Snuggle Up To A Good Read

The Ghost Horse
by Joe Layden (2013)

A horse named “Lisa’s Booby Trap” is at the center of a true story of love and loss. Joe Layden, an award-winning journalist with many books to his credit, recounts the real-life story of a racehorse and its owner/trainer, Tim Snyder. How a horse that seemed less than sound captured the imagination of the horseracing world for a time is compelling and heartwarming.

This tale unfolds around tracks like the Finger Lakes Racetrack in Farmington, where Snyder meets and marries Lisa Calley. Calley, who has a background in equestrian riding, is willing to put up with Snyder, a race track “lifer.” Their happiness is shattered by her tragic death from cancer in 2003. Before her passing, she says she is coming back as a horse. Calley later buys a 3-year-old filly with serious vision problems and other physical limitations. Perhaps in response to his late wife’s end-of-life prediction, he names the horse Lisa and combines it with the name of his favorite topless bar to create the horse’s unusual moniker.

Working with the horse helps Snyder deal with his grief. The trainer unlocks the horse’s potential and, for a time, Lisa’s Booby Trap becomes a winner. While this is a “feel good” story, author Layden balances the tale of survival with insights into the harsher realities of horse racing.

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Edition(s): hardcover, ebook

Unknown Museums of Upstate New York
by Chuck D’Imperio (2013)

Discover numerous unfamiliar public collections in Upstate New York in this book by Chuck D’Imperio. Objects as divergent as clocks, drain tiles and coverlets entice the reader to explore these intriguing museums. “Museums act as the best primers one can use to experience a place,” writes D’Imperio, as he brings together some of the most unusual museums in the regions outside New York City known simply as “Upstate.”

This title presents “50 treasures” divided into nine Upstate New York regions. The Finger Lakes Region alone includes 14 museums. The author involves the reader in each tour by sharing the observations of a knowledgeable staff person, such as the museum’s director or curator.

The author uncovers a “wow” factor at each site – one item that causes visitors to “pause, reflect or even laugh,” or just say “Wow!” when they discover it. The history of each facility is accompanied by helpful information, including other places to visit nearby, as well as the the “nuts and bolts,” like museum hours, directions, contact and other relevant information.

Publisher: Syracuse University Press
Edition(s): softcover, ebook
Previous review: Monumental New York! A Guide to 30 Iconic Memorials in Upstate New York, Winter 2012

Wicked Syracuse: A History of Sin in Salt City
by Neil K. MacMillan (2013)

Law-abiding readers may be intrigued by all the wrongdoings linked to the history of Syracuse. They will discover countless illegal activities were carried on there from the early 19th to the mid-20th centuries. Some of the more notorious crimes may be familiar, but the author also presents numerous long-forgotten misdeeds.

Crimes from bank robbery to gambling and from prostitution to kidnapping are featured. Concisely written thematic chapters demonstrate that New York’s “Salt City,” like any major urban center, had sinners mixed among those who walked the “straight and narrow.” A historian and Syracuse native, MacMillan believes that not acknowledging “the darker side of history” is akin to reading a book with “half the pages missing.”

The book’s black-and-white illustrations are drawn from archival sources that recall earlier times and enliven these accounts of Central New Yorkers behaving badly.

The writer often injects an amusing aside while relating an act of wrongdoing. He offers a comparison to contemporary standards. Of gambling he writes, “It can be hard to remember that it wasn’t terribly long ago that gambling was illegal in Syracuse and New York State.” When summarizing his thoughts in a final chapter entitled “Then and Now,” MacMillan admits unlawful human activities persist today, perhaps just in different forms.

Publisher: The History Press
Edition(s): softcover, ebook

Heroes in the Attic: The Untold Story of Two Civil War Soldiers
by Dennis P. Bielewicz (2012)

Retired school librarian and military veteran Dennis P. Bielewicz has compiled a compelling true story of the Civil War era. His youthful discovery in Nunda of primary source materials in an abandoned house led him on a quest to learn more about their meaning and significance. The documents, found in the late 1960s, have long engaged the author, and the reader learns how he augmented their content through considerable additional research over several decades.

Starting with papers found in an old trunk, Bielewicz uncovers the details of the lives of two cousins, H. Seymour Hall and Benjamin S. Coffin. In 1861, the pair left behind their studies at Genesee College in Lima (the present-day Elim Bible Institute) to join the Union Army and enlist in Company G of the 27th Regiment NY Volunteer Infantry. For two years they were engaged in battles including Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville.

