Cold Creature Comforts

Book Reviews

CNY Authors

Meaghan Arbital illustration


Lake Effect: Tales of Large Lakes, Arctic Winds and Recurrent Snows. By Mark Monmonier (Syracuse University Press, Syracuse; 272 pages; $24.95/hardcover). Those of us who live in the Great Lakes region of the United States understand, wonder at, and often dread lake-effect snow. These snow events can last a couple of minutes to several days, and result when cold, Arctic air rushes over the relatively warm water of the lakes—in Central New York’s case, Lake Ontario and, occasionally, Lake Erie. Monmonier is a distinguished professor of geography at SU and here he presents the science behind the snow, as well as anecdotes that natives understand all too well. Charts and photos further explain the meteorological mayhem that is a lake-effect snowstorm.


A Christmas Hope. By Joseph Pittman (Kensington Publishing, New York City; 323 pages; $12.95/softcover). Set in the fictional Catskills town of Linden Corners (Lyndon Corners, get it?), this holiday novel is centered around a consignment shop owner who is becoming overwhelmed by the holidays. . .until Nora meets Jonathan and more than one Christmas wish is granted. Author Pittman graduated from Fayetteville-Manlius High School and earned his bachelor’s degree from SUNY Brockport. He now lives and writes in New York City. 

Adirondack Mysteries. Compiled and edited by Dennis Webster (North Country Books, Utica; 272 pages; $19.95/softcover). Stories from some of the Adirondacks’ best writers, populate this page-turner, sure to keep any mountain lover entertained through the winter. This tome is the sequel to the bestselling and Tommy Award honorable mention compilation Adirondack Mysteries and Other Mountain Tales.


Women on Water: Paddling the Adirondacks and Central New York. By Ruth Dandrea, Kathy DeLong, Carol Moseman and Bonnie Sanderson (North Country Books, Utica; 152 pages; $18.95/softcover). So what if it’s too cold for the canoe or kayak? It’s never too chilly to plan a summer’s worth of paddling trips. This book makes it easy, with photos, maps, directions to the venue and what you’ll experience once you’re out on each body of water. This is a safe gift for the outdoorswoman on your list.


The Puck Hog, Volume 2: Haunted Hockey in Lake Placid. By Christie Casciano; illustrated by Rose Mary Casciano Moziak (North Country Books, Utica; 72 pages; $11.95/hardcover). Drawing heavily from real-life (what decent author doesn’t?), WSYR-Channel 9 late-news anchor Christie Casciano has fashioned another book about the joys, stresses and ultimate glories of youth hockey. Using her children, Sophia, 11, and Joe, 17, as characters, as well as Syracuse Crunch chief operating officer Jim Sarosy’s son Holden, and basing the tale in magical Lake Placid, Casciano draws heavily on hockey lore to tell her story. Oh, and there’s a ghost too.

“So many kids watch {the 2004 Disney movie} Miracle, all about the 1980 ‘Miracle on Ice’ U.S. hockey Olympic victory in Lake Placid,” Casciano says, “when Joey stepped onto that rink, he said to me, ‘Mom, I just had chills. I stepped on the same ice where my heroes played.’”

Casciano also brought back Eddie, the “puck hog,” to reprise his role as the bully, but in one chapter it becomes evident why he behaves that way. Still, anti-bullying is the message of the day, and if Casciano reaches one kid through this book, then all the better.

“My sister, who also illustrated the book, came up with the anti-bullying idea,” Casciano says of Rose Mary Casciano Moziak. “We talked a lot about the need to reach kids: The story about the Rochester school bus monitor hit us hard. So we thought if we can put a message in the next book—it’s very easy to become a bully on the ice as well. So she brought it up to Jim Sarosy, and the Crunch wrote the message.” More specifically, Crunchman wrote the message.

Expect a slew of book signings through the winter for the Casciano sisters. The next one is before a Syracuse Crunch game, Saturday, Dec, 15, 5 to 7 p.m., at Ale ’n’ Angus Pub, 238 Harrison St., the unofficial official restaurant of the Crunch. You can purchase the book at area bookstores, including Barnes & Noble, and also on, and at Kinney drugstores and McKie Sports, 1005 State Fair Blvd.

“I hope that kids also read this book and take away the importance of believing in yourself,” Casciano says. “It’s a theme I hope they pick up on. I am hoping they can internalize the Lake Placid Miracle on Ice. Eddie came to the realization that he has to be honest with others and his father, believe in himself and stand up for himself.”


