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Cooking the Books | The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan

Welcome to Cooking the Books (where we try recipes found in, well, books!) This month, Children’s Assistant & STEM Specialist Ms. Meghan tried out a recipe from one of her recent reads:

Just in time to finish up Women’s History Month, here’s a historical fiction novel that follows four British women as they cope with food rationing, grief, and societal pressures during World War II.

I’ve had an ARC (Advance Reader’s Copy) of The Kitchen Front on my Kindle for years now, and just never got around to it. Cooking the Books has once again knocked another book off my TBR (To Be Read) mountain. I just wished I enjoyed it more.

I’m in the minority here. TKF has a 3.97 star rating on Goodreads and a 4.4 star rating on Amazon. The novel details the lives of four British women from varying backgrounds as they compete for a spot on a radio program during World War II. Rationing was in effect at this time, and the book opens with the weekly allotment for one adult. A stick of margarine, half a stick of butter, three pints of milk, one cup of sugar…very different from the way we eat today. The radio program, based on an actual one, helped women stretch out their rations with creative (sometimes very creative) recipes. I enjoyed this look at an aspect of the war that I hadn’t seen written about before, especially in the crowded field of WWII novels. Unfortunately, that was about all I liked.

Overall, I found the book to be flat, predictable, and breezy. I am all for breezy books that give your mind a break, but that’s not how this one is advertised. The characters do a lot of speaking out loud; the author definitely does a lot more telling as opposed to showing. Perhaps because I didn’t enjoy it, I also found myself nitpicking. A character says he wasn’t aware that another was in the contest, then on the next page asks why the efforts to sabotage her had failed. A barn owl hoots instead of screams. Little things that should have been caught by the editor. Without giving away spoilers, a major life-changing decision is flip-flopped in the span of three pages. This just wasn’t the book for me, but as I said, it is the book for a lot of people.

There are a number of starter, main course, and dessert recipes featured in the book from historic sources, all of which adhere to the Ministry of Food rationing to various degrees. Unsurprisingly, there was an active black market for ingredients, and those who could afford them didn’t go without. Many of the recipes offer a lot of flexibility, which is to be expected when working with limited ingredients. For various reasons, I declined to attempt The Ministry of Food’s Sheep’s Head Roll or Chef James’s Whale Meat and Mushroom Pie. Instead, I made Audrey’s Fruit Scones. I vaguely remember making scones 20 years ago. This recipe contains a lot less sugar than modern recipes and produces a…perfectly adequate vehicle for getting butter and/or jam to your mouth. The apricot flavor was good, with comments that it ‘could use more apricot, less scone’ but other than that? Eh. A coworker said ‘mostly good, a little bland – but aren’t all scones?’. It does produce an incredibly wet, sticky dough; if you think you’ve got enough flour on your surface, think again.

Scones: 2.5/5 (based on all opinions)

Book: 1/5 (based on my opinion)


The Recipe


Audrey’s Fruit Scones

Makes 12 scones



3 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
5 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 ½ cups dried fruit (raisin, sultanas, red currants, apricots, prunes, etc.)
¼ cup butter
¼ maragaine, lard, or suet (I used margarine)
1 egg, beaten, or the equivalent in dried egg powder
1 cup milk


Preheat oven to 425 F/220 C. Sieve the flour, salt, and baking powder into a bowl. Add the sugar and dried fruits and mix. Cut the butter and margarine into small pieces and rub it in. Mix the egg and milk and slowly add until the dough is a stiff consistency. Roll it out into a thick layer, about 1 inch thick, and use a floured cutter to cut it into circles. Place on a greased baking tray and bake for 10 minutes or until risen and golden brown.

Book Review | How to Solve Your Own Murder by Kristen Perrin

From the publisher: For fans of Knives Out and The Thursday Murder Club, an enormously fun mystery about a woman who spends her entire life trying to prevent her foretold murder only to be proven right sixty years later, when she is found dead in her sprawling country estate…. Now it’s up to her great-niece to catch the killer.

How to Solve Your Own Murder has been called the biggest debut of 2024. It’s the first book in the Castle Knoll Files. In a familiar pattern, the book moves between passages from a diary set in the 1960s and narration by Annie, the main character set in the present.

