One man’s trash…

Where do you find your books? I’m not techy enough to go the download route, or Kindle or Nook. I tend to use more traditional means – the “brick and mortar” bookstore (although my husband prefers Amazon), especially the local bookstore (as opposed to chains). Of course I mostly acquire books through the library: our own Long Island library, the Portland Public Library (one block from where I work), or other libraries in downtown Portland: Maine Charitable Mechanics Association and the Maine Irish Heritage Center library.

But my favorite place to acquire books is at used book sales, either ongoing sales, such as the one we have at the Long Island Community Library, or a room at the Portland Public Library that is set up for book sales, or annual events, such as Art & Soul, or the Friends of the Portland Public Library sale (this year held at Catherine McAuley High School). Here you can find great bargains, and bring home armloads of books for not much cash. I’ve also been successful finding cheap books at yard sales. I’ve even had good luck with books on the side of the road or left at the ferry landing in banana boxes. My house is evidence of these great finds – now to just find the time to read them!

So, all of you out there in blog land (I know there’s a few): where do you find the best treasures?

Maine Irish Heritage Center library

Another great Portland special library to visit is the Maine Irish Heritage Center library, on the corner of Gray and State Streets. Housed in the old St. Dominic’s Catholic Church, the library just opened in May of 2009. Under the tutelage and guidance of volunteer librarian Susan Flaherty, this library has grown into a wonderful resource of Irish literature, and boasts subjects such as religion, travel, history, and language. They even have Irish music cassettes, movies, knitting patterns, and just about anything else Irish you can imagine. Members are allowed to check out items, for a period of one month. Often on the Tuesday afternoons that the library is open, you can enter in through the front door of the church, which allows you to wander in through the beautiful sanctuary before entering into the library itself, which also has wonderful atmosphere, with high ceilings and a large wooden sacramental dresser now used for storing library materials.

This summer there is also, at the center, an exhibit of the photographs of our fellow Casco Bay Islander – Bill Finney of Great Diamond Island. His images, often of landscapes, are breathtaking.

For more information:

Maine Irish Heritage Center Library, 34 Gray Street (corner of State),, 207-780-0118, Tuesdays 4-6


Okay, who here likes pastries? Well, after “sampling” two of the offerings in our library, both in film and book format, I decided that I like eating pastries more than making them.

In the documentary film, “Kings of Pastry,” French pastry chefs compete for the coveted Meilleurs Ouvriers de France award. The amazing sculptures they create are true artistry (although you wouldn’t be tempted to take a bite), and you will be on the edge of your seat as they carry the delicate and fragile looking concoctions from room to room. Definitely not for the faint of heart.

In Dalia Jurgensen’s “Spiced: a pastry chef’s true stories of trials by fire, after-hours exploits, and what really goes on in the kitchen,” you will also mostly realize what a lot of hard work it is to be a pastry chef. This somewhat racy memoir will leave you a bit tired and breathless.

So, at the end of the day, I’ll stick to my day job, and leave the pastry making to the experts. And as I reach for a napolean I will appreciate what it takes to make these confections, and relish every bite.


Special libraries in Portland – Maine Charitable Mechanics Association Library

High above the din of Congress Street in Portland, is a hidden treasure: the Maine Charitable Mechanic Association’s library, a private library which dates back to the 19th century. Although created as a library for apprentices in 1815, today it boasts an outstanding collection of fiction and non-fiction, as well as Maine books. Just heading up the stairs puts you into a different world. You enter into through double doors, into a large room with high ceilings, with portraits of “mechanics” lining two sides of the room, and exhibits in glass cases to show off the Association’s treasures. Mostly, though, you will see wonderful books right at your fingertips. Pat Larrabee, the librarian, says that the collection is a great resource for book clubs, who often read the classics. (In fact, the first Tuesday of each month a book club meets, enjoying tea and pastries, conversation and laughter). They don’t usually weed at the Maine Charitable Mechanic, so you will often find well loved copies of old books, that are usually tossed onto the booksale cart at most libraries if they haven’t been checked out in the past decade. The Library also has art exhibits, and is open, outside of their usual hours, on First Fridays.  Highlights for me of this collection are the travel videos and DVDS – many of which are products of the travelogue series that the Association sponsors. Books and videos aside, it’s worth a visit just to enjoy the ambience. (And one of the things I love most about visiting this library is the chocolates and cookies often lying around).

