by Laurel C. Wemett
Reading is the best inexpensive form of entertainment. The imagination takes over, focus and concentration and memory improve, and it is a great form of communication. During times of uncertainty and isolation, reading is essential to form a connection with others. These books are all available right now to be delivered to your home. Why not make it a priority once again to read for your health!
One Night At the Lake
The death of a young woman at Seneca Lake one hot summer night dramatically changes the lives of her loved ones. Leah Tessaro had anticipated a marriage proposal from her longtime boyfriend Ollie Bierman during their getaway to see his family in the Finger Lakes. Leah even invited June Kang, her closest friend, to join them during the Fourth of July visit.
The novel has two timelines: one in the past, which reveals events leading to Leah’s tragic death, and the other seven years later in the present, during June’s return trip to Seneca Lake when she and Ollie are now engaged.
This complex tale presents contemporary situations through alternating narratives written in the two very different voices of Leah and June. Relatives impacted by Leah’s death include Sam, her disabled younger brother, Ollie’s parents, and his half-brother Caleb, whose inappropriate behavior toward women threatens to further strain family relationships. As these well-drawn characters come to terms with the complicated circumstances surrounding Leah’s sudden demise, they also struggle to understand the meaning of love, friendship, loyalty, guilt, and betrayal.
Novelist Bethany Chase is “a great new voice in fiction,” says bestselling author Emily Giffin. Chase’s other titles include The One That Got Away (2015) and Results May Vary (2016).
Changing Seasons in the Finger Lakes
Cayuga Lake Books
Within the framework of the four seasons, short thematic essays focus on topics as diverse as spotting eagles and their nests to slipping grapes for pie baking. The author is an environmental educator, naturalist, and newspaper columnist. This absorbing collection is a record of seasons over several years, drawn from Cannon-Crothers’ field journaling, thoughts, and nature sightings. Each season represents the best of her monthly essays from 2012 to the present.
The author combines an impressive scientific knowledge of the environment with a keen power of observation and clear, insightful descriptions. She focuses intently on examples of plants, birds, and animals found around her home and settings where she teaches. Readers will find themselves inspired to explore their own outdoor worlds.
“By tuning into the cycles of the seasons and living things, by connecting to nature, we become witness to what may be changing forever,” she writes.
Cannon-Crothers has written an adult novel, The Wildcrafter, and Grape Pie Season for younger readers. Changing Seasons in the Finger Lakes received the Cayuga Lake Books’ 2019 Creative Prose Award. The publisher was founded in 2012 by authors from the Ithaca area looking for an alternative to mainstream publishing and to encourage talented, original writers with ties to the Finger Lakes Region.
A Cat To Kill For
An obsession to own a particular classic Jaguar E-Type coupe is at the center of this fast-paced mystery. Shortly after Gavin Campbell, the owner of a small classic car dealership in Watkins Glen, agreed to restore a rare Jaguar, the car’s owner falls to his death in the gorge while taking photographs. The dead man’s sister Emily shares with Gavin a suspicion that the death was no accident. The duo tries to uncover the car’s secrets and the identity of a stranger who wants to buy it. These amateur sleuths encounter threats and danger at every turn.
Readers do not need to know what is “under the hood” to enjoy this ride. Classic car enthusiasts, however, will appreciate how older sports cars are integral to the plot. A romance gradually develops between Emily, who has Asperger syndrome, and Gavin, the vintage-car-guy-turned-detective.
There are plenty of entertaining characters (and murder suspects), ranging from Gavin’s shop mechanics to the eccentric members of the dead man’s car club.
Author G.W. Miller owns a Jaguar, although not an old classic. A sequel to this first novel will again be set primarily in the Finger Lakes, with a plot that includes the same characters, vintage racing, and a supposedly cursed Porsche.
The Balance of Justice
Eileen Sullivan Hopsicker
North Country Books, Inc.
Josephine Fagan McCarty shot a man on a horse-drawn streetcar in Utica in 1872. When Eileen Sullivan Hopsicker learned of the crime and the subsequent trial, she became intrigued. As then-president of the Limestone Ridge Historical Society and with an avid interest in history, Hopsicker decided to bring McCarty to life. The author described her as “an incredible woman and at least a century ahead of
As McCarty’s murder trial unfolds, her complex life is revealed through flashbacks, beginning with her upbringing on an Augusta farm in Oneida County. A promising marriage to an inventive older man fails due to long separations, his negligence, infidelities, and the kidnapping of their children. The author’s narrative demonstrates how McCarty’s courage and determination led her to become a physician, political lobbyist, and Union Army spy. There were relocations and three pregnancies, two by a married suitor long obsessed with her. Ultimately, destitution led to the violent streetcar confrontation. Facing the hangman’s noose, McCarty awaited the jury’s verdict while imprisoned with her children.
