GPL Blog

Book Review | Close to Death by Anthony Horowitz

From the publisher: In New York Times bestselling author Anthony Horowitz’s ingenious fifth literary whodunnit in the Hawthorne and Horowitz series, Detective Hawthorne is once again called upon to solve an unsolvable case—a gruesome murder in an idyllic gated community in which suspects abound.

I love Anthony Horowitz. His writing and his mysteries just work for me, and every adult book he writes is a must-read. (I confess, I don’t love his series for kids, Alex Rider.) I adored Magpie Murders, both the book and the miniseries, and I love the Hawthorne and Horowitz books. It’s fun seeing an author write himself into a series as somewhat of a clueless dolt. (When Horowitz asks Hawthorne to tell him the solution to an old murder case, Hawthorne replies, “You never know the solution, mate. That’s what makes your writing so special. You don’t have a clue.” Ha! (p. 65 of the ARC))

This book is pretty different from the previous Hawthorne and Horowitz books. In the previous books, the author has watched Hawthorne solve a mystery and then written a book about it. In this book, he writes about a murder that happened years before. So, unfortunately, the pair don’t spend much time together this time around. Still, I get it – the author needs to keep things fresh for himself and his audience.

I often don’t even try to solve murder mysteries, but Horowitz throws in so many details and so much misdirection and then makes the clues pay off, so I do try to pay attention. (No, I did not figure out what was going on in Close to Death, any more than the fictional Horowitz did.) I also enjoy how English these books are.

“I have never been a huge fan of so-called ‘locked-room’ mysteries,” complains the fictional Horowitz as the real-life Horowitz proceeds to write one. Ha! (p. 184 of the ARC) I had a bit of a hard time with this one in one respect, trying to figure out how he could actually turn this into a published book given what would need to be revealed, but that’s beside the point. I know they aren’t true crime, but clever fiction. And I know these books aren’t done because we still need to find out what happened in Reeth!

I read an advance reader copy of Close to Death from Netgalley. It is scheduled to be released on April 16 and will be available in multiple formats at the Galesburg Public Library. The library owns the whole series in multiple formats. If you want to read the first four books, start with The Word is Murder.

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 Review | A Deadly Walk in Devon by Nicholas George

From the publisher: A retired San Diego police detective embarks upon group walking tours in England’s most scenic counties in the first in a charming new mystery series set in the English countryside.

is a debut novel and the first book in the Walk Through England Mystery series. In it, a group of Americans on a guided walk in Devon, England, includes a man named Gretz. I’ve read a lot of cozy mysteries, and Gretz is right out of cozy mystery central casting. The grouchy, hard-to-get-along-with, unlikable man who is obviously going to be the murder victim and about whom other characters say, “If you did kill him, we don’t blame you.” (p. 148 of the ARC)

I’d guess the author has also read a lot of cozy mysteries. Besides the unlikable victim, we have the bickering couple, the clueless Chief Inspector, the attractive young new widow, and a whole cast of suspects hiding secrets. I hope in the sequels that the author can strive for a little more originality, instead of a cookie cutter cozy. I think we might see some of the walkers return in future books, and maybe they will be fleshed out a little. The climactic confrontation of the killer was truly eye-rolling in its implausibility.

I love England and have yet to do a walking tour, so the premise of this book appealed to me. Unfortunately, there is not as much “walking” as I had hoped. Once the murder occurs, the group stays in one place. Still, I enjoyed the English setting.

The book is narrated by ex-detective Rick Chasen, and at one point he mentions that he likes whistling as he walks. That would certainly be grounds for murder if I were on a walk with the guy. Although this is marketed as a debut, there were references to the main character’s previous cases which originally made me wonder if I’d missed something.

