Fictional, Fun and Focused Reading

The Finger Lakes Region inspired some of the authors in this group to plumb their local archives. For others, the uniqueness of the region tickled their imagination to create a work of fiction. We hope our readers find that our choices pique their interest.

A Sudden Gift of Fate
By Mary Pat Hyland
Publisher: Hyland
Softcover: $20.00This is the second book in the Maeve Kenny series and a sequel to Cyber Miracles. It is an engaging novel of two likeable young couples and how they handle the challenges of their lives. Irish newlyweds Fergal and Bridgeen Griffin receive an opportunity to turn around a failing Finger Lakes winery. The budding romance of their friends Maeve and Andy is complicated less by the difference in their ages than by long separations. Andy seeks experimental cell therapy in Belgium for his paraplegia, forcing them apart. The stories of the two couples are interwoven and move the action forward.

While set around Keuka Lake and in Binghamton, where Maeve works in a bakery, the Irish connection remains strong. The author’s use of Gaelic gives the story an authentic feel. A lexicon of the Irish language (Gaeilge) and slang dialogue found throughout is included in an appendix.

The wine business, christened Loughmare Winery, strengthens the Irish identity, but there are ample references to winemaking in the Finger Lakes. Every chapter begins with a description of a Finger Lakes wine grape, presented in the order each was introduced to the area.

What Stinks? An Adventure in Highland Park
By Sally Valentine
Pyramid Publishing
Available online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble
Softcover: $9.95

Mrs. Levine and her 5th grade class at Susan B. Anthony School #27 are back. This is the third novel aimed at children in grades 4 to 6 which follows the urban students’ learning adventures.

This time the class has been invited by the Mayor to sing at the Lilac Festival in Rochester’s Highland Park. Before the big day, they learn about lilacs and that the park was designed by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead. However, all does not go as planned during the field trip and a surprise encounter in the park is sure to amuse readers.

Mrs. Levine’s students are a likeable bunch. They alternate between being curious and imaginative and testing their friendships and their teacher’s patience as they navigate through school. Two best friends become estranged but their classmates imaginatively reunite them. The class maintains a long distance friendship with “Granny Rob” from Valentine’s first book, The Ghost of the Charlotte Lighthouse. Their e-mail communication fuels their self-expression. When they send Granny some White Lilacs Perfume, it kindles a nursing home romance. What Stinks? is a fun read which underscores the values of learning and friendship.

Finding Atticus
By Laurie Gifford Adams
Softcover: $14.95

This fictional story focuses on the trust, devotion, and love between a youngster and a dog. Atticus is a champion show dog that belongs to the owner of a struggling kennel. Thirteen-year-old Jamie Reston is the handler for the prize-winning Golden Retriever. She works at the kennel whenever she’s not in school. The opportunity to sell Atticus arises and offers a way for the business to remain solvent, but the prospect of losing Atticus is too much for Jamie, whose father has recently died. She hatches a plan to temporarily hide the dog deep in the woods in order to stop the sale. Things spiral out of control when the young girl’s classmates, the local newspaper, and the rest of the town try to find the missing dog. Jamie realizes too late that she has put the dog’s life at risk.

The setting of the book is based on the Keuka Lake area where the author grew up. The fictional locale of Finding Atticus gives a warm nod to Adams’ roots. On her webpage she elaborates on these connections.

The book is a page-turning emotional ride with lots of excitement to please younger teens.

Historic Genesee Country: A Guide to its Land & Legacies
By Rose O’Keefe
The History Press
Softcover: $19.99

What do Francis Bellamy (author of “The Pledge of Allegiance”) and Antoinette Brown Blackwell (the first ordained female minister in the U.S.) have in common? Both are recognized on a New York State historical marker. These modest but sturdy signs are scattered throughout the state, reminding us of historic figures and significant landmarks. Places like a long-gone Native American campsite or a Civil War parade ground are identified by these signs for future generations.

The author explores Allegany, Genesee, Wyoming, Livingston, Monroe and Ontario Counties near the Genesee River. The book quotes many markers and intersperses these with historical background information and photographs. The material is organized by county and presented in chronological order. The reader will enjoy learning about both prominent and little-known personalities and landmarks. O’Keefe stresses the far-reaching significance of abolitionists, proponents of women’s rights, and religious movements of the region.

