April/May 2018 Blog (includes front cover pictures)
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This month’s blog has 12 entries from enthusiastic readers. Try some of these selections. How are those raking muscles? Take a break and put your feet up with a good read.
The Fairytale Girl by Susan Branch (Autobiographical)
This is a light read, full of references to the 50s,60s and 70s. The book is very diary- like, and full of actual photos as well as watercolor images painted by the author. Many of the songs of the times are quoted at appropriate places along the way. Pithy quotes are liberally sprinkled throughout. It’s a real blast from the past! I enjoyed the presentation more than the actual story. This is a highly entertaining story of the author’s early life.
Reviewed by Pam Chenea
Foraging Mushrooms Maine by Tom Seymour (Non-Fiction)
Everything you need to know to enjoy wild mushrooms.
Linda and I love wild mushrooms, focusing on chanterelles and black trumpets. Years ago we attended a seminar on wild mushrooms by a friend in Mt Vernon who harvests them commercially. And several times, after picking our first batches of chanterelles and black trumpets, we took them to her to verify that we’d picked the right mushrooms.
Now we are very confident when discovering chanterelles and black trumpets. We haven’t ever found a lot of trumpets, but last year we picked 8 pounds of chanterelles.
Now, you’ve got a chance to do this too, thanks to my friend Tom Seymour and his new guide, Foraging Mushrooms in Maine, a Falcon Guide published by Rowan and Littlefield.
Tom is an amazing guy, a professional naturalist who has written about everything from fishing to wildlife to wild plants and now, wild mushrooms. He is well known for his many newspaper and magazine articles, and he’s conducted seminars and workshops throughout New England. He’s also a great player of Highland Pipes, and once performed up at our camp for a TV show.
In the lengthy introduction, Tom gives us a lot of great advice, such as “get to know one mushroom inside and out before going on to another species.” From sustainable harvests to avoiding toxic plants, Tom covers everything you must know to enjoy and safely harvest mushrooms. He even covers details like how to keep harvested mushrooms dry and fresh and includes his favorite recipes for each of the many species he includes in the book. The photos are also very helpful.
He even tells you about some mushrooms that don’t go well with alcohol. Fortunately, those are not chanterelles or black trumpets!
I especially appreciated his advice to always get permission from the landowner before picking mushrooms on his or her property. He even referenced a legislative bill I proposed on this subject. Harvesting without permission is considered theft. Don’t do it.
So, why should you read this guide and begin harvesting wild mushrooms? “More and more people are discovering the advantages of acquiring their own food rather than relying on commercial enterprises to supply it for them,” writes Tom. “And this doesn’t even address the immense satisfaction that comes from finding, identifying, harvesting, preparing, and finally eating your own foraged foods.” Boy, that is so right.
When I spot a new bunch of chanterelles, the excitement is much like spotting a grouse or woodcock in the woods. But I must confess, I’m a much better picker than I am a shot. If only those birds would sit still like mushrooms!
Reviewed by George Smith
Death Comes For the Archbishop by Willa Cather (Classic Fiction)
This is one of a group of novels set in the early midwest by Cather and a few others. I have loved it ever since I read it for a high school book report. It meanders along with the lives and reminiscences of two missionaries bringing French Catholicism into newly annexed New Mexico. Slowly, it builds a landscape, an atmosphere, a history. The native population is being transformed by religion just as the clergy are being changed by the indigenous people, and not always for the better.
Reviewed by Betsy Bowen
Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan by Ruth Gilligan (Historical Fiction)
The title is deceptive as this book is actually about Jews in Ireland. It profiles three separate, but linked stories in different parts of the last century. The characters are quite engaging, the writing is quite clever, and you end up appreciating the art of a good story. A subtext of the novel is focusing of the role of stories in history and in human interaction.
Reviewed by Judy Danielson
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (Contemporary Fiction)
After reading K. Hannah’s “The Nightingale” and thoroughly enjoying it, I had to check out another of Hannah’s books. “The Great Alone” was published this year and the Cary library has it in the new books section. I was moved deeply by this story of a broken Vietnam POW who runs from his demons to Alaska with his wife and teenage daughter in hopes of finding peace from his nightmares. The author paints a beautiful picture of Alaska and its potent dangers. The people of the small village there remind me of our small villages here in Central Maine and how we try to help each other. As darkness descends and the family hits emotional crisis, the wife and daughter find ways to endure that will shake you to your bones. It’s a story of survival and it left an enduring imprint on my psyche.