The post-war lives of Coffin and Hall are chronicled, and are an indication of the author’s dedicated research. The book is attractively designed by the author’s son, Matthew Bielewicz. Reproducing documents in sepia tones and accompanying these with artifacts, maps and photographs gives the book lushness and an authentic period feel. Researchers will benefit from the thorough documentation and index.

Congratulations to the author, who garnered the Silver Medal in the U.S. Northeast Best Regional Nonfiction category for 2013 from the Independent Publisher Book Awards.

Publisher: Dennis P. Bielewicz
Edition(s): softcover

Stonebridge Conspiracy
by David Moore (2013)

When two young canal workers – Jake McCleary and Ben Blackburn – find long-lost gold bars in the Barge Canal, their lives are changed forever. It is the beginning of the 20th century, and America has been drawn into the war in Europe. Before the pair can plan for a better life with their lucrative discovery, one is murdered and the other is headed off to battle.

This is the author’s second book set in the fictional Upstate New York village of Stonebridge. The action centers on Jake, the surviving canal worker. It is apparent that some of the pillars of the community are at the root of a conspiracy that threatens the life of the surviving canal worker-turned-soldier. Woven throughout the story is Jake’s attraction and interaction with two women from very different backgrounds. As the conspiracy is uncovered, the protagonist discovers his true feelings.

This historic novel includes a long sequence focusing on Jake’s transformative wartime experiences in Belgium and France during the Great War. The life-threatening battles prepare him for dealing with the disreputable characters who confront him after his return from Europe. The young protagonist doggedly pursues his friend’s murderer at considerable risk to his own life. The outcome is an unexpected twist, sure to keep the reader engrossed and guessing.

Publisher: CreateSpace
Edition(s): softcover, ebook
Previous Review: Stonebridge Secret, Winter 2013

Legends and Lore of Lake Ontario
by Susan Peterson Gateley (2013)

Author Susan Peterson Gateley is a self-described “lake watcher.” With a background in science and sailing, she chronicles stories related to Lake Ontario, the easternmost of the Great Lakes. Named by the Hurons, Ontario means “Lake of Shining Waters,” and the lake is the northern border of Monroe, Cayuga and Wayne Counties in the Finger Lakes Region. Gateley’s newest title is a collection of legends and mysterious activities that surround the lake. Some are manmade, while others veer toward the supernatural.

Gateley has quite literally “plumbed the depths” for tales of ghosts, mirages and creatures linked to Lake Ontario. There is the story of “Carcagne,” Lake Ontario’s version of the Irish banshee or a night-flying African-Caribbean jumbie, which has been seen soaring over the waves on stormy nights. Along with the legends, the author also explores natural landmarks, sightings that defy explanation, and weather events that have spawned tales.

The author also delves into accounts of smuggling activities on the lake, shipwrecks and rescued ships, legendary yachts and even fish stories. The latter refers to the “Legendary Lake Ontario Trio” – the sturgeon, the silver salmon and the American eel.

The book, illustrated with over 50 images, will interest anyone familiar with Lake Ontario who wants to learn more about its secrets.

Publisher: The History Press
Edition(s): softcover, ebook
Previous reviews: Twinkle Toes and the Riddle of the Lake, Winter 2010; The Edge Walker’s Guide to Lake Ontario Beachcombing, Winter 2005

Passing Seasons: The Finger Lakes in Painting, Poetry & Prose
by Brett Scheifflee & Sam Share (2012)

This small book brings together the artwork of Brett Scheifflee with the words of Sam Share. There are 24 full-color images of original, Finger Lakes-inspired paintings by RIT graduate Scheifflee. Wells College alum Sam Share’s carefully crafted poetry and prose thematically complement each image.

The collaborative volume was released as a limited edition, each copy numbered and signed by both the author and artist.

Every painting in the book was painted in the Finger Lakes, from the beautiful land around Keuka Lake to Cazenovia. There are sunsets, waxing moons, fields in February, plus stormy and billowing clouds. A building or occasional cow may inhabit a view. Each expresses the feel and appearance of a particular season through its composition and use of light and color.

Scheifflee writes: “A goal in many of my paintings is to imply a quiet sense of narrative in a relatively reserved image. I aim to make paint echo experiences from our surroundings, and create an illusion of something peaceful and provocative for the viewer to study and enjoy.”

This title’s paintings with their paired readings are bound to encourage quiet contemplation.

Publisher: Instant Publisher
Edition(s): softcover
Available at: Copperesque and
Ithaca Bakery (Union Springs) or

by Laurel C. Wemett

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