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.

The Hand that First Held Mine

titleO'Farrell, Maggie. The Hand that First Held Mine. 2010. (Fiction Ofarr.M)

There is often a puzzle at the core of O'Farrell's novels. In this one, we have two disparate story lines. One is set in the 1950s and 60s, one in contemporary times. The former tells the story of Lexie and her rash move to London as a young woman to escape a boring suburban family and her exciting lifestyle amid the tony crowd of artists and writers. Lexie falls deeply in love with an older, married man, and settles in to what she thinks is the perfect combination of personal independence and loving relationship. In the latter tale, we meet Ted and Elina, new parents of a baby boy. They're unprepared for the ground moving changes his birth brings about, and how it affects their memories of childhood and family. With strongly developed characters and well-paced plotting, this novel is essentially two love stories that converge in unexpected ways.

(Barbara L., Reader's Services)


The Forgiven

title Osborne, Lawrence. The Forgiven. 2012. (Fiction Osbor.L)

Barreling along a Morrocan road enroute to an extravagant weekend party thrown by rich friends, a somewhat boozy, bickering middle-aged British couple are involved in a fatal accident that won’t easily be resolved, no matter how sorry everyone is. The death of a local Muslim boy fuels cultural misunderstanding and mistrust. Atonement must be made. So richly atmospheric that you can almost taste the sand and smell the dust in an unforgiving desert. There are few sympathetic characters in this moody, morally ambiguous story which brilliantly leads to a surprising shock of an end.  (Susan R., Reader's Services)


Tigers in Red Weather

titleKlaussmann, Liza. Tigers in Red Weather. 2012. (Fiction Klaus.L) 

One sultry summer night on their family estate in Martha’s Vineyard, two cousins drink gin in their slips, listen to jazz and optimistically imagine their future. Helena is off to Hollywood to be married, and Nick to Florida to reunite with her husband returning from service at the end of WWII.  Some twenty years later, after disappointment, betrayals and secrets have taken their toll, a savage murder, unsolved until the very end, further devastates.  Told from the points of view of five family members, this darkly seductive saga is fine entertainment. (Susan R., Reader's Services)


The Coral Island


Ballantyne, Robert Michael. The Coral Island. 1990 (originally 1858). (Fiction Balla.R)

Plucky British schoolboys, two of them named Ralph and Jack, are stranded on a deserted island. Sounds like William Golding's Lord of the Flies. But no, this is the nineteenth-century juvenile adventure story that prompted Golding, who had enjoyed The Coral Island as a child, to pen his classic dystopian novel a century later. "Ballantyne's book rotted to compost in my mind," Golding said, "and a new myth put down roots." Ballantyne's boys confront evil but never descend to evil themselves. They hunt pigs with spears, face tumbling rocks, and confront savagery--as in Lord of the Flies--but they themselves remain "good Christians."  The characterizations and dialogue are much more stilted than Golding's. But it's a good old yarn, somewhat in the style of Robert Louis Stevenson, who admired the story more than Golding did. If for no other reason, it's a worthwhile read for its connection to Golding's classic.  (Jeff B., Reader's Services)


The Crimson Petal and the White


The Crimson Petal and the White. 2012.(DVD 791.4572 Crimson)

Set in 1874 London, this four-part BBC mini-series (based on Michael Faber’s novel) sizzles. There’s enough nudity, sex (some graphic), chamber pots, and plot twists to keep you hooked through the end. At the heart of the story is the relationship between Sugar (the sensational Romola Garai) as the ambitious and much sought-after prostitute and William Rackham, the wealthy, self-absorbed heir to a perfume factory who becomes obsessed with her. Add to the heady broth William’s unstable wife Agnes, their neglected child Sophie, William’s pious brother Henry, the social reformer Mrs. Fox, the vile Dr. Curlew, and Sugar’s madam, Mrs. Castaway, and you have all the makings of a Dickensian soap opera. Terrific acting all around in this sexy, seductive, and sometimes shocking drama. You may not guess the outcome, but you’ll know one thing for sure – it was definitely not “the best of times” for women in 1870s London. (Laura, Reader's Services)



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