Reviewed by Barrie Colbath
Longmire Mysteries by Craig Johnson (Mystery)
Looking for a mystery series with a lot of twists and laughs? Check out the Longmire mystery books at our library. Walter Longmire is a long-time sheriff in rural Wyoming who deals with unbelievable mysteries in each book. Start with number one…The Cold Dish…and continue in order. I’ve enjoyed these page-turning books and think you will, too.
Reviewed by Dave Petell
Alone on the Shield by Kirk Landers (Contemporary Fiction)
For those of us in late middle age “life can be about what you do with Plan B.” Would it be a a solo canoe trip in the Canadian wilderness? Would it be about meeting up with a romance from your college years? Toss in high suspense and danger and this becomes a great read. Highly Recommended.
Reviewed by Steve Dodge.
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesamyn Ward (Contemporary Fiction)
A beautifully crafted though painful book to read, Sing, Unburied, Sing deals with poverty and the black experience in a small town in Mississippi. The characters are very compelling, and past characters are brought into the present in the form of ghosts who have a lot to say. Listening to interviews by the amazing young author, who won a second National Book Award for this book, was very helpful to me. For those of us who have only experienced white privilege in our culture, it is illuminating to try and understand what being black in our country really feels like.
Reviewed by Judy Danielson
The Girl With No Name by Diney Costeloe (Historical Fiction)
Just finished reading THE GIRL WITH NO NAME, by Diney Costeloe, published in the U.K. in 2016. The book is dedicated “To all those who were evacuated and to those who opened their homes and took them in.” The book begins in Hanau, Germany, November 9, 1938, and continues through VE day. It is truly a love story about a 13 year-old girl named Lisa who leaves Germany on the Kindertransport and arrives in London where she is adopted by a childless couple. The story continues to unfold during the Blitz in London where once again Lisa is moved out of London to rural Suffolk and into the care of a single unmarried older woman named Aunt Edie. There are so many twists and turns with a lot of history and a lot of fiction both weaving in and out to cast a spell over the reader. Good character development and the story line, although moving quickly, is easy to follow. Available at our Library, of course!
Reviewed by Jill Howes
The Sea Runners by Ivan Doig (Fiction)
Set in the mid-1800’s, this is an adventure of 4 indentured Swedes and their escape from a Russian work camp in New Archangel, Alaska. They want to leave their boredom and seemingly endless years in the woods so they plan their escape, gather supplies, steal a canoe from a neighboring Indian tribe and head south toward the mouth of the Columbia River which is now Oregon. Their 1200 mile venture along the dangerous northwest coast is roughly based on a real life incident. Anyone who has read any of Doig’s books knows he has a vivid way of painting pictures of his characters and surroundings.This was the first (published in 1982) of his dozen or so novels, mostly set in his native Montana. He died in 2015.
Reviewed by Connie Locashio
This Time Might Be Different by Elaine Ford (Short Stories)
Prepare to be captured by Elaine Ford’s final book.
Elaine Ford’s final book is a keeper, partly because she leaves many of the endings to her readers. This Time Might Be Different is a very appropriate title, because I’ve never read such compelling stories. Some are funny and some are troubling, but each one will grab you and propel you forward.
A friend said she started reading the book on a Saturday and couldn’t stop, finishing it in one day. It took me two evenings – and ok, one morning I grabbed it too, delaying my workday because I just had to read more of these stories.
Subtitled “Stories of Maine” and published by Islandport Press in Yarmouth, I was especially pleased to learn that Elaine knew her book was going to be published before she died last August of brain cancer.
A lot of her stories are set in Washington and Hancock counties, places she loved after moving to our state in 1985 and living in Millbridge. Elaine taught at the University of Maine. She published five novels, and, late in life, she began writing plays.
From her vivid portrayals of her characters to her descriptions of their often difficult and troubled lives to her very realistic dialogue, Elaine puts you right into the heart of her stories.
Wes McNair describes Elaine’s writing well in his introduction to the book: “Grim as the circumstances of her characters may sometimes be, there is a kind of solace that gradually emerges as one reads her work – a sense that here is someone who understands and cares about their plight.”
Reviewed by George Smith
Improvement: A Novel by Joan Silber (Contemporary Fiction)
It is always a pleasure to discover a new author. Silber’s Improvement seems to be a series of inter-connected stories, but the author calls it a novel. All of the seemingly disparate stories (chapters in a sense) somehow touch on Reyna, a tattooed single mother with a lively little boy, a boyfriend in jail, and a wise aunt who turns up at key points. The writing is elegant and sweeps you into the lives of characters you want to like, do like, or can’t like. Cigarette smuggling…the world of Turkish rugs–like I said, disparate but they all have that common thread of Reyna. Intriguing and highly recommended.
Reviewed by Janet Adelberg