At one point Chase’s walker friend Billie jokes, “I’ll kill you if you don’t. Oops. Guess I shouldn’t be joking about murder, should I?” (p. 131 of the ARC) Is the author poking fun at cozy cliches or just being cliched? I can’t tell. The main character is supposed to be a huge baseball fan, but I wondered if the author is. At one point the main character muses, “I often looked at my success rate through the lens of baseball, where batters typically fail to get a base hit seven out of ten pitches.” (p. 170 of the ARC) I think he means seven out of ten at bats. I read an advance reader copy, so maybe that will be fixed when the book is published. I do give the author points for trying to redeem Bill Buckner, who is unfairly blamed for costing the Red Sox the World Series in 1986. Although I felt like the author made some rookie errors (ha ha) in his debut, I enjoyed it enough that I might read book two.

The cover is very attractive and I imagine similar matching covers on the whole series that will look great together. If you enjoy the sometimes outlandish stories in M.C. Beaton’s Hamish Macbeth and Agatha Raisin series, you may enjoy A Deadly Walk in Devon.

I read an advance reader copy of A Deadly Walk in Devon from Netgalley. It is scheduled to be released on March 26 and will be available at the Galesburg Public Library.

Book Review | The Road to Murder by Camilla Tinchieri

From the publisher: In the latest installment of the acclaimed Tuscan Mystery series, the sole witness at a crime scene speaks only English, and ex-NYPD detective turned amateur chef Nico Doyle is summoned by the local carabinieri to help.

I’m always looking for good books set in Italy, and I’ve found an enjoyable series in the Tuscan Mysteries by Camilla Trinchieri. I have an Italian friend who tells me I need to read books by actual Italians, and I think Trinchieri fits the bill. Her father was an Italian diplomat and her mother an American, and she has lived in Italy and the United States.

The Road to Murder is due out in March and is the fourth book in the series. I’ve also read the first three books. I think that each book has gotten stronger, as is often the case with long-running series. The main character, Nico Doyle, is a widower who moved to his dead wife’s hometown. He’s also an ex-detective from New York. When a murder occurs in book 1, the local maresciallo asks for his help, since they don’t have many murders in idyllic Tuscany and Nico has a lot of experience. This pattern continues in each of the books. (Nico is evidently not good luck, since murders occur with regularity now that he’s a local!)

I love the Italian setting, the Italian words, the descriptions of the Italian landscapes and the Italian food. As I’ve gotten to know each recurring character, I like them better. There is one character who quotes a lot of Dante and a cute little rescue dog who’ll be a lot of fun if this ever becomes a TV series. I do find it a little odd that an American civilian is allowed to participate so fully in solving murders in an Italian city; maybe, at some point, he’ll actually get a job on the force.

This series is a fun cozy police procedural. If you enjoy Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache series, you might like it. I read an advance reader copy of The Road to Murder. When it is published in March, the Galesburg Public Library will add it to our print and ebook collections of the series. If you want to start the series, book 1 is Murder in Chianti.

Book Review | Cascade Failure by L.M. Sagas

From the publisher: A high-octane, sci-fi adventure featuring a fierce, messy, chaotic space family, vibrant worlds, and an exploration of the many ways to be—and not to be—human.

Cascade Failure is a debut novel and the planned first book in a series set in space. A ragtag found family crews a wonky but space worthy vessel known as the Ambit. The beings aboard include Eoan, a sentient AI who captains the ship; Saint, a Guild member who has been around the block more than a few times; Nash, a handy engineer who can fix (and shoot) anything; a Guild deserter named Jal with body modifications and long history with Saint; and Anke, a brilliant hacker who is a complete unknown to the crew after they rescue her from a dead planet.

There’s nothing particularly original here, but if you like the TV series Firefly and works by Becky Chambers, you may enjoy Cascade Failure. This is about action, shooting, regrets, space, politics, computers, and not worrying too much that anyone important will die in the end. It was a fun read, and the kind of “first in a series” that might be better on a reread after a few more books have been added and I’ve gotten to know the world and the characters better.

