison Wells

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 Do you know Maine’s favorite birds? Jeffrey and Allison Wells do! And they’ve shared that information in a book, Maine’s Favorite Birds, published by Tilbury House.

Linda and I became avid birders twelve years ago, and have found that it adds so much to our travel visits, as well as our time in the wilds of Maine (and even on our front lawn!). While I try not to obsess over it, I do keep a list of the birds we’ve seen, which now totals 504.

Melena’s Jubilee by Zetta Elliot

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Children’s books these days are amazing, with beautiful illustrations, great stories, and often, important messages for kids. All of those descriptions fit Melena’s Jubilee by Zetta Elliot, published by Tilbury House and illustrated by Aaron Boyd.

Young Melena’s been a bad girl. She didn’t make her bed. She didn’t put her toys away and a friend of her grandmother tripped over one and banged into a table, breaking her mother’s favorite vase. “It seemed like everyone was mad at me,” she said. No kidding!

But then, she’s redeemed. “I never let the sun go down on my anger,” her grandmother tells her at breakfast the next day. “Today’s a new day, Melena,” says her mother, “and that means you’ve got a fresh start.” Lucky girl!

A History of Ambition in 50 Hoaxes by Gale Eaton

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 A book about hoaxes seems very appropriate these days. Just sayin’.

And boy, some of the hoaxes in Gale Eaton’s book, A History of Ambition in 50 Hoaxes, published by Tilbury House, are amazing.

You will have heard of some of them, the Trojan Horse, the Ponzi scheme. But do you know the entire story? Pretty entertaining, to say the least.

Eaton selected hoaxes that range through human history from Medieval times (wow, the pope’s authority was a hoax!) to modern times. I was particularly fascinated by the moon landing conspiracy theory. Nope, these folks didn’t believe we actually landed on the moon.

Amazing fly fishing available in and around our national parks

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 Amazing fly fishing available in and around our national parks

To 25 Best National Parks Fly Fish by Terry and Wendy Gunn

Apparently, as Linda and I and our kids were visiting some of our most amazing national parks, I should have had my fly rod along. Don’t I wish that this new book, 25 Best National Parks To Fly Fish by Terry and Wendy Gunn, were available back then!

Well, not really, because those were family vacations, and later, after the kids grew up, Linda and I did fish in one of the most spectacular places: Alaska. In several trips to Montana for conferences, I also was blessed to have fished there with my friend Joe Sowerby of Montana Fly Fishing Connection, who grew up in Maine.

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