The Golden Spoon

golden spoon jacket

The Golden Spoon by Jessa Maxwell

I am definitely the target audience for this debut mystery set during a baking competition set on the grounds of a mansion, but other reviewers rate it more highly than I do, including Janet Evanovich. Betsy Martin hosts the reality TV show Bake Week on the grounds of Grafton, the Vermont estate where she grew up. The baking tent has everything the six bakers might need, but this time there’s another judge, handsome pastry chef Archie Morris. Bakers give up their phones and have bed and board (and lots of wine) in the manor house, leaving the morning after they are eliminated in the competition. The chapters are narrated in turn by each baker and Betsy. As the whole book is written in the first person, I kept turning to the beginning of a chapter to remember who was narrating, as their voices aren’t distinctive until later in the book. Glitches start happening in the baking tent, such as a fridge door being left open and sugar and salt containers being mixed up. Older baker Lottie has a secret past at Grafton, while Hannah and Stella are the younger attractive bakers, along with rich Pradyumna. Peter and Gerald are the other bakers, who don’t find the competition judged fairly. The mystery is quite clever, and the setting of a crime during a dark and stormy night is nicely atmospheric, with some of the competitors finally coming together for safety, and to solve the crime. If you enjoy locked room mysteries and value a clever plot over rich characterization, this will be delicious reading. A Netflix series is planned; this should film very well. Bonus: the author is a cartoonist for The New Yorker, as Jessica Olien.


Antimatter Blues

antimatter blues jacket

Antimatter Blues by Edward Ashton

When Mickey gets into trouble with Commander Marshall, it’s usually his food rations or even his life on the line. When the new colony Niflheim starts running low on reactor fuel, the colony’s survival is at stake as another long winter approaches. On a mission that also puts his lover Nasha and his snarky friend Berto at risk, Mickey tries to bargain with the intelligent Creepers for the return of an antimatter bomb. Mickey’s neither heroic or a natural leader, but finds himself deciding whether promises to the alien Speaker matter as much as a successful mission. Entertaining, gritty and affecting, this excellent sequel to Mickey7 is a compelling read. Readalike authors include Andy Weir, John Scalzi, Elizabeth Bonesteel and Martha Wells.


Some of My Favorite Books

Some of My Favorite Books from 2010 to 2022


The Littlest Library by Poppy Alexander

Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen

Three Hours in Paris by Cara Black

Daughter of Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton

The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave

The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis

Well Traveled by Jen DeLuca

The Cuban Affair by Nelson DeMille

All the Light We Cannot See, Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr

The Bartender’s Tale, The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

Round House by Louise Erdrich

This is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

America for Beginners by Leah Franqui

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

Conclave, Pompeii, Second Sleep by Robert Harris

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

The Guide, The River by Peter Heller

Book Lovers by Emily Henry

Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill

Flying Solo by Linda Holmes

The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper

News of the World by Paulette Jiles

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Flight Behavior, Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline

Translation of Love by Lynne Kutsukake

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John Le Carré

Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts

We Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet

Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop by Roselle Lim

The Matchmaker’s Gift by Lynda Cohen Loigman

The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovett

The Red Address Book by Sofia Lundberg

Jacqueline in Paris by Ann Mah

The Sea of Tranquility, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

For the Love of the Bard by Jessica Martin

Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy

Caroline, Marmee by Sarah Miller

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

The Tourist Attraction by Sarah Morgenthaler

Little Fires Everywhere, Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Battle Royal by Lucy Parker

The Bees by Laline Paull

The Paris Diverson by Chris Pavone

Dear Mrs. Bird, Yours Cheerfully by AJ Pearce

Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult

Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting by Clare Pooley

Ellis and the Harpmaker by Hazel Prior

The Watchmaker on Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley

Among the Living by Jonathan Rabb

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghost by Kate Racculia

Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn

Coronation Year and The Gown by Jennifer Robson

The Guncle by Steven Rowley

The Spies of Shilling Lane by Jennifer Ryan

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

Two steps Forward by Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb

Some Luck by Jane Smiley

All Adults Here by Emma Straub

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elziabeth Strout

Mr. Gandy’s Grand Tour by Alan Titchmarsh

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea

Clara and Mr. Tiffany, Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman

The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams

When the English Fall by David Williams

The Scribe of Siena by Melodie Winawer

The Last Policeman, A World of Trouble by Ben Winters

The Narrowboat Summer by Anne Youngson

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin


Round Up the Usual Peacocks, Dashing Through the Snowbirds by Donna Andrews

Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas, Jane and the Year Without a Summer by Stephanie Barron

The Windsor Knot by SJ Bennett

A Murder of Magpies by Judith Flanders

The Lady with the Gun Asks the Questions by Kerry Greenwood

The Dry, The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Jade Dragon Mountain by Elsa Hart

The Tale Teller by Anne Hillerman

Cat Trick by Sofie Kelly

A Simple Murder by Eleanor Kuhns

The Right Sort of Man by Allison Montclair

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

Design for Dying by Rene Patrick

The Great Reckoning, The Long Way Home by Louise Penny

Breakup and Disappearance of a Scribe by Dana Stabenow

Bruno’s Challenge and Other Stories by Martin Walker

The Late Scholar by Jill Paton Walsh

Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear


The Goblin Emperor, The Grief of Stones by Katherine Addison

Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Komarr, Penric’s Travels by Lois McMaster Bujold