I found the action scenes very hard to follow at times and might have enjoyed them more if I’d listened to the book on audio. So far there is no more than a hint of romance; the crew’s bond is based on friendship and shared experiences.

I read an advance reader copy of Cascade Failure. It is scheduled to be published in March and will be available through the Galesburg Public Library in print, as an ebook, and on audio.

YA Audiobook Roundup

This Delicious Death by Kayla Cottingham, audio version narrated by Sophie Amoss

This girl power-centric YA story features a group of friends in a slightly post-apocalyptic future where a disease has turned a bunch of people into flesh-eating ghouls. Though society has returned to mostly normal with the invention of synthetic human flesh, things go badly for Zoey and her friends when they attend a music festival and something starts causing ghouls to rampage uncontrollably. I love the LGBTQ rep in this book (main character Zoey is bisexual, best friend/love interest Celeste is trans, and friend Jasmine reads as gay), but was frustrated by all the male characters being unlikeable jerks. Sophie Amoss’s narration on the audio version is quality though, including distinct voices for each major character as well as several of the supporting cast.

What Stalks Among Us by Sarah Hollowell, audio version narrated by Amielynn Abellera

In this mildly spooky mystery horror, best friends Sadie and Logan ditch a class field trip and explore a supernatural corn maze together. Things get weird when they start finding dead bodies, including their own… several times! Sadie and Logan try to understand what’s happening, protect each other, and search for a way out of the maze, while also keeping a look out for whoever or whatever is killing people in the maze. The friendship between the two main characters is amazingly portrayed, as is the way they help each other process past traumas. However, I didn’t find the maze itself as scary as it was meant to be, and I didn’t care for some things about how the story ends, but overall it’s still a mostly fun supernatural mystery.

Stars, Hide Your Fires by Jessica Mary Best, audio version narrated by Natalie Naudus

This sci-fi story is full of action, intrigue, and just a little bit of mystery and romance. Think of it as like a mix of Star Wars and Knives Out, in a solidly YA container. Main character Cass is a petty thief and con artist who makes her living conning and pickpocketing travelers on the backwater moon she calls home. When she learns that the emperor will announce his successor at a fancy ball on a nearby world, Cass hatches a plan to infiltrate the ball, rob the guests blind, and make enough money to retire on. In so doing, she stumbles headfirst into an assassination plot where she is quickly framed for murder, falls in with a group of rebels (and a bit of sapphic romance as well), and has to solve the murder to clear her name. The action moves a thousand miles an hour, and while parts of it hold up better than others it’s overall a pretty fun ride.
All three of these are available on Playaway from Galesburg Library. This Delicious Death is available in ebook and eaudiobook format through the Libby app. What Stalks Among Us is also available in ebook form through the Boundless app.

Boost Your Career in 2024 with These 7 Steps

For many, the start of a new year means making New Year’s resolutions. In 2024, why not resolve to take some steps to develop your career?

Whether you are actively seeking new employment or are content in your current work situation, here are 7 steps you can take to help propel your career to the next level.

1) Optimize your “office.”

This is a great place to start! Physical clutter can contribute to mental clutter, which can hinder you from doing your best work. Whether you are working at a desk or the kitchen table, get rid of unnecessary items and organize the rest. This also applies to digital clutter. Delete unimportant emails, files, programs, and apps that can be clogging up space and slowing down your equipment. Furthermore, make sure you have all the materials and tools you need to do your best work. One you have decluttered, your work space and your mind are more prepared for the tasks ahead!

2) Set goals.

Define what you want in your career. Start by asking yourself what your ideal work situation looks like. Next, ask what needs to happen in order for you to obtain that. From there, determine what specific (and realistic) steps you would like to take this year to work towards realizing your ideal work situation. 


  • Dedicate two hours every week to developing a specific skill relevant to my career goals. 
  • Practice answering one new interview question each week. 
  • Ask my boss how I can improve my work performance and if there are any opportunities to take on more responsibility. 
  • Spend one hour weekly searching for new job opportunities. 
  • Get a second opinion on my resume by January 30; complete revisions and updates by February 15.