Otto’s ABCs. By Kathryn Bradford, Kathleen Bradley and Leah Deyneka; illustrated by Michael Borkowski (Mascot Books, Herndon, Va.; $14.95/hardcover). And now for a children’s book aimed at the youngest set, and starring a mascot that only preschoolers seem to find appealing. Otto’s ABCs provides a mascot-guided romp through Syracuse University landmarks. “C” is for Carrier Dome, “E” is for Ernie Davis, “O” is for Orange, “W” is for Winter; you get the idea.

Mascot Books has published nearly 100 of these books featuring major universities and their mascots. They include Nittany Lion Gets a Big Surprise (editor’s note: choice intentional), Let’s Go, Baylor Bears, You Are a Kentucky Wildcat and Tell Me about Truman the Tiger.

The Otto drawn by Borkowski is the lovable, happy orange that children embrace, not the faux-scary one that made the rounds several years ago. “He’s pretty easy to draw, especially since I’ve been drawing him for awhile,” says Borkowski, 36, who lives in Syracuse. “I’ve been doing Syracuse sports-based drawings for a couple of years and posting them. I have developed a following on Twitter and Facebook.”

That following includes the book’s writers, who work at the SU Bookstore and informed Mascot Books that they wanted Borkowski to be the illustrator. “It all came together very quickly because they wanted it published in the fall for the start of school and for the holidays,” he says. “I got the assignment in June and was done by the end of July.”

Still, Borkowski is pleased with the results. “I’m really proud of it,” he says. “I know I had to do it quickly, but I put everything into it and took my time and made sure everything was just right.”

—Molly English-Bowers


Honky Tonk Girl: My Life In Lyrics. By Loretta Lynn (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, New York City; 240 pages; $29.95/hardcover). The woman widely regarded as the queen of country music told her remarkable rags-to-riches life story in the bestselling 1976 autobiography, Loretta Lynn: Coal Miner’s Daughter, a tome that four years later spawned an Academy Award-winning movie. Lynn’s new coffee-table book Honky Tonk Girl delivers more snippets from her incredible-but-true saga, this time focusing on the straight-from-the heart lyrics of her songs, with a revealing look at the story behind the words, embellished with a healthy dose of the same down-home witticisms and Appalachian attitude that gave Coal Miner’s Daughter its heart.Honky Tonk Girl, actually Lynn’s fourth book—Still Woman Enough, her 2002 sequel to Coal Miner’s Daughter and a 2004 cooking guide called You’re Cookin’ It Country, having preceded it—is part-memoir and part-scrapbook surrounding the poetry that is her songs. No surprise, it isn’t a smutty, tell-all shocker, dripping with salacious gossip.

The 77-year-old Queen of Country Music has always had a knack for nullifying the impact of any of her life’s rough patches by facing them head-on, blithely dismissing any hint of controversy or embarrassment by telling the truth about everything from husband Oliver “Doolittle” Lynn’s infidelity to her groundbreaking embrace of sexual liberation and her bout with migraine headaches and the pills prescribed to cure them.

It’s all documented in print as it has been on recordings from her breakout 1960 single “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl” to her Grammy-winning 2004 album Van Lear Rose. Fifty years of the stories behind the songs are in the book, with credit for her inspiration going to those most influential in her life: early mentors Doyle and Teddy Wilburn, heroine Kitty Wells, idol-turned-close-friend Patsy Cline, career-shaping teacher Owen Bradley, hit-making duet partner Conway Twitty and, of course, life-long love Doolittle Lynn.

Anybody who has seen Lynn perform live knows that she’s never strayed far from the barefoot 13-year-old bride who escaped the hardscrabble life that started in a rustic, hillside cabin in Kentucky’s remote Butcher Holler. She’s never been a riveting storyteller or compelling contemporaneous speaker onstage, never as insightful as Tammy Wynette, as witty as Dolly Parton or as slick as Reba McEntire. Although some of her lyrics come off as simple, candid, even corny, she’s always done best when she lets the songs do the talking and that’s what Honky Tonk Girl does.

While the lyrics definitely come across with more charm and believability on vinyl than on these pages, most fans have already heard the songs and now can get the behind-the-scenes stories. No doubt this book is written for Loretta fans who already know and love these songs and this remarkable woman. “I guess my life is my songbook ‘cause I only write about what I’ve lived,” she writes. “I’ve never been one of those writers who could make up a story or write about something that they have not been through.”

In his foreword, Elvis Costello writes of his feeling of awe in holding a piece of cardboard on which Lynn had originally written the words to “You Ain’t Woman Enough.” No commercially produced book could equal such a thrill, but the 105 vintage photos and images of handwritten notes and lyric sheets make Honky Tonk Girl: My Life in Lyrics a satisfying close-up look at how these songs and their creator made music history.

—Kevin Corbett

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