Reading: A Healthy Choice

by Laurel C. Wemett

Did you know reading benefits your health? Yes, it improves your focus, memory, empathy and communication skills. Even though life is often busier than ever, making the effort to read every day is important and pays off in the long run. So why not consider improving your health with one of these titles which range from family sagas to science fiction, suspense to snowstorms and new scholarly research.

The Archaeology of Harriet Tubman’s Life in Freedom

by Douglas V. Armstrong
Syracuse University Press

Harriet Tubman is well known as a conductor on the Underground Railroad and a Union soldier, spy and nurse during the Civil War. This book examines Tubman’s less familiar life in freedom from 1859 until her death in 1913, drawing on nearly 20 years of archaeological and historical findings at Tubman’s properties in Auburn and Fleming. It provides fresh insight into her commitment to social justice, women’s rights and care for elderly African-Americans.

After her passing, buildings at Tubman’s farmstead deteriorated or were destroyed, but her properties remained together thanks to the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church’s ownership. Countless artifacts uncovered by the author and his students shed new light on Tubman’s social activism, along with structural evidence of buildings like John Brown Hall, Tubman’s Home for the Aged. Historic research and restoration efforts, including the archaeological studies, ultimately led to partnering with the National Park Service and the establishment of Harriet Tubman National Park in 2017.

This extensively researched book includes photographs, maps, tables and notes, insuring its lasting value to researchers.

Douglas V. Armstrong, Ph.D., is a professor of anthropology in the Maxwell School at Syracuse University. Besides archaeological and historical research in New York, he has been active in the Caribbean since the late 1970s.

Historic Snowstorms of Central New York

Jim Farfaglia
The History Press

Want to cool down on a hot day? Read about Central New Yorkers’ firsthand experiences with Mother Nature’s wintery wrath. This chronologically arranged overview includes over 100 cities, towns and hamlets and is both entertaining and often overwhelming. Some of these illustrated stories of people dealing with lake-effect snow, blizzards and whiteout conditions came to light following the author’s earlier book, Voices in the Storm: Stories from the Blizzard of ’66.

Beginning in the 18th century is the account of frost-bite experienced by troops in the Revolutionary War. Bone-shivering recollections highlight 1816 when winter lasted all year. Other consequentail storm years and decades are singled out. Before cell phones, GPS, and snow blowers, being snowed in or stranded offered significant challenges. Firsthand accounts range from the serious to the amusing like the Oswego College students who got national exposure when a snow bank was turned into a bar. Ending with the “snowy ‘70s” and another “blast of blizzard stories from 1966,” the book relies on historical and meteorological records, countless personal memories and local newspaper stories.

Jim Farfaglia, a self-proclaimed winter lover, has authored books on the Oswego County’s unique muck farms, the founding of the state’s first search and rescue team and the Nestlé factory in Fulton, among others.

A Symbiotic Partnership: Marrying Commerce to Education at Gustav Stickley’s 1903 Arts & Crafts Exhibitions

by Bruce A. Austin
RIT Press

Traveling art exhibitions were a novelty in 1903. However, that year an arts and crafts exhibit traveled from Syracuse to Rochester, pre-dating the Armory Show of 1913, considered the first such exhibition to be presented at more than one venue. A decade earlier the 12-day exhibit sponsored by Gustav Stickley’s United Crafts in Syracuse moved for 10 days to the Mechanics Institute, the forerunner of Rochester Institute of Technology. This monograph explores how the partnership came about and benefited both organizations.

Rochester was the first American community to form an Arts and Crafts Society. Mechanics Institute was a receptive venue. A significant link between the manufacturer and institution was the institute’s purchase for its new Eastman Building of a Stickley dining set and corner cupboard, the latter survives today. Several Rochester arts and crafts devotees were also linked to both Stickley and Mechanics Institute. Theodore Hanford Pond of Mechanics Institute ‘s Department of Applied and Fine Arts provided the “muscle” behind the collaboration.

Detailed notations, assorted archival and contemporary photographs with intriguing views of the Mechanics Institute exhibit space provide context. This first title in RIT Press’s Arts & Crafts Movement monograph series is by Bruce Austin, PhD, professor in RIT’s School of Communication whose writings include a book on Frans Wildenhain 1950-75.

Wonders in the Waves

Jennifer Collins
Words in the Wings Press, Inc.

This sequel to Comfort in the Wings finds Larissa Whitcomb leaving the Finger Lakes setting for coastal beachside surroundings in Florida. Following tantalizing clues in old family letters and postcards, she and her adult son, Eric, continue looking for the child she was forced to give up for adoption when she was 16. At the same time, they are grieving the loss of Eric’s older sister Emma, who died of an accidental drug overdose. The interpersonal relationships which develop while the pair searches for the sibling create surprising plot twists.

Those readers struggling with a loss or trying to reconnect with a loved one will find the circumstances sensitively portrayed. In different ways mother and son are eager to track down their missing family member. Faced with many unknowns, Larissa gains strength from the steadfast support of close friends and a former husband. Walks along the ocean provide a calming respite and Laura interprets the “signs” she often sees in nature not as coincidences but as communication from Emma.