3) Polish your resume.

Your resume should always be current, even if you are not actively job searching. You never know when your situation might change or when an opportunity might arise that you cannot let pass. Your current job, responsibilities, and skills should be included. Take time to review your past experiences to see if anything needs to be updated, reworded, or removed. 

4) Clean up your social media.

Review all your social media outlets and make sure you are showcasing your best professional self. Without knowing it, you might be making a negative first impression even before meeting someone. Don’t let this happen. Help manage your professional image by maintaining a professional online presence. Not sure what to keep, delete, and make private? Check out my previous article, “Is Your Social Media Working Against Your Job Search?”

5) Fine tune your elevator pitch.

An elevator pitch is a clear and concise 30 second introduction to who you are, what you offer, and why this is important. It should be tailored to fit your networking goals. If you are seeking new employment, it should touch on your experience and what you could bring to the potential new position. If you are just looking to enlarge your network, it should touch on some interesting facts about yourself and why you would be a good addition to the other person’s network. A solid elevator pitch is essential in your efforts to build your network.

6) Expand your network.

When people know what you’ve done, what you are doing, and what you are capable of doing, they are more likely to think of you when an opportunity arises. Additionally, the more connections you have, the more likely you are to learn about new opportunities quickly. It is best to grow your network with people in different positions in a variety of industries and organizations.

And finally…

7) Prioritize your health.

Jobs are stressful. Searching for jobs is stressful. When you are not feeling your best, you are probably not performing at your best. Be sure you are taking care of yourself mentally and physically. Find time to decompress and do something relaxing. Read a book; watch your favorite show; talk to a friend; go for a walk; give yourself a home spa day. Whatever helps you recharge your battery, is what you should make time to do. Be sure you are also eating balanced meals, drinking water, and getting enough sleep. 

Book Review | Languishing: How to Feel Alive Again in a World That Wears Us Down by Corey Keyes

From the publisher: Languishing—the state of mental weariness that erodes our self-esteem, motivation, and sense of meaning—can be easy to brush off as the new normal, especially since indifference is one of its symptoms. Languishing is a must-read for anyone tempted to downplay feelings of demotivation and emptiness as they struggle to haul themselves through the day, and for those eager to build a higher tolerance for adversity and the pressures of modern life.

I don’t read a lot of self-help books, but like a lot of people post-pandemic, I find that I am struggling to stay engaged and find energy and meaning. Languishing wants to take its readers from languishing to flourishing. Author Keyes hit home with me right from this passage in the Introduction: “The simple question ‘How are you?’ can feel like an unwelcome pop quiz, leaving you casting about for a socially acceptable response, not quite knowing the answer yourself.” Keyes includes a list of 12 symptoms of languishing, and all 12 of them rang true.

That said, I don’t feel like this book presented me with a clear path to change. I agreed with a lot of what I was reading (much of which I’ve read elsewhere but not all in one place), but I don’t feel inspired to run out and act on the Action Plans. I guess that’s the real challenge though, if you aren’t feeling inspired, to find inspiration and change.

Some of the sad but true areas the author covers are an epidemic of loneliness, the need for a certain amount of adversity to find a high life satisfaction, the necessity of finding purpose in life, and the joy of play. The chapter on play especially resonated with me. He writes about how many people these days are so obsessed with documenting whatever they are doing that they forgot to live in the moment. A lesson for everyone: “Don’t let your smartphone and your obsession with social media remove all the joy from your joy, okay?” (chapter 9)

This book is part memoir and part self-help. The author lived through an abusive childhood and continues to struggle with his own mental health. This helped me feel that this person at least understands what he is writing about. I also agree with him that we need to spend more time, money and effort on mental health, not just mental illness.

This is a gently encouraging book that I continue to think about. If you are feeling worn down and are struggling to find meaning, you may find Languishing worth a read. I read an advance reader copy of Languishing. It is scheduled to be published on February 20, and Galesburg Public Library will own it.