It’s 1965. Frances is 17 and at the Castle Knoll Country Fair with Rose and Emily, her two best friends. She receives a fortune that will change her life. Like most fortunes received from fortune-tellers at a country fair, it is filled with nonsense that can be interpreted in many ways. But Frances can’t shake it. It also includes the dire warning that “All signs point toward your murder.” In what seems to me to be something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, she becomes obsessed with her fortune. And sixty years later, she is murdered.

The obsession with a fortune that later comes true is a nice twist. Otherwise, the book is familiar in a comforting way. If you like cozy mysteries, it will probably remind you of books, TV shows, and movies. There are a lot of characters and I could have used a list of them and how they are related. I had an especially hard time keeping the men of the past straight. There are hints at a future romance for Annie. Annie also devises a too-stupid-to-live plan to catch the murderer, which works, but I hope that does not become a pattern. The author does her best to sell her red herrings and misdirection, perhaps to excess.

Still, it’s a fun book, and I’ll probably read the sequel. The cover is very eye-catching.

I read an advance reader copy of How to Solve Your Own Murder from Netgalley. It is scheduled to be released on March 26 and will be available at the Galesburg Public Library.

Book Club Discussion Questions | The Two Lives of Sara by Catherine Adel West

From the publisher: A young mother finds refuge and friendship at a boardinghouse in 1960s Memphis, Tennessee, where family encompasses more than just blood and hidden truths can bury you or set you free.

Sara King has nothing, save for her secrets and the baby in her belly, as she boards the bus to Memphis, hoping to outrun her past in Chicago. She is welcomed with open arms by Mama Sugar, a kindly matriarch and owner of the popular boardinghouse The Scarlet Poplar.

Like many cities in early 1960s America, Memphis is still segregated, but change is in the air. News spreads of the Freedom Riders. Across the country, people like Martin Luther King Jr. are leading the fight for equal rights. Black literature and music provide the stories and soundtrack for these turbulent and hopeful times, and Sara finds herself drawn in by conversations of education, politics and a brighter tomorrow with Jonas, a local schoolteacher. Romance blooms between them, but secrets from Mama Sugar’s past threaten their newfound happiness with Sara and Jonas soon caught in the crosshairs, leading Sara to make decisions that will reshape the rest of their lives.

Discussion Questions

  1. Did you finish the book, and if you did are you glad you read it?
  2. Were there sections you especially liked, or passages you felt didn’t work? Any parts you found difficult to read or especially well written?
  3. Did you like the characters? Did you find them believable?
  4. Were you glad the book was written in first person from Sara’s point of view? How would the story have been different if written from multiple points of view?
  5. What did you think of the plot development? Did the plot take turns you did not expect, or did you find it predictable?
  6. How was the dialog?
  7. Has anyone had any experiences that relate to places or experiences in the book? Can anyone speak to the author’s representation of 1960s Memphis?
  8. The Two Lives of Sara is a prequel to the author’s debut novel, Saving Ruby King. Has anyone read it? If you have, do you think it changed how you read and reacted to The Two Lives of Sara?
  9. Sara makes a hard and perhaps hard-to-believe choice at the end. Why did she make it? Was it the right choice?

It’s Not to Late! Sign Up for Summer Reading Today

June may be coming to a close, but our Summer Reading Program is far from over! Here’s a sneak peak of some of the events we’ve got coming up next month for children and families at Galesburg Public Library.

Want to enjoy the best parts of camping without having to pitch a tent? Stop by the library’s Storybook Garden on Tuesday, July 11th at 6:00 PM for a Campfire Singalong led by local musicians Meg and Casey Robbins. You’ll gather around a fire with other families to sing songs and enjoy free s’mores provided by our friends at Cornucopia Natural Market and Deli.

Young thespians can hone their skills in a free “Voice for the Young Actor” workshop offered by theater professor Robbie Thompson on Friday, July 14 at 10:00 AM. Aspiring actors in grades 4-6 will learn techniques to help them free their natural voice in order to command the stage! Beginners are welcome, so feel free to check it out even if you’ve never been in a play before.

Like Pokémon? We’ve got two programs just for you. First, bring your Pokemon cards to the library on Saturday, July 15, from 10:00 AM to noon for some friendly competition. You’ll play, trade, and even go home with some free cards from the library’s stash. Then on Thursday, July 20 at 6:00 PM, bring the whole family for an interactive showing of the film Detective Pikachu (Warner Brothers, 2019). Register in advance in the Children’s Room and you’ll receive a bag of props to help you enjoy the movie in a whole new way.

If it’s magic you’re looking for, stop by the library on Friday, July 21 at 10:00 AM for a free show by Mikayla Oz, the current recipient of the International Rising Star of Magic Award. Mikayla is based out of Iowa but travels worldwide performing magic with her “assistant” Bubbles the Bird. You don’t want to miss this interactive family show.

For more information on these events or on how you can get more involved in our Summer Reading Program, just stop by the Children’s Room.

Book Review | Better Living Through Birding by Christian Cooper

From the publisher: Central Park birder Christian Cooper takes us beyond the viral video that shocked a nation and into a world of avian adventures, global excursions, and the unexpected lessons you can learn from a life spent looking up.

This is a compelling memoir of an ordinary person thrust into the limelight after an encounter in New York City’s Central Park with an unleashed dog and its owner.

Christian Cooper is a regular guy who found fame when he asked Amy Cooper to leash her dog in an area of Central Park known as the Ramble during bird migration. She reacted by calling the police on him, and his video of her behavior went viral. I don’t know whether Christian Cooper was asked to write a memoir or it was his idea, but he’s a good writer and I enjoyed it a lot. He’s funny, and thoughtful about his word choices.

I suspect some readers who pick up this memoir will be disappointed because there’s too much about birds. I suspect some birders who pick up this memoir will be disappointed because there isn’t enough about birds. Cooper takes us through his years before and after the video, documenting his life as a Black, male, gay, birdwatching nerd and sprinkling in birding tips as he goes.

I might not seem to have a lot in common with Cooper – I’m a white straight woman – but I am a birdwatcher and a nerd who loves Star Trek, and I’m about the same age as Cooper. Our shared pop culture experiences resonate! Reading Better Living Through Birding was like sitting down with a friend for coffee. Christian Cooper is a confident guy who stands up for what he believes in. His birding by ear skills sound legendary. He’d be fun to bird with.

I liked that the memoir covered a lot of ground and a lot of normal issues. Awkwardness with dad. Frustration with mom. Pushing the boundaries at work. Spending free time obsessed with a hobby. Modeling behavior after a character from pop culture. Dealing with coming out as gay. Encountering casual racism. This may or may not be the memoir for you, but if it intrigues you at all I recommend giving it a chance.

I read an advance reader copy of Better Living Through Birding from Netgalley.

It is scheduled to be published on June 13, and it will be available at the Galesburg Public Library.

Book Review | Witch King by Martha Wells

From the publisher: After being murdered, his consciousness dormant and unaware of the passing of time while confined in an elaborate water trap, Kai wakes to find a lesser mage attempting to harness Kai’s magic to his own advantage. That was never going to go well. But why was Kai imprisoned in the first place? What has changed in the world since his assassination? And why does the Rising World Coalition appear to be growing in influence? Kai will need to pull his allies close and draw on all his pain magic if he is to answer even the least of these questions. He’s not going to like the answers. I love Martha Wells. It is not an exaggeration to say that her Murderbot Diaries series helped me get through the pandemic with my sanity intact. The Murderbot Diaries series is science fiction; Witch King is fantasy. But it is Read more »

Book Review | To Shape a Dragon’s Breath by Moniquill Blackgoose

From the publisher: A young Indigenous woman enters a colonizer-run dragon academy—and quickly finds herself at odds with the “approved” way of doing things.

Harry Potter meets Temeraire in this magical-school-with-dragons series launch.

Anequs lives with her people on a remote island, living a life her people have lived for many generations. They have an uneasy relationship with the Anglish, conquerors who see Anequs and her people as uncivilized barbarians. To have a dragon is a rare thing, and there has been no dragon among her people for many years. She finds a dragon egg, and the hatchling bonds with her. Her brother, who has left the island, tells her, “There’s a ministry for dragons. The Anglish have a ministry for everything. Dragons are supposed to be registered, and dragoneers need to be tested to prove they’re competent, because dragons are dangerous. There’s going to be trouble with the law if you don’t enroll in an academy.” (p. 27 of the advance reader copy)

An Indigenous person with a dragon is not something the Anglish dragoneers approve of, but there are some individuals working to change perceptions of the Indigenous people, and Anequs is reluctantly enrolled in an Anglish dragon school. Only one other girl is enrolled, and only one boy from an Indigenous people.

