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.”
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 Moyesa 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 Baileya 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.
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.
From the publisher: A relentless detective and an amateur genealogist solve a haunting cold case — and launch a crime-fighting revolution that tests the fragile line between justice and privacy. Genetic genealogy, long the province of family tree hobbyists and adoptees seeking their birth families, has made headlines as a cold case solution machine, capable of exposing the darkest secrets of seemingly upstanding citizens. But as this crime-fighting technique spreads, its sheer power has sparked a national debate: Can we use DNA to catch the murderers among us, yet still protect our last shred of privacy in the digital age—the right to the very blueprint of who we are?
I’ve been reading a lot of true crime, and The Forever Witness is a great example written by an experienced and talented writer. Edward Humes is a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist who pays extreme attention to detail and can really turn a phrase. This book weaves together multiple cold case murders with fascinating information on how far genetic genealogy has come. It challenges us to think about the ramifications of using genetic genealogy to uncover criminals using the DNA of innocent relatives.
The story focuses on the murders of two young Canadians, Tanya Van Cuylenborg and Jay Cook, who travelled to the US in November 1987 to pick up a furnace for his father’s service and repair business. Their bodies were found in two separate remote locations a few days after they disappeared, and they had been killed in very different ways. Thirty years later, the crime still had not been solved; then came new developments in genetic genealogy.
The author does a great job helping us get to know the young couple by presenting little details about their lives. He sympathetically presents the anguish of their friends and relatives. As fascinated as he is by the science used to uncover the truth, he is sensitive to the fact that he is writing about real people.
The segue into discussion about genetic genealogy was technical but also fascinating. I learned a lot. In 2016, a company called Parabon NanoLabs introduced cutting-edge DNA technology called Snapshot that can generate a composite sketch of a suspect from DNA trace evidence. A couple of examples are included in the book, of Snapshots and the actual killers, and the similarities are striking.
In the end, a true crime novel that reveals a killer is both sad for the victims and satisfying when justice is done.
I read an advance reader copy of The Forever Witness from Netgalley.
The Forever Witness adds a riveting layer of science to the true crime template. If you enjoy true crime works that also cover science and discuss pressing social issues, you may enjoy The Forever Witness. The Galesburg Public Library will own it once it is released in late November.
From the publisher: A London heiress rides out to the wilds of the English countryside to honor a marriage of convenience with a mysterious and reclusive stranger.
I’ve read all of the novels by Mimi Matthews, and this is one of her best. If you are already familiar with her work, this book is reminiscent of The Matrimonial Advertisement. It also reminded me of one of my favorite books, The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery, and I was pleased to read in the Author’s Note that this was intentional. This is very much a Victorian romance fairy tale. It’s got echoes of the stories of Beauty and the Beast and Bluebeard.
Julia Wynchwood has a reputation in society as a sickly spinster, left on the matrimonial shelf after several seasons. It is in fact her parents who are sickly, and unknown to her, her father has turned away all her suitors because they did not live close enough for Julia to devote her life to caring for her selfish parents. Captain Jasper Blunt, badly scarred from battle, has a reputation as both a war hero and a cruel man with a houseful of bastard children born to him by his dead mistress. She needs escape from her parents. He needs a wife with money to repair his remote decrepit mansion and to help him raise the bastard children.
But of course, all is not as it seems on the surface. There is a lot more to both Julia and Jasper than society knows. Julia sees something in him that offers protection from her parents; she proposes marriage and off they hie to the remote mansion. The author is not coy about the surprises that await the reader. She drops a lot of clues and hints that ratchet up the interest rather than spoiling the plot.
I really love sitting down to a new book by Matthews. Her love of horses and stories shines through every novel she writes. Her character Jasper says:
“Stories like the ones we read in novels help us understand the human condition. … They teach us empathy. In that way, they’re more than an escape from the world. They’re an aid for living in the world. For being better, more compassionate people.” (ch. 24 of the advance reader copy)
I read an advance reader copy of The Belle of Belgrave Square from Netgalley.
It is scheduled to be published on October 11, and the Galesburg Public Library will own it. The Belle of Belgrave Square is the second book in the author’s Belles of London series, and the library already owns the first, The Siren of Sussex, in regular and large print and as an ebook.
From the publisher: In Regency England, one letter will alter a young woman’s fate when it summons her to Briarton Park—an ancient place that holds the secrets of her past and the keys to her future.
The Letter from Briarton Park is a sweet, predictable clean romance set in Regency era England. Our heroine is plucky Cassandra Hale, a pretty and intelligent young woman who teaches at the Denton School for Young Ladies and knows nothing about her parents as the narrative opens. Mrs. Denton has been like a mother to Cassandra, but Cassandra finds out that she has been lied to her entire life. Mrs. Denton not only knows more than she has said about Cassandra’s family, she has kept a mysterious letter from her for two and a half years – a letter filled with money. Mrs. Denton gives the letter to Cassandra, and then she dies.
The letter invites Cassandra to visit Briarton Park in Northern Yorkshire, and thus Cassandra’s adventure begins. After she travels to Briarton Park, Cassandra finds not the writer of the original letter but James Warrington – a handsome and widowed mill owner who purchased the estate from the letter’s now deceased author.
Also in the mix are a sister, a mother-in-law, and two adorable small girls. (I was a little surprised no mischievous dog appeared as part of the family.) As a beautiful newcomer, Cassandra has her share of admirers – including the local vicar – as she attempts to solve the mystery of her parentage.