Cooking the Books — No-Bake Cookies: More Than 150 Fun, Easy, & Delicious Recipes For Cookies, Bars, and Other Cool Treats Made Without Baking by Camilla V. Saulsbury

With it being the end of the year, many people are pressed for time–me included. With activities nearly everyday outside of work, Camilla Saulsbury’s No-Bake Cookies: More Than 150 Fun, Easy, & Delicious Recipes For Cookies, Bars, and Other Cool Treats Made Without Baking came in handy for my Cooking the Books article this month. As the title suggests, Saulsbury includes more than 150 recipes for creating quick and easy snacks without the need for baking. Saulsbury includes notes on how to prepare for each type of treat including drop cookies, shaped cookies, cereal bars, cookie bars, and icebox bars.

As the holidays approach, I chose her “Gingerbread Chews” recipe. Preparation was fairly simple and I was able to complete the treats in less than 30 minutes! Be careful not to cook the brown sugar and peanut butter too long, as they may start to evaporate. You’ll need as much of this sticky liquid mixture as possible to coat the crisp rice cereal. It may even be worth adding a little extra of these two ingredients. There was no indication as to whether you should use your hands to ball up the chews before placing them in your wax paper lined container, but I found that this step was necessary in keeping all of the ingredients together. I’ll admit that I may have left a little too much time between taking the pan off the heat and adding the other ingredients which could have contributed to the evaporation. I suggest doing this and forming the balls as quickly as possible so that they don’t dry out too much.

My coworkers’ reactions:


  • “I love the light and airy texture. The spice is flavorful without being overpowering. Very tasty and seasonal.”
  • “I could eat these all day!”
  • “Delicious! I would like a copy of the recipe.”
  • “I love rice crispy treats. I love gingerbread. So… obviously, I love these! They are great as is, but I would also like more chewiness. I guess that means add marshmallows?”

Mixed Reviews:

  • “It’s not exciting to me, but I like it. I like the texture and it tastes like a candle.”
  • “Perhaps a tad too much spice, but still delicious!”
  • “As a gingerbread hater, these are the perfect balance of sweet and ginger-y.”
  • “The scent of peanut butter threw me a loop–and eventually the spices became more pronounced on the tongue–the spicy ginger hit. I don’t think I’ve ever had anything quite like this before! Not bad, but ‘unusual.’”


  • “I enjoyed the flavor and chewiness. Nice texture, but I think I would prefer it without the spices. Perhaps a simple peanut butter or chocolate flavor would be better.”
  • “It’s not my thing. I like the texture. It’s nice and crunchy, but the ginger is reminiscent of a curry and I don’t know why you would want that in a sweet treat.”
  • “Huh. I’m not sure what to make of the peanut butter with the spices. The ginger is a bit too much for me, I’d reduce it by ¼ teaspoon.”

Overall, I am pleased with this recipe in that it didn’t take much time to prepare. It seems that for the most part, people either loved the gingerbread chews or they didn’t. Personally, I was a fan of the flavor and texture, but the taste of ginger didn’t make sense to me with this particular style of cookie. I will definitely try other recipes from this cookbook, but I don’t think I’ll revisit the gingerbread chews again.



½ cup packed dark brown sugar
½ cup dark corn syrup
¾ cup creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ¼ teaspoons ground ginger
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
4 cups crisp rice cereal


  • Line cookie sheets with wax paper.
  • In medium-sized saucepan combine the brown sugar and corn syrup. Bring mixture to a boil, cooking and stirring constantly, until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat. Stir in the peanut butter, vanilla, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves until blended and smooth.
  • Add the cereal to the peanut butter mixture, stirring until well coated. Working quickly, drop the mixture by heaping teaspoons onto the wax paper. Let stand in cool place to harden. Store tightly covered between layers of wax paper.
  • Makes about 24 cookies.