MAINE STORIES: FROM THE WRITER OF THE COLUMN “AWAY WITH WORDS”

Here’s a surprise — a newspaper columnist who doesn’t have an ax to grind, whine or snivel about some petty annoyance. Award-winning columnist Lew-Ellyn Hughes is a woman who thoughtfully writes about things that make folks smile and be grateful for the little joys in life.

Hughes lives in Stratton, in Maine’s western mountains, owns a B&B inn and writes for “The Original Irregular.” This book is a collection of 102 previously published columns covering such important topics as old men, toothbrushing, underwear mishaps and childhood adventures.

This is wholesome, comfortable entertainment, beautifully written, with Hughes’s signature self-deprecating wry humor and tenderness — a refreshing departure from much of today’s mean-spirited media scribbling.

In the section about Maine, she tells of her annual mud season vacation to visit friends and look at someone else’s mud. She also describes her unexpected encounter with a large, unfragrant moose butt while mountain biking. And she gently reminds us why Maine and its people are so special, because if we didn’t live in Maine “who would make maple syrup and snowmen?”

Other columns reveal the hilarious house rules for raising three daughters (penned by a 7-year-old), stories about brave little girls and bold women of middle age, how a young child discovered that Santa was just a dirty trick and the madness of planning a daughter’s wedding.

Learn why she does not play the accordion (much to everyone’s great relief), why in a marriage happiness and contentment are not the same thing, about the general store’s wildly popular gingerbread cake that wasn’t, and about the Lawn-Chair Man and his helicopter.

Best, however, is her sensible advice about life: “If you listen with your heart to your friends and family, you’ll hear a lot more than just what they’re saying.” How true.

DIAMONDS IN THE ROUGH

With a nod and wink to Carl Hiaasen and his wacky, hilarious Florida-based mysteries (like “Bad Monkey”), Falmouth author John Leggett’s second novel, after “The Five-Cent Gang” (2014), is less a true mystery and more a pie-in-the-face comic crime caper complete with a guileless topless hair stylist and a dentist named Jimmy the Gasser.

Leggett doesn’t display the tight, succinct narrative of Hiaasen or even the late Robert B. Parker. The book is too long by a hundred pages. But he does demonstrate a refreshing talent for careful plots, goofy characters and subtle plot twists with a bit of suspense. This is fun reading.

Mario Costello is a smuggler in Florida, using his beloved sailboat, Miss Demeanor, to smuggle 5 million dollars of uncut diamonds into the U.S. Mario thinks he’s pretty smart, but a series of mishaps and a silly dispute with a sleazy marina operator forces him to abandon his boat in a Florida tidal river. His luck really runs out when he’s mistakenly arrested and imprisoned for killing a policeman.

The impatient crime boss wants his diamonds, but Mario now can’t get them and won’t say where they are hidden. A year later, the abandoned boat is discovered by Andy, a Maine Maritime Academy graduate, who claims it as salvage, not knowing the diamonds are hidden somewhere on board.

The diamonds later disappear, and now nobody knows where they are. More smuggling, threats, madcap chases and a few punches in the nose later, the creepy marina owner thinks he owns the boat, Andy wants to keep the boat, the crime boss still wants the diamonds, and poor Mario just doesn’t want to get killed.

Skip the boring passages of everybody’s boo-hoo childhoods, and enjoy a funny tale with a satisfying, surprise ending.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.