There is a helpful appendix of County Population Counts beginning with 1790, when Ontario County included all the area west of the Preemption Line at Geneva to Lake Erie. The last decade is 1850, by which time the area was divided into six counties.

Auburn Correctional Facility
By Eileen McHugh
Arcadia Publishing
Softcover: $21.99

Today it is the largest employer in Cayuga County. In 1817, it accepted its first prisoners. It was the birthplace of the single-cell architectural style known as the Auburn plan, and the repressive program of inmate management known as the Auburn System. Other firsts include the employment of a chaplain, putting a matron in charge of women prisoners, and separating mentally unstable inmates from the general population. It also was the first prison to use the electric chair for capital punishment. This new Images of America title lets readers inside the walls of the Auburn Prison, now called the Auburn Correctional Facility.

Photographs document all aspects of prison life, changes to the building over its long history, the 20th century prison reform movement and significant uprisings. On a lighter note there are images of “Copper John,” the figure of a vigilant Revolutionary War soldier who looks out from atop the administration building.

Author Eileen McHugh, the director of the Cayuga Museum of History and Art, and Auburn city historian, has selected and captioned over 200 fascinating vintage photographs to tell the story of the oldest continually operating prison in the United States.

Paul Garrett: Dean of American Winemakers
By Emerson Klees, 2010
Friends of Finger Lakes Publishing
585 244-1550
P.O. Box 18131, Rochester, NY 14618
Softcover: $14.95

merican Wine for Americans” was espoused by Paul Garrett, dubbed the Dean of American Winemakers in the first two decades of the 20th century. Emerson Klees has penned a concise, illustrated biography of Garrett, a North Carolinian who became a multimillionaire by making and selling wine. Best known was Virginia Dare, his top seller made with the southern Scuppernong grape.

In 1919 when Prohibition became law, wine was grouped with hard liquor as “intoxicating.” Garrett then had 17 grape-pressing facilities and wineries in six states, including New York. Klees chronicles how the entrepreneur survived while many wineries failed.

For many years, Penn Yan became the headquarters of Garrett & Company. Paul Garrett had a strong influence as a spokesman for grape growers and winemakers. He was known for his strong human values such as perseverance, drive, resilience and determination.

The author has treated the subject comprehensively, adding the history of winemaking in the eastern U.S., the legend of Virginia Dare and the Lost Colony, Prohibition, the wine industry in the Finger Lakes Region, and what can be learned from Garrett’s life.

Back Roads of the Finger Lakes
By Mark W. Holdren
Powell Hill Press
Softcover: $15.95

This engrossing collection of stories by author and journalist Mark W. Holdren focuses on some of the region’s anomalies and some of the less typical pastimes pursued by its residents. The herd of white deer at Seneca Army Depot, the struggles of small country churches, the influx of Mennonite and Amish families, migrant workers, resident artists, and activities like deer hunting and trout fishing are among the featured topics.

“Dirt roads are our connections to a simpler era, one when people were linked to the land and communities were distinct,” writes Holdren in the essay, Take Me Home Country Road. The author encourages the reader to disregard the perceived inconvenience of unpaved roads and to seek them out, although as he points out, few remain.

The reader may encounter people with whom he is acquainted (as did this reviewer). Some of these absorbing stories were featured in Canandaigua’s Daily Messenger newspaper. A strong emphasis on nature runs throughout these selections. All are enhanced by the striking black and white illustrations of artist Elaine Verstraete.

The Settlement of Western New York State
By John M. Robortella
Gates Historical Society Gift Shop
Softcover: $19.95

Robortella’s book begins with an historical essay on the settlement of western New York State including the Phelps and Gorham Land Purchase, the survey of the Preemption Line (the eastern boundary of the Purchase), and the founding in 1813 of the Town of Gates, named for an American Revolutionary War General. The town covered a considerably larger geographical area when first founded. Located just west of the city of Rochester, the Town of Gates is today a suburban community.

Author John Robortella, a former newspaper editor, devotes a large part of the book to the transcription of a handwritten book of minutes, finance reports, and school district and road surveys dating from 1809 to 1837. These are the earliest documentation of Gates’ government and were only rediscovered in 1999. They are as amusing as they are enlightening – like an 1817 law restricting rams from running “at large” from September 1 to December 14.

The book contributes to the understanding of the town’s early settlers and is a timely publication in anticipation of the Town of Gates’ bicentennial in 2013.

by Laurel C. Wemett

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *