GPL Blog

Cooking the Books — Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

 Welcome to Cooking the Books, where we try recipes found in, well, books! This month, Technical Services Supervisor Anne tried out a recipe from one of her recent favs: I first read J. Ryan Stradal’s The Lager Queen of Minnesota this spring and I couldn’t put it down. When it was announced that Stradal was stopping by Galesburg’s Wordsmith Bookshoppe literally days after I finished the novel, I hustled on over. Stradal was polite, unassuming and kindly posed for a photo with me. (I’ll not share the photo as my Saturday-doing-chores look was not my best.) Soon after, I found myself purchasing an autographed copy of his 2015 novel Kitchens of the Great Midwest. The storyline follows the coming of age of Eva, a chef with a select palate, who’s life is woven through a cast of characters, all tied together by food. The book begins with memories of lutefisk, meanders Read more »

Book Review | The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece by Tom Hanks

From the publisher: From the Academy Award-winning actor and best-selling author: a novel about the making of a star-studded, multimillion-dollar superhero action film . . . and the humble comic books that inspired it.

I admit it – I love Tom Hanks as an actor. I enjoy him in every part that he plays. His new novel however started out as a bit of a snooze fest. I had trouble getting into it, as Hanks introduces lots of characters and lots of backstory, meandering off into the past whenever he feels like it. Eventually I got in tune with the book’s rhythm and I really enjoyed it.

This is a master class in the movie business, told by a master and presented as fiction. There are a lot of details, including a lot of little details, about how movies are made. The story moves very slowly. It takes its time. The narrative contains stuff that could have been left out, but all those little interesting bits really made me feel like I was a part of the movie-making process.

I know there’s stuff in here that is true. I know there are things that happen that really happened. I’m sure some of the characters are inspired by people Tom Hanks knows. He’s been around the business so long; what he writes is so plausible. Hanks has a lot of fun not telling us the names of real movies and actors, writing things like NAME OF ACTOR HERE and THAT MOVIE WE MADE. He makes you wonder – who is BOLDFACE NAME #4 who made everyone’s life a living nightmare on NAME OF SUCCESSFUL FILM HERE?!? I want to know!

Once I got into The Making of, I was thoroughly engrossed. I also appreciated that a man’s love for his damaged uncle is important to the plot. The three sets of comic book pages are an eccentric touch.

A final note to authors everywhere: more chapter breaks! Please!

 The Galesburg Public Library owns the book in Large Print, regular print, and downloadable audio.

Book Review | The Patron Saint of Second Chances by Christine Simon

From the publisher: The self-appointed mayor of a tiny Italian village is determined to save his hometown no matter the cost in this charming, hilarious, and heartwarming debut novel. Vacuum repairman and self-appointed mayor of Prometto, Italy (population 212) Signor Speranza has a unless he can come up with 70,000 euros to fix the town’s pipes, the water commission will shut off the water to the village and all its residents will be forced to disperse. So in a bid to boost tourism—and revenue—he spreads a harmless rumor that movie star Dante Rinaldi will be filming his next project nearby.

The cover of this book caught my eye at the library a couple weeks ago and I decided to give it a try, and am I ever glad that I did! “The Patron Saint of Second Chances” by Christine Simon is a funny, touching story that kept me laughing throughout and left me with a warm feeling in my heart.
In a small town in Italy, the water commission is about to shut off the town’s water supply if the residents can’t come up with the money to fix the pipes. The desperate mayor can’t face telling the people they will have to move, so he starts a rumor that a popular actor is going to film a movie near their town, thinking this will attract tourists and bring in the needed revenue.
The rumor snowballs and soon he finds himself actually making the movie with the enthusiastic help of everybody in town. But how long can he make excuses for the movie’s supposed star not showing up?
The townspeople are delightful, and one ridiculous complication after another gives the reader plenty of belly laughs. But this story is also about relationships, and in the end, the mayor — and the reader — is left with a new appreciation for family — which includes one’s community. I give this book an A-plus and heartily recommend it as a perfect summer read.
The Patron Saint of Second Chances is available for checkout from the Galesburg Public Library.

Book Review | You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao

From the publisher: If I Stay meets Your Name in Dustin Thao’s You’ve Reached Sam, a heartfelt novel about love and loss and what it means to say goodbye.

Seventeen-year-old Julie Clarke has her future all planned out―move out of her small town with her boyfriend Sam, attend college in the city; spend a summer in Japan. But then Sam dies. And everything changes.

