Book Reviews

George and Linda review books and other publications, many of which are referenced in the blogs.

Cold Hard News by Maureen Milliken

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A teenager dies in a snowmobile crash. An old fella emerges from the roadside snow in the spring, apparently killed by a snowplow. And this is only a portion of the murder and mayhem in Maureen Milliken’s wonderful first novel, Cold Hard News.

Maureen’s enjoyed a great career in the newspaper business throughout New England. Since she returned to Maine in 2011, she’s served as a columnist and editor at the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel, where it’s been my privilege to get to know her.  She is witty and sometimes cynical, and those qualities come through in the novel.

The Precipice by Paul Doiron

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If you’ve never read one of Paul Doiron’s novels, you are in for a summer of fun, because he just added novel number six to his group of engagingly fast reads of stories featuring a Maine game warden. And while I enjoyed every one of Paul’s novels, I do think he is getting better and better.

The plot in his new book, The Precipice, hits close to home with the disappearance of two girls on the Appalachian Trail’s Hundred Mile Wilderness. Warden Mike Bowditch is front and center in the search, along with his girlfriend Stacy, a wildlife biologist, and there are enough suspects to keep you guessing – and reading.

Homes Down East – Classic Maine Coastal Cottages and Town Houses

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 Fifty-two gorgeous homes, historical, elegant, many on the ocean that, as the book Homes Down East describes them, “remain as fresh and inviting today as when they were built more than a century ago.”

Well, most of them fit that description. Some have burned or been torn down to make way for new bigger more modern homes and summer cottages. Thirty-two of the homes in the book are still standing.

The three authors and one photographer who put this book together for Maine’s Tilbury House Publishers are as distinguished as the homes they write about and photograph.

Earl Shettleworth Jr. has been Maine’s State Historian since 2004, but got involved in this field way back in 1964 when he cofounded Greater Portland Landmarks. He was appointed to the first board of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission in 1971 and has served as the commission’s director since 1976. Earl has written extensively on Maine history and architecture.

Ten Thousand Birds – Ornithology Since Darwin

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 When I saw the title, Ten Thousand Birds, on the Princeton University Press message, I got excited. Linda and I got hooked on birding ten years ago, and birding opportunities are involved in most of our travel trips these days. And we hardly ever step out of the house without our binoculars. In fact, I just had to interrupt writing this column because I heard my first-of-the-spring Phoebe singing in a tree in the front yard and had to go out and take a look. While I was out there, two Bald eagles soared right over my head!

Since I started writing full time four years ago, including book reviews, I have been very impressed with the birding and wild animal books published by Princeton University Press. But I have to confess that when Ten Thousand Birds arrived, I was disappointed. It turns out that it doesn’t include photos of 18,000 birds! And it weighs four pounds!

Fascinating stories from the other end of Dana Wilde’s driveway.

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Dana Wilde’s stories are cerebral, serene, and oftentimes fascinating. Most fascinating for me, in his book The Other End of the Driveway, are stories about wild creatures including Blue jays, Hummingbirds, Horseshoe crabs, and spiders. Yes, spiders can be fascinating!

Consider this from the spider story. This is not paranoia. I’m being watched… involuntarily I glance back… and for no reason my eyes fix on the eave above the door. Upside down there in her web is a huge garden spider… She’s not after me. But still. She looks huge and witchlike, with her eight eyes seeming to scope my every move and thought.

Eight eyes? Yikes!

Angry Birds and Beehive Hair

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I’ve been spending an afternoon each month teaching writing to 25 fourth graders at Mount Vernon Elementary School and it’s been a lot of fun. The kids are enthusiastic and really enjoying our afternoons together.

So far they’ve written about their favorite old things (I told them this story could not be about their parents!), their favorite animals, their favorite after-school activity, and their favorite places outside of Mount Vernon. In the fall we went into the woods behind the school, took notes, and came back to write about what we saw there. It took quite an effort to get them out of the woods! I have tried to make writing fun for them.

The kids have written news stories and editorials. I especially liked the news story by one of the girls who wrote about the shooting contest she’d won recently at the Augusta range. And their editorial opinions were very interesting!

It’s all about animals for Mount Vernon’s 4th graders

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 Dahlov Ipcar’s book, Animal Hide & Seek, was a perfect choice for the 25 very active 4th graders at Mount Vernon Elementary School. I’ve been spending an afternoon each month teaching writing to these students and it’s been a lot of fun. The kids are enthusiastic and really enjoying our afternoons together.

So far they’ve written about their favorite old things (I told them this story could not be about their parents!), their favorite animals, their favorite after-school activity, and their favorite places outside of Mount Vernon. In the fall we went into the woods behind the school, took notes, and came back to write about what we saw there. It took quite an effort to get them out of the woods! I have tried to make writing fun for them.

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