Hopsicker was formerly Director of Records and Research at Utica College. This carefully researched fictional biography is her first book. She was recognized for a short story in The Saturday Evening Post in 2016.
Open House, 35 Historic Upstate New York Homes
Syracuse University Press
Chuck D’Imperio takes readers on another unique tour – this time to 35 historic homes located across Upstate New York. He has intentionally chosen some examples that will be less familiar to readers. There are stately homesteads like the one lived in by seven generations of the Wadsworth family in Geneseo, and modest domiciles such as The Stone-Tolan House, which also operated as a tavern. These illustrated essays go beyond the descriptions of architecture and furnishings to explore the former occupants’ lives and times.
Readers accompany D’Imperio as he presents each house largely through the voices of those people who are the stewards of these treasured historic properties. Guides may be a president of the historical society that operates the home or a docent who has greeted hundreds of visitors. This is an engaging way to reveal important features that might typically only be mentioned on an actual tour.
As with D’Imperio’s several other books about Upstate New York, for the sake of simplicity “Upstate” means anywhere outside of New York City and the metropolitan New York region. A map of New York State shows each of the 35 locations. The author encourages visitation by including contact information, tour schedules, and admission fees, but cautions the reader to check ahead for updates.
Fire in Genesee Country
Pyramid Publishing Inc.
Sally Valentine, a former student and classroom teacher in the Rochester City School District, now writes novels for middle-school readers highlighting local landmarks. The retired-educator-turned-children’s author captures the voice of youngsters in this illustrated book, the sixth in her Rochester series. Like the previous titles, it focuses on the learning adventures of students taught by Audrey Levine at Susan B. Anthony #27 School, a charter school.
The main character in the latest book is the new teacher’s aide, Steven Green, no stranger to Mrs. Levine’s students who are now sixth graders. Steven has gone on field trips with the class, which includes his younger brother, Lamar. After constructing a time machine in the classroom, Steven explores historic buildings with the students on a visit to the Genesee Country Village and Museum.
The dive into the past takes a fantastic turn when Steven time travels while cat sitting for a feline named François. Transported back to Rochester as it appeared 100 years ago, Steven witnesses the Rochester Orphan Asylum fire of 1901. This tragedy tests his courage and influences the young man’s actions during a catastrophe in his neighborhood.
To enhance the reader’s interest, study guides for all of Valentine’s books are easily downloaded at her website.
Nestlé in Fulton, New York
How Sweet It Was
The History Press
“The whole city smelled like chocolate.” That is the recollection of countless Fulton residents of the Nestlé Company, a major local business there for 100 years. This delicious tale goes behind the scenes of the successful enterprise founded by Swiss immigrants, chronicling how it expanded from its initial production of milk products to such popular confections as the Nestlé Crunch Bar.
By conducting numerous interviews with former Nestlé employees and delving into archival records, the author explores the operation and impact of the Nestlé Company’s first (and largest) U.S. chocolate factory. The history moves easily, thanks to the first-hand accounts of employees at all levels of the company and during different eras of its operation. Such details as the systematic process of making chocolate and diagrams of the plant’s physical layout of sixty buildings, largely gone, bring Nestlé back to life. This fully illustrated account reveals how Nestlé adapted to changing times, whether it was meeting the nutritional needs of those fighting in two world wars or responding to increased competition in the marketplace.
Central New York history is the specialty of Farfaglia, who has authored books on the Blizzard of ’66, Oswego County’s unique muck farms, and the founding of New York State’s first search and rescue team.
Murder in the Cemetery: An Edmund DeCleryk Mystery
Cozy Cat Press
For fans of Murder in the Museum: An Edmund DeCleryk Mystery by Karen Shughart (reviewed in Life in the Finger Lakes in 2018), her next book in the series, Murder in the Cemetery, has recently been released. It returns to fictitious Lighthouse Cove, based on Sodus Point, and will be reviewed in the November/December 2020 issue of this magazine.
Meet this author at the “History Alive” lecture series sponsored by the Sodus Bay Historical Society on Wednesday, May 27, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in The Heights Restaurant at Sodus Bay Heights Golf Club, 7030 Bayview Drive, Sodus Point, N.Y., 14555. This is a free program with a cash bar, and attendees may dine before or after the presentation.
For more information, call 315-483-4936 or visit sodusbaylighthouse.org.