GPL Blog

Calling all Librarians: Slow Cooker Showdown

Library staff warmed up their colleagues with crockpot recipes this November at our staff Slow Cooker Showdown. Four indulgent recipes were offered up for tasting and voting by the library staff:  Crock pot hot chocolateChicken and dumplingsMexican lime soup with shredded chicken, and Curried butternut squash soup (vegan). It was a close call, but Mexican lime soup, created by children’s librarian LeAnna, won the coveted traveling trophy. It was a SOUP-er good day!

RECIPE: Mexican Lime Soup with Shredded Chicken


1 yellow onion
3 ribs celery (about 1/4 bunch)
1 jalapeño
4 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 3/4 lb.)
6 cups chicken broth
2 10oz. cans diced tomatoes with green chiles (Rotel)
1 tsp oregano
1/2 Tbsp cumin
1 lime
1/2 bunch cilantro
1 avocado
cayenne pepper to taste


Dice the onion, celery, and jalapeño (scrape the seeds out of the jalapeño before dicing). Mince the garlic. Add the onion, celery, jalapeño, garlic, and olive oil to a large soup pot and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are soft and translucent.
Add the chicken breast, chicken broth, diced tomatoes with chiles (with juices), oregano, and cumin to the pot. Place a lid on the pot, turn the heat up to high, and bring the broth up to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to low and let the pot simmer for 45 minutes.
After simmering for 45 minutes, carefully remove the chicken breast from the pot and use two forks to shred the meat. Return the shredded meat to the pot. Squeeze the juice of one lime into the soup (2-3 Tbsp juice).
Rinse the cilantro and then roughly chop the leaves. Add the chopped cilantro to the soup, give it a quick stir, then serve. Slice the avocado and add a few slices to each bowl.

Is Your Social Media Working Against Your Job Search?

For most people, social media is a means for entertainment, keeping in touch with family and friends, sharing photos and videos, and following businesses and people of interest to you.

Did you know that your social media accounts could work against you in your job search?

It’s true. Many employers today are checking the social media accounts of job applicants.

This means they are checking to see what you follow, like, comment on, post, and share on major platforms like Facebook, Instagram, X (formerly Twitter), TikTok, and Linkedin. They’re also checking the photos that you post or that others post with you in them.

Employers are usually trying to get a sense of who you are as a person and how you might fit into their organization and team. They are also looking for any red flags that may indicate you are not a great fit for the position.

Any content that could be considered controversial might be considered to be a red flag. Common controversial topics include politics, religion, drugs, alcohol, and sexually explicit material. Aggressive and offensive commentary can also be red flags.

This is not limited to your own social media activity. If other people are posting controversial content and comments to your profiles, that can also reflect poorly on you.

Here are three tips for making sure your social media is not working against you.

  1. Make your profiles private. Check your privacy settings. Make your profile as private as possible. This way, strangers will have less of a chance to see what you’ve posted.
  2. Remove controversy. Go back and delete old posts, photos, and comments that you wouldn’t want to be seen by a potential employer. If you do not want to completely delete certain items, you might be able to change the privacy setting so you are the only person who can see them.
  3. Change your perspective. Imagine you are an employer searching for a new employee to represent your company. Ask yourself what you would think of your social media presence.

Even if you are not actively seeking new employment, it is still good practice to keep your social media profiles work friendly.

Need a little help deciding if you need to clean up your profiles? Schedule an appointment with our Employment and Technology Specialist for advice.

‘Tis the Season: A Cozy Celebration of Hallmark Christmas Movies at Your Library!

Get ready to deck the halls and cozy up with a cup of cocoa because the library is spreading holiday cheer with a delightful collection of Hallmark Christmas movies on DVD! Whether you’re a sucker for heartwarming romances or enchanted by the spirits merry and bright. Dive into the enchanting world of Hallmark Christmas movies with our selection, featuring three delightful tales that capture the essence of the season.

