Offering to read and write reviews about books by Maine authors and published by Maine publishers is one of the best ideas I ever had. I post the reviews on my website,, if you’d like to read them.

If you have children or grandchildren, be sure to check out my reviews of the amazing children’s books, with great stories and awesome illustrations. Some of my recent favorites are “The Spring Visitors” by Karel Hayes, in which bears move into a cottage for the winter, “Fairy House Cooking” by Liza Gardner Walsh, “Wake Up Baby Bear!” by Lynn Plourde, “An Island for Sam” by Sandra Dickson, and all three of Angela Ferrari’s books.

Assuming you love to read books as much as I do, I’m going to alert you to some of my favorites, reviewed in the last few months. Let’s start with novels.

I raced through all four of Jennifer Wixson’s novels comprising the Sovereign series, which really captures rural Maine. After stopping long enough to write reviews of each of her first two novels, “Hens & Chickens” and “Peas, Beans & Corn,” I quickly moved on to novel No. 3, “The Songbird of Sovereign,” and her fourth novel, “The Minister’s Daughter.” And soon after that, I dived into Jennifer’s final novel, “Maggie’s Dilemma.” I’d be a bit depressed knowing this is her last novel, but she told me recently that she is writing a new novel. Wonderful news.

Tim Farren’s novel “Sibanda” is set in Africa during a photo safari. Little did I know that the compelling plot would grab me so strongly. Tim was born and raised in Maine, and after military service, he started an African safari business with a Zimbabwean. When he is not in Africa, Tim and his wife reside in Maine, where they enjoy our woods and waters.

After thoroughly enjoying the novel “Matinicus: An Island Mystery” by Darcy Scott, I quickly ordered two of Darcy’s other novels, “Reese’s Leap” and “Margel’s Madness,” and both are very enjoyable. I also loved all of Charlene D’Avanzo’s novels, set on Maine islands.

It always amazes me when someone writes a great first novel. It takes a compelling plot, realistic characters, good dialogue, and for me, intrigue that keeps me reading, wanting to know what happens next. Thomas J. Torrington does all of this in his first novel, “Evergreen,” which takes the reader on a long and sometimes very difficult journey through the lives of neighboring families who suffer more than their share of tragedies, along with wonderful experiences.

For nonfiction, Kimberly Ridley’s book, “Extreme Survivors: Animals That Time Forgot,” is fascinating, full of stunning photos and stories about species that have somehow survived for hundreds of millions of years. I’ve poured through the book three times so far, captivated by the photos. Did you know that some dinosaurs became birds?

I certainly wish I’d caught a lungfish, considering that species has been on Earth for 300 million years. Perhaps I should have been fishing with a velvet worm, which has been around for 500 million years. Of course, lungfish can survive for more than three years without eating, so catching them on a baited hook would be pretty darn difficult.

After reading “Upwards” by Laurie Chandler, I’m not sure I want to tackle the entire Northern Forest Canoe Trail. But you will surely want to paddle some of the trail. Her faith, and remembrance of paddling some of the trail with her husband Chris, who died at a young age of a heart attack, are inspiring, and her fierce determination to get through tough portages, awful storms, fierce winds, and lots of long days of paddling is amazing.

And I guess I should remind you about my own books. “A Life Lived Outdoors,” published by Islandport Press, has stories and columns about Maine — growing up here, wildlife encounters, things like “making do,” hunting and fishing, and a lot more.

“Take it from ME,” also published by Islandport Press, is a travel book that my wife Linda and I wrote about our favorite inns and restaurants in Maine. We wrote weekly travel columns for seven years for this newspaper. Those columns are still available on my website where, in the Best of Maine section, you can access the columns by town.

“A Lifetime of Hunting and Fishing” was published by North Country Press and contains lots of my favorite stories of hunting and fishing in Maine and other states and Canada.

And “Maine Sporting Camps,” published by DownEast Books is about all of Maine’s wonderful sporting camps, and includes a history of Maine sporting camps. I encourage you all to visit a Maine sporting camp this year. These are amazing life-changing places.

And take a couple of good books with you to read while you are relaxing.

George Smith can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon, ME 04352, or [email protected]. Read more of Smith’s writings at

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