The Finger Lakes Ignite Authors’ Imaginations

It is always a pleasant surprise to see the new titles that find their way to the magazine for review. This selection is especially varied – books on Finger Lakes history, cooking, adventure, mystery, the trials of growing up and the environment. While not all the authors still live in the region, the area clearly continues to ignite their imaginations. Unless otherwise noted, look for these titles at your favorite brick-and-mortar bookstore or shop online. Prices may vary depending on the outlet.

Wine Country Cooking from Glenora Wine Cellars
Editors Thomas Pellechia and Michael Turback
Side Order Books
Paperback: $14.95

Glenora Wine Cellars, with its scenic location on the western shore of Seneca Lake, has produced world-class wines since 1977. The winery now includes a 30-room inn and the Veraisons Restaurant.

This collection of more than 80 recipes from Executive Chef Orlando Rodriguez is grouped with wine pairing suggestions by Glenora winemaker Steve DiFranscesco. Focusing on regional wines and ingredients, it will appeal to anyone with a desire to try new wine country cuisine.

Each chapter of the cookbook is dedicated to a particular wine variety. Recipes from appetizers to desserts will appeal to a modern palate. Offerings range from Balsamic Glazed Chicken Wings, paired with Niagara wine for a patio picnic, to Crème Caramel paired with Cayuga White. One recipe per page results in an attractive and easy-to-read presentation. At the bottom of each page, a quick reference called “Kitchen Stories” offers a tidbit or background on the recipe or its ingredients.

Crown of Serpents
By Michael Karpovage
Jacks River Communications
Paperback: $19.99

Crown of Serpents is a fast-paced mystery novel that interweaves Native American history and folklore with contemporary crime in the Finger Lakes region. The hero, a U.S. Army field historian and combat veteran, Jake Tununda, himself half-Seneca Indian, must decipher the Masonic code contained in the journal of an early American Revolutionary War officer who fought against the Iroquois Indians.

Alex Nero, a wealthy Indian casino owner, acquires the journal, hoping it will lead him to an ancient shaman’s Crown of Serpents, once protected by the White Deer Society, a secret cult. The cruel casino magnate already has a museum of rare Native American artifacts that includes the grizzly “Scalp Room.” Nero wants the crown, now buried deep in the caves under the abandoned Seneca Army Depot, to make himself invincible.

Karpovage takes Tununda and the reader on a suspenseful adventure in the heart of Iroquois country to thwart Nero’s sinister plan. Along the way, to outwit Nero’s murderous bodyguards, Tununda is helped by the attractive Rae Hart, a state police investigator, who adds some romantic interest.

“You Wanna Go to Willard?”
By Linda M. Holbrook
BookSurge Publishing
Paperback: $15.00

Willard was a psychiatric hospital located in Romulus. Closed since 1995, the mere mention of “Willard” can still illicit a negative reaction, recalling a time when becoming institutionalized could impose on someone a life isolated from the rest of society.

This fictional work draws on the experiences of first-time author Linda M. Holbrook. At the outset, the youthful protagonist, Laura hears that question, “You wanna go to Willard?” in the emergency room of a hospital after experiencing a near mental breakdown. The threat calms Laura down. Yet her relations with her farming family in the 1950s and 1960s remains strained at best. There are personal successes, like the showing of her championship cow, “Brenda” at the fairs, but when one of her brothers encourages her to leave home after high school, Laura feels she must strike out on her own. Not believing she is capable of attending college, Laura soon marries a man who turns out to be very controlling, and that relationship brings another set of challenges.

Although the difficulties with her family relationships never completely disappear, through trial and error, Laura gains confidence, self-assurance and greater happiness on her journey to adulthood.

Overhalls and Leftovers
By Al Jensen
Bear Over The Mountain
Paperback: $22.95

The focus of this book may be growing up in Penn Yan, at the north end of Keuka Lake, but the tales are typical of small-town America in the 1920s and 1930s. In this collection of 40 short pieces, Jensen, whose relatives have resided in the Finger Lakes for six generations, recalls walking around town, summer cottages on Keuka Lake, winter ice boats and many more topics. A chapter on a subject as ordinary as laundry is bound to remind older readers of the habits of their youth and introduce younger people to bygone routines.

