RAIDER’S WAKE: BOOK VI OF THE NORSEMEN SAGA

By James L. Nelson

Fore Topsail Press, 2017

335 pages, $12.99

ISBN 978-0-692880-26-5

Ninth-century A.D. Ireland was a violent, feudal stewpot of petty Irish kings bickering and fighting over land, livestock, slaves and power. Then the Vikings arrived to raid, plunder and establish trading posts — and things get really bloody.

“Raider’s Wake” is the sixth book in Harpswell author James Nelson’s popular “Norsemen Saga” series, after “Glendalough Fair.” Nelson has won multiple awards for his fiction and nonfiction, and his Viking series is worthy of such recognition.

The principal character, Thorgrim Night Wolf, is a Norwegian Viking chieftain, lord of Vik-lo, a Viking longphort (fortified trading post) on Ireland’s coast. Danish Vikings control the longphort of Dubh-linh, and there’s fierce competition and enmity between the two groups.

After two years of miserable Irish weather, raids, savage battles, victories, defeats and betrayals, Thorgrim intends to take his small fleet of longships to sea to raid and plunder, hoping to earn enough loot to be able to return to his home in Norway.

He learns of a wily Frisian trader’s voyage with merchant vessels, and plans to intercept and capture them at sea. What Thorgrim does not know, however, is the savvy ability of the Frisian, the real nature of his cargo, and that a hated former adversary is aboard the Frisian’s ship. Thorgrim may be sailing into a trap.

Much of the story takes place at sea, as the Vikings and Frisians use uncanny seamanship, clever trickery and harsh methods — one to capture and kill, the other to elude and prosper. And Thorgrim’s son, Harald, a young Viking warrior and captain, aided by Starri Deathless, a loyal berserker, will provide the gruesome answers. But a woman will have the final satisfaction.

Great fun with sword, spear and battleaxe, historically accurate, colorful and exciting.

CAN I CARRY YOUR LUGGAGE? TALES BEHIND THE WILDLIFE PHOTOS TAKEN BY TWO SISTERS TRAVELING THE WORLD

By Shelley Lance-Fulk and Jacklyn Amtower

Maine Authors Publishing, 2017

83 pages, $21.95

ISBN 978-1-63381-107-2

The main title of this book seems a bit odd. The book has nothing to do with luggage, but everything to do with remarkable wildlife photographs and fabulous wildlife stories.

Despite its goofy title, this book is a fascinating wildlife photography journal, written and photographed by two sisters, Shelley Lance-Fulk and Jacklyn Amtower. They live on Beaver Cove at Moosehead Lake, but spend much of their time traveling all over the world to capture stunning photos of animals, birds, reptiles and insects, from the Arctic to the Antarctic and everywhere in between.

The sisters are expert photographers, willing to patiently wait for hours for just the right photograph. The contents, however, are not just beautiful color photos, but also include funny and interesting stories of nature, habitat, travel and themselves.

They’ve been photographing wildlife for years, visiting more than 75 countries, offering tips on how to successfully photograph birds in flight, animals from a moving, vibrating vehicle, and tell us why giraffes and polar bears are the most difficult animals to properly photograph.

Their African photos and stories reveal that lions actually can climb trees; that gerenuks (think gazelles) never drink water; and try to answer the age-old question: Are zebras white with black stripes or black with white stripes? They also learn that Australia may have the cute, cuddly Koala bear, but it also has 530 species of poisonous snakes and insects.

Learn why the African Baobab tree is known as the “Tree of Life;” why the sausage tree is not for breakfast; which is the only nonhuman animal to use the Milky Way for navigation; and about one sister’s unusual marriage proposal.

For more photos, see the sisters’ website: compassroseimages.com.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.