Check Inn to Christmas

Julie Crawley, a determined lawyer eyeing a promotion, takes a holiday break in her hometown, Crestridge, Colorado. There, she reconnects with Ryan Mason, a fellow Crestridge native, sparking a romance. Both families are locked in a feud over prime property, threatened by the looming Edgestone Corporation’s plans for a modern resort. As Julie and Ryan’s love grows, they hatch a plan to unite their families and save their community from corporate takeover, blending romance, holiday spirit, and a dash of business savvy in this heartwarming tale. Can they bridge the gap and secure a future where love triumphs over rivalry?

Director: Sam Irvin; Cast: Rachel Boston, Wes Brown, Richard Karn, Christopher Cousins; Runtime: 1 hr. 24 min.

Christmas Comes Twice

Cheryl Jenkins, Deputy Director at the Federal Science Association in Washington DC, reflects on a pivotal decision five years ago that derailed her dreams of becoming an astronomer. During her Christmas visit to Wellsboro, she mysteriously travels back in time to that fateful week, aiming to reshape her past decisions. With the chance to fix a disastrous date, guide her sister’s career, and avoid meeting her current boss, Cheryl navigates the complexities of altering her past while cherishing moments with her mentor. As she attempts to forge a different future, Cheryl discovers new perspectives on relationships and life’s unexpected turns.

Director: Michael M. Scott; Cast: Tamera Mowry-Housley, Michael Xavier, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Zarrin Darnell-Martin; Runtime: 1 hr. 24 min.

Christmas Land

Jules Cooper, a thriving New York businesswoman, inherits ‘Christmas Land,’ her late Grandmother Glinda’s enchanting Christmas-themed village. Faced with the choice of selling to a real estate tycoon or revitalizing the magical haven, Jules encounters Tucker Barnes, the charismatic lawyer managing the estate. As she navigates the complexities of decisions in both life and love, Jules discovers the transformative power of Christmas Land and the potential for magic in her own life during this heartwarming holiday tale.

Director: Sam Irvin; Cast: Nikki Deloach, Luke Macfarlane, Jason-Shane Scott, Maureen McCormick; Runtime: 1 hr. 24 min.

12 Gifts of Christmas

Anna, a struggling painter facing financial challenges, lands an unexpected job as a personal Christmas shopper for Marc, a rigid corporate executive. Through their collaboration, Marc discovers the true essence of Christmas giving, realizing it’s about the thought behind the gift rather than its cost. Simultaneously, Anna finds unexpected success as an artist, exploring a path she never anticipated. In this heartwarming tale, both characters undergo transformative journeys that extend beyond the holiday season.

Director: Peter Sullivan; Cast: Katrina Law, Aaron O’Connell, Donna Mills, Melanie Nelson; Runtime: 1 hr. 23 min.

Christmas in Love

In the quaint town bakery famous for its Christmas Kringles, aspiring crafter Ellie Hartman finds herself at odds with the new CEO, Nick Carlingson, whose modernization plans could jeopardize jobs. Assigned to teach Nick the art of making Kringles, Ellie aims to prove that success lies in the people, not machines. As their paths intertwine and Ellie grapples with her entrepreneurial dreams, she discovers the warmth and kindness in her community. However, a glimpse of Nick’s automation plans on his laptop leads to feelings of betrayal. When Nick reveals his future ideas, Ellie faces a choice—whether to trust him and take a leap of faith in pursuing her own dreams.

Director: Don McBrearty; Cast: Brooke D’Orsay, Daniel Lissing, Mary-Margaret Humes, David Keeley; Runtime: 1 hr. 24 min.

With Love, Christmas

Melanie Welch, a diligent producer at Farnsworth Advertising Agency, is vying for a promotion as Creative Director, with colleague Donovan Goodwin as a contender. Despite Donovan’s indifference to Christmas, they’re tasked with creating a heartwarming ad for a crucial client. Complicating matters, Melanie draws Donovan’s name for the office’s Secret Santa, leading her to explore his preferences through a fake email. Unbeknownst to her, Donovan is in a similar situation, harboring feelings for Melanie. As they collaborate, their connection deepens, culminating in a heartwarming Christmas ad idea inspired by Melanie’s family festivities. In the process, they exchange meaningful gifts, revealing their growing understanding of each other.