Naturally, given the title, a chapter is devoted to what the author says they called “overhalls,” referring to bib overalls, once the ubiquitous uniform of everyone from farmers to house painters. In reference to “Leftovers,” the other half of the book’s title, Jensen savors the memories of his family’s meals. He describes how any unused remains ultimately were turned into “a week’s supply of delicious dog food.”

These are warm and often amusing recollections. The book is illustrated with a fine selection of photographs that help to bring the stories to life.

Twinkle Toes and The Riddle of the Lake
By Susan Peterson Gateley
Ariel Associates/Whiskey Hill Press
Paperback: $15.95

The notion of three landlubber cats sailing one of the Great Lakes is the perfect plot twist for author Susan Peterson Gateley’s latest book. The action unfolds through the perspective of a cranky but determined cat named Twinkle Toes. She and her mother, Dusty, and her cousin, Miss Piggy, reluctantly accompany “Skipper Sue” across Lake Ontario to Canada in the yacht Ariel. Along the way, the feline protagonist regularly “converses” with Harry, a seagull, among other lake dwellers.

The book will appeal to youthful readers and adults alike. A strong underlying ecological theme steers the reader to learn about some of the disappearing species on the lake.

Gateley’s narrative captures cat attitudes perfectly, and Pat Cooper’s illustrations add appeal. The journey through fair weather and foul naturally tests the cats’ endurance. From seasickness to repeatedly sneaking ashore, the trio’s amusing escapades help illuminate the serious changes in the lake’s environment.

Part two of the book is called “Skipper Sue’s Notebook.” It offers a lengthy appendix filled with fascinating historical data and essays on assorted ecological topics.

Cascade Falls: A Scrapbook of Cascade Mills on the Keuka Outlet Trail
Compiled and arranged by Leona Jensen
Bear Over The Mountain
Spiral bound softcover: $36.00
Not available in stores. Send check (which includes postage) to Leona Jensen, P.O. Box 181, Dresden, NY, 14441.
A portion of the proceeds is contributed to Friends of the Outlet.

The Keuka Lake Outlet, which carries water from Keuka into Seneca Lake, is rich in history. In the mid-19th century, the falls powered mills and the state opened the Crooked Lake Canal for boat traffic. After the canal closed, a railroad was built on the towpath. By 1972, train use, already in decline, was seriously impacted by Hurricane Agnes. By the 1980s, a local group interested in recreational use of the ravine formed the Friends of the Outlet to preserve its heritage.

Author Leona Jensen has a long involvement with Friends of the Outlet and the Keuka Outlet Trail. Her spiral bound book includes the history of the whole outlet while focusing on Cascade Falls, the second falls of Keuka Outlet. Because of its inaccessibility, this was the site of the last mill using waterpower to be developed.

Known as Cascade Mills, it used waterpower to grind grain and make paper. Later, it became the world’s largest producer of carbon bisulfide. The mills are almost all gone now, and a hiking trail today runs along the outlet’s waterway.

An overview and chronological entries are combined with numerous illustrations, old newspaper clippings, interviews, maps and photographs. Jensen has also produced books on Penn Yan and Keuka Lake.

Theft at George Eastman House
By Sally Valentine
North Country Books
Paperback: $9.95

This mystery moves from a classroom to one of Rochester’s most historic house museums, the George Eastman House. Aimed at readers ages 9 to 12 (grades 4 to 6), the book is a fictional account of how fifth grade teacher Mrs. Levine introduces her students to photography and George Eastman, the founder of Eastman Kodak. After learning how to make sun prints and a camera obscura in school, a class field trip to Eastman’s home is interrupted by the theft of a valuable candlestick. A chaperone, the older brother of one of the students, is accused of stealing the antique. Of course, photography helps solve the crime.

A former teacher herself, Valentine creates an engaging class of typical elementary school students. The teacher typically responds to some of their more taxing behaviors with heavy sighs that the students rank on a 1 to 10 scale, injecting the story with good humor.

As with Valentine’s first book, The Ghost of the Charlotte Lighthouse, study guides and vocabulary worksheets can be downloaded to add an extra learning experience.

by Laurel C. Wemett

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