The personal losses of family experienced by author Jennifer Collins, a retired physical therapist and college professor, contribute to a well-crafted plot with authentic characters. This can be read independently of the author’s first book.

Falling In: The Lakeville Project: Book One

C. S. Robbie
7th Option Press

In this young adult science fiction novel, 18-year-old Chelsea Raleigh starts to question her sanity during one summer in her quiet hometown of Lakeville on scenic Conesus Lake. While her parents are touring Europe, Chelsea’s world is upended by a new romance with a strikingly handsome young man who pulls her from the lake where she was escaping from bees. The uneasy feeling that she is being watched and the aftermath of a breakup with a former boyfriend further unsettle Chelsea’s world.

Is there something sinister lurking in this otherwise peaceful lakeside setting? Sleepless nights, menacing dreams and hallucinations – like seeing Barney, her long-deceased dog running through a field – make Chelsea fearful. A reluctance to trust her family, friends, co-workers and neighbors with her experiences increasingly leads to Chelsea’s isolation. The reader is invited along on this topsy-turvy tale and, like the protagonist, is uncertain at times with what is real.

C.S. Robbie is the pseudonym of Jennifer Gallup, a SUNY Geneseo graduate and an early intervention speech pathologist who lives in Ontario County. Her passion for language and communication brought her back to her love of writing. The second book in the series, Lies in the Deep: Book Two in the Lakeville Project is currently available.

Echoes through the Valley

Paul Mitchell
East Hill Views Publishing

The fictional Johnson farm near Naples survives by following seasonal routines year after year during the Vietnam War and its aftermath. But personal decisions made in 1968 by Annie and Daniel, a young couple at the center of this tale, set in motion events that profoundly affect each other and the Johnsons. How will Danny’s joining the Marines change his future and Annie’s? The uncertainties are pronounced, poignant and impactful.

The book delves into that complex turbulent period with its often-raw conflicting points of view. At Cornell University the eldest Johnson daughter embraces the anti-war movement while the future of her younger draft-age twin brothers hangs in the balance. The book aptly captures those changing times through its detailed references, effectively recalling local and national news events. Daniel’s life experiences are often told through letters to and from Annie and those Johnson family members with whom he retains a familial-like bond. Some disturbing aspects of Danny’s military experience are shared in correspondence with Jack, a Marine veteran.

While this is an engrossing prequel to Paul Mitchell’s first novel, Mountains Can Move, it can stand alone. The lifelong Finger Lakes resident’s fictional family saga is completed by Beyond Still Waters released in 2023.

Murder at Freedom Hill

Karen Shughart
Cozy Cat Press

Retiree Edmund DeCleryk is ready to take on a furniture refinishing project at home. But when the mayor of the coastal community of Lighthouse Cove, NY is found shot to death, DeCleryk, a former Navy SEAL and retired village police chief, must help solve the murder. The crime scene is the beach at Freedom Hill, an historic site where fugitive slaves once crossed Lake Ontario to freedom in Canada. As with the two other books in the DeCleryk mystery series, an historical backstory with links to the crime is interspersed.

Ed is helped by his wife, Annie, who oversees the local historical society and museum in restoring a settlement where abolitionists and freed people lived. Characters in the previous novels return, including the female police chief, struggling with the demands of career and family. The narrative focuses on the DeCleryks’ combined crime-solving skills but murder suspects abound, keeping them and the investigating team frustrated. The long-married sleuths’ trips to Canada and South Carolina provide new clues to expose a murderer.

This is mystery à la carte with recipes for meals Annie prepares included at the end. Karen Shughart has also written two non-fiction books and worked as an editor, publicist, photographer, journalist, teacher and nonprofit executive.

Magic in a Bottle

Clifford G. Annis, Jr.
Outskirts Press, Inc.

Dr. Konstantin Frank, well-known viticulturist and winery owner, is credited with making the Finger Lakes wine industry what it is today. This book demonstrates how his influence reached beyond the region to Northeast Ohio. Arnie Esterer and Tim Hubbar, founders of Marko Vineyard, succeeded in producing the best vinifera wines in Ohio’s Conneaut Creek region despite Lake Erie’s cool climate. Thanks to guidance from Dr. Frank, who had faced a similar challenge, the winery they opened in 1968 is credited with leading the way to the next generation of European-style vinifera growers and winemakers in Ohio.

The story of Markko Vineyard, its successes and failures, is told largely through Arnie’s own words and identifies others who contributed to the winery’s development. Arnie became one of Dr. Frank’s “Cooperators” or disciples who learned from him and spread vinifera vine growing techniques to other Eastern states. The author relates that despite the passing of both founders, Markko Vineyard today is doing well under Arnie’s children’s leadership.

Clifford G. Annis, Jr., a first-time author, grew up in the Finger Lakes Region. Currently a consultant with a pharmaceutical firm, he credits Evan Dawson’s Summer in a Glass about the Finger Lakes wine industry with inspiring this valuable book.

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