I’m no Regency expert, but the historical details didn’t jump out at me as being untrue to the times. The hero’s own lack of a pedigree allows the moneyed orphan to pursue romance. There were some plot points that I thought would play a bigger role in the story but didn’t (spoiler: like the little hiding places all over the house that were apparently just there to add Mysterious Details).
I read an advance reader copy of The Letter from Briarton Park from Netgalley
The Galesburg Public Library will own it once it is released on March 1. It is the first book in a series. The library owns three other titles by author Ladd as well.
From the publisher: The Other Dr. Gilmer takes readers on a thrilling and heart-wrenching journey through our shared human fallibility, made worse by a prison system that is failing our most vulnerable citizens. With deep compassion and an even deeper sense of justice, Dr. Benjamin Gilmer delves into the mystery of what could make a caring doctor commit a brutal murder. And in the process, his powerful story asks us to answer a profound question: In a country with the highest incarceration rates in the world, what would it look like if we prioritized healing rather than punishment?
You may already be familiar with the story of Dr. Vince Gilmer. His story was told on an episode of NPR’s This American Life and on CNN. In 2004, Gilmer, a doctor who worked at a clinic in rural Appalachia, killed his father. In 2005 he was sentenced to life in prison. I was not acquainted with the story. I heard Dr. Benjamin Gilmer, the author of this book, speak during a publisher’s webinar presentation about upcoming books and was intrigued.
This is an unusual true crime novel. There is a crime – Dr. Vince Gilmer strangled his father – but that’s not the focus of the story. There was no question that Vince Gilmer murdered his father. Even if you have not heard about Vince Gilmer, the author spoils the Big Reveal about the crime by mentioning mental illness in the dedication. Nonetheless, I found the story gripping. Benjamin Gilmer is a good writer and had a good editor.
My family is from the Appalachia region, and this passage struck me: “In Appalachia, everything was defined by the mountain. You were going up the mountain, you were going down the mountain; you were from this side of the mountain or the other side.” (p. 30 of the advance reader copy) Benjamin Gilmer comes across as empathetic and a good observer.
Benjamin and Vince Gilmer are not related. After Vince Gilmer was found guilty of murder, Benjamin Gilmer just happened to begin work at his old clinic. Many people commented on the coincidence. It led many of his patients to muse on how much they loved the old Dr. Gilmer. The picture they painted was very different from what Benjamin Gilmer imagined of a man who could brutally murder his father. Benjamin Gilmer became obsessed with Vince Gilmer and began to worry excessively that Vince would get out of prison and come after him for “stealing” his life. I was surprised at how obsessive Benjamin became. It must have been quite trying for his wife. Eventually Benjamin Gilmer met Vince Gilmer and realized there was much more to the story. Benjamin Gilmer’s book is sad, touching, and infuriating.
This is the first memoir I’ve read since the news broke about Alice Seybold’s Lucky (the book is her memoir about being raped as a college student; the man found guilty of Seybold’s rape 40 years ago was recently exonerated). I have to admit I found myself questioning whether everything was ‘true” or perhaps manipulated to make a better story. But although the narrative is riveting, it does not (spoiler alert) have a happy ending. This book is part of a long campaign to get clemency for Vince Gilmer, and to get him out of prison and into a hospital. It also advocates for changes to how we treat the mentally ill, especially if they end up in prison.
If you liked Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy or The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton, you may find The Other Dr. Gilmer as captivating as I did. I read an advance reader copy of The Other Dr. Gilmer from Netgalley.
The book is scheduled to be published on March 1, 2022, and will be available at the Galesburg Public Library.
From the publisher: Daniel Hayle, Duke of Carlisle, returned from Waterloo a hero, and he has the wounds to prove it. But he dreads the coming London season as he never did the battlefield, where his lack of social skills is certain to make it difficult to find a wife. What he needs is someone to help him practice socializing with the ton. Someone who isn’t frightened away by his scars . . . . Margery Kitteridge is still mourning the loss of her husband. So when she receives a blackmail letter accusing him of desertion, she’s desperate to protect his reputation. The answer to her troubles appears in the form of a damaged, reclusive duke in need of a wife. She proposes an alliance: she’ll help him find a bride, in return for the money to pay off the blackmailer. But working so closely together awakens passions they never Read more »
From the publisher: London, 1885. A romance develops as a detective partners with a lonely-hearts columnist to solve a murder mystery.
The Matchmaker’s Lonely Heart is an entertaining clean historical romance. It has strong, interesting female characters and a sympathetic hero. The plot takes some unlikely twists, but nothing struck me as outlandish. The book pushes the edges of acceptable behavior for women in 1885 in a believable way and introduces societal issues like street urchins and the institutionalization of people with intellectual disabilities. The bad guy is stereotypical with no nuance, but I didn’t mind too much since the story flirts with being a gothic romance.
From the publisher: When evil forces are going unchecked on Earth, a principled astronaut makes a spilt-second decision to try to seek justice in the only place she knows how—the International Space Station.
The science in Holdout is good; Jeffrey Kluger is also the co-author, with astronaut Jim Lovell, of Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13, which was the basis of the Apollo 13 movie released in 1995, and nine other books. The author worked fictional versions of real space incidents into the plot. I really enjoyed the descriptions of life and work in space, and the relationship between the Russian and American astronauts. Although it’s a minor plot point, I also liked the main character’s concern for the mice that were in space with her.