Book Reviews

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.

The Rebel’s Wrath by Christopher W. Morin

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 I enjoy historical novels, so it was particularly pleasing to discover Maine resident Christopher Morin’s books. He’s written two novels and one short story, and I decided to begin with his new novel, The Rebel’s Wrath.

The Civil War has just ended, and Christopher neatly blends the history of that era with a compelling fictional story where tension builds throughout the book, culminating in an astonishing bunch of murder and mayhem in the small town of North Scarborough.

Having visited Gettysburg, I particularly enjoyed the fact that Christopher began his novel there, where his main character, Private Sherman Jackson, served in the famous 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment, led by General Joshua Chamberlain.

Playing God by Kate Flora

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Kate Flora is one of my favorite writers, and not just because she helped retired game warden Roger Guay with his wonderful new book, A Good Man with a Dog. While her novels are at the top of my favorites list, Kate’s 2015 true crime book, Death Dealer, is also remarkable. It’s about the search, by Maine game wardens with their dogs, for a killer in New Brunswick. You’ll be very proud of the Maine Warden Service when you read Death Dealer.

Suddenly Spying is an imaginative and entertaining novel

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Gin Mackey  has a tremendous imagination and she puts it all to work in her novel, Suddenly Spying. The subtitle, A Mapcap Caper, doesn’t begin to describe it.

The plot is imaginative, that’s for sure, with Nora Gallagher joining her sister as a secret agent and spy, sent to Barlanadana Island to stop a coup by a dangerous drug dealer called Tommy the Twitch. There are lots of amusing twists (ok twitches) and turns in the story, and you won’t want to stop reading.

Cold Blood, Hot Sea by Charlene D’Avanzo

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Charlene D’Avanzo has come up with a clever and entertaining way to teach us something about climate change: a novel featuring an intriguing who-done-it, plenty of tension, and a compelling story that kept me glued to the book for two evenings.

Cold Blood, Hot Sea, published by Torrey House Press, puts oceanographer Mara Tusconi in a very tough and life-threatening situation, involving everything from big oil to lobsters. It’s a great who-done-it, for sure, but I also enjoyed the details about climate change that D’Avanzo slides into the story.

After Mara’s friend Peter is killed in a very strange accident on board a research vessel, she becomes determined to figure out if it was an accident, and if not, then who killed him and why. She gets into some very dangerous situations herself, and I won’t spoil this by telling you more.

Fish Won’t Let Me Sleep by James Babb

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Jim Babb had we worried in the first few chapters of his book, Fish Won’t Let Me Sleep, as he wrote about his obsession with Atlantic salmon, “the fish of 10,000 casts.” I know, I know. Atlantic salmon are so hard to catch that the common description is “the fish of 1,000 casts.” For Babb, sometimes, it’s 10,000 casts. Yet he confessed to being obsessed with Atlantic salmon.

I’ve only caught one Atlantic salmon in my life, when I was brook trout fishing on the Leaf River in far northern Quebec. I fished for them once in the Penobscot River in Bangor, in the 1970s, caught nothing, and moved on.  So I was afraid Jim’s new book was going to focus on a fish I quickly lost interest in.

This Maine farmer tells us how to improve wildlife habitat on our own land

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 A subtitle on John Twomey’s interesting and informative book, Retiring To, Not From, reports that it includes, “Intimate details of life on a remote farm in Maine.” And that is certainly true.

The level of detail about farming will be of interest to anyone who grows vegetables and fruit, but what intrigued me was John’s explanations of how he has improved wildlife habitat on the Montville farm of he and his partner Leigh, since retiring there in 2009. This former U. Mass. Professor is, to put it mildly, really into farming and wildlife!

From pruning hundreds of apple trees to planting thousands of white and chestnut oaks to mowing his fields and brushy areas in a way that most benefits wildlife, John gives us lots of great ideas about how all of us who care about Maine’s wildlife from birds to deer, can help them survive and thrive here.

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