Book Reviews

Layne Witherell’s career in wine has been amazing!

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You could be excused for thinking Layne Witherell drank wine from his baby bottle instead of milk. I’m pretty sure he knows more about wine than anyone in the world, and I’m absolutely sure he’s had the most interesting life in the wine business.

Layne’s new book, Wine Maniacs – Life in the Wine Biz, is phenomenal, entertaining, very informative, and something that will surely improve your selection and enjoyment of wine.

It was my good fortunate one day, wandering into the wine section at the back of Trader Joe’s in Portland, to have Layne recognize me and begin a conversation. In person he is very engaging, but what impressed me the most was one of the first things he told me, as I was reaching for a fairly expensive bottle of wine.

No News Is Bad News by Maureen Milliken

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                 They thought he’d been shot by a deer hunter, and his body was butchered just like you’d cut up a deer in the woods, but that grisly discovery was only the beginning in a complex web of intrigue that will keep you reading well into the night.

                Maureen Milliken, the editor of the Morning Sentinel newspaper, has created a compelling read in her new novel, No News Is Bad News. Like her first novel, Maureen’s central character is Bernie O’Dea, the editor of a weekly newspaper. She’s surrounded by a lively cast of characters, from a wife beater to a troubled police chief. But when her newly-unemployed brother shows up, the plot gets a lot more complicated.

Above the Glebe by Pamela Gilpin Stowe

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                 I didn’t get much done on Labor Day, and it’s Pamela Gilpin Stowe’s fault. I started reading her historical novel, Above the Glebe, on Saturday, but was too busy on Sunday to continue, even though I couldn’t wait to get back to it.

                So Labor Day afternoon, with a Maine microbrew, I sat outside in the shade, enjoying the beautiful day, and read for about 3 hours, finishing the book. And what a finish it was.

The Pier at the end of the World by Paul Erickson

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 It’s no surprise that The Pier at the end of the World by Paul Erickson was cited as an Outstanding Science Trade Book by the Children’s Book Council of the National Science Teachers Association. If we’d had this book when I was in school, I might have liked science more!

With stunning photos by Andrew Martinez, this book gives us a fascinating look at the ocean creatures who live under an old rotting pier. One of several outstanding books in Tilbury House’s Nature Book series, I can’t wait to share it with my grandsons, who live near the coast.

As Tilbury notes, each of these wonderful books “aims for the highest standards of scientific accuracy and storytelling magic.” You get both in The Pier.

Summer to Fall by Dana Wilde

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                 If you love summer and fall as much as I do – and what Mainers don’t? – then you will enjoy Dana Wilde’s new book, Summer to Fall: Notes and Numina from the Maine Woods, published by North Country Press.

                As Dana explains, “It's a book about the quirks, denizens and stars as seen from Troy, Maine, and collected from the Backyard Naturalist and Amateur Naturalist newspaper columns, plus other writings.”

Statesman: George Mitchell and the Art of the Possible by Douglas Rooks

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 We all know that George Mitchell had an amazing career with major accomplishments for Maine and our country, but I still learned a lot in Doug Rooks’ wonderful biography, Statesman: George Mitchell and the Art of the Possible, published by Down East Books. Years of research went into this book, and I especially enjoyed the level of detail Doug was able to include, from Mitchell’s key staff members to projects and programs I had no idea he’d led and/or influenced.

For example, I’ll bet you didn’t know that Mitchell led the successful effort to return passenger rail service to Maine or that he secured, through tough negotiations, the funding for many improvements in our interstate highway system. I certainly didn’t know Mitchell saved the higher standards for maple syrup maintained by Maine and Vermont, after lower standards were adopted at the federal level for all other states.

Maxi’s Secrets by Lynn Plourde

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 I’m at a loss for words, having just finished Lynn Plourde’s heart-warming and very thoughtful new novel, Maxi’s Secrets (subtitled: What You Can Learn From a Dog). Should I begin by telling you about the 51 “Secrets” that Lynn divulges, things that you can learn from a dog, each one listed at the end of a chapter? Perhaps I should start with Maxi, the deaf dog, or Timminy the very short 5th grader, or Abby, the blind sixth grader next door?

Lynn is a fabulous and imaginative writer of more than 30 children’s books, including my favorite, Merry Moosey Christmas, in which the reindeer take the night off and Santa’s sleigh is led by moose. That story and Russ Cox’s amazing illustrations are really wonderful.

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