Ames Free Library

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Librarian's Lounge - November 2021

I’m what some would describe as a “mood reader” - meaning that what book I pick up next (or what book I set aside after starting it) is driven largely by my mood. And, for whatever reason, that led to a lot of mystery reading last month! It was also a month FULL of audiobooks. Keep reading to find out more.

What I’m Listening To


Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala 

Lila Macapagal’s life is turning out like a bad romcom movie. Following a horrible breakup, she leaves behind her big city Chicago dreams to seek comfort in her hometown of Shady Palms, Illinois. Being back home also means helping out at Tita Rosie’s, the Filipino restaurant owned by Lila’s aunt. The restaurant is struggling, thanks in no small part to some terrible reviews written by a local food critic, Derek Winter, who happens to have been Lila’s high school boyfriend and is the stepson of the restaurant’s landlord. When Derek ends up dead following a confrontation with Lila, she becomes the prime suspect.

Don’t pick up this book on an empty stomach! A lot of time and space is devoted to describing the food at Tita Rosie’s; the coffee shop where Lila’s best friend, Adeena, is a barista; and at other restaurants around town. Honestly, there are times where Arsenic and Adobo feels light on mystery, even for a cozy, but I didn’t mind. The strength here is in the descriptions of small, family-owned restaurants that Lila visits during her amateur sleuthing. Because, like many smaller communities in America, Shady Palms is home to mom and pop spots serving delicious cuisine. Manansala’s writing is a love letter to these restaurants and the time, energy, and love that goes into them. Pro tip: if you’re listening to the audiobook, be sure to have a pen and paper handy at the end to copy down the recipes.

Pick this up if you enjoy: Culinary cozy mysteries with a strong sense of place and a focus on family

An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena

The guests at Mitchell’s Inn, a cozy Catskills mountain lodge, all arrive with different reasons for taking a weekend getaway. But not all of them will make it home. After a blizzard hits, knocking out the power and cutting off access to the main road, their stay becomes less about enjoying the weekend and more about surviving it. Because with the body count rising it means someone at the Inn is a killer.

Atmosphere is everything in An Unwanted Guest. In the early chapters, as the snow starts to fall and guests are arriving at the inn, I couldn’t help but think of the opening scenes of Clue. The sense of foreboding as these strangers all gather together is undeniable. A shifting narrative allows readers to experience this locked room mystery from different perspectives. Veteran audiobook narrator Hilary Huber (I’m also a fan of her narration on the Callahan Garrity series by Mary Kay Andrews writing as Kathy Hogan Trocheck) deftly handles the character changes with ease. A great listen to pass the time on a dreary weekend.

Pick this up if you enjoy: Locked room mysteries full of suspense with some twists and turns along the way

The House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O’Donnell

A seamstress, a Cambridge dropout, an Inspector, and an aspiring journalist have few reasons to cross paths in Victorian London. But when the seamstress jumps to her death from the upper floor of a Victorian Lord’s house on a snowy night in 1893, it sets the others on a hunt for answers. Could her death have anything to do with the string of missing girls or with the mysterious reports of “Spiriters” terrorizing the city? When another young woman goes missing, their investigations will collide in surprising ways.

O’Donnell brings the rainy streets of London to life, infusing them with gothic chills and a touch of supernatural suspense. Characters are central, with most attention paid to Gideon Bliss, who has dropped out of his theological studies at Cambridge, and Octavia Hillingdon, an intrepid reporter who longs to write for something harder hitting than the society pages. Gideon is at his best when playing the hapless sidekick to prickly Inspector Cutter. A good pick for fans of historical mystery.

Pick this up if you enjoy: Gothic mysteries with well developed characters and a bit of wit

What I’m Learning (and creating!)

Perhaps a better title for this section would be “What I’m Relearning” since I did technically learn to crochet many years ago. I never got much beyond learning two or three basic stitches and my skills (and patience!) extended only so far as making a few scarves. Back then it was a craft that left me feeling more stressed and tense throughout the process than when I started.

I found myself drawn to Creativebug once again in October and to their Daily Practice series in particular. There are over 60 courses available in the series, each with 30-day prompts to help you inspire creativity every day of the year. I opted for the Crochet Sampler daily practice, which covers the basics and also offers a gentle introduction to more detailed work. The videos are short and sweet; the longest in the series is only about 14 minutes. Some days I would watch more than one and other days I skipped it entirely. But the beauty of the Daily Practice series is that an output is not the totality of the goal. It’s really about sparking creativity and bringing art - in whatever form - into your daily life.

Just some of the classes available in the Daily Practice series on Creativebug

The biggest thing for me, aside from gaining more skills, is that crochet is relaxing for me now! Instead of tensing up while counting stitches or trying to decipher a pattern, it’s all making more sense. Indeed, part of why I’ve listened to so many audiobooks in the past few weeks is because of crocheting. I typically now spend an hour or so at the end of the day listening to an audiobook while I work on a crochet project.

And lest you think that librarians just know everything, my recent return to crochet also led me to uncover an AFL resource I didn’t know much about! I knew that we had magazines available in our OverDrive offerings, but had never looked too closely at what was available. There are over 100 issues of craft and hobby related titles that are always available! It was quick and easy (and free!) to download a few crochet related titles to my tablet using the Libby app and browse through for tips and inspiration.

Something for everyone in the OverDrive magazine offerings

Head over to Creativebug to try out a course from the Daily Practice series or borrow a hobby magazine from OverDrive to inspire your next project! What are you going to make this month?

Thanks for stopping by the Librarian’s Lounge! If you’ve visited before - welcome back! If this is your first visit you can always catch up on previous installments.

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