The Maine Charitable library, located at 519 Congress St., is open Tuesday through Thursday, 10-3, and First Fridays. Membership is $25 a year, but anyone is welcome to take a look around and enjoy the exhibits. For more information: or call 207-773-8396


Little Gale Gumbo

Here is a plug for a friend of mine speaking at the Portland Public Library in a week. Erika grew up in Maine, and her mother is a dear friend of mine.

Wednesday, June 27 Erika Marks, author of Little Gale Gumbo
Erika Marks’ debut women’s fiction novel, Little Gale Gumbo, is about a woman and her daughters who leave a difficult past in New Orleans to start over in a small Maine town where they open a Creole restaurant.  Hoping for a fresh start, Camille and her daughters, Dahlia and Josie, leave their lives in New Orleans and move to Little Gale, Maine.  On the small island the locals are skeptical of the trio, but twenty-five years later Camille’s café becomes an island staple.  All seems right in their world, including Camille’s relationship with a local man, Ben.  But tragedy soon strikes and Ben is left fighting for his life.  Dahlia and Josie, along with Ben’s son, Matthew, must do everything they can to protect Ben and confront long-held secrets and unrequited loves that will test them as a family.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Erika Marks lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her family.  Visit her online at and follow her on Twitter @erikamarksauthr.

Daphne Du Maurier’s Cornwall

A year ago we were in Cornwall, visiting Daphne Du Maurier sites. Led by our friend Jane, a Du Maurier scholar, we visited places that influenced Du Maurier’s novels. In Helford we searched for “Frenchman’s Creek,” a tale set in the time of Charles II and which includes love affairs, smuggling, and all sorts of swashbuckling adventures. In Fowey we walked on to a car ferry which took us across the River Fowey to Boddinick, where we could view from a distance (and later over a fence) Daphne’s home, “Ferryside,” where her son Kits now lives. This beautiful white house with blue shutters is perched on the edge of the water, and has the figurehead of the ship, Jane Slade, on one of the corners of the house. Jane Slade is the inspiration for the character of Janet Coombe of Du Maurier’s first novel, “The Loving Spirit.” Written in 1929, this novel tells the story of the four generations of the Coombe family of boatbuilders. We could see the boatyard that the Slades owned in the distance in Polruan.

Hiking through the nearby hills we came across a stone monument to Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, a writer friend of Daphne’s, for whom she carried on the writing of “Castle Dor,” in 1959, a decade after Quiller-Couch died. Along the way we veered off the hike to visit the church at Lanteglos, where Daphne married her husband, Tommy “Boy” Browning, in 1932. We wandered in the churchyard, in search of the gravestone of Jane Slade. In the 14th century stone church was just one small mention of the wedding of Daphne and Tommy, amidst its long and storied history.

One evening we dined at “Sam’s at the Beach” in Polkerris, in an old converted lifeboat station. On the wall we saw the name Rashleigh on the Fowey lifeboat sign – this name is prevalent in this area. Du Maurier based her book, “My Cousin Rachel,” on the Rashleigh name, and called her main character, “Philip Ashley.” Menabilly, the house that Daphne Du Maurier rented for a few years, is on the Rashleigh estate. This house was the setting for her most well known novel, “Rebecca” – renamed Manderley in the book, which is set in the early 20th century, as well as “The King’s General,” set during the time of the English Civil War (1642-1646)

I wish I had read these novels when I was a teenager, as they would have stirred my imagination and filled my world with romanticism. Alas, most of these I read 30 years later, but found them just as intriguing and entertaining. Especially when combined with physically visiting the places – what could be more delightful!