Director: Marita Grabiak; Cast: Emilie Ullerup, Aaron O’Connell, Rebecca Davis, Lindsay Winch; Runtime: 1 hr. 24 min.

Window Wonderland

In the bustling Manhattan department store of McGuire’s, ambitious Sloan Van Doren competes with laid-back Jake Dooley for the coveted role of the next window dresser during the festive Christmas season. Tasked with creating captivating storefront windows, their rivalry intensifies as they vie for the attention of passersby, and a silent but mutual attraction blossoms. Complicating matters is Sloan’s well-to-do boyfriend, Kenneth, who fails to grasp the significance of the job. Amid the contest, McGuire’s veteran window washer Mac and spirited bathroom attendant Rita add their own romantic subplot. In this holiday tale, love is in the air, but unexpected twists challenge the outcome of the love triangle.

Director: Michael M. Scott; Cast: Chyler Leigh, Paul Campbell, Naomi Judd, Terence Kelly; Runtime: 1 hr. 26 min.

Looks Like Christmas

In a heartwarming holiday tale, two type-A single parents find themselves in a spirited competition for control of the Christmas holiday festivities at their children’s middle school. As they clash over organizing the perfect celebration, what begins as a fierce rivalry turns into an unexpected journey of self-discovery and a realization of the true meaning of Christmas. Amid the joyful chaos, both parents open themselves up to the possibility of a new romance, discovering that the magic of the season extends far beyond the battle for holiday supremacy.

Director: Terry Ingram; Cast: Anne Heche, Dylan Neal, Sean Michael Kyer, Farryn VanHumbeck; Runtime: 1 hr. 24 min.

Christmas List

In this enchanting Christmas tale, Isobel Gray’s meticulously planned storybook holiday with her boyfriend takes an unexpected turn when he goes AWOL, leaving her alone in Fall River, Oregon. Armed with a Christmas bucket list filled with cherished traditions, Isobel finds herself entangled in a tempting new romance with Jamie Houghton, a charming local contractor and volunteer fireman. As Isobel navigates the challenges of completing her festive checklist, she begins to question whether Brett, her absent boyfriend, is truly “the one.” Will Isobel find a White Christmas ending under the mistletoe, or is a new chapter of love waiting to unfold in this perfect Christmas town?

Director: Paul A. Kaufman; Cast: Alicia Witt, Gabriel Hogan, Peter Benson, Wanda Cannon; Runtime: 1 hr. 24 min.

Cooking the Books | Blueberry Blunder by Amanda Flower

Welcome back to Cooking the Books (where we try recipes found in, well, books!)

Amanda Flower’s who-done-it, Blueberry Blunder (An Amish Candy Shop Mystery #8) was an exploration into a genre I don’t normally frequent. As more of a literary fiction gal myself, my exposure to cozy mysteries has thus far been to admire the punny titles on the library’s paperback spinner rack:  Another One Bites the Crust, Dim Sum of All Fears – you get the point. However, when I saw this recipe included in the back pages (Blueberry-and-Cream Fudge) I decided to take a leap for the sake of…research.

The plot:  Bailey is a candy shop owner in Amish country Ohio, building her dream:  a candy factory. When her contractor is murdered, she is the self-appointed sleuth out to clear her friend’s family name. There’s plenty of pleasant dialog, an adorable pet pig, and enough small-town festival charm to fuel a Hallmark movie. I did become more invested in the mystery as the novel progressed and found the Amish culture descriptions enlightening.

The recipe:  I cooked up the fudge, refrigerated it, and brought it to work the next day. While it was set, it was difficult to get out of the pan. Pro tip: when it says “line the pan with parchment” line the bottom and the sides in one large piece. That way, the fudge can be lifted out to be cut and served.