Read more →

Book Review | Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley

From the publisher: A dazzling, unforgettable novel about a young black woman who walks the streets of Oakland and stumbles headlong into the failure of its justice system—a debut that announces a blazingly original voice.

Nightcrawling is good. Really good. Gripping, heart wrenching, sick to your stomach good. It’s a novel, but it feels like the diary of a real teenager. Kiara. Her father is dead. Her mom is in a halfway house. She’s trying to take care of a neighbor child whose mother neglects him. Her brother is too busy trying to make it as a rapper to bring in money in any way besides dealing drugs. The rent is going up. Kiara is a high school dropout who is too young to get a job. So she starts selling herself – first to anyone on the street, then to the cops who pick her up. Sometimes they pay her, sometimes they just tell her she’s lucky they…

Read more →

Book Review | Light Years From Home by Mike Chen

From the publisher: Every family has issues. Most can’t blame them on extraterrestrials. The perfect combination of action, imagination and heart, Light Years from Home is a touching drama about a challenge as difficult as saving the galaxy: making peace with your family…and yourself.

Light Years from Home is a family novel disguised as science fiction, or the other way around. Jakob is intelligent, like his two sisters, but a screw up. He cheats on schoolwork and has no purpose in life. Then, he is abducted by aliens and pulled into a galactic war, and he finds his purpose in life. When he comes into possession of some intel that could change the war, he drops by Earth to regroup. Fifteen years have passed. He father, who never got over Jakob’s disappearance, is dead – drowned, searching for Jakob. His mother has dementia…

Read more →

Book Review | Infinite Country by Patricia Engel

From the publisher: I often wonder if we are living the wrong life in the wrong country.

Talia is being held at a correctional facility for adolescent girls in the forested mountains of Colombia after committing an impulsive act of violence that may or may not have been warranted. She urgently needs to get out and get back home to Bogotá, where her father and a plane ticket to the United States are waiting for her. If she misses her flight, she might also miss her chance to finally be reunited with her family.

How this family came to occupy two different countries, two different worlds, comes into focus like twists of a kaleidoscope. We see Talia’s parents, Mauro and Elena, fall in love in a market stall as teenagers against a backdrop of civil war and social unrest. We…

Read more →

Book Review | Weather by Jenny Offill

From the publisher: Lizzie Benson slid into her job as a librarian without a traditional degree. But this gives her a vantage point from which to practice her other calling: she is a fake shrink. For years, she has tended to her God-haunted mother and her recovering addict brother. They have both stabilized for the moment, but Lizzie has little chance to spend her new free time with husband and son before her old mentor, Sylvia Liller, makes a proposal. She’s become famous for her prescient podcast, Hell and High Water, and wants to hire Lizzie to answer the mail she receives: from left-wingers worried about climate change and right wingers worried about the decline of western civilization.

As Lizzie dives into this polarized world, she begins to wonder what it means to keep…

Read more →

Book Review | A Touch of Jen by Beth Morgan

From the Publisher: Remy and Alicia, a couple of insecure service workers, are not particularly happy together. But they are bound by a shared obsession with Jen, a beautiful former co-worker of Remy’s who now seems to be following her bliss as a globe-trotting jewelry designer. In and outside the bedroom, Remy and Alicia’s entire relationship revolves around fantasies of Jen, whose every Instagram caption, outfit, and new age mantra they know by heart.

Imagine their confused excitement when they run into Jen, in the flesh, and she invites them on a surfing trip to the Hamptons with her wealthy boyfriend and their group. Once there, Remy and Alicia try (a little too hard) to fit into Jen’s exalted social circle, but violent desire and class resentment bubble beneath the surface of this beachside…

Read more →

Book Review | Hot Stew by Fiona Mozley

From the publisher: London has changed a lot over the years. The Soho that Precious and Tabitha live and work in is barely recognisable anymore. And now, the building they call their home is under threat; its billionaire-owner Agatha wants to kick the women out to build expensive restaurants and luxury flats. Men like Robert, who visit the brothel, will have to go elsewhere. The collection of vagabonds and strays in the basement will have to find somewhere else to live. But the women are not going to go quietly. They have plans to make things difficult for Agatha but she isn’t taking no for an answer.

Fiona Mozley writes with a voice that feels like the consistency of cornstarch and water–you know, if you poke at it too fast it’s like hitting concrete, but if you ever-so-gently dip…