The world building is slow. You might even say languorous. We see what life is like on the island for Anequs and her kin. We hear about their food and drink. We hear their stories. We watch their dances.

Once Anequs makes it to school, the world building is also slow. She is hot tempered and often says and does things that are not wise. Most of her teachers and fellow students don’t want her there. They invent rules for her and the Indigenous boy. Everyone assumes she knows things about Anglish school that she does not. But she is also smart and clever, and she learns despite the odds against her.

I enjoyed To Shape a Dragon’s Breath very much, while also finding it a bit slow. Its strengths include world building, character development, and diverse representation. But there is also virtually no action until the end of the book, there are a LOT of new words/altered words to figure out, the author is fond of telling instead of showing, and some of the ideas she is trying to get across are repeated over and over. Still, I recommend it and look forward to the sequel.

I read an advance reader copy of To Shape a Dragon’s Breath. It will be published on May 9 and will be available at the Galesburg Public Library in multiple formats.

Calling All Librarians — Stateville Calling Program

Here at Galesburg Public Library, we host hundreds of programs every year. Some are huge success stories — Summer Reading, Ghosts of Galesburg, Gingerbread House Decorating — while others are… less so. We’re here to share our wins and our losses and help inspire other librarians along the way.

On February 4, the library, along with the Illinois Prison Project, screened the documentary Stateville Calling for Black History Month. After the movie, ambassadors from IPP answered questions.

The film, described as “an Emmy-nominated documentary exploring parole reform and the struggle of aging inmates in Illinois,” was presented virtually. Because the program was virtual, there was no cost to the library.

Twenty-four people attended the event, which we consider very successful.

Assistant Director and Head of Adult Services Jane Easterly had this to say about the program:

“The event was very powerful… All of the ambassadors have been in Illinois prisons. I was encouraged to find people with prison experience to attend, which I did, but it was not actually necessary. Just hearing from the people connected to the Illinois Prison Project was powerful in itself. (And I had people who’d worked at [the local correctional center] and who’d been imprisoned show up on their own.) I literally had to shoo people out of the room as the library prepared to close. The event really got people talking.”

If you have any questions, you can contact us at If you would like to host the program at your library, contact

If you have questions about GPL’s programming, or would like to suggest a program,  contact us at or call 309-343-6118 #6 to get more information. 

New Adult Fiction — February 2023

Valentine’s Day is upon us, and whether you’re a starstruck lover looking for a cozy romance to snuggle up with or wanting to escape the chocolate and roses explosion, we’ve got the perfect recommendations for you. All of these Adult Fiction titles hit the shelves in the last month, so make sure to stop in and grab them before someone else does! If you see something you like, call the Reference Desk at 309-343-6118 #6 or visit the catalog to put it on hold.

If you need something new to warm your heart from an author you know and love, give Someone Else’s Shoes by Jojo Moyes a try. In the latest from the Me Before You and The Giver of Stars author, Nisha Cantor lives the globetrotting life of the seriously wealthy, until her husband announces a divorce and cuts her off. Nisha is determined to hang onto her glamorous life. But in the meantime, she must scramble to cope — she doesn’t have the shoes she was, until a moment ago, standing in. 

That’s because Sam Kemp — in the bleakest point of her life — has accidentally taken Nisha’s gym bag. But Sam hardly has time to worry about a lost gym bag — she’s struggling to keep herself and her family afloat. When she tries on Nisha’s six-inch high Christian Louboutin red crocodile shoes, the resulting jolt of confidence makes her realize something must change — and that thing is herself.

Take a break from all the holiday celebrations by venturing into the world of fantasy and witches with VenCo by Cherie Dimaline. In VenCo, we meet Lucky St. James, a Métis millennial living with her cantankerous but loving grandmother Stella, who is barely hanging on when she discovers she will be evicted from their tiny Toronto apartment. Then, one night, something strange and irresistible calls out to Lucky. Burrowing through a wall, she finds a silver spoon etched with a crooked-nosed witch and the word SALEM, humming with otherworldly energy.