My colleagues’ reactions:

The flavor:  “More blueberry!” “I can’t believe I’m saying this – too sweet!”

The texture:  “Creamy, but hard to get out of the pan.” “Texture was perfect.”

Overall:  “Messy – probably needs to be refrigerated?”  “I would eat this again!”

In summary: I am more than happy to move on from the cozy mystery genre, and despite my love of all things sweet, this recipe is not one I will try again.

Book and recipe: 2/5 stars

Bailey’s Blueberry-and-Cream Fudge

from Blueberry Blunder by Amanda Flower


1 cup fresh blueberries
½ T cornstarch
1 T lemon juice
¼ cup sugar
24 oz white chocolate chips
¼ stick of unsalted butter
14 oz sweetened condensed milk


Line a 9×9 pan with parchment.

Make the blueberry sauce. In a small pan, add blueberries, sugar, lemon juice and cornstarch over medium heat. Stir continuously and smash the blueberries until you have a thick sauce like a puree. Using a fine mesh strainer, push the puree through into a bowl.

Make the fudge cream. Over a double, add the white chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk and butter. Stir continuously to blend and until all the chocolate is melted.

Pour ⅓ of the white chocolate mixture into the 9×9 pan. Pour ⅓ of the blueberry sauce on top of the chocolate in the pan. Using a knife, swirl the white chocolate and blueberry together. Repeat these steps twice more.

Place the pan in fridge to set for at least three hours. Cut into pieces and eat. Fudge can last for one week in an airtight container.

Book Review | Blood On Their Hands by Mandy Matney

From the publisher: The highly anticipated inside look at the collapse of the Murdaugh dynasty by the celebrated investigative journalist and creator of the #1 hit Murdaugh Murders Podcast, Mandy Matney.

I am not a podcast listener and so have not heard any of the Murdaugh Murders Podcast (MMP), an extremely popular podcast that has often been ranked #1 ranked on Apple Podcasts. I requested an advance reader copy of Blood on Their Hands expecting it to be true crime nonfiction about Alex Murdaugh. It’s not. It’s a memoir by a journalist who wants us all to know how hard she has worked to be successful and how many people got in her way.

Mandy Matney is a good writer with a major chip on her shoulder. She wants to be a good journalist fighting the good journalist fight and shining a light on crime and corruption. She has faced sexism in the workplace – welcome to being a working woman, Mandy – and feels she has been betrayed by a number of colleagues she trusted. As I read this book, I couldn’t stop thinking about Sally Field and her “I can’t deny the fact that you like me. Right now, you like me!” speech when she won an Oscar.

I don’t question that Matney has put in the work to become a respected journalist, but to me, a reader unfamiliar with her and her work, she comes off as whiny and bitter in this book. Alex Murdaugh, his family, and the aura of invincibility around them needed to be investigated, and it seems like Matney and colleagues did good work. But, for example, Matney acknowledges that Will Folks gave her a job when she needed one, and the support and leads (and paycheck) she needed to investigate Murdaugh, but she also writes near the end of the book, “Looking back now, I can see that the relationship was a bad fit from the start. Will threw me a lifeline when I was desperate for a way out of The Packet,  but I think I gave him too much credit for ‘saving’ me. I excused the rumors about his unsavory reputation because of how much I wanted to believe he was a good guy. I ignored the times his judgment felt off because I was eager to grow with the company. But our early talks about my earning equity at FITS never panned out, and as MMP took off, I began to realize Will saw me more as a competitor than as a teammate. I see now that I never needed a man or an institution to lend my work credibility – I just needed more confidence in my abilities. I’ll always be grateful to FITS for being a stepping stone at a crucial time in my career, but I wish I could go back and tell my former self to get out as soon as things started to curdle.” (p. 251 of the ARC). Way to throw someone under the bus who by her own admission gave her a lot of information and contributed to her ability to write the podcast stories about the Murdaugh family. Matney didn’t do herself any favors with me as a reader with this section. She could have said it was time to move on and left it at that.

