MOSS FARM or THE MYSTERIOUS
MISSIVES OF THE MOOSEPATH LEAGUE

By Van Reid
Moosepath Press, 2012
276 pages, $14
ISBN 978-1-4675-0382-2
 
The Moosepath League is the fictional creation of Edgecomb author Van Reid, a clever writer whose sense of humor, imagination, subtlety and surprising plots have produced hilarious and delightfully complex novels involving this erstwhile Portland club of over-stuffed, bewhiskered, well-dressed gentlemen.

MOSS FARM is the sixth book in Reid’s Moosepath League series of funny Victorian melodramas, featuring the league’s five members who are armed with little more than good manners, witty repartee and hearty appetites. They rescue damsels in distress, solve thorny romantic problems and thwart the nefarious schemes of petty thugs and criminal masterminds.

And they do all that in the most polite and gentlemanly fashion.

Here, Reid has the league’s leader, Mr. Tobias Walton, “a man of leisure (or at least a man not of labor),” and his companion, Mr. Sundry Moss, off on an adventure to the Moss family farm in Edgecomb, where they will untangle two befuddled romances and teach a valuable lesson to an interfering old coot.

Meanwhile, the other three members of the league, Ephram, Eagleton and Thump, when not suffering from a “victual-induced miasma,” become unwittingly and innocently involved in a case of mistaken identity with a misplaced letter, a confused father, a charmingly dotty (and surprisingly lucid) elderly aunt who sees things that aren’t there (or are they?), a smart detective and a couple of inept thieves.

This is an enchanting farce, populated with wonderfully captivating characters, all smartly tied together by Reid’s elegant prose and snappy dialogue. His carefully crafted plots prove that “people will consider something mysterious and unclear much longer than they will what is plain and readily understood — or what seems to be.”
 
MAINE’S FAVORITE BIRDS

By Jeffrey V. Wells and Allison Childs Wells
Tilbury House Publishers, 2012
72 pages, $15
ISBN 978-0-88448-336-6
 
It would be awfully hard to not like birds. Their colors, songs and antics are beautiful and entertaining, bringing four seasons of joy to everyone — just as Mother Nature intended.

MAINE’S FAVORITE BIRDS is a handy birder’s field guide written by husband and wife ornithologistsJeffrey and Allison Wells. They are native Mainers who live in Gardiner, and have published numerous articles on bird-related subjects. The stunning watercolor illustrations are provided by Evan Baker, an acclaimed scientific illustrator.

Maine has more than 400 bird species, but the Wells have selected just 108 of their favorites, birds most often seen in backyards, gardens, parks, fields, shorelines, mixed woods and along water. The book focuses on identification, voice (call sounds), and where to find different birds.

From puffins, ducks, eagles, gulls, owls and woodpeckers to chickadees, nuthatches, starlings, hawks and cardinals (along with 12 varieties of warblers and nine varieties of sparrows), they clearly describe each bird’s identifying features for both males and females.  They include a useful explanation of field marks to facilitate identification.

The Wells also add brief descriptions of 16 recommended geographic birding locations, such as Marginal Way in Ogunquit where birders will find gulls, cormorants, ducks, warblers and sparrows, and mid-coast nature preserves that have Hermit Thrushes and Golden-crowned Kinglets.

Learn which bird is called the “parrot of the sea,” which flocks of birds are called “rafts” and “kettles,” which bird is known as the “flying cigar,” and why the Red-Eyed Vireo is called the “preacher bird.”
Unfortunately, this guide does not provide information on feeding, courtship, mating and breeding.  For that information, and as a complement to this guide, see the excellent BIRDS OF MAINE by Stan Tekiela (Adventure Publications, 2002).

— Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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