Captains Courageous! A good fishing tale

One of the things I like best about belonging to a book group is reading books that ordinarily I wouldn’t pluck off the shelf. My book group at the Maine Charitable Mechanics Association just gathered to discuss “Captains Courageous” by Rudyard Kipling. I wish I had read this years ago, when I was involved in the “Fish tales” exhibit at the Long Island Historical Society, as it gives great information about the late 19th century methods of fishing off the Grand Banks, in the form of a rollicking good tale. Who can ever forget Kipling’s description of Harvey, the main character, seeing all the fishing schooners lined up on the banks? This classic coming of age story, written in 1897, also includes what is called “a classic of railway literature” – a journey by rail from San Diego to Boston.

The Long Island Community Library has this wonderful tale, both in audio and print form. Be sure to check it out – it will impress you with its authentic voice and descriptions.

Game wardens in Maine literature

There seems to be a spate of Maine literature regarding game wardens these days. Most recently is John Ford’s Suddenly, the cider didn’t taste so good” (2012) which relates tales of 20 years of a game warden’s career. Of the fiction genre, Paul Doiron’s “The Poacher’s son” (2010) and later “Trespasser” (2011) feature a game warden as protagonist. Kate Braestrup’s “Here if you need me” (2007) shines with wit and humor but with underlying depth of seriousness about the chaplain’s life in working with game wardens and the families of victims who need their services. But despite all these recent additions to the game warden offerings, this is not a new idea to write about. There are many other books about Maine game wardens. Some of my favorites were written by Maine women writers, such as Helen Hamlin and Louise Dickinson Rich, in the 1940s – both women were married to game wardens, who took them into the wilds of Maine to live. We are fortunate in Maine to have about 75 years of Maine literature that takes us “into the woods.”

A Literary Barn Raising for Maine Author Cynthia Thayer

WE TAKE CARE OF OUR OWN: A Literary Barn Raising for Maine Author Cynthia Thayer will be held at Longfellow Books on Friday, June 1 from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. There will be a gaggle of well-known authors on hand to sign their books and Longfellow Books will donate 100% of all proceeds above cost to Cynthia and Darthia Farm. Here are just some of the authors who will be with us for this special First Friday event: Liza Bakewell, Crash Barry, Brock Clarke, Melissa Coleman, Ron Currie Jr, Phillip Hoose, Shonna Milliken Humphrey, Maria Padian, Elizabeth Peavey, Caitlin Shetterly, Betsy Sholl, Monica Wood, and Colin Woodard.

This is a fundraiser for Maine author Cynthia Thayer, whose home, Darthia Farm in Gouldsboro, suffered a horrendous fire this past week destroying the entire barn, killing nearly 100 animals and burning Cynthia as she tried to rescue her sheep. Readers know Cynthia as the author of Strong for Potatoes, A Certain Slant of Light, and A Brief Lunacy but she is also a dedicated farmer and Darthia Farm is the life and livelihood of the Thayer family. Darthia Farm is a MOFGA member farm with a community supported agriculture (CSA) program and a busy farm store.


Escape to Paris – via films!

- not Paris, but almost!Ah, Spring in Paris – what everyone dreams of, at least I do. My friend Tifenn promises us that when we arrive at the airport she will greet us with croissants and pains au chocolat. But until that happy day arrives we can escape into films about Paris, including two that are at the Long Island Community Library: Hugo, and Midnight in Paris.

Hugo, a magical 3-D romp directed by Martin Scorsese, takes place in early 20th century Paris, specifically in the central train station. Based on the book, “The invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick (also located at LICL), this movie will thrill you with the characters, story, and visual scenery.

Midnight in Paris, directed by Woody Allen, is a different kind of period piece, alternating between modern-day Paris and the Paris of the 1920s, populated with the literary characters of Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and others.

So, unless you are lucky enough to escape to Paris any time soon, curling up with your croissants and pains au chocolat and these two movies will transport you into this other world, of Paris of almost 100 years ago.

A small library on an island on the coast of Maine