Please note that your reaction may vary. Readers who love Matney and her podcasts may love this book. If you are a fan of Murdaugh Murders Podcast, give it a shot. If you are not, this might not be the Murdaugh book for you. I read an advance reader copy of Blood on Their Hands. It is scheduled to be published on November 14, and the Galesburg Public Library will own it.

Book Review | This House of Grief by Helen Garner

From the publisher: On the evening of Father’s Day, 2005, separated husband Robert Farquharson was driving his three young sons back to their mom’s house when the car veered off the road and plunged into a dam. Farquharson survived the crash, but his boys drowned. Was this a tragic accident, or an act of revenge? The court case that followed became a national obsession.

A parent and their children go into a body of water in a vehicle; the parent survives but the children don’t. This unfortunately is a story we’ve heard before. Robert Farquharson claims he had a coughing fit and passed out. Once in the water, he was able to exit the car and swim to the surface, but his three sons were not. This book about his trial was published in 2014 in Australia; now a new edition has been published in the United States.

I can well imagine what a sensation this was in Australia. I remember the media fascination with Susan Smith in the 1990s after she left her sons to drown. I remember the Jaclyn Dowaliby case in the Chicago area in the 1980s. (That case didn’t involve drowning, but a child reported abducted from her home and found murdered a few days later, and a trial of the mother.)

This House of Grief feels like it was written much longer ago than 2014. It is a call back to classic works of true crime like In Cold Blood. It has a literary feel to it that most modern true crime that I’ve read does not. The author acts as a cool and objective narrator. She has no connection to the case other than reporting on it. She feels emotion – pity, grief – but not passion over whatever happened. Robert Farquharson himself remains a remote figure; I felt I got to know and understand his ex-wife’s parents better than I did Farquharson or his ex-wife.

On page 6, Garner writes, “When I said I wanted to write about the trial, people looked at me in silence, with an expression I could not read.” She is very thoughtful and philosophical as she observes and comments on the trial and all the people involved. The subtitle of the book is “The Story of a Murder Trial,” and the author writes her book as a story (a story with an ending that will not satisfy all her readers).

If you like classic works of true crime, I recommend This House of Grief. If you like graphic descriptions, every criminal detail, and proper closure in your true crime, this may not be the book for you.

I read an advance reader copy of This House of Grief. It was published on October 10, and Galesburg Public Library’s copy will be added to the collection soon. 

Spooky Season Selections

Halloween is almost here, m’dears! I recently had the chance to do some traveling and get caught up on four horror/Gothic/spooky adjacent books from my TBR (To Be Read) list/mountain, and I want to share the bounty with you. We’ve got YA, we’ve got adult, we’ve got vampires, tree creatures, parasites, and more! So grab a cup of your favorite hot beverage and a blanket and settle in for some spooky reads. Vampires of El Norte by Isabel Cañas From the publisher: Vampires and vaqueros face off on the Texas-Mexico border in this supernatural western from the author of The Hacienda.  I loved The Hacienda. I reviewed it for this blog back in 2021. And once again, Isabel is teaching me Mexican history via horror novels. This time the setting is 1840s Mexico near the Texas border. While The Hacienda was full of Gothic elements, VoEN is much more character Read more »

Book Review | Walk Through Fire by Yasmine S. Ali

From the publisher: The first book to examine the rarely-acknowledged Waverly Train Disaster of 1978 – the catastrophic accident that changed America forever and led to the formation of FEMA.

Since Galesburg is a railroad town and I can hear the trains go by my house – most of us in Galesburg can – I was interested in Walk Through Fire. I was in high school when the Waverly Train Disaster happened, and even though my parents are both from Tennessee, I don’t remember hearing anything about it.

Ali was a child in Waverly when the disaster happened. Her parents are physicians who emigrated from the Middle East to Waverly and played critical roles in the one bright spot during the disaster – the triage work that took place in the small local hospital after the explosion. Ali is justifiably proud of them and interested in the disaster, and her personal interest is reflected in the book.