Hundreds of miles away in Salem, Myrna Good has been looking for Lucky. Myrna works for VenCo, a front company fueled by vast resources of dark money. Lucky is familiar with the magic of her indigenous ancestors, but she has no idea that the spoon links her to VenCo’s network of witches throughout North America. Generations of witches have been waiting for centuries for the seven spoons to come together, igniting a new era, and restoring women to their rightful power. But as reckoning approaches, a very powerful adversary is stalking their every move. He’s Jay Christos, a roguish and deadly witch-hunter as old as witchcraft itself.

Want something a little more realistic? Why not try Western Lane by Chetna Maroo? This debut novel features eleven-year-old Gopi, who has been playing squash since she was old enough to hold a racket. When her mother dies, her father enlists her in a quietly brutal training regimen, and the game becomes her world. Slowly, she grows apart from her sisters. Her life is reduced to the sport, guided by its rhythms: the serve, the volley, the drive, the shot, and its echo.

But on the court, she is not alone. She is with her pa. She is with Ged, a thirteen-year-old booy with his own formidable talent. She is with the players who have come before her. She is in awe. 

If a rom-com is more up your alley, give Secretly Yours by Tessa Bailey a shot. In New York Times bestselling author’s latest, Hallie Welch fell hard for Julian Vos at fourteen, after they almost kissed in the dark vineyards of his family’s winery. Now the prodigal hottie has returned to their small town. When Hallie is hired to revamp the gardens on the Vos estate, she wonders if she’ll finally get that smooch. But the grumpy professor isn’t the teenager she remembers and their polar opposite personalities clash spectacularly. One wine-fueled girls’ night later, Hallie can’t shake the sense that she did something reckless — and then she remembers the drunken secret admirer letter she left for Julian.

Last but not least, get cozy with a mystery this month, grab Three Can Keep a Secret by M. E. Hilliard. In this latest entry to the Greer Hogan Mystery series, our protagonist is a librarian turned sleuth, an avid reader of crime fiction who possesses an uncanny knack for deduction — and now, she’s drawn into another murder case as late autumn slowly turns to winter in the idyllic village of Raven Hill. When Anita Hunzeker, chair of the library board of trustees, is run off the road and killed, no one seems all that sorry. Anita was widely disliked, and the townsfolk would just as soon be rid of her. But when a local professor turns up dead as well, his connection to Anita and to other local residents leaves the suspect pool covering the entire county.

Greer starts poking around, and the more she digs, the more it seems like everyone she knows is trying to hide something. When she unearths a clue in the old manor cemetery, she finally discovers the shocking truth — a cache of dark secrets stretching back decades that could rock the town to its core. Everyone who’s come close to the truth has ended up dead — and if Greer doesn’t tread lightly, she could be the next librarian to get archived for good.

Still not seeing something for you? We can help! Contact our Reference Desk at to get a recommendation.

Book Review | Critical mass by Daniel Suarez

From the publisher: A group of pioneering astropreneurs must overcome never-before-attempted engineering challenges to rescue colleagues stranded at a distant asteroid—kicking off a new space race in which Earth’s climate crisis could well hang in the balance.

Things I liked:

The plot. This book has a terrific story. Climate Change is ravaging the Earth and its economy. Some far-thinking individuals are able to start mining an asteroid for materials and to begin a new way of achieving wealth that helps the planet.

The characters. As is currently true in space explorations, individuals from many countries are involved in the building of a space station near the moon, and I liked the three main characters, who survived a disaster and hope to rescue two colleagues who didn’t make it back from the asteroid.

The setting. The transition of a shell to a bustling space station is a vision I’d like to see happen. Also humans figuring out a way to save the planet before it is too late.

The thing I disliked:

The science. OMG the science. I watch a lot of Star Trek and am used to technobabble, but this story had so much hard science that I did not follow. I’m guessing that it is true or mostly true or theoretically true, so if you are an actual scientist you may love the science. I am not a scientist and was lost in the long descriptive passages about stuff I did not understand. Still, one can skim the science.

This book is the second book in a series, which I did not realize when I chose to read it. The first book is called Delta-V. Reading Delta-V first no doubt would have explained some things, but I don’t think reading it first is required. If you like Andy Weir and don’t mind even more science than is found in his books, you may enjoy Critical Mass.

I read an advance reader copy of Critical Mass from Netgalley.

The book is scheduled to be published on January 24, and the Galesburg Public Library will own it and the first book in print and as a digital ebook and audiobook.