By Sarah Smiley

Down East Books, 2016

328 pages, $19.95

Pundit Sacha Guitry once quipped: “You can pretend to be serious, but you can’t pretend to be witty.” Fortunately, award-winning columnist Sarah Smiley doesn’t pretend to be either.

Bangor writer Smiley is a syndicated newspaper columnist and author of four books.


“Got Here As Soon As I Could” is a collection of 85 short essays, seven years of previously published columns from 2008 to 2015. Smiley’s fans will be delighted and newcomers will be introduced to a writer whose fresh, honest and perceptive humor and insight makes everyday life in Maine hilarious.

Smiley is married to a naval aviator and is mother of three boys. Family plays a key role in her funny observations — moving from Florida to Maine as a military family, raising three sons in Maine, and her thoughts on marriage and Maine’s quality of life.

She has a unique skill — she can find humor and familiar clarity in any situation, from coping with a fussy furnace in the winter, to quelling toddler tantrums and keeping her husband on his toes in the kitchen.

A third of the essays deal with adjusting to life in Maine after living in Florida for 10 years. She says winter was a deliberate cruel joke for newcomers, wondered why all the pickup trucks had snowplows on the front and why people have such large woodpiles next to their houses.

She tells numerous tales of raising three small boys, complete with all the whining, begging and crying, and how she kept her sanity. Best is her essay, “A Letter to My Future Daughters-in-Law,” where she tries to explain why the boys’ bathroom etiquette, burping and stupid jokes will later be so charming.

She wraps up with essays on marriage, including a brilliant explanation of why newlywed couples should never play the “Monopoly” board game.



By Eleanor Kuhns

Minotaur, 2016

322 pages, $25.99

In 1796, the small village of Dugard, Maine, is a farming community beset by superstition, religious intolerance and petty jealousy. Then somebody starts killing off its citizens.

“The Devil’s Cold Dish” is award-winning mystery writer Eleanor Kuhns’ fifth mystery novel set in the 1790s, featuring traveling weaver Will Rees. This is a mystery rich with historical detail and suspense, revealing just how damaging gossip, accusations and unfounded persecution can be when reason is overcome by fear.


Will Rees returns to Dugard and his family farm after his adventures in Massachusetts (“Death in Salem”), warmly welcomed by his wife, Lydia, but coldly received by his teenage son, David, and the villagers who view Will as an arrogant hot-head.

Will actually is a hot-head — quick with his fists, known as a brawler — so he has many enemies in Dugard, including the corrupt magistrate and Will’s sister, Caroline, a spoiled scheming shrew who wants his prosperous farm. When the town bully is shot to death in ambush, the evidence points to Will, but this is a clever frame-up.

Will is accused of murder, Lydia is accused of being a witch and then arson, theft and two more gruesome murders endanger his whole family. Clearly, someone is determined to destroy the Rees family, the villagers turn against them, and Will must go on the run to remain free to protect his family and investigate the killings and the motives for such vicious measures.

Numerous enemies and motives from previous books in this series emerge here, and even his own family harbors malicious suspects who would easily kill to ruin him. Hefty portions of jealousy and revenge are cleverly served up in “The Devil’s Cold Dish.”

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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