Ali covers a lot of ground. Some of the information did not add much to the story for me as a reader. For example, there is a long part about Union Forces in Tennessee during the Civil War and the laying of tracks by Black laborers, and the information about what caused the disaster was very detailed. But Ali really cares about the town and its people, she knows many of the survivors, and her empathy for the people of Waverly really shines through. I can tell she did a lot of research and conducted a lot of interviews. She describes the terrible burns that people suffered with compassion and her own medical knowledge as a doctor.

I actually feel better about the unknown cargo on trains coming through Galesburg each night after reading this book. A lot of mistakes were made that led to the Waverly explosion, by the railroad and by local law enforcement because they had no idea how dangerous the situation is. A full investigation led to a number of changes to regulations and standards and to the creation of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

I listened to the author read much of the book. She’s not a professional reader, and some of her phrasing was a little odd. However, her own passion for the subject kept me going.

If you live near trains or are interested in how disasters shaped our lives for the better by prompting safety changes, you might want to read Walk Through Fire.

The Galesburg Public Library owns Walk Through Fire in print and as a Playaway audiobook.

Cooking the Books | Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller

I was looking for a pumpkin scone recipe, and while I didn’t find one of those, I did find Bouchon Bakery. It’s a pretty big book filled with all sorts of bread, muffins, and other carb-filled confections. As with most modern cookbooks, personal anecdotes, pieces of advice, and beautiful photos are interspersed between recipes. The personal anecdotes don’t mean much to me, since I have no idea who these folks are, but I did find a lot of good advice I had never heard before. Who knew you were supposed to lightly beat and strain eggs before mixing them to batter? Without the photos this would definitely feel overwhelming. Even with the photos, this cookbook could keep you busy for a very long time– reading it and baking from it. The authors are in favor of sacrificing convenience for the freshest ingredients and most authentic flavors. This means you better be prepared, as some doughs need to rest before they are baked. You also might need to look in specialty shops for things like fresh vanilla beans or whole nutmegs.

Some advice they gave, however, felt unrealistic or unfeasible for a hobby baker. I personally don’t plan on ordering pre-cut rectangles of parchment paper from restaurant specialty shops or acquiring a bicycle pastry cutter, and I definitely don’t have all (or even most) of the pastry bag tips they suggest. Unfortunately, the too-small font combined with the sheen of the pages and the unwieldy size of the book make this book difficult to read for very long.

Since I didn’t find my pumpkin scone recipe, I went with the next closest thing: pumpkin muffins. I opted to not decorate, frost, or fill mine (sorry, coworkers).

I did make a few changes to this recipe to make it work in my kitchen:

  • I didn’t have a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, so I whisked the batter by hand.

  • I used ground nutmeg instead of fresh grated nutmeg.

  • I used unsweetened applesauce in one batch (instead of eggs) for a vegan friendly version.

  • I also didn’t have a kitchen scale, so I used the cup/spoon measurements provided.

Since I had the home team advantage, I tried one of each (traditional and eggless) as soon as they were cool enough to eat. I could tell that they were dry but had the bready fall flavor I was looking for. Aside from that, I couldn’t tell the difference between the two once they were baked. In dough form, it was visibly obvious that the applesauce batter was more moist. The consensus from my coworkers was that the muffins were dry but had a lot of flavor–the clove flavor especially stood out. Some of their comments include:

  • Good, but not as moist as I would like.

  • Delightfully crusty on top, and crumbly inside. Appreciate that they aren’t greasy like so many muffins.

  • A little dry, very dense, I like the cloves.

  • Good spice flavor, but very dense and somewhat dry. Afterburn with the clove, which is nice.

  • Very tasty, but they are a tad dry. The no-egg version [muffins] are much more moist! Very good!!

A couple of people suggested adding things like chocolate chips or walnuts. Overall, I thought these were pretty tasty and definitely worth the effort.



