Readers' Services

The Readers’ Services staff can help you find specific materials and can offer reading suggestions. Please phone (847) 448-8620 for assistance. Use Novelist, to find reviews, reading guides, and reading lists for fiction lovers.

Wreck the Halls: Cake Wrecks Gets "Festive"

Yates, Jen. Wreck the Halls: Cake Wrecks Gets "Festive." 2011. (641.8653 Yates.J)

Have you been assigned to bring dessert for your holiday gathering? Need some novel ideas for festive cakes and cookies? Jen Yates's collection of unbelievably misbegotten, mouth-dropping examples of poor taste, and over-the-top decorating disasters should not be your source of inspiration (or, if it is, let me know, and I'll send my regrets for that party). However, if you want a good laugh at the ridiculous, gross, mildly offensive (without meaning to be, I suppose), creepy, and inscrutable ideas that folks confronted with a blank cake come up with, this is the book for you. I don't know what's best--the full-color, garishly presented photos or the snarky commentary by the author. Both are guffaw-producing.  

And for all of you out there who have dear friends who bake, I cannot think of a sweeter way to say "Happy Hole Days," assuming, that is, they can take a joke.

But wait, there's more! If you can't get enough of this kind of thing, check out Yates's other book Cake Wrecks: When Professional Cakes Go Hilariously Wrong, and visit her website And finally...happy holiday baking!

(Barbara L., Readers Services)


Without Feathers

Allen, Woody.  Without Feathers.  1983 (originally 1975).  (817.54 Allen.W)

I first read Allen’s short pieces about thirty years ago.  They’re still hilarious, and you’re in for a treat if you know him only from his movies.  He’s unmatched at rendering familiar styles absurd.  In “The Scrolls” he mimics a biblical voice:  “And soon Job’s pastures dried up and his tongue cleaved to the roof of his mouth so he could not pronounce the word ‘frankincense’ without getting big laughs.”  In “The Whore of Mensa” he imagines a tough private-eye narrating a noir story about cracking an offbeat prostitution ring, a ring in which frustrated nerds hire sharp women to talk to them about high-brow literature.  I laughed out loud when the tough guy, posing as a john, upped the ante when he asked his date if she might be open to a party:  “Suppose I wanted Noam Chomsky explained to me by two girls?”  Very funny stuff.  (Jeff, Reader's Services)


The Exile

Gabaldon, Diana. The Exile. 2010. (Fiction Gabal.D)

About a year ago, I picked up Diana Gabaldon's Outlander on a whim.  I was instantly hooked.  Since then, I've blown through most of the rest of the series.  As I was searching for something new to read yesterday, I discovered the The Exile, her graphic novel retelling of Outlander from Jamie's point of view.  As a pretty big fan, I was thrilled to come across this gem.  Hoang Nguyen's illustrations are beautiful and really enhance the story's sense of place.  Some other reviewers lamented the fact that Claire looks a bit too young, and that it's hard to distinguish between the male characters.  I didn't find these aspects to be a big problem, but I was a little thrown by the introduction of a new character and the story's different beginning.  On the plus side, the graphic novel format lent itself well to some real moments of humor that you can't appreciate in the regular print format.  Overall, The Exile is a great choice for existing fans of the Outlander series.  Just don't pick it up with the expectation that it's going to be exactly like the novel.  Embrace it, and enjoy the new material.  Those who haven't yet had the pleasure of reading Outlander should wait on it, as it would be very hard to figure out what's happening.

(Karen, Reader's Services)


Michelangelo : A Tormented Life

Forcellino, Antonio. Michelangelo : A Tormented Life.(2009)

Michelangelo is among the greatest sculptors of all time, but his life was one of personal anguish. Thanks to his artistic genius, he accumulated great wealth, yet he lived like a pauper; he was financially generous to his family, but fought bitterly with them; highly admired by artists of his day, Michelangelo refused them any form of artistic collaboration; and the incredible intensity of his artistic focus was offset by his shunning of social and intimate relationships.  Antonio Forcellino’s biography of the volatile artist is a fascinating and highly accessible work. Highly recommended. (Russ K., Ref.)


The Electric Church

Somers, Jeff. The Electric Church. 2007. (Science Fiction Somer.J)

Earth isn't a very nice place to live in this gritty series debut.  With the utopian promise of the global System of Federated Nations gone horribly wrong, the Joint Council government and brutal System Security Force (SSF) have made life desperate, dangerous, and short for the common man including anti-hero Avery Cates.  Elderly at 27, Cates is a hardened assassin-for-hire wanted in Old New York for mistakenly killing an SSF officer.  When he's finally cornered, however, the SSF gives him a choice: instant execution or a chance to win his freedom by taking on the suicidal mission of assassinating the founder of the Electric Church - a powerful religious cult whose cyborg monks are using murderous methods to "recruit" new converts.  Described by James Rollins as "equal parts Raymond Chandler and William Gibson," The Electric Church is a near-future noir with darkly original characters and enough street-smart action for Hollywood's big screen.  Though filled with strong violence and stronger language, this sci-fi thriller will leave you anxious for the next page turner in the series.  Russell J. (Readers' Services)  


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