Peace Talks by Jim Butcher

Starless by Jacqueline Carey

Records of a Spaceborn Few, A Psalm for the Wild Built, A Prayer for the Crown Shy by Becky Chambers

Alliance Rising by C.J. Cherryh and Jane Fancher

Divergence, Emergence, Foreigner, Resurgence by C.J. Cherryh

Silver on the Road by Laura Gilman

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune

Valour and Vanity by Mary Robinette Kowal

Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword, Provenance by Ann Leckie

A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine

Crown of Renewal by Elizabeth Moon

Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson

The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi

Project Hail Mary, The Martian by Andy Weir

Crosstalk by Connie Willis



Crossed by Ally Conde

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

Scythe by Neal Shusterman


Not Fade Away by Rebecca Alexander

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs by Steve Brusatte

One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson

The Oregon Trail by Rinker Buck

The Longest Road by Philip Caputo

Grit by Angela Duckworth

Fabric: The Hidden History of the Material World by Victoria Finlay

Haben by Haben Girma

The Boys by Ron and Clint Howard

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Maphead by Ken Jennings

Lives in Ruins by Marilyn Johnson

Endurance by Scott Kelly

Rocket Men by Robert Kurson

If You Lived Here You’d Be Home by Now by Christopher Ingraham

Maid by Stephanie Land

Dead Wake by Erik Larson

The Last Stargazers by Emily Levesque

H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald

Underland by Robert MacFarlane

Wild by Nature by Sarah Marquis

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery

81 Days Below Zero by Brian Murphy

The Light We Carry by Michelle Obama

Smitten Kitchen Keepers by Deb Perelman

The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston

The Smallest Lights in the Universe by Sara Seager

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterley

Deep Down Dark by Hector Tobar

This is the topic of my book display this month at the library. It is, of course, only a partial list of favorites. Happy reading!


Our Missing Hearts

Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng our-missing-hearts-jacket

This dystopian novel is stunning. Character-centered, with lyrical writing, and a heart-wrenching and beautiful storyline. At times, though, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep reading, and it’s also sad and unsettling. Bird Gardner is 12, and is now known as Noah. He lives with his father Ethan on the 10th floor of a college dormitory where the elevator sometimes break down. They eat most of their meals in a cafeteria. Once a linguistics professor at Harvard, Ethan now shelves books in the college library. Bird’s only friend at school, Sadie, has been taken away from her parents.

Bird’s mother, Margaret Miu, left three years ago, as her poetry was being used in protests around the country, and she is a PAO, or person of Asian origin. An economic crisis over a decade ago has led to an authoritarian society in which China and Asian Americans were blamed. After receiving mail from his mother, Bird goes to New York City to find her. He learns about the quiet heroism of librarians, who are trying to trace the children who were taken from their Asian American and/or activist parents.

The power of storytelling and of art, and the impacts of activism are the heart of this story, along with the fierce love Ethan and Margaret have for Bird, and for each other. While not terse, there are no unnecessary words in this deeply moving and occasionally hopeful novel.


March 2023 Book Discussion


Please join the Tuesday Evening Book Group at 7 pm on March 28 for our discussion of Yours Cheerfully by AJ Pearce. Set during World War II in England, this novel features young advice columnist Emmy Lake, along with the women war workers she and her friend Bunty meet. Some readers will remember Emmy from Dear Mrs. Bird, which we discussed three years ago. This novel works well as a standalone read, and I think it is even better than the first book. My earlier review is here. Copies of the book are available for checkout at the Circulation Desk. eBook and eAudiobook copies are available from Media on Demand/Libby and from eRead Illinois/Axis 360. Please register online or at the Computer Help Desk.

Hope to see you there!


Colleen Hoover Readalikes

Colleen Hoover — Readalikes

We talked about author Colleen Hoover and her All-Star stats in a previous post and maybe you have put some of her books on hold.  But what to read while you are waiting for your books to come in?

While Hoover’s books are considered “New Adult,” meaning protagonists are between the ages of 18 and 26, and her stories include Romance, Sex, Tears, and Plot Twists, her content varies.  In addition to love stories, she has written a psychological thriller, “Verity,” a paranormal love story, “Layla,” and books about domestic violence, drug abuse, and poverty.  Regardless, Hoover’s books bring in capital D Drama with gripping stories and dialogue. 

So while you are waiting for your next CoHo book, try one of these authors!       Gayle

(See Gayle’s CoHo Readalikes book display in the library this month!)               

Andre, Bella

Audrain, Ashley

Bailey, Tessa

Bennett, Brit

Callahan, Tess

Carlino, Renee

Carty-Williams, Candice

Cole, Courtney

Dawson, Maddie

Debartolo, Tiffanie 

Emezi, Akwaeke

Emezi, Akwaeke

Fisher, Tarryn

Fortune, Carley

Harte, Marie

Hatvany, Amy

Hendricks, Greer

Hoang, Helen

Jimenez, Abby

Keane, Mary Beth

Larkin, Allie

Lauren, Christina

Loren, Roni

Lovering, Carola

Lynn, Stacey

Morrow, Rebecca 

Moyes, JoJo

Novak, Brenda

Reid, Taylor Jenkins

Ronin, Isabelle

Score, Lucy

Serle, Rebecca

Silver, Josie

Sweeney, Cynthia D’Aprix

Todd, Anna

Tucker, K. A.

Williams, Tia

The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches

very secret society jacketThe Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna

Mika is a witch who is skilled at creating potions and spells from natural ingredients, including stardust. She lives in Brighton, within sight of the sea, but relocates often along with her dog Circe. Her only contacts with other witches are occasional teas with her former guardian Primrose and a quarterly meeting with other British witches. After posting videos online where she pretends to be a witch, Mika is contacted by four muggles and asked to tutor three witch girls who need training in order to use their magic safely. She travels to Nowhere House in Norfolk, and meets Rosetta, Terra Cotta, and Altamira, all black and brown girls like her, along with gruff Irish librarian Jamie, who doesn’t really want her help. Mika has never really known love, and longs to be part of the girls’ found family, but plans only a temporary stay, as she always moves on. Funny and heartfelt, this engaging read is a good readalike for The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune and The Witches of Moonshyne Manor by Bianca Marais.


Colleen Hoover Booklist

Colleen Who?

In 2022, Colleen Hoover sold a lot of books, She sold a lot of a lot of books.  In fact, she sold more books than James Patterson and John Grisham combined.  She had six of the top 10 spots on The New York Times’s paperback fiction best-seller list and sold over 14 million books last year.

As the New York Times wrote in an article last year about Colleen Hoover, “Most blockbuster authors break out because of a popular series, like “Twilight” or “Harry Potter,” or build a brand by writing in a recognizable genre. Hoover is eclectic. She’s written romances, a steamy psychological thriller, a ghost story, harrowing novels about domestic violence, drug abuse, homelessness and poverty. Though her books are hard to categorize, most of them have an addictive combination of sex, drama and outrageous plot twists.”

Hoover self-published her first book in 2012, so that her mother, who had just gotten an Amazon Kindle, could read it.  At the time, she was making $9 an hour as a social worker.  Since then she has written more than 20 more novels in the romance and young adult fiction genres, with her fans sharing their love of her stories on social media apps.  

Intrigued?  Join the club!                          –Gayle




                Point of Retreat

                This Girl



                Losing Hope

                Finding Cinderella

                Finding Perfect

Maybe Someday

                Maybe Someday

                Maybe Not

                Maybe Now

Never, Never

                Never, Never parts 1, 2, 3

It Ends With Us

                It Ends With Us

                It Starts With Us

Standalone Novels

     All Your Perfects 


     Heart Bones 


     November 9 

     Regretting You 

     Reminders of Him 

     Too Late 

     Ugly Love 


     Without Merit 

The Sweet Spot

The Sweet Spot by Amy Poeppel

While not all the characters are likeable, at least at first, Lauren and Leo Shaw’s extended family are the heart of this contemporary novel. No one is the lead in this ensemble cast, as the point of view changes from revenge-seeking Melinda to social influencer Felicity to ceramic artist Lauren, then Lauren and Leo’s three hilarious children, her prickly mother, his biological father, and more. In addition, there’s a gerbil and a dog, a private school and a bar, The Sweet Spot, in the basement of the Greenwich Village brownstone that Leo and Lauren are living in. Their house is owned by Phillip, and still has all the 1970s décor that desperately needs updating. The group of characters, including Melinda’s ex-husband, all come together to take care of baby Horatio, also known as Hank. I laughed aloud several times, and read parts of it out loud to my family. I thoroughly enjoyed this chaotic and joyful novel. The library’s book group is discussing Musical Chairs by Amy Poeppel on February 28, another up-lit novel.


Varina Palladino’s Jersey Italian Love Story

Varina jacketVarina Palladino’s Jersey Italian Love Story by Terri-Lynne DeFino

Four generations of an Italian American family in suburban New Jersey gather often for dinners at which the noise level is set at an 11, with frequent arguments between Varina’s grown children. Varina, 70, loves her family and the Italian grocery store she runs, but would like a calmer life that’s also more adventurous. Her mother Sylvia tries to set Varina up with suitable men yet ends up finding romance at 92 with a nice man who loves dancing, in the sweetest part of this engaging novel. Visiting a travel agency to book a European river cruise, Varina makes friends with Ruth, and enjoys her friendship more than the dinner dates she’s having. Son Dante remodels buildings with help from family friend Paulie, who has a crush on Dante. I really enjoyed Sylvia, Varina, and Paulie’s points of view, though not as much that of colorful and disruptive Donatella. Each chapter begins with a few Jersey Italian words and phrases, which slightly disrupted the flow of this otherwise compelling read. Adriana Trigiani is a good readalike author, and I’m strongly reminded of the movie Moonstruck.