All-purpose flour 200 grams | 1 ¼ cups + 3 tablespoons
Baking soda 2.3 grams | ½ teaspoon
Ground cinnamon 2.2 grams | ¾ + ⅛ teaspoon
Ground cloves 0.6 gram | ¼ teaspoon
Freshly grated nutmeg 0.5 gram | ½ teaspoon
Ground allspice 0.1 gram | pinch
Kosher salt 1 gram | ½ teaspoon
Granulated sugar 222 grams | 1 cup + 2 teaspoons
Canola oil 100 grams | ¼ cup + 3 tablespoons
Pure canned pumpkin puree or fresh pumpkin puree 210 grams| ¾ cup + 2 tablespoons
Eggs 100 grams | ¼ cup + 2 ½ tablespoons
Golden raisins (optional) 80 grams | ½ cup + ½ tablespoon
Cream cheese frosting 286 grams | 1 ¼ cups

You’ll need a 6-cup jumbo muffin pan, muffin papers, a disposable pastry bag, a pastry bag with an Ateco #865 French star tip (optional), and a 1 ⅜ inch round cutter (optional)


TO BAKE THE MUFFINS: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (standard). Line the muffin pan with muffin papers and spray the papers with nonstick spray.

Transfer the batter to the disposable pastry bag and cut ½ inch of the tip from the bag; or use a large spoon. Pipe or spoon the batter into the papers, stopping ½ inch from the top (140 grams each).

Place the pan in the oven, lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees F, and bake for 45 to 48 minutes, or until the muffins are golden brown and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Set the pan on a cooling rack and cool completely.

TO FILL THE MUFFINS: Using the round cutter, cut through the top of each muffin, stopping ½ inch from the bottom, and carefully remove the center (or use a paring knife to remove the centers).

Transfer the frosting to the pastry bag with the star tip and fill the cavity of each muffin with 35 grams/2 ½ tablespoons of the frosting. Then pipe a rosette in the center of each muffin. Refrigerate uncovered for about 30 minutes to firm.

The muffins are best the day they are completed, but they can be refrigerated in a covered container for up to 3 days. Unfilled muffins can be wrapped individually in a few layers of plastic wrap or stored in a single layer in a covered container at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 week.  Makes 6 muffins.

Book Review | The Christmas Guest by Peter Swanson

From the publisher: A spectacularly spine-chilling novella in which an American art student in London is invited to join a classmate for the holidays at Starvewood Hall, her family’s Cotswold manor house. But behind the holly and pine boughs, secrets are about to unravel, revealing this seemingly charming English village’s grim history.

The Christmas Guest is a small bite of a read, a little snack that can be read in one sitting. It’s immersive and fun and a bit disturbing. We hear from two voices: Emma Chapman, the English student who lives at Starvewood Hall, and Ashley Smith, the American classmate Emma has invited home for the holidays. Ashley speaks to us through the words she pours into her diary.

The author pulled me in right from the Dedication: “For two aunts – Pearl Taylor Moynihan, who disliked Christmas, and Sue Ellis Swasey, who doesn’t particularly like it either.” The dedication is followed by an Epigraph that calls out to A Christmas Carol.

The novella opens with our narrator, living in New York and alone on Christmas Day except for her cat, sorting through her crowded bedroom closet. She comes across an old diary, written by a friend thirty years ago. Although hesitant to “go back in time to that annus horribilis, that murderous year,” she cannot stop herself and begins to read.

The author pokes fun at himself and his “gothic” novella, with Ashley, the diary’s author, revealing that things are both exciting and creepy and almost willing herself into a gothic romance or thriller. (“Chance of gothic thriller murder mystery: Growing by the minute.”) There are a few twists, but in a weird way, this is a comfort read for the cozy mystery reader. It doesn’t take much imagination to figure out where the story is going, but the atmosphere makes it worth the read.

The cover is amazing – cute and cozy but also sinister. I read an advance reader copy of The Christmas Guest from Netgalley.

It is scheduled to be released on October 17 and will be available at the Galesburg Public Library. (Although it comes out in October, I recommend waiting